10 years ago my husband and I moved to Leeds. We had a criteria when deciding on a flat to live in that being whatever was affordable. Before being shown flats in and around Beeston we were warned that South Leeds was a ‘very working class area’, whatever that may mean. Time passed and we had a very nice life, mainly overindulging and taking full advantage of the fact you can stagger home from the city centre with ease. Until I became in the family way and we were forced to grow up a little.
It never occurred to me to think twice about buying a house in Beeston, although I did receive the odd pitying remark and hear the faint sound of brains whirring as they scrambled around for something positive to say. We ended up in a large, ramshackle, in need of renovation, mid through terrace in Beeston and I am pleased to say that we made a good decision.
The fact is we enjoy a very jolly life in Beeston. To all intents and purposes I am living a very nice existence in an area which is described as deprived. I have managed to send my children to a school which was described in its OFSTED report as one of the best in the country. There they enjoy heavily subsidized cultural trips and clubs like Choir and Dazl When the children were tiny I enjoyed well supported and staffed groups such as Baby Cafe and New lives (at New Bewerley). I walk the streets and I feel comfortable, OK some of us are a bit scruffier than average, but sometimes that is liberating!
In the summer my husband and I grow ideas of grandeur and sip fizzy wine in the park whilst bands play and our children lollop about, picking up sticks and poking dogs. Last year we held a very successful picnic party for my eldest, all we had to do was take a rucksack and a few friends to Crossflatts, no tidying, no extortionate party fee and happy children at the end. The spot where we have chosen to live means I can carry out green ambitions and not need to own a car. With a bit of planning and patience we get around pretty much everywhere and this year especially we have enjoyed some lovely days in and around the city. Which I think is becoming a much better place to entertain young children.
I have met some great people here, I am quite possibly a little sentimental by nature, even so I am constantly inspired by people who may not have had the ‘best’ start in life but are determined to break the cycle for themselves and their children. Besides where else other than Beeston could I compare childhood experiences about pickles and piccalilli taking pride and place at Christmas? I have also met some really clever folks who by all accounts should be living in the Northern equivalent of the home counties but choose to live in South Leeds because their life here is good.
Occasionally after visiting a smarter perhaps more lucrative area of Leeds and suffering from buggy envy, I sit and consider our alternative. A couple of years ago both of us working full-time got too much for me, I think I suffered a little mental exhaustion. Due to our reasonable mortgage and less than average council tax, I was able to go part-time and start enjoying both my life and job again. This year my husband and I both have some interesting creative plans and contemplating them is only possible due to our current cost of living, lifestyle and fact we can relax over our children’s education. In fact my husband’s creative plan makes living in South Leeds an integral part (but that is for another time).
Of course this is only my story and my own experiences, and you will have noticed that I have completely missed out all of the negative parts and this being real life we have had our share. I suppose I have had this post in my head for a while, it is a more grown up articulate and censored response to some of the negative and ignorant remarks still made about South Leeds today.