PRINCE RAISED IN THE HOOD

So I’m from a little town called Rock Ferry, a suburb, you might say, of Birkenhead, also known as Liverpool’s aborted younger sister. You may remember Duffy’s album ‘Rockferry’, aptly named because her granny resides in that wondrous hamlet, which is not quite the English idyll you’d imagine. I spent the first eight years of my life in Rock Ferry, colloquially known as ‘da Rocky’, and spent many an evening with my Kenyan mother, Anna, in The Admiral pub, also known colloquially as ‘Dee Addy’. In my fuzzy nostalgic memories of ‘90s Merseyside, I remember playing on my own in the pub’s backgarden ‘playground’, actually a series of moulding and close-to-collapse slides and toy houses that had probably been the area’s local hotspot for thrill-seeking tots a few decades ago. However, back then, circa 1999, it was my one-boy Secret Garden of ghetto delights, containing a treasure trove of cigarette buts, rusting beer cans and spent lighters. From time to time, my mother would entertain the crowds of Rock Ferry locals, colloquially known as ‘Fez ‘Eads’, praising the gods of hashish, colloquially known as ‘rocky’ (there’s a theme, here), clapping and dancing as she simutaneously rolled, lit and smoked her joint. Obviously, she was quite a phenomenon in exclusively white, post-Thatcher Merseyside, colloquially known as ‘dat bitch’, and her African sunshine, love of rocky and unconventional pub-garden booty-shaking earned her the pet name ‘Mad Anna’, to the extent that she became something of a local celebrity, her famous cheetah-print leggings and loud, bushy ways attracting the reveration, and indignation, of our neighbours and beyond (our cul-de-sac).
25 Medway Road, our two up, two down Victorian terraced house housed me, my mother and my half brother, Stephen, who came over from Kenya with my mother back in 1990-before-I-was-born. Being the caramel skinned baby mummy always wanted, I was always the house favourite, blaming Stephen for broken lamps, killed hamsters and pillaged packs of Wagon Wheels. Mummy’s heavily-used lines ‘come ‘ere, I’ll beat you to the bone/like a chicken/like a pancake/other violent imagery’ was often aimed at Stephen, but when a young me had no big brother to blame, young me received the terrifying experience of an East African woman with murder in her eyes. Such was the horror that I made a hole in the side of my mother’s bed and hid inside with the bed-sheet covering my DIY panic-room when she came thundering after me. It worked for the first few times until she realised that it was not possible for a five year old boy to teleport to an alternate bed-themed dimension and took my beating-to-the-bone like a man.

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