We Lived In’t Shoebox

In my last blog, I talked about moments that define our lives, turning points where decisions are made that impact us forever. One such moment came back to me while watching good old Monty Python, the episode where the old guys compete to see who had the toughest upbringing. You know the one, right? ‘When I were a lad, we lived in’t shoebox at side o’t road.’ Then the response. ‘Luxury, pure luxury!’ When I finished laughing, I thought about how every generation must compare their early lives to those of their children’s. We all like to think we had it tougher.

Photo by Ida Kammerloch

After emigrating to Canada, three small children in tow, and just the clothes on our backs, we found that the only accommodation we could afford was a tiny room above a strip bar with live music in the venue below. Our ‘shoebox’ measured around three metres by two metres and we shared a bathroom down the hall with other seedy looking hotel patrons. We had a kettle in the room but that was the extent of our kitchen facilities. Music shook our room, literally, until one o’clock during the work week and three a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. We were blessed with a respite on Sunday when the bar closed at midnight. This was not what we had in mind when we gambled our lives on a new life in Canada.

Live rock & roll until 3a.m.

Photo by Edward Cisneros

It would be an understatement to say that we thought we had made a huge mistake. With heavy hearts, we looked at our young family and wondered what in the world we had done. I felt like crying. It would have been easy then, to admit our error, pack up and return to England, where I have no doubt we would have stayed, lesson learned, for the rest of our lives. But we didn’t and fortune favours the brave. We endured the hardship and before long had managed to get enough money to rent a house. We furnished our new abode lavishly with three single mattresses and one double (no bases), an old sofa someone gave us for free, and a rusting Hibachi grill. We managed to buy a cooker and fridge, and with the addition of various second-hand kitchen items, our home began to take shape, the world suddenly seemed brighter, and we were on our way.

Looking back now, these were pivotal moments, when life could have taken us far from our destiny. Did we have it tough? A little maybe, but certainly not as tough as some, and these are the treasured memories our lives are built on, stories to pass down with pride to the next generation, who will no doubt think we’re full of it.

We lived in’t shoe box o’t top of a strip club, luxury, pure luxury!