7. I'm a Civilian.
Now I'm a civilian
SixtyThree I’m a Civilian
Well 38 years after I can now begin to describe my later years. As related in my last four paragraphs I obtained my army discharge by purchase and on returning home my wife Brenda made an attempt at suicide.
My mother in law insisted that I go to a public telephone, for we did not have a private one at the time, and call an ambulance. I pig headedly said “She wants an ambulance let her go call for one.” I fully regret these words now but at the time I felt that if she didn’t want me then I wanted nothing to do with her.
Father in Law Albert called an ambulance which soon arrived and Brenda was taken to hospital.
Whether the suicide attempt was a gesture of frustration of the moment or as genuine attempt at death I know not. I do know that Brenda was confined to a hospital intensive care unit. She was released five days later.
During these five days I was in sole charge of my two children of eight and three years. I was totally unprepared for looking after children full time. I made the best of it that I could, probably they were not fed a proper and varied diet or washed as clean as my wife had previously done but I tried hard.
Upon Brenda’s return to the bungalow we hardly discussed our situation other that to re-iterate that the marriage was over. She said that she would move out as soon as possible and that our two houses and assets would have to be sold and the proceeds halved. We did talk seriously about the children’s welfare and what would be the best for them. Obviously David was too young to make any decisions himself as to whom he wanted to live with and we agreed that he should live with his mother. Stephen on the other hand, when asked, decidedly stated he wanted to live with me, Brenda agreed with that decision.
Brenda and I separately placed ourselves on the council house lists. At the time there was and abundance of council accommodation. And we were both assured that there would not too long a wait for a council house each.
I began spending most of my time at my father and mother’s house .My frustrations at the time are very hard to describe, I had many conflicting emotions. I realised that I still loved my wife but because I couldn’t have her I felt a deep pain. Not the type of pain one gets when gets when one breaks a legs or the pain of a toothache but one that lies deep inside ones gut. At the time I would gladly have had my right arm cut off it would relieve the heart ache for that is what the pain was.
Sixty Four Dog Handling
I realised that I needed a job to support myself and son Stephen. I had heard that Securicor, a security company, were always looking for persons with proven track records. I decided to apply.
My interview down at the Greenwood industrial estate office in Leeds was arranged. I duly filled in the application form and the interview went well.
“Have you any experience in dog handling?” I was asked.
I knew that dog handlers were paid six pence an hour extra. And so I lied and said “Yes”
I had observed many Military Police Dog Handlers in action and knew most of the dog commands I reckoned that I could easily adapt myself into the position of 'Dog handler'. Deep inside I have a fear of dogs, it makes no difference whether they are large or small there is still that fear to this day but for the six pence an hour extra I could hide my phobia. The dogs I had previously observed were very well trained and true to whatever handler had charge of its leash. At the end of the interview I was offered the post of dog handler and the interviewing officer led me down into the garages where he signed out a small van and we drove around my prospective duties. They consisted of numerous factories, parks and private premises around the Batley Dewsbury area of Leeds that were to be patrolled.
. Being issued with full Securicor Uniform I had pressed my suit and polished my shoes. Six o clocks the next evening my duties began and I was back in uniform again.
Reporting to my superior he issued me with the individual keys to the many premises I was to visit. He assigned me a vehicle and told me to take ‘Sabre’ one of the many dogs in the compound. With that I was dismissed to my duties.
I had half expected to be taken down to the dog pound and introduced, or rather shown to my dog. My dog, I hoped, would then realise that I was ‘one of them’; my phobia of dogs surfaced.
Reaching the kennels and on seeing me, all of the dogs began to bark and growl and jumping up at their wire cage doors in an attempt to get at me, or so I thought. I had visions of them getting loose and tearing at my throat.
I began to walk down the central passage way with dog kennels on either side looking for the nameplate ‘Sabre’. There the dog was the last cage on the right and Sabre looked and sounded larger that all the other dogs put together. I put my hand to the cage door handle and the dog made more noise than ever. There was no way I was going into that cage to get that dog. My life was worth more than. I stood rigid to the spot unable to move. I was, I admit, terrified.
What could I do? I know I thought I’ll go back upstairs to the office and ask my superior what dog he wants me to have. Hopefully he’ll realise that I’m new to the job and escort me down to the Kennels and show and hand me the dog I am to take.
“Sabre. The last dog on the right hand side. All the dogs have there names printed on there individual kennels.” was all my superior said when I had enquired which dog I was to take. I knew he was thinking, what a thick XXXX I was.
Back down in the compound there was quiet, that is until I arrived and the growling and jumping at the cages began again. All trying, as I thought, to get at my throat.
Sabre again loomed large and vicious. What can I do now all my options are spent I cannot go up to the office and tell them that I am afraid of dogs, I’m an experienced dog handler.
I know, I again thought, I’ll put my foot a little way in from of the cage door so that I can open it enough to get my hand in but not wide enough for the dog to get out. The dog will obviously bite my hand after which I can withdraw it close and lock the door. I can then go back up to the offices and rant an rave that the dogs are not Police trained showing my injured and bleeding hand. I can then resign with honour taking myself off to hospital. Problem solved.
Have you ever tried to injure yourself? I can tell you it is very hard but I was willing to do it to save face.
I placed my left foot a few inches from the door, unhinged the hasp and Sabre the dog bounded up at the door forcing it slightly ajar. I placed my hand inside the kennel and probably closed my eyes.
The dog instead of savaging my hand began to lick it in earnest. A great weight was taken off of my shoulders. I now realised that when the dogs are in kennels other than eating and sleeping are bored and want to be out. When anyone enters the dog pound they are barking in expectations of getting out and enjoy serving.
I put the leach on my dog and led him out in the correct fashion, with the dog on my left side, my right hand holding the end of the lead with my left holding it lower down. Although I had seen this method many times it was the first time for me.
I made a few mistake on my first nights round, probably not visiting the premises in their correct order but on entering offices or a factory I realised that my dog knew the rounds better than me; so I just allowed Sabre to lead me the correct route, each time he stopped I realised that was one of the checking in points around the premises. 'Checking in' points were situated at the entrance and within the premises. Usually they were just a screw fixed in a wall with a key hanging from it. I took the key and inserted it the apparatus that I was carrying; this recorded the exact time I had visited that point.
I took charge of many dogs during my short service with Securicor but Sabre was my favourite and I took him out at every opportunity.
One evening I was making the rounds in one of the public parks of Batley All Batley parks are closed to the public at eight pm and my duties were that after ensuring that there were no persons within the park, secure the gates.
This particular evening a crowd of boisterous teenagers were congregating around the band stand. I approached and informed them that I was about to lock up and asked them to leave. As is usual in a crowd there is always at least one who is a big mouthed ring-leader. “Who’s going to make us leave, you and who’s army?” he sneered.
“Just me and my dog.” I tried to ooze the confidence which I did not feel.
Sabre seemed to be aware of the beginnings of a problem and began quietly snarling and showing the whites of his teeth.
“Do I let the dog go now making sure he goes for you first?” I said looking straight at the ring leader. “Or is it easier for you all to leave the park now?” I said to the crowd in general.
One of the more sensible girls of the group said “Come on it’s not worth the trouble” and with that they all trouped out of the park.
At the time of stating to the teenage crowd that I would let the dog go, I was bluffing. A trained dog handler does not let his dog loose on a crowd. The dog will attack anyone the handler states but whilst the dog is loose obeying its orders the rest of the crowd will be on you. What a handler does is let the dog of on a long leach and the dog is trained to sweep before its handler not letting anyone come within reaching distance of its master
To have a well trained dog at your side it ten times better than any muscular bodyguard. It’s a tremendous feeling. A feeling of invulnerability.
The dog patrol job was a night shift only and although I didn’t mind the job which I felt I did well, I was looking for advancement within the company.
Two weeks in the job and my superior officer asked that I meet him in his office. He informed me that the company would have to dispense with my employment because I was married but separated. When I protested he said that the company’s insurance demanded that separated men could not be employed as they were deemed a security risk. I said that on my application form I could have ticked the box ‘Married’ which would have been true but I had wanted to be truthful. He agreed and suggested that I might reapply in say six months time and I could try again. He said that my work for the company was exemplary but insurance rulings meant that I was now unemployed.
I didn’t want the job anyway. Sour grapes
Sixty Five Beryl
Every one acts differently to differing events in life. The next chapter of my life I regret nothing, but I would, if I could change the way I reacted to my wife’s infidelity but at the time, I know now, that I was very vulnerable. And logic didn’t get a look in. I was feeling less of a man, my wife had fallen for another, I reasoned it was because I wasn’t good enough or man enough for her. My basic instinct was that I wanted to prove myself a man in other men’s eyes.
During my time in the army at Chichester, Beryl was a young lady who worked at the NAAFI. She among others lads and lasses were acquaintances of mine. All friends used to meet up in the NAAFI of an evening and generally socialise.
Occasionally we would play silly Ouija board games or visit the local church’s séances.
Anyway I admit I was attracted to Beryl and I had the idea she to me but we both realised that I was married and we both new nothing could come of any relationship between us. We kept our distance but like any normal blooded young man I admit I was tempted. I can assure my family that at no time whilst I was in the army did I commit adultery with Beryl or for that matter anyone else.
Anyway to get back, I was separated from my wife who was now in a serious relationship with a George Lilley and I was feeling less of a man. I wanted to redress the balance. I decided that I had the answer.
I decided to phone Beryl at the Chichester NAAFI. Talking with the manageress she told me that some month’s ago Beryl had changed stations and was now working at RAF Tangmere. To cut a long story short and after much soul searching I contacted Beryl, told her of my change of circumstances and invited her up to Leeds. She took up the offer and came for the weekend. That week-end was the first time I committed adultery but I felt that it didn’t count as I was separated from my wife and that she had committed that sin many more times before me.
Although Beryl was much younger than I she was very beautiful and very attractive. I will readily admit that when she accompanied me socially I was quite proud and felt that I could hold my head up high again. It probably wasn’t the ideal reasons to begin a relationship but at the time I probably wasn’t thinking straight.
Beryl and I seemed to hit it off and so I invited her to come up to Leeds on a permanent basis and she accepted.
As I have already recorded my wife and I, were in possession of two houses the bungalow that we lived in, separately and Cambrian Terrace, in Holbeck, a large four story terraced house that we first bought when we married. Cambrian Terrace had been converted into three flats and rent was collected from them. Coincidentally the middle flat was vacant and so I installed Beryl into it.
As I have said Council housing was cheap and plentiful in those days and both Brenda and my self obtained council accommodation.
Brenda got an upstairs flat in Middleton Park Avenue and me a three bed roomed house in Throstle Place, both in Middleton, Leeds. Uncle David (Howcroft) helped Beryl and I with the house decorations.
Early in the break up of our marriage Stephen who was nine years old had been given the choice of who he wanted to live with. Brenda and I felt that he was old enough to make this decision. Without hesitancy he choose me. David who was only was not yet four years wasn’t allowed to make a choice; we agreed he should live with his mother. We also agreed that I would have David at the week ends him sleeping over on the Saturday night.
Beryl and I moved into our council house along with Stephen, and as I’ve said David visiting us of a weekend. This arrangement usually worked out OK. Any problems we had usually were of my makings. Beryl tried very hard to be a full mother to my two children but when they played her up, I can describe it no other way, and she looked to me for support I gave her none. This fact is one of my greatest regrets of my life. Beryl deserved better. Beryl tried to organise our lives as she had been brought up. Her ideas were not better or worse than mine just different. She was a southerner and I was a typical Northerner. If I had only just given in a little more perhaps things may have been different. On the whole though, although not perfect, we got along.
One Sunday evening a knock came at the door and when I answered Brenda with four year old David in hand stood there. David only an hour before had just been returned to Brenda. Brenda started by saying she couldn’t handle him. He would never do as he was told and all he kept saying was that he wanted to live permanently with Beryl and I. I looked at Beryl for a decision and she said straight away. “Bring him in” and with that she took hold of David’s hand and shut the door on Brenda’s face. From that point on David began to live permanently with us. I now realise that Brenda didn’t want the encumbrances of children. She wanted to be with her new lover who looked as if he was on the verge of being very rich. Good luck to her, I say, she’ll get her rewards in heaven.
Brenda, though, at this time was the bane of our lives both of us though for differing reasons. In my case I would not let her name be mentioned in my presence but inside I still thought alot about her.
Beryl on the other hand saw Brenda as a threat and that threat was constantly hanging over her head. I can see that now but at the time I just did not think. One would have to hear Beryl’s point of view on this, for only she can describe her feelings. One point sticks in my mind as I’m sure it does with Beryl was :-
A hand knitted jumper was delivered to our house for David from Brenda. Beryl’s temper erupted. “Does she think we cannot clothe or look after him properly” or words to that effect she uttered.
I replied with something like “does it matter one way or the other? If you don’t like it throw it into the bin”
Beryl was adamant and said “I’ve a good mind to take it back round and throw it in her face.” My reply on that one, knowing Brenda’s fiery temper was “If you do don’t forget to duck”
That was like a red rag to a bull and with that she flounced out of the house carrying the offending jumper. About twenty minutes later Beryl re-entered our house and I could immediately see she had a bruised eye cheek. “I told you to duck” I said rather crudely, cruelly and completely unthinkingly
“Ah! But you should see the state she’s in now. I certainly gave her more than she gave me.” She countered.
I now know that Beryl and Brenda had a real ding dong of a battle on the steps of Brenda’s flat. Reports from onlookers and Gadge (more of him later) said that Beryl certainly came off the better. Good on yeah lass!!
Brenda never, or very rarely made arrangements to see her children throughout all of the time Beryl and I were together . I admit I did not encourage, nor discourage, them to see her. Beryl often made remarks upon this fact
Most of the time Beryl was like an angel she was a perfect partner, I could not have wished for a better more beautiful partner, my demeanour probably not so. But on occasions, just for a day or so, she was horrible to live with. We would have an augment about some trivial thing but because I wouldn’t let the problem affect me, probably it made Beryl even angrier. I would walk out of the room to avoid further discussion but she would follow me. “Fine “ I’d say “if you want to be in this room I’ll go into another.” With that I would move out of the room. But sure as not Beryl would follow wanting to continue with the problem. Each time I moved out of the room she would follow. I now realise that I handled the situation rather wrongly. Instead of dismissing her points out of hand and ignoring her I should have listened, even though I did not agree to her point, and pretended to understand.
One particular time this happened and I had been in every room in the house with Beryl following me and I eventually lost my temper and grabbed her by the shoulders and bellowed. “Leave me alone” and without thinking, shook her. Unfortunately her head slumped back and cracked a pane of glass in a door.
Another time exactly the same thing happened and I pushed her away with the effect that the flat of my hand brushed her nose and it began to bleed.
I am not proud that the last two events happened and the last thing that anyone can call me is a bully, brainless yes, but people do stupid things in the heat of the moment and, I am not perfect, only truly sorry.
It’s easy, now with hindsight, to understand the errors of my ways but as they say youth is wasted on the young. And although I was not young at the time I certainly was not old.
In the early stages of our relationship (20-Apr-1969) we had a son, Richard. He wasn’t planned but he was a welcomed addition into our family. At only a few months old it was a great shock find he was a victim of cot death during the night. A post mortem certified that Otis Medina was the cause of death. I think I’ve spelt it correct but it layman terms it means a serious infection of the ear. There was nothing that either of us could have done to prevent such a tragic event. I tried to react stoically whilst Beryl, understandingly reacted hysterically. I took comfort in the fact that Richard was buried next to my mother in the Cottingly cemetery, Leeds.
It was after Richard that I realised I did have true feeling for Beryl and we tried in earnest to have another child and after about two years we managed to produce a son. Lee John Edward. John after my father and Edward after Beryl’s. Lee was a very strong and healthy boy.
A year after, although unplanned but most certainly welcome, we produced another boy Christian Jack Trevor. Beryl and I agreed on Christian’s first two fore names and she went to register him. Afterwards whilst reading the birth certificate I realised that she had added another fore name unbeknown to me, Trevor. I lost my cool I admit. I felt that she had gone behind my back and I was frustrated because I could not alter it. I had a problem calling him Trevor, I still have. Again Christian was a healthy son to be proud of.
Between Richards death and Lee’s birth Beryl and I married
I considered my relationship with Beryl as a quite happy one, not perfect but a lot happier than most. Beryl on the other hand seemed always to be searching for something, if you asked her what she probably wouldn’t be able to tell you.
Beryl was not content, she hankered, if that’s the word, to be back living down South. Many times she would ask that we all relocate to live down in the outskirts of London. I being Middleton bred definitely refused even to consider it.
Probably that was the beginning of the end she often visited her sister, Ursula and brother in law Trevor, there’s that name again.
After ten years together and without going into much detail Beryl and I agreed a split. She approached the council and was soon given a council house. It was agreed that Lee and Christian would live with their mother. I impressed upon them that they now had two homes one with their mother and one with me. I tried to assure them that they were better off that others with only one home. Being young and not fully understanding the point they probably agreed.
So I was now a single man again.
From the first day of separation I arranged, with the consent of Beryl, that I would pick up my two sons from school. I would feed and entertain them until it was time to take them home for bed.
After a year or so of this they asked that they be allowed to live with me permanently. I readily agreed provided Beryl gave her consent. It was further decided that they live with their mum of a weekend. This arrangement was fully acceptable to me, during the week I was a father and protector and at the weekend I was a single man. I now had the best of both worlds.
Unlike my first wife who very rarely took the trouble of seeing her two sons Stephen and David, Beryl never let her two sons down, always being there for them. She still is very close to them, as they are to her.
Beryl and I may have had our differences but we have never, to my knowledge, disagreed about our two son’s welfare, they always came first in any discussions.
Both graduated from university, Lee in Engineering, he now lives in Brisbane, Australia. He is happily married to Abigail, a chemist. They have two sons Toby and Lochlan.
Christian graduated in Business studies and now lives and works in London. He retrained in IT and now has a very good and remunerable job within that field. Christian is to be married in August 2005 to a lovely lass called Kathleen, Kat for short. I feel as if he has chosen well. All the family are looking forward to their coming nuptials.
An update is that Christian is
now married to Kat and they have produced a fine boy called Amory
who is now 18 months old. Kat is now expecting another baby in 3 months
time and has been officially told it is to be a girl.
Sixty Six Leeds Market
After my dismissal from Securicor again I began looking round for employment. My father said “Why not have a word with Stan?”
Stan P. worked in the Leeds wholesale fish market and was the transport manager for one of the major fish wholesalers. His job started at 4-30 am selling fish to retailers. He would take orders by phone or from a customer direct. Boxes of fish and the like would be loaded on to various vans and transported to the retailer’s outlet or shop.
I had worked for Stan P. a few times before whilst in the army. If I came home on a fortnights leave I would work the last week to earn extra cash.
To cut a long story short Stan was approached and he told me to start the following Monday. I felt that van driving was a lowering of my employment standards but any port in a storm. I decided that the job would be a ‘put me on’ job until something better presented itself. When I had settled down domestically the Civil Police service was always an option.
I settled quite easily into the van driving job and was assigned the Harrogate district. There were three other drivers doing differing routes
I soon settled in to my route as I had done pretty much the same whilst moonlighting during Army leave. On the second day and after my Harrogate rounds Stan handed me a whole fresh Salmon weighing in at least twenty pounds (9 kgs) and instructed to take it to Euro foods on Chapletown Road. When I asked for the delivery docket he replied “not on this job. Ali knows how much it is and if he pays you, take it and bring it to me directly.” With that he gave me a nod and walked off. I duly delivered the package and Ali did pay me two five pound notes. When I delivered these to Stan he tipped me a ten shilling note. Quite a nice tip in those days. Most days after my rounds I took ‘dodgy’ deliveries for Stan. Sometimes I received a tip from Stan sometimes not, but I was not one to complain.
At one fishmongers shop in Harrogate that I delivered to I often was given a cup of tea whilst the deliveries were checked. The assistants and I often chatted about this and that. On one occasion I was asked generally about myself. I was always willing to talk about my Army service and being an Ex Military policeman. I also mentioned that I was a qualified Physical Training Instructor.
One of the assistants said there was a Job vacancy at the Pannal Ash Civilian Police Training College advertised in Yesterdays Yorkshire Evening Post.
“Do you still have the Paper?” I asked.
A quick rummage in the dustbin revealed the Paper. Sure enough there was an advertisement for the recruitment of a civilian Physical Training Instructor.
I tore the ad out and said that I would apply for the post and promised to keep them informed. One door close and another door opens as they say.
I duly applied for the position and a few weeks later a letter arrived inviting me to attend an interview.
The Police training Centre at Pannal Ash, Harrogate is set in large spacious grounds. The building itself is very large and impressive and overlooks all of the countryside around. It had been once the home of a very rich industrialist.
There were about twelve applicants and we all waited in a small ante-room in turn for interview.
The interview in its self was quite daunting. I entered a very large banqueting type room with a very large Oak polished table around which sat eight men and two women. Four of the men were in Police Uniform with the badges of rank that I now know to be Chief Constables.
I was invited to sit on a small chair away from the table and I felt very insecure. Probably my seating arrangement was not by chance but I was welcomed by the Chief Civil Servant secretary.
Earlier I had handed in a hand written paper of my past qualifications and work experiences. Unlike now, in those days CVs were not as common as they are today. Looking back my hand written résumé was very amateurish but I subsequently found out that I was the only one who had troubled to put pen to paper.
It was explained to me that in all Training centres there is a Sergeant Police Instructor training Recruits; the home office had decided to see if a civilian instructor could do the same job thus freeing a Police Officer to do the job he was trained for. It sounded logic to me.
I explained that I had been to the Hendon Police Training Centre on a course of Police Holds and Self Defence and roughly understood the setup of a P.T.I. in a civil establishment.
My CV was handed to each in turn and questions were asked upon it. I felt quite confident in answering all of the questions.
One lady interviewee asked me about my marital status. I had prepared myself for the question knowing full well that divorce or separation was frowned upon, my past job at Securicor told me that. I answered quite truthfully that I had been married over ten years and that I had a two sons. It wasn’t actually a lie but only a portion of the truth. The secretary said that the successful applicant could be allocated one of the many semi-detached houses that were built on the side of the driveway, built specially for married Instructors. I intimated that as I had just bought recently a bungalow I would prefer to commute to and from Leeds.
A final question was asked by the Chief Constable of Leeds. “Why do you think you can do the job that has been described to you?”
My reply was that I had done a similar job at the Military Police Training Establishment for almost three years and I knew that I had been successful.
The upshot of it all was that at the end of the day I was told that the job was mine if I wanted it: Which I did.
Two weeks later I walked up the long drive of the training school to begin my first day.
Sixty Nine Roofing.
'Auf weider sein Pet' (Germany 1994)
Roy Roofing Ltd was a small company that employed about twenty. It was a well run company that specialised in built up felt roofs.
To briefly describe a felt roof is that it is usually a flat timber roof base. Bitumen is heated up in a boiler until it is liquid. One Metre wide felt is positioned over the roof and then still in position is rolled back. Hot bitumen is then ladled onto the timber roof and the felt is then rolled out spreading out the hot liquid bitumen which adheres the felt to the roof. Two or three layers of felt is applied in this way hence the term ‘Built up felt’ roofing
I soon settled into a daily eight to five work pattern’s although I had never worked on building sights before, and certainly not on high roofs, but all in all I enjoyed my period of employment with Roy Roofing.
After about six months I realised that built up felt roofing is basically only a semi-skilled job and with a little outlay one could set up a small roofing company of ones own.
I asked Jimmy, my brother if he was interested in being self employed. He was very interested. I , sorry my ex-wife and I, had just finalised selling our two properties, the Victorian house in Holbeck and the bungalow in Middleton. We both ended up losing the only winners were the solicitors handling our respective cases. I agreed with Jimmy that I would deposit £250 into a joint account in the Yorkshire bank. I wrote letters too many building companies in the Leeds area introducing our newly formed company. Work came in very slowly and money was very tight. I dealt with the paperwork and Jimmy was the more experienced roofer, being in the game most of his working life.
Work at first was very slow in coming in but slowly we began building up contact and contracts. We made a lot of mistakes but we also climbed a lot of hurdles. I could see a future in the company Gale Bros. (Leeds) but it was not to be.
To cut a long story short Jim and I had a falling out over procedure and we split the building contacts up and went our own ways.
For the next 20 years or so I was self employed. I made some decent money and I made some poor money but all in all being self employed is more satisfying than being employed.
In 1992 brother Jim and I, although we had made up our differences, and were still self employed were find incoming work was hard to get. A mate mentioned to us that there was plenty of building work to be had in Germany. I rang a contact number and arrangements were made for us to go to Neustadt in Germany to take up 6 weeks work. We made some good money during the 6 weeks and after a month at home returned for a further 5 weeks. Some good and bad times were had but we were well paid for it and it made a welcome change.
Seventy A Single Man Again.
1980 and I was now a single man again. Well I was still married but separated and two children to bring up, but I felt single, especially at weekends when Lee and Christian visited their mother. I had no responsibilities, well for a couple of days at least, I could please my self. One thing I was certain in my mind was that never again would I enter into a serious relationship. A long time ago when I was about eighteen old mining friend of once gave me some advice: Why buy a book when you can join a library. I didn’t fully understand what he meant at the time, in those days one night stands were unheard of. I now decided that was the life for me. Trouble was it didn’t quite work out that way, I found that the ones I fancied I couldn’t get and the ones I could get I didn’t fancy.
That last sentence was not strictly true. I met a young, very beautiful, lady called Sheila. I say young because she was 26 years old, (12 years younger than I) We instantly hit it off together and I escorted her on and off, for about 8 years. We had some great times together but I was unable to commit myself to the permanent relationship that Sheila yearned for. We produced a son called John; Who, now, with his partner Leanne, have produced 2 further grandchildren Jak & Lewis. John and Leanne have a loving relationship and are successfully bringing their children up in a very loving environment. Both John and Leanne are hard workers and all their labours are to promote their family unit.
Of a weekend the Thorpe Hotel was my second home I met all my old acquaintances and friends there. One day I suggested that we organise a men’s trip and it was met with some enthusiasm. The landlord Tommy Mannion suggested that we have a meeting and form a committee to decide coming events. This was done and I was elected foremen and he the treasurer. It was proposed and decided that we have a mini holiday somewhere abroad in six months time. For six months we ran domino cards around the club and collected savings for the trip. It was decided to go to Majorca for four days. I won’t go into detail about the mini break but it was highly successful.
On our return we decided to organise another men’s holiday and this time for the festival week in Benidorm. Thus began our annual outing to Benidorm and for the next sixteen years we, for a week, lived without a care in the world
The festival week in Benidorm is like no other place I’ve been. That week most that go there are either single or married pretending to be single. It’s like being eighteen again everyone is intent on having a good time.
The annual trip to Benidorm in 1997 is notable for one very good reason, I met Elaine..
Elaine had been recently widowed and to help get over her loss a very good friend of hers, Gillian urged her to go with her on their annual trip to Benidorm. She didn’t really know many of the lasses but she agreed to go. To begin with she was like a fish out of water she didn’t know how to let her hair down and go with the flow. She always seemed to be on the outside of the revelry.
On the Friday night, the last night of our holiday, I just happened to be sat alongside of Elaine in Steptoe’s in the outside bar. At one point I asked her to dance and the dance was so unlike all the other daces I’ve had with many different partners. It felt so easy to be in her company. A thoroughly enjoyable experience. On our return to the table with all the others I began, or should I say, we began talking. Ask me what about and I cannot tell you because I don’t know. It was a conversation as if we’d known each other for years. The others lads and lasses made plans to go to another bar which was as usual but Elaine and I remained seated. We were enjoying our conversation and being in each others company. Soon we were alone. There was no sexual chemistry present, or should I say neither of us was trying to get off with the other, it was just nice being with someone you liked. We stayed there until about four in the morning, just talking.
All things must come to an end, and we parted with me regretting not ‘meeting’ Elaine earlier in the week.
The very next year I made a beeline for Elaine, for I wanted more of the same that I’d had the year earlier. To cut a long story short we both had a great time. I was not looking for a serious relationship not because I didn’t fancy Elaine, I did, but I felt that I was too old for her me being 13 years her senior.
Seventy One Elaine.
On Valentines Day 1998 I received a valentine’s card from Elaine. It was a surprise and most welcome. I sent her a letter back thanking her for it and casually mentioned that I might be travelling to Tyneside to pick up a computer that was being repaired. The computer repair, although not a lie, was not strictly true. I was just testing the water to see how Elaine would react to my visiting her. She replied that a visit would be most welcome.
After a telephone call it was arranged that, rather me travelling to Geordie land, Elaine would pick me up in Leeds City Square and we would travel to Whitby for the weekend. We both enjoyed a wonderful time but the weekend passed too quickly and so we arranged that I travel up to her home in Northumberland on the next weekend. I could hardly wait. Our relationship was so natural.
That next weekend began a courtship that lasted well over a year. We visited each others home on alternate weekends, never missing once. Although at the beginning neither of us was looking for a serious relationship it soon became obvious that that was the way our friendship was heading.
At that time I was sub-contracting for Garforth Roofing the proprietor being called Alan. When I told him of how our relationship was progressing he advised me to be careful. Because he’d not had many good relations with females, he warned that women were the downfall of men and that in his opinion I would soon become under Elaine’s spell and would soon be at her bidding. Often as I’m washing up and ironing I think of how wrong he was. I’m happy I like to believe he was warning me off just so that he could retain my services.
It got to the point that my I was only living my life for the weekends. During the week I went to work as usual, but my thoughts were only of the coming weekend. We both discussed our living together me with her or her with me. I realised that she would miss her family too much if she came to live in Leeds with me. Whereas I, by now lived alone, my two sons were at university and son John with his mother there was very little to hold me back. A decision was made and I came to Northumberland to live.
With the help of Elaine’s contacts I set myself up as a roofing contractor. Work was as in Leeds I had too much or not enough.
I had been living in Northumberland for bout Six months when, Johns mum, Sheila contacted us and the eventual outcome was that John came up to stay with us for the duration. We enrolled him in the local school and at first seemed contented enough, for a teenager that is. Though he never seemed really happy Elaine and I slowly realised that he was homesick for his mum. Soon after he completed his GCSE’s he returned to Leeds to live with his mum. He is now settled with his partner Leanne and they have a one year old baby Jak. No not a misprint. An update is that they now have a further son called Lewis. Theirs is a very happy and loving family.
As I’ve already suggested self employed work was sometimes thin on the ground. During one spell Elaine and I visited the local Employment offices to see what was available. An advertisement caught our eyes. It was from a film casting agency wanting extras for a coming film. We both filled out questionnaires and sent them off. Work then returned so we thought no more about the applications.
I received a letter from the casting agency inviting me to contact them as they had work for extra's on a film being made in the Newcastle area. I replied in the affirmative and arrangements were made that I attend at an address in Easington, county Durham.
I attended and found out that the film was largely about the 1980s miners strike. I became part of a crowd of miners protesting to the police’s bullying tactics. All in all, a long day with little interest to me. Of the 9 hours on site only a few minutes were we actually doing something. I didn’t really want to go the following day because of my lack of interest but because I had agreed to go I did.
The second day was set in Newcastle city itself. There were about a hundred extras congregated in the Gallowgates bus station car park all waiting for someone to tell them what to do. Two faces in suits, who I found out later to be the casting agents, were looking over our motley crew. One of them pointed to me and the other nodded in agreement. They approached and told me that, with my agreement, they wanted me for an extra assignment. I agreed and was then driven off into the centre of Newcastle. There, in a side street was a film and camera crew all set up. I was introduced to the director Roger Daldry who I found was a true gentleman. He asked me if I knew anything about the film. I answered no. He then went on to explain the synopsis of the film being made. Its working title was ‘The Dancer’ and was about a boy, called Billy, who growing up in a mining village during the pit strike of 1980 who secretly wanted to be a ballet dancer. His father who, when he found out about his sons ambitions, was infuriated and refused to accept his son as a dancer.
The scene about to be played was that Billy’s father, who was short of money, had decided to visit a pawnbroker to pledge some of his late wife’s jewellery. My role in this scene was that I was a miner collecting donations from members of the public who supported the Miners Strike. I was to ask for a donation from Billy’s father who being a miner himself, had no money to donate.
To cut a long story short in the film, later to be called ‘Billy Elliot’ I was part of a scene taken outside of the pawnbroker’s office, in Pink lane, Newcastle which even for a few brief seconds the camera was directly on me. My only claim to international fame! Below is a still photo.
My transition from being a Leeds Lioner to becoming a Geordie came very easy. I had already known many people living here, so settling in came quite easy.
Elaine and I have been together for about seven years now and, I think I can speak for us both, we are very happy. We continue to go to Benidorm and enjoy the lively atmosphere but now neither of us is looking for anyone or anything else.
There will be no more additives to this autobiography: (I wrote this line earlier but life is and will constantly change so I'm writing about the change and will update ASAP)
To bring the reader as little more up to date Elaine & I have been together for over 12 years now and plan to wed (my 3rd) in June 2009 (next year) In our lives together we have been Market stall holders and pub licensee's and at present we are now retired our lives are far from over. We both look forward to tomorrow. (In fact we are now looking at taking over our local pub.)
I am now in my 73nd year (Elaine 60) and still going very strong. I remember, and live up to, the old pit saying "I can run, FXXX or fight anyone under 9 and over 90".
We now live on a holiday trailer park and from our front door can throw a stone into the sea. well when the tides in that is. Our plan is to live here during the spring and summer months and spend the winter abroad. We LOVE!!!! it
I’ve had some up some downs, some high and some lows but all in all, looking back I’ve had more ups than downs and more highs than lows.
At this point in time I realise that, due to my happy upbringing largely due to my mother and father, I am a reasonably rounded person.
I’ve had a very good life, certainly better than most and very few have had better.
If I were not an atheist I would thank god for such a good, happy and varied life.
The End (Well not quite yet!)