Up and down: the A1 of demography (part 1)

This last week I’ve been on half term- just the last one before I leave my current job in teaching. I’ve been lucky enough to visit all sorts of different places up and down the M1 and A1 as part of my quest to take the small human northwards to see the world. We started out on Friday at my folks’ house in the Midlands, which was an interesting one; the weather was bonkers because of a storm.

We went to near Doncaster next and it was amazing. My friend has done so well for herself and they live in the most beautiful house- I’m so pleased for them. But around their village, there were some really tricky areas. I used to teach nearby and it wasn’t always the easiest of jobs. It always felt very worthwhile and the kids were great at times, but so often their complex home lives and the difficult local economy meant that teaching/learning did not flow as readily as might be hoped. I loved it but it was hard.

The next stop for a few days was just near to Middlesbrough, which is a fab town in an area of the country which has a very complex history and some very challenging economic circumstances. It is also beautiful as an area. An amazing friend of mine from university lives there and has also done so well for herself- she is great! The Little Dude and I went, along with my friend to lots of different places while we were up there. We had lunch in Middlesbrough, a trip out to Whitby and a calm morning in Norton, where we had a visit to a lovely Launderette (toddler puke is a thing and it is gross!!). What really struck me was the difference between housing, towns and sometimes between Roads. My friend said, when we were out and about to Whitby, that some kids in her town may well have never managed to get out as far as the moors, let alone Whitby. Transport costs, logistics, human barriers can make it so difficult for families in Middlesbrough and the surrounding areas. The bleak, chemical plant-based landscape probably doesn’t help because there was so little warm fuzziness and green when we were driving about in Middlesbrough. Even having lived in Sheffield, I noticed this and it was hard; Wiltshire is rural and apparently I’m a country bumpkin it turns out.

I think the surroundings we inhabit have such a substantial impact on how we inhabit the world and the outlook we share. In a town where opportunities are limited, and the literal landscape is grey and industrial it can be hard to see what else there may be. Middlesbrough’s complex history shapes that and does mean that opportunities can be hard to come by and sometimes employment is precarious. It’s not easy.

But when we drove back from the trip to Whitby, we saw a rainbow and it really did look like the pot of gold was in the middle of a humongous roundabout. Spoiler: pots of gold appear not to be real. But the roundabout was surrounded by new factories, houses and seemingly buzzing businesses. The recent events notwithstanding, hopefully this hive of activity will be bringing new opportunities to people in Middlesbrough so that outlooks can brighten and children’s/families’ chances open up.

I loved it there when I visited but I also saw how tricky it might be.

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