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A Gay Arbury Teenager In The 1980s... Part 1

Part of Badger's walk to school: "Goodbye, World! I hope I see you again!"

Warning - caution advised - some readers may find what is to follow overly distressing. If you are of a sensitive or nervous disposition, please consider before reading.

Badger is a regular writer to the Arbury Cambridge Blog, and recently contacted us with his recollections of life as an Arbury teenager and a Chesterton Community College pupil in the 1980s.

Badger is gay and prefers to remain anonymous: 'I know things are pretty good now, but it's a habit I find hard to break!'

He's written this for us.

I lived on South Arbury in one of those nice little terraced places... it was all right... I went to Arbury School and I was happy, I suppose. But from the age of about I suppose 9, I knew I was different. I was going off sci-fi on TV and getting into soap operas, this was in the days before the trendy youth soaps like 'Brookside' and 'Neighbours', and I'd never liked football, which seemed weird because it was so "in" for boys...

I hated PE and I hated a lot of things boys were supposed to like. We were in straightjackets I suppose - there were things you were supposed to click with if you were a boy, and things that you weren't. Same as girls - although if you were a girl and liked "boys' stuff" you got called a tomboy and that was usually said with affection. It wasn't like that for boys. 

When people read things like what I'm saying now they tend to say stupid things like "Wasn't life dreadful for gays back then?" It wasn't for all of us. It depended on how you dealt with it and I was shy and a bit withdrawn. When people say things like that it annoys me a lot because it's patronising - like we've got a disease and we all suffer the same symptoms.

By the time I was 11, I knew I was gay and I knew it was something I had to leave until I was older. There was nobody I could talk to. I sort of put it on a shelf, I suppose, I put it on a shelf and left it there to deal with later.

Things got really difficult when I started at Chesterton School. I hated that school. It was snobby but rough at the same time. It always listed its address as "Chesterton School, Gilbert Road," but the big gates were in Bateson Road and all the pupils had to enter and leave that way. No offending the neighbours in Gilbert Road. Even a girl who lived in Gilbert Road had to leave the school by the Bateson Road entrance and make her way round... it was pathetic!

The teachers said that the Gilbert Road entrance was for cars, but there was plenty of space and they had no trouble with adults coming in and out that way.

The school served part of Arbury Estate and the Darwin Drive area, but also lots of upmarket bits like the De Freville Estate and it fancied itself a bit. One of the assembly halls was called the "Farnsworth Hall". You didn't get that sort of thing in comprehensives much!

We lived marginally closer to Chesterton School than to the Manor and my parents wanted me to go there. They had a photo of themselves at a dance there - all done up in 1950s or early '60s gear, grinning their heads off, and they'd loved the place. The Manor had had a reputation for academic excellence. Yes, it had! But it was "going downhill" and though we weren't in this awful classist era of "outstanding" schools, Chesterton was, I might say, "upwardly mobile", so I went there.

One of my few friends from Arbury School had gone to the Manor, and although he moaned about it, I envied him because he didn't have my worries.

I was sick on the first morning and couldn't eat breakfast. My mother didn't like me appearing weak so I said nothing. As I passed down Carlton Way and Stretten Avenue I thought "Goodbye World! I hope I see you again!" and that's pathetic really, but it shows the state I was in.

Chesterton was a great big ugly looming thing as I walked down Bateson Road on that first morning. Things got off to a bad start as a group of lads on bikes passed me and one of them called out: "Oi! Poofy!"

This scared me. Did I look gay? I wasn't even on the premises yet and I'd been called out! I hung about by the gates and didn't go in till it was time...

Part two is here.


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