Best days of your life

When I moved to Woodside Middle School, I remember my mum coming to the school to collect me as my maternal father was threatening to snatch Anthony and me to start a new life in South Africa. My father made a phone call to Anthony and I whilst stopping with my nan. He told us about the big white house with servants. I declined his offer to go with him. He died from liver disease when I was 10 years old. Anthony also didn't go but stayed in contact with our father until he died. I was asked if I wanted to go to his funeral but chose not to. It had been a while since I had had any contact with him. When he did have access to us he took us to a club for the day and gave us cola and rum and raisin Old Jamaican chocolate. I would not thank you for a bar of rum and raisin.

My nan, mum and dad clubbed together to buy me the must have bike at the time, a Raleigh Shopper bicycle for my 11th birthday. It wasn't my first bike, I had had a child's one with fairy wheels (stabilisers) on it and then my dad got hold of a bigger bicycle second hand and did it all up like new, and painted it blue, my favourite colour. The Shopper cost them £70.00 back in 1978, which was an awful lot of money then. The Shopper had everything, a bag on the back, a basket on the front, a bell, a stand and even a rear mud flap. I remember the ceremony of my nan counting the money out into my hand to ensure I appreciated the value of this present. I did value it, it was brand new and I wanted to keep it that way. I washed and polished that bike nearly every weekend. I went miles on that bike. I would race the school bus back along the one and a half mile journey. The bus had to make four stops and I could cut through 'the green' and by the end of the first term I was easily beating that bus. Also by the end of that first term I had had my mud flap, bell and pump stolen from the bike whilst chained up in the school bike shed. I was like many others, a latch key kid, with the key on some strong string around my neck as mum and dad worked in full time jobs and I was old enough to be trusted on my own.

I continued to be more athletic than academic and so loved games and PE at school, particularly cross country running. Although I was never that keen on hockey, possibly as it is a winter sport and hockey sticks and balls smarted when they made contact with ice cold skin. The worse bit was the communal showers afterwards. It was the first introduction to sanitary towels, complete with hoops and elasticated support. I was shocked and not looking forward to that part of my pubity. Shortly afterwards all the girls in my year had a lecture at school about periods. We were shown a model of how to insert a tampon. As the nurse poured water above the tampon, to demonstrate they don't leak, it made the plastic creek. I was in a state of panic, I didn't want to be trussed up nor did I want to walk about creaking. Thankfully I was well into high school, at St Thomas More RC, Bedford, before I started my periods and by then a little wiser.

My first introduction to the males sexual organ was not a pleasant one. I wasn't too old, maybe 12 years. I was flashed at.

I got myself a weekend paper round, which I loved so I had started to earn money for myself at 13. In my 13th year my parents, to encourage me to save, said they would match any savings I had for the holiday. I saved everything that came to me, even found coins (I would check telephone kiosks daily for 2 pence pieces) and amassed quite a nest egg. In all fairness they honoured the deal, even though I found out later it left them a bit short for the holiday.

My dad was offered a sheet metal foreman's job in Halesowen, in the West Midlands. He took the job and lived in the caravan during the week and came home at the weekends, or we would join him in the caravan. My parents looked around for somewhere to live and after a year of searching bought a detached bungalow in Kidderminster, where they remain to this day. I joined them once school had finished for the summer holidays.

After the 7 week holiday I was enrolled into Hagley RC High School for my final year at school, well that's what I thought. The examination boards were quite different, log books and not calculators were used in Maths. English Literature was a different syllabus of books and poems, and no Technical Drawing on the curriculum so I had to choose a new subject, which was Chemistry. I am not sure I actually had a choice as Chemistry was my form teachers subject area. Mrs German was the sternest teacher I have ever met. So it was decided all round that it would be best if I repeated the 4th year and with a June birthday would not be very much older than the other children in the class. This school was very different to the previous five schools. It was very strict in comparison and still had corporal punishment and after school detentions. I didn't settle well and found myself in trouble most weeks for some misdemeanour's. I made friends and remain so with Sarah. Sarah was also a good influence on me and tried to keep me out of trouble as best as she could.

Sometimes I dragged her down to my level and on one such occasion we were found doing something or another and taken to see Mrs Mott, the deputy headmistress. She wore nylon under slips and could be heard long before, bustling up the corridor, she was seen. She sat Sarah and me down and told us that despite being in the top class we were going to be nothing more than factory fodder. My attendance can only be described as poor as was my attitude. I was a terrible teenager and was close to expulsion when the careers teacher, and my Commerce teacher took me under her wing. She would talk to me a lot about all topics. Mrs. Goodeve was a real life line to me and helped me to settle and study for my exams. That had never happened before, there had been no expectation for me to do academically well in any of my previous schools and so no pressure on me at all. My mum was supportive, buying me revision books on the subjects and an English grammar book. It was only at Hagley School was an expectation put on me and a real interest in my learning. I owe a lot to Hagley School and especially Mrs. Goodeve and the headmaster Mr. Hill. I apologise now to those teachers where I led them a merry dance with pranks and childish stupidity. I wasn't violent, abusive or dishonest, just a pain. I started to grow up in my fifth year at Hagley and did well, gaining six 'O' level B and C pass grades. Therefore the decision to repeat the forth year was a very sound one. Otherwise I know I would have left the education system with no qualifications and not fit for any kind of employment.

In my fifth year, Mrs Goodeve continued to support me. She asked me what I wanted to do, guessing staying on at school was not a preferred option either for the school or me. That was my first choice of being a journalist gone as I would have to stay on and get into university. We narrowed it down to a physical job working outside was probably for the best. 'What about piggery farming?' Mrs Goodeve offers as a suggestion. I wasn't keen on the idea and then I saw her face light up as she pulled out of her drawer an advertisement for the Police cadets. We both sat in silence. To apply I had to write a 2000 word essay on why I wanted to be a Police Officer or otherwise. I loved the idea of the cadets, being paid to do sport and go adventure training, but to be a police officer, I wasn't sure, I had never thought about it until that very moment. I needed to go to my art class and by the end of the school day Mrs. Goodeve presented me with suggestions I could put in the essay. It was brilliant, had bits in it like, 'the first line of defence for the community' I went home and told my mum I was going to be a police cadet. I completed the application form and sent it off. My mum and dad were not sure that I would get past the application stage given our chequered family history. I was invited to attend a familiarisation day at the Metropolitan Police's Training School in Hendon. My mum, dad and I travelled on the train to the school and whilst there found out that I had not been successful as I was six weeks too old for the next intake. I was so disappointed as I had by now, set my heart on becoming a Police Cadet.

Mrs Goodeve, encouraged me to not give up but apply for the local police cadets in West Mercia Constabulary.

Here my luck really changed and someone upstairs was definitely looking after me. First I had to sit an entrance examination, as at this stage I was still at school with no qualifications. I met Sergeant Collins, the recruitment Sergeant at Kidderminster Police Station. Four English papers and one maths paper. I needed to score a minimum of five out of twenty correct answers in the Maths test. Sergeant Collins started to mark my paper and suggested I put a decimal point in and change one answer, and then he smiled saying I had now passed the test. Next was a home visit, by the lovely Sergeant Collins. He submitted his home visit report and I was successfully through to the interview stage. What I didn't know was there were 600 applicants for just twelve places. The 'interview' was a four day residential assessment at their training school in Droitwich. The school was an old military base during the second world war.

First we did a fitness test that weeded out quite a few applicants. We had a medical (another few left) and debating sessions. The next day I was given the subject of the sex life of a worm to talk about for five minutes. As opposed to Chemistry, Biology would right now would have been a better option to have taken, but I hadn't so I ad libbed as best I could. Then individually we had to talk about our reasons for wanting to join the police. I had still not made that leap. I knew I wanted to be a cadet but thirty years as an officer, so I spoke candidly and that I didn't come from a long line of police officers in the family,(although my step uncle had been an mature entrant). The contact as a family with police officers was mostly for other reasons. We were all closely monitored by Inspector Pegg and Sergeant Wallis. I had made it through to the final interview stage. I was taken aside just beforehand and told that I was a high risk factor and to confirm I had not had any contact with my brother Anthony for the last two years. Inspector Pegg was willing to give me a real break, but one step out of line...I was ecstatic, so pleased. Maybe my asset was I joined the police with street skills. I already knew about burglary, theft and TWOC (stealing cars)courtesy of my brother. It reminds me of the incident where Anthony met me half way round our deliveries in an alley way. He had previously broken into someone's garage and stolen their Christmas drinks and mixers. He offered me an orange juice from his hoard in the bushes. I refused. I had high morals and theft was wrong. The police soon caught up with him and wanted the property back so I told them where it was hidden. He always called me a copper's nark after that but maybe my destiny was already written.

We were asked to produce our 'O' level certificates for examination, of course being one year behind I was the only one without as I was just taking my 'O' levels whereas the rest were in the sixth form or college half way through their 'A' levels. This was probably the very first true achievement I had made for myself and it was a great feeling. My mum had bought me an air force blue skirt suit to wear for the interview. I felt a million dollars. Just eleven cadets were chosen in May at that interview. We were to report for duty in the September of 1983. We were to be the very last West Mercia Constabulary Cadets as the police were attracting sufficient applicants for the force without the need for a cadet scheme to feed into the system.

In the mean time my dad had got me a summer job at the factory in Halesowen. I assembled drinks dispensers. This was probably the very best thing I could have done as it gave me a taste of life outside the safety of the school environment. I am so glad my dad gave me this opportunity, firstly I had a pocket full of money and secondly I was able to develop in the realities of the adult world. I was also given my mum's old Honda 50cc, step through moped for my 16th birthday so I was also learning to ride. I had the inevitable accident early on where I ran into a car door as it opened whilst stationary at some traffic lights. The Honda lost it's white leg guards and panniers and I lost a bit of pride as I limped me and the bike back home. My dad soon got the bike fixed and me back on the road.

1 comment:

  1. trevor.davison@virgin.net11 July 2011 at 16:32

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