Monday, 18 May 2015

The big city

When I was a young teenager I was desperate to leave home and escape the small town I had grown up in in which everyone knew everyone’s business or so it seemed. I was restless and politically radical – ahead of my school mates, already reading The Guardian every day at 13 (My dad read the Daily Telegraph) and wanting to join CND. Getting good results in the school exams to spite my father (No I don’t think he was using reverse psychology on me) I realised that university was possible. So instead of running away to join the merchant navy – my Plan B, I bided my time and worked hard for 4 years, especially on my A levels to get the grades to go to Manchester.

Why Manchester? Well firstly, I also wanted a city based university about 100 miles or more from my home town! Secondly I had peaked in Maths at 17 (and so had to work at it!) and I saw computers as a good career move – that would certainly get me out of home. So it was Cambridge or Manchester as the only universities running Computer courses at that time. I couldn’t be doing doing with the class system at Cambridge - even if I could have got in - but the clincher was waiting an extra year for an entrance exam to go there so Manchester it was.

It was not totally easy for me in Manchester especially that first year (My memory is of never seeing the sun for 6 months until the Spring!) but I threw myself into various things like the Uni hiking club, socialist society, anarchist groups – uni and city – gypsy liaison group (we blocked evictions and signed them into the student union as guests for showers etc) and the Community Research and Action Group based in Chorlton etc.

Several of my new friends in my second year came out as lesbians and so I soon find myself regularly mixing with gays and lesbians. It soon became clear to me after the odd experiment that I was straight but it opened my eyes to what being a man could mean. So that more sensitive tender part of me got some encouragement. In a sense I have never looked back except I do still wrestle with that part of me (not the only part that I wrestle with it is true – my grumpy side, my nasty side all have their moments). So I am saying the gay men (and the gay women) I met in 1969 left a lasting impact on me. It gave me a different idea of what a man could be.