Welcome to Bradford
by Rizwan Rana
I had been a Northern Life reader for quite a while, as Karen the Editor is a very good friend of mine. So, when I was asked to write an article about my experiences of growing up in Bradford, I was absolutely delighted. The article promptly turned into an epic! So, therefore, will be serialised over a few articles. So, if you’re sitting quite comfortably… welcome to Bradford.
Eddethorpe Street is located just off Leeds Road in Bradford. That’s where I was born in the summer of ’69. My earliest memories are of that street, complete with cobbles and the sulphuric musty smell of burning coal fires, and the exotic smells of curry made using asafoetida. It was, at the time, one of a couple of places where people who had come from foreign lands as economic migrants could afford to live. A mixture of a Pakistani, Indian and Irish community, it was quite a warm and friendly place to live, as all the people who lived there had one thing in common with each other – the making of money in order to better themselves, and to send back to their respective countries for their relatives who were left behind, to relieve them of their abject poverty.
My first schooling experience was also in the same area at St Mary’s R.C nursery/school. It was located just behind Bradford Cathedral. Run by nuns, the discipline was paramount. I remember in the hall there was a life-size statue of Jesus, complete with nails in hands and feet, gushing with blood! I used to have absolutely horrific nightmares because of that, and would refuse to go to school every morning! But, Mother would have none of it; herself coming from a very middle class family in Lahore, she believed in the Roman Catholic method of education, believing it was far superior to its contemporaries. However, I hated it, and would throw a fit at every opportunity.
The hysterics and the fact that I was being brought to school every morning, with me dragging my heels, were ignored and I was handed over to the nuns. My mother would then leave very quickly, without a backward glance, as I’m sure it caused her a lot of pain and anguish, knowing my feelings on the
I suppose I was relieved when I learnt that we were about to move out of the house in Edderthorpe Street and move to a new house in Frizinghall, and thus to a new school, without the dreaded school and the nuns whom I thought were witches, at that age!! That was the summer of ’73 we moved to Frizinghall to start a new chapter in our lives. Our house was a modest corner terraced house, the standard two up, two down variety, with a Belfast sink in the kitchen/living room, and the toilet was outside in the Yorkshire stone-flagged yard. We were very happy at this house as it represented, for my parents, their first ideal in this new country which they were to make their home.
My memories of that house are quite vague, but I do remember that it had threadbare carpets and was quite damp, but it didn’t matter as it was ours, bought and paid for! The drawing room of the house was converted into a shop (obviously!) for my mother to run. First, it was a grocers/general store type of thing and then later became a Pakistani cloth shop. Neither was successful, as all that seemed to happen there was that the women of the area would congregate to exchange their daily gossip! We didn’t have community centres in those days, so the corner shop would be the centre of all the knowings and telling of all that was going on!
I liked being at the shop as I knew what she was doing was important. But the moment her back was turned, or she needed to go to the loo, well…when the cat’s away…..etc, etc! I’d grab a Texan bar or a Moose bar, neither of which I think you can get now and I’d be off like a rat up a drainpipe, or something to that effect! There was a time when – playing outside, like all the children did at that time – I fell and managed to embed a chunk of glass in my left palm… a huge triangular piece of glass, like the horror film variety! I ran into the house, screaming like a banshee, holding my hand open, with this piece of glass in my hand, and bleeding profusely. At the time, one of my mother’s best friends was at our house with her son who had an English wife, probably the first interracial marriage I had seen. She (Susan) calmly took over and took me over to the Belfast sink and sat me in it. Then, to my absolute horror, she produced a pair of cloth-cutting scissors, much to my disbelief, and proceeded to grip the said piece of glass and very calmly pulled it out! I thought she was going to cut my hand off! I just sat there in the sink, wailing myself into hyperventilation! That was the first most vivid memory I have and, to this day, I have a wonderful scar to remind me of that fateful day.
The first person who had a huge impact on me was my Aunty Margaret, who lived across the street from us, where my mother would leave me when she had to do the shopping or other such errands. Aunty Margaret was big woman of Irish descent, complete with auburn-coloured hair and the statutory apron – or pinny – that all the women seemed to wear at the time. She was the first positive role model of “white” Britain and would fuss over me and I really loved spending time at her house. She would feed me sausage and chips, much to my mother’s horror and disdain. I would be admonished for eating them, being told it was against our religion to eat pork – a much recurring theme in my early life whilst my mother was alive!
I can’t remember if Aunty Margaret had any children of her own; I don’t think she did and perhaps that was the reason she would make such a fuss over me, plus the fact that I was the most gorgeous toddler at the time, even if I do say so myself! She was also rather friendly and familiar with my father and there would be all sorts of arguments between my parents about her, my father siding with her and my mother screaming all kinds of colourful profanities. I never did really understand what was going on at the time, but when I look back now I wonder if there was more to it than what met the eye. I wonder if he was having an affair with her? I never shall know. Whatever it was, or whatever it was that they were doing (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) I loved my Aunty Margaret and she loved me.
To be continued…
Read Rizwan’s next article Jesus is Coming