Archive for the ‘Memories and reflections the collection’ Category


It’s September 1976 and the start of a new school year at a new school, Holme Middle. It’s further away than Holmefield First but not by much and I enjoy walking to and from school. Some of my friends from Holmefield First have gone to different schools and I will never see them again, but I make new friends here playing games in the school yard and in lessons. It’s a great start to a new chapter in my life, one without any cares, worries or stresses, one where I can be me and no-one else and live a carefree, happy life. Looking back this could be the last time I felt like this for so long without the changes that growing up is and the stresses and pressures that come with the change of age. With a new school comes new teachers and one of the first to make an impression on me was an elderly gent, probably approaching retirement but one of the nicest teachers I knew. I can’t remember his name now but I do remember that he was kind and knew how to get the best out of you and always had time for you. He drove a Triumph 2500 which at the time was one of the best cars on the market and I loved it! I remember wishing I had one every day I saw it.


I’ll always remember Mark Lloyds dad. He was a big man and scary too. Nobody messed with him and I never saw anyone speak to him, ever. He went to work and came home and that was it. I was friends with Mark for a time and I went inside his house. He had an end house so had a bigger garden then the other houses. It was nice and tidy and Mark’s mum was friendly and talkative, the complete opposite of his dad. I remember once Mark and me were playing outside my house and his dad came walking up the street towards us. As he got closer he asked me to leave as he had something he wanted to say to Mark. Instead of going inside as anyone normally would I opened the garden gate and walked down to the valley! I’ve no idea why I did this as it would have been the accepted thing to walk inside my house but no, I decided to go off in a completely unexpected direction. I can imagine Mark and his dad watching me now wondering what I was doing and why. Having said that I could never work out what the attraction was for Mark’s mum to his dad but life can be strange like that. I might have seen Mark after that but I can’t remember if I did for certain. Life can be strange life that.


Despite mums best efforts money became increasingly tight and we started to get behind with the bills. I think we kept on top of the rent but I know for certain that we got behind with the gas and electric because we had it cut off. Two men came round to do the job, one in an overcoat and bowler hat who looked the stereotypical enforcement officer of the time, the other stayed outside keeping watch. Everybody on the street much have known what was happening. No gas and electric meant no fire, no TV, no lights, no cooking. Everything we take for granted now and to a certain extent did then was gone in seconds and would not be restored until the arrears had been paid. We huddled round a coal fire watching it go from a blaze to a pile of smouldering embers. The TV was replaced by a battery powered portable radio. Lighting was done by paraffin lamps carefully placed around the house to ensure they could not be knocked over potentially causing a fire. My mum cooked on the coal fire pans of vegetables and potatoes and I can only assume we had some meat. I always marvelled at how my mum could prepare and cook a meal to perfection with everything coming together at once. It was even more remarkable how she did it during this period swapping pans of food on the coal fire but still making a lovely meal for us all. I can’t remember how long it was before we had the gas and electric restored but I do remember one lad from school asking if he could come to my house and me having to say no. I instinctively said no and instinctively felt shameful for saying no and for not being able to say why I said no. I don’t think I fully understood why I was saying no or why I felt ashamed at the time but I knew deep down it was the only thing to say. We kept living in the house but I can imagine that was only just. Things were so tight during those times and no one helped us.


After dad lost his job mum had to go full time with her cleaning job to make sure we could afford the basics, food, water, electric, gas, rent. It was hard work but mum did it and we somehow managed. I don’t how she did it but she did. Five days a week working full time while doing the cooking and cleaning too. Dad just made things out of wood, did odd jobs here and there and drank as much as he could as often as he could. Looking back it must have been a daily struggle for mum, trying to keep on top of everything while dad tried his best to sink us further into debt. As fast as mum earnt money dad spent it. It would be easy to blame dad for everything but alcohol is a drug and it can be additive to the point where it takes over your life. This is what happened to dad but back then there wasn’t the awareness or help that there is now. If there had been life could have been so different to the one I experienced growing up as a kid.


Dad had a good job at the Co-op warehouse. It was easy to get to, only 10 minutes walk from home and the wages were decent. We bought a colour TV, music centre and other bits to bring us into the 20th century. I was happy at school and playing with my new friends. Mum was happy with her part time cleaning job. Everything seemed fine. More money for dad meant more to spend on beer and consequently late nights and days off work. Eventually it all caught up with dad and he was sacked from his job for persistent days off. Alcohol had taken over his life and now it had a knock on effect on ours too. Less money meant less for food, bills and little treats. Dad continued drinking, sometimes going missing for days, coming home with cuts, bruises and torn clothes and no memory of what had happened. If only dad could have kept off the alcohol or at least drunk in moderation things might have been very different, but I’ll never know. I only know the reality that I lived through and can only guess at the reality that might have been.


The Valley becomes our playground, our home. We go down there everyday after school, at weekends, every spare minute we have we play down the Valley. We play war games, hide and seek, anything we can just so we can be down the Valley. I get to know every inch of the Valley, all the trails, trees and embankments. I can still remember it now as it was when I was a kid. It’s changed now, all filled in just a big grass field. The Valley was special and still is. I wish I could play there one more time.


He lives over the road from me. He’s different to me, different to everyone. I turn from the victim to the bully. All my bad experiences come out in unprovoked verbal abuse directed at him. For no other reason than I can, he’s an easy target and doesn’t or won’t fight back. I call him names, names I don’t understand the meaning of at the time but deep down I know they are hurtful, wrong, but I still say them to him, attack him with them. It makes me feel powerful at the time to find someone weaker than me, different to me and different to others someone I can attack and hurt and who doesn’t fight back and who is more different to others than I am. It’s wrong but I do it. If I could go back I would not do it. I would be his friend or avoid him altogether but I would not attack him and harm him as I did back then.


Paul is my first friend on Holmewood. We play in the street and on the green, have fun. Paul moves to Cornwall. I never see him again. Malcolm is my next friend. There’s a group of us all playing and having fun. One day I go to Malcolm’s house. His sister looks at me and tells me to leave. She gives no reason. I don’t know why, don’t understand. Maybe she knows something I don’t. I never see Malcolm again.

Chris is my next friend. He’s older than us and the leader of our gang. We play down the valley, jumping over streams, hide and seek, crawling in tunnels, running on trails. I’m enjoying life, having fun with friends, playing with no worries, no fears, no regrets.

More new friends on Holmewood. Paul, Colin and Peter. It’s the summer of 1973. We play football all day and all night. I’m me, I’m free. I’m enjoying life. Food, friends, freedom. Everything I want and need right now. Life is perfect.


We move again. Not far. To Holmewood council estate. It’s a big house with 3 bedrooms and gardens front and back. I like this house. I feel safe here, happy. It’s a new start for all of us. New jobs for mum and dad, new school for me, my sister has moved out. I fly a kite with my dad on the field near my house. I’m having fun.


it’s a cold but sunny morning. Mum has left me on my own at school for the first time. I’m alone. Teachers and children run around, shouting and screaming. I’m lost. I know where I am but not what I’m supposed to do. I walk to the playground and the bullies see their chance and attack me, kicking me to the floor. I’m surrounded by them, all looking down at me. No one comes to help me, no teachers or children. I’m truly alone now in a mass of people. They call me names, mummies boy, softy, they keep coming. Then the beating starts, more kicks and still no one helps me. The bell goes for the start of lessons and I’m alone, lying on a cold, tarmac playground, looking up at a clear, blue sky. Everyone has gone inside, teachers, children, bullies. I get up, brush the dirt off my legs and go inside to my lesson. They knew I was different. I didn’t know I was. I never tell anyone about the bullying, I never forget it though.