I was born and raised in Gravesend, I have only ever attended schools within Gravesend, and at age 17 I still live here. Something I’ve noticed is how if you were either born and/or raised in Gravesend you’re going to have a different opinion about Gravesend than if you moved here as an adult. The majority of students I’ve spoken to share the common desire to move to any where else that isn’t Gravesend, complaining about the quality of the town in general, the lack of opportunity to be had, and the general lacklustre day to day life of a Gravesend person.
So what is good about Gravesend? Well, I guess it’s a matter of opinion. Gravesend is a very culturally diverse town with a variety of close knit communities that bring with them new foods, music, and celebrations (such as Diwali, the Festival of Lights), and it is also home to some unique characters you may come to recognise over time. For my lot it’s the banjo man who we think may be homeless but can be seen strumming his banjo around the town centre. Recently he’s managed to learn an actual tune and managed to successfully busk! We’re all very proud of banjo man.
But as lovely as it all is, there could be so much more when you see other towns. Not that there’s a particular lack of jobs, but there seems to a lack of variety to jobs; all work seems to be shop work or office work, and they all seem to want a long history of work experience where you’ve spent at least a year living alone as a hermit in the Alps tending to sick Mountain goats, as well as requiring a PhD in theoretical physics all just to be able to apply for a job at the local chippie.
The horrors known as the “teenagers at the back of the bus” seems to be a highlight of Gravesend. You’ll get on your sardine packed bus and have someone’s derrière in your face while your elbow is sticking in someone else’s ribs, and you’ll see the chavvy youths shouting and swearing at one another while throwing bottles and bags atone another. If you have never had the displeasure of having to sit amongst these people while they were at full blast, I pray you never will. I can recall one teenage boy beating up a smaller teenage boy behind me with god knows how many others shouting at them (some encouraging the fight, some not), and the older one wouldn’t even let him move to another seat away from him. Confrontation is normally advised against, as I soon discovered when I told him to get off and sit next to me if he couldn’t behave as all I got was “You can’t tell me what to do bruv, I only listen to my muvver and you ain’t her innit” in reply. He did sit next to me in the end. And I so wish he just got off the bloody bus.
It’s not just the youth of today that are dreadful on the bus, as our everyday adults and elders hardly set the best examples either. Once a elderly man started shouting at a couple of young women for being “sluts and whores” despite not being even slightly provocatively dressed, and proceeded to harass them until they got off the bus. He then started on a man who told him that sort of behaviour wasn’t on and shoved him with quite a force into someone else. They say to respect your elders, but this man couldn’t even respect others. Another bus horror I remember would be a woman and her daughter (who couldn’t have been more then 8 years old). Her daughter was quiet, well behaved, perfectly polite, and could be seen quietly chatting to people on the bus when her Mum picked her up from school, the model bus user. If we turn back to the horrors at the back of the bus, you’ll remember their loud and rowdy behaviour. It’s not uncommon for them to loudly swear, and this time was no exception. The Mum perks up at hearing one curse word and immediately starts to shout at them. From the FRONT of the bus. “Don’t you [REDACTED] say that disgusting [REDACTED] swear word around my [REDACTED] daughter you little [REDACTED]. If she picks up that filthy word I’m blaming you [REDACTED]”. But what about all the other children on the bus ma’am? What if they pick up YOUR language? It’s a double edged sword.
There’s not much available shop wise in Gravesend, it’s either all charity shops (which don’t get me wrong, they are very commendable, there are just so many ratio wise to non charity shops), naff burger bars, or shops that are too expensive for you and you wonder why they ever thought the people of this town would be able to afford it. Marks & Spencers have left Gravesend now after 100 years (yes really, 100 years, I’m not exaggerating), Woolworths was a tragedy in its own right when it shut down in December ’08, and we’ve lost count of how many times the restaurant near to Tescos has shut down and been reopened under a new theme. The Gravesend Hospital was shut down (and I think a rumour of someone finding a murder victim near the shut down hospital was actually true in the end), and believe it or not there was once upon a time a cinema in Gravesend until it was shut down in 2003, and to this day it STILL remains an empty unused building. It’s abandoned buildings like this that could be bought and re-purposed for something to contribute to Gravesend, like a community centre or even just housing!
Gravesend history doesn’t have much to offer other than “Pocahontas died here. Charles Dickens died not far from here. John Keats passed through here on his way to Italy where he, you guessed it, died”. I guess there’s the Iron Pier being the oldest iron pier in the world, and maybe the clock tower that was made to celebrate the 50th year of Queen Victoria’s reign, but are they particularly memorable to anyone else BUT people who live in Gravesend? I mean, Pocahontas is buried here but we haven’t the foggiest clue where because the church burnt down and had to be rebuilt. Come on guys, surely with all the technology we have now we could work out whereabouts she is?
So there you have it. Gravesend. On the whole, not so fond of it. But maybe I’m biased. Who knows, maybe to someone else Gravesend is a land of opportunity.