Since writing this piece, I realised it was both rushed and full of holes, so have come back to edit it, and fill in a few gaps.
I thought I would quickly write this, just as an introduction to me and my background. Following on from a fantastic, constructive conversation on Twitter recently, I thought it only fair that I show my true colours. So here goes.
I was born in Lewisham Hospital 14th Feb 1973, to a single mother. Becoming the youngest of 2 children. Growing up on Homecroft Road in Sydenham, it would be a lie to say things were rosy.
My father never played a part in my life, while knowing where we lived, and having the financial means to make life a lot easier, I believe it was his choice not to contribute. The separation and divorce was finalised prior to this anyway, so a live in dad was never on the cards. Choosing to spend his life with his new wife, and later on his son. Meeting him just the once that I recall, on a train heading into town, along with my sister. The destination was my nan's house. Again, I have very little recollection of the day, other than remembering I was not happy at all, it was not all I had ever dreamed of. Awkward and upsetting, and cemented my opinions of him. And also fixed in my mind that I would never do what he had done.
Mum did her best to provide for us, but with things like toasted burger buns with tomato ketchup as a meal, times were hard. On a good month, money would be squirrelled away, and a roast chicken would be the prise dinner of the month, on a Sunday of course. I would say all the trimmings, but a tin of carrots and a couple of potatoes was about all that went with it. We didn't starve, not for one second, but then free school dinners and milk etc were a real life line back then. I remember mum coming to see the teachers at school and telling them if I didn't want to eat, let me go hungry. I soon learned!
Obviously in the late 70's schools were quite strict, and there was no play time without eating something first. Needless to say I spent a lot of time in the dinner hall, and little time running about. Consequently I became the chubby kid in class. Asthma was diagnosed quite early on in one of my many trips to hospital and the doctors, and weight would blight me for years to come.
Other little gems during early years are below.
- Being knocked down by a car, getting small head and foot injuries at the age of 3. I escaped by running out the side gate to cross the road to show everyone my new plaster... Ended up with more than a plaster.
- Being hit by another car years later, getting up and running away telling the driver I was fine (I was)
- Numerous broken wrists through being a little boy, slipping on ice, falling off a bike. The last one I hid for 2 days because I didn't want my mum getting mad at me. Eventually the pain and swelling became too much.
- Punching my hand through a window, accidentally of course, as my sister shut the window to stop me getting in, I just didn't manage to stop in time.
- Snapping a pencil lead off in my thumb and having it dug out with a needle at the hospital.
- Oh, not forgetting having a ruptured testicle due to them twisting (just thought I would throw that one in there)
The list above is just what springs to mind at this precise moment, believe me there are plenty more little gems from those days. Needless to day, Sister Bell at Sydenham Childrens Hospital got to know me very well, to the point where she would fill out all my admission information without asking a question.
As hard as mum tried, there was always a balance to be found in anything we could do. Not being particularly outwardly social herself due to deafness, activities were based on this not being an issue, along with sporting a slipped disc, leaving her in considerable pain at times. But we always came first and she tried very hard to give us what we needed.
Occasionally when mum's back got really bad we would be looked after by social services. Sometimes in house, other times staying with families. Never for a long period that I recall, and living with another family for a few days wasn't so bad. At that age it felt like just some more friends. Then there was the live in care, can't say for one second that was a good time at all.One name springs to mind, Millie, and one smell, burning ironing. That's about my recollection of the misery of that, other than feeling very sad a lot of the time.
Television, toys, and fancy clothes were all just a dream. However with careful spending of the ILEA vouchers issued to get us school uniforms, sometimes there would be enough for some jeans to last the year. Bring a toy to school day at the end of term was always a little depressing, with all the other kids coming in with nice new toys just for that day, and me, well.... Occasionally I would have something, but as kids we shared, so I was never left out. All I can remember about those times is some weird helicopter game, where you changed the height to avoid obstacles and pick up magnetic objects. Don't ask me!!
Troubled at school for being the overweight, asthmatic, who wore old tatty clothes. Questioned if I was living with my nan, because mum looked older than the rest of the mums, having had me at 35. But as I grew older and stronger shall we say, I learned not to get too upset by the other kids comments, and made some great friends at primary school. Paul Jefferies, Joseph Ford, Simon Davies and Richard Frith were the lads I knocked about with when I could. Happy days had arrived.
None the less, looking back I had a positive childhood and learned much about the difference between need and want. Material objects have their place, but are no immediate priority.
When I reached 8 we moved to Forest Hill, where I still live today.
Moving here was a change of life, lots more kids, loads of influences, pressures and things to get involved in. As I reached my teens, staying out all night, running amok, getting known by the police, encouraging a chase from them, it was just the done thing. However I managed to stay out of trouble for most of the time.
Avoiding the temptations of cigarettes, drugs and alcohol, I was one of the few kids from my generation, in fact I am tempted to say the only one, who avoided all of them. The pressure was there, but my interest wasn't.
Growing up on the street I would have to say David Maloney was my best friend, spending a lot of our younger years kicking about together, sharing trips into London to wander around Hamleys and St Pauls. Getting a Red Bus Rover ticket and spending the day travelling around on buses, seeing the sights, having a little adventure. There is a funny story to tell regarding one of these trips, but I will allow David some dignity lol.
As we reached secondary school, I went off to Malory miles away, shunning the opportunity to have scholarships to a couple of private schools. Meanwhile most others went to the local Forest Hill Boys school. The upside to going to a school miles away was, along with the free school dinners I still received, I also now got a term time free bus pass, making those Red Bus Rover trips even cheaper. However I would be lying if I said secondary school was a fantastic adventure. Sure we had some great times, but with sports becoming harder and harder, with asthma and allergies causing all sorts of problems, the weight piled on, and obviously, being secondary school, the name calling started.
Now I was not bullied at school, that just isn't the case, but I was the butt of a fair few jokes, earning nicknames etc, which made bad days harder. None the less, when push came to shove I would always stand my ground, and stand for what I believed in. A quality which has stuck with me for life.
There isn't much more to say about school, other than pretty much a straight A student, always released from class detentions as I was seen as non disruptive, and felt like I got on well with most of the kids and teachers. Only ended up in the heads office the once, and that was thanks to Mario Cameron being wound up, and me ending up with a split lip.
Unfortunately, on reaching the year of my exams, I decided I knew better, started hanging around with some slightly older people, and ducked out of school a few months before my exams. So here I am now, not one academic qualification to my name.
That same year, I also decided it was a good time, now approaching a responsible age, to get arrested and charged with an offence. Court came and went, bed advice from a solicitor, so here I am today, with a criminal record. Albeit dissolved by the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, but still present enough to affect my direction in life at times. My application to work in the Met stonewalled at the final leg by the record. The years after that are just a bit of a blur, with nothing amazing happening, other than getting my first job just before I turned 16, being made redundant by the time I was 16 and a half, and falling into the folds of Sainsburys, where I would remain for 6 years. Great times there.
As I grew older and watched the younger generation in my area making the same decisions, following the same paths as some of the more troublesome kids I grew up with, I made the effort to spend time with them, chatting with them on the same wall I grew up sitting out on til the small hours. Looking at most of them now, calmed down, families of their own, working hard, and making something of their lives, the small reward of time spent with them is great.
Reaching my twenties, the birth of my daughter was a wake up call, and also a very painful time in my life. From finally understanding what responsibility was, caring for someone so precious, through to having that ripped away from me, out of my control. From separation, through sharing custody , to losing all contact with my daughter, my twenties were a painful life lesson. Not something I would wish on anyone.
For the next however many years, I have always tried to do the right thing, from getting involved in the neighbourhood, helping people in need where chance arises. Caring for my mum in her 4 year battle with cancer was tough for sure. From the first day of her saying she found the lump, but didn't want any treatment, through the appointments for diagnosis, treatments and surgery, all seemed necessary at the time, but took their toll. Only realising how bad a state I was in towards the end of her life.
Fighting severe depression for the last 18 months of mums life was a tough one. Trying to find the balance between a normal life, watching someone you know and are now living with slowly slip away from you. Never nice, and I have huge respect for all the people caring for loved ones in their families with life long or terminal conditions. No pity required, its just life really, but it's not been easy or uninvolved for sure.
I think if you checked the log of calls to 999 over the years, there will be dozens from me. Not just nosey neighbour stuff. Quite a few active involvements in the arrests of drunk drivers, one particular one being the sister of a well know violent family. After appearing in court, I was really not the favourite for quite some time.
Foot chase with a gun man, a 20 min conversation and eventual talk down of a self harming man intent on taking his life as he walked up my road. Thankfully most of his cuts were superficial. A number of serious RTA's, helping treat and calm casualties. When I look back I can honestly say one thing, I am not afraid to get involved when the opportunity arises. Never thinking twice about getting stuck in to whatever was needed in the moment.
I would like to think that as the years have gone by, any signs of my upbringing, and bitterness about coming from such a poor background, have dissolved away. Leaving behind a strong willed, open minded, straight talking, responsible adult man. Of course, this isn't obvious to all.
Hope this has been an interesting and informative read.
One final thought.
Its sadly ironic that the reason for writing this whole thing, opening up and spilling more info about me on the internet, is because of an exchange with someone who while they talk of the positive work they do to help better communities, and give people a chance, judges, calls names, and mocks someone they know nothing about. All because our opinions differ.
I have made this entry, as with all my other blogs over the years, to put information on me out there on the internet. Call it attention seeking, or an open book. Whatever you call it, finding information on me and my life online is not hard to do, and I am quite happy for people to do so for whatever purpose they see fit.
All I would ask is, if you don't have all the information to make a genuine balanced judgement on me, just ask. I have no secrets, but can't stand when people assume, make up stories, or just get carried away with what the reality of me really is.