I don’t drive. Can you believe it…38 and I can’t drive! Living in London for most my life meant that driving was not really an issue. Now living near the coast means that driving would make life easier. But I still don’t.
I walk, get train or a bus or ride my bike. It’s the way I have always lived I guess and don’t know any other way.
Today I left work an hour or so after school had finished. The sun was blazing. You know them afternoons when the sun is kicking, and everything is just…nice. So, I walk out the building and blam…the sun is nice. SO, I take off my blazer, put on my headphones and start my walk to the train station as normal. I choose a song. Not my usual rap/grime/hip hop/. I choose some Vybz Kartel. As I walk along, “Summertime” full volume in my ears, I spot 2 young men I used to work with on the corner. It looks like they are smoking something and as I walk towards them they try and hide what ever it is. I can smell weed in the air. I smile… it has been 4 years since I worked with these young men and yet still they hide what ever they are doing from me. I walk over and start giving my usual Kendra lecture on the consequences of drugs. They both take it and have heard it so many times. They deny smoking anything other than fags. I ask how life has been and one says that he is struggling with getting a job and he thinks it is because his CV is poor. I pull out my phone and give him the number I have for a service that helps with this. “Thanks Miss” he says. I smile. He is 20 years old and still calls me miss. I say my goodbyes and go on my way. Headphones up.
Around the corner and there are a few young people I know outside the shops. Bikes all over the pavement, shouting and swearing. Just being kids in some ways but also drawing a lot of attention. Ok…head phones down. I collar the ring leader. He smiles his lop-sided smile when he sees me. 14 going on 40 I always say to him. I say that his nan must use these shops. How would he feel if she had to climb over all these bikes? “Yer yer Kendra” he says cheekily and gets the others to move the bikes. I then tell them to be careful near the roads and not to mess about on their bikes. The kids that don’t know me look a little shocked that I am addressing them. But listen. I then ask, “How many of you have got little brothers and sister”. Most raise a hand. I then say that they probably wouldn’t want their siblings listening to some of the stuff they have been saying and the words they have been using. A few heads go down. My main man says “Ok Kendra, allow it now” I smile and walk on. Head phones up.
Get to the station and wait on the platform. I see a few of the students who have just left school on the other side, making their way towards me too go out the exit. They are being a little loud, music playing out of their phones. Some have their hoods up (In this weather!) They are being boisterous and playfully insulting each other’s ability to “Spit bars”. In my eyes. Just normal 15 and 16-year-old boys. I take my head phones down to say hello when they walk past. I am standing next to a man and women, around my age. The man suddenly says “Sarah, put your phone away now, look what is coming”. Sarah looks up, doesn’t put her phone away but hides it under a cardigan she had over her arm. The man says, “You know what they are like”. I turn to address this but see that the mans body has gone almost stiff. I can almost hear his heart beating and there is a little sweat on his head. The boys are now right near us and he whispers, “Do not look at them”. One of the boys see me, and shouts “Oi, look…It’s Kendra. Let’s go and embarrass her” I smile. They know that I have the higher level of banter all day long. “Hush” I shout back. “Come back when you’re a big man” and the others laugh. The one who shouted out is now in front of me. I look up at him as he is a little taller than me. His dark eyes shining. “You did good in your exams boy” I say. “I think you may be getting the school some of its highest GCSE’s results” He smiles. “I had to init…otherwise you would have cussed me, and I can’t deal with that”. We laugh, and the boys walk off. Not one of them bothering a single person. I turn to the man and say, “You know, the boys didn’t judge you for a single second, but you already think you know who they are by they way they walk and talk”. He goes very red. The train comes.
I get on the train and it is filled with young people going to the next stop. Some I know and some I don’t. A few seats across from me is a man. About my age again, covered in dust and looks like he has just walked off a building site on his way home. He is reading a paper and does not seem bothered by the young people playing music out of their phones and talking about getting down the beach at the next stop. They are loud, but they are not bothering anyone really. I wonder if they have tickets…I wonder if anyone will check…but that’s another story. One of the boys, probably about 14, shouts “Listen to this olden day’s tune, its ok you know”. The carriage is suddenly filled with DJ luck and MC neat “A little bit of luck”. Me and the builder catch each other’s eye and smile. One of the kids sees this and says “Look, even that old man likes it” Its not said with any malice. These are just the thoughts of a 13/14-year-old girl. The builder laughs and then does a little sniper finger. The kids love it and start shouting “yes bruv” and “Oh my days man’s got moves”. He laughs, picks up his paper and carries on reading. My stop comes and me and all the kids get off. DO they have tickets…who knows…all barriers are open! And off they go.
It then hit me…The number of interactions I can have with young people on the way to and from work. I am always seeing and speaking with them and their families. The kids take the mick when they see me on my bike. If the train is late, the kids see me huffing and puffing with them. I think it helps my relationship with the young people because not only do I live in the area, I travel daily with them.
I see stuff and intervene with things that maybe other practitioners miss because they are driving.
So my blog today is to tell you…walk with the yute. Take a walk in their shoes, even if it is only the journey they may do to and from school. Leave the car at home once a month and take the journey. I promise you will learn stuff not only about our young people, but also how society views some of our young people. Powerful stuff.