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Used to work for AVIVA offshoring IT to India.  Now retired through ill health, writing my life story as a series of blogs chronologically from birth to current time.  At www.jw-alifeofsurprises.blogspot.com

Friday, 30 July 2010

1970 to 1979, Growing up is a Family Affair

1970 to 1979, Growing up is a Family Affair.

My eldest brother Mark had suffered as a child with terrible Asthma. So severe was his ailment that he eventually was sent under doctors orders to a specialist boarding school and hospital near Leicester. I vaguely remember being loaded into the family car with my brothers and sister and driven quite some distance by Dad to visit Mark. Its funny how memories miss out things and i do not remember going to see him that often, nor do i remember Mark having had problems once the family had moved to Norwich. In conversations with Helen (sister), she told me that at times Mark was dreadfully ill and Mum and Dad were very concerned about him. Once in Norwich, my abiding memory of him was that, a) he gained an apprenticeship in Electro Mechanical Engineering at Boulton and Paul's on Riverside Road in Norwich and b) that he decided that he was a Rock and Roll star and was going to be the next big thing in music in the 70's.

So much so, that he formed along with a couple of twin brothers and a drummer, a band named Mebo. My memory is sketchy on some of this so forgive any errors in recall, but he transitioned through to another band called Train and another called Riff Raff (!). I particularly liked the drummer as he was always interested in what i was up to and paid attention to me. I remember going along to a couple of the rehearsals with Dad, (who was Marks greatest fan) and as the drummer made the most noise and let me hit the kit, i latched on to him. His name was David Marshall. His wife, Jayne, was also very nice and i met her a few years back as she and David had a Leather goods stall on Norwich Market.

David would give me his broken drumsticks and i would sit in the front room of our house on Earlham Road, behind a drum kit made out of dining chairs, saucepans, lids and boxes, and smack the hell out of the lot. Mum did not mind at first as the dust rising out of her chairs meant one job less for her. Every time the "band" turned up, either on the way to practice or a gig, (they played a lot of American Air force bases, like Bentwaters and Mildenhall), David would give me a set of sticks. As Dad was away a lot as we grew up, Mum had to put up with my "drumming" and eventually, grew tired of the constant thwacking sounds coming from the front room. During Mark's "Rock" career, my sister Helen began, what can only be described by a younger brother, to blossom.

My Mum and Dad decided that as the "cosmopolitan" family about town, that we should take in Foreign Language students and i remember a steady stream of, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Nigerian, and Arabic (including Iranian) students living with us. Pascal, a french student, had a certain affect on Helen, and as Rock Star Mark had his guitar, he would sit in the garden, the acoustic on his lap and play songs. There is a picture of the 3 of them sitting in the garden playing guitars and singing. I am sure it probably sounded ok......but they look pretty corny, all flares, flowered shirts and long hair. That said, Mark and his band(s), recorded some pretty good stuff (he tells me) (no really it was good) and i am sure if you know Mark, he will have played the tapes to you by now. Oh, and once we had moved to Norwich, Marks Asthma cleared up and he has never really suffered with it since. Probably a lot to do with the singing.

Marks band had quite a following and Foreign Students would be dragged along to the gigs by Dad, Mark and Helen to watch. We younger brothers would only see the output of all this fun, finding a grumpy older brother asleep in the bath the next day. The Foreign Students being in the house became a common sight and many of them continued to write to my parents for years after they left. It was during "The Rock Years" that my sister met he future husband, David. Many of you will have seen the American TV series from the 70s and 80s, such as Dallas and Dynasty and the first time Helen met David, reminds me of those programmes. David would help Mark with the band gear and worked with Mark at Boulton and Paul.

One night, on the way to a gig, David came to collect Mark and Helen was going with them. I recall standing at the bottom of the stairs in the hallway (I am about 10 years old) and watching as Helen literally "floated" downstairs, with David waiting at the bottom by the front door. I remember thinking, "she loves him, and he loves her". Helen was a very curvaceous red head and David obviously had good taste, as they were pretty soon an item and David fast became a fixture around the house. David would always be round and in the summer, spent quite a long time keeping me and my brothers amused, play fighting in the garden and generally throwing us around. David, when my sister met him, had a reputation around town and someone who shall we say, did not let an insult lie. A fanatical boxer and member of the Norwich City Boot Boys, he was known for his ability to get "stuck in". If you know David, you would probably find this quite hard to believe, but David was a leading member of the Barclay Stand (NCFC Alumni).

Helen and David got married and had two children, Claire born in 75 and Katie born in 77. My brother Mark met Monica and they got married in 1979, Monica had 2 children, Michelle and Jason and Mark and Monica, had Ben in 1980.

My Dad was very much into creating long lasting friendships and relationships. I am pretty much the same. I remember that at Helen and Davids wedding, almost his entire family came over from Leicester and Dad was one of 10 children. His career was developing really well and he was sought after for his advice and help from many sectors. He was very close friends with members of the Unions and the leadership, Jack Jones and Moss Evans, leaders of the TGWU and respected members of the TUC for instance. Mum and Dad both travelled to a conference in Tenerife during the late 70's and both Jack and Moss where there i believe.

As i have noted previously, Dad had any number of roles, including Magistrate, School Governor and advising numerous companies on Personnel Related issues. Dad was away with work a great deal and we'd usually only see him at weekends. It was a strange world, as Mum would be working on the edge of sanity trying to control 3 boys, whilst Dad was away. Whenever he was home, we would always do something, going to the beach, the park, off to Leicester to visit family etc. Dad would often pull a surprise and one day, hard at work in English class at Earlham School, where Dad was a governor, the headmaster appeared at the door. He told Mrs Kemp that he needed to see me and to bring my bags and books with me. I walked out the class (it was around 1pm), and there was Dad and my younger brother Julian. "I am taking you out for the afternoon" he said, we looked at Mr Potts, (The Headmaster), who smiled and off we went. Dad took us down to a country pub, by the river and we spent a few hours drinking "Poka Pola", chasing sticks in the river, watching the boats go by, feeding the ducks ans swans and talking to Dad.

Another time, he took me out one Sunday, on a drive to the Norfolk coast near Sea Palling. On the way, i was subjected to Dad's eight track cassettes featuring, Demis Roussos, Frank Sinatra, Neil Diamond, The Stylistics, Johnny Mathis amongst others, as we sped along the country roads. We pulled up alongside a field of sweetcorn, on a blisteringly hot day and Dad lifted me up to sit on the car roof, "you stay there, if you see any policemen or farmers coming, shout and let me know", and with that he was off. He came back with bags full of Corn Cobs and off we went to Sea Palling. We then spent an hour pick up the pea pods the farmer has missed when harvesting the field. Not bad for a Justice of the Peas (sic)!

Mark and Monicas wedding reception was held in a pub and we boys were all bought a suit to wear for the day. Me with my basin hair cut, Richard with his blond hair styled in a parting, and Julian joining in with the basin style, so commonplace in the 70's. Once again, loads of relatives and friends came along and from what i am told, a long day of drinking, dancing and laughing commenced and continued well into the next day, and a picture below tells of only the first 30 minutes at the reception. 

From left, Dvid, Uncle Reg, Uncle John, Uncle Ken, Richard seated,
Me with Shandy in handy and Richards then girlfriend Debbie

An abiding memory was how unfair life seemed during my teens, I was an avid footballer and watching live football or even recorded games was a rarity in the 70's, apart from Match of the Day, on Saturday night. Richard would be allowed to stay up, as he was older (doh!) and i would make myself as small as possible hoping to be ignored. My Dad had perfect timing, as usually, just as the music started, Dad would say "right, off to bed". I would slowly make my way to the door and then spend 5 minutes looking through the crack of the door at the TV. "Bed!" meant me climbing the stairs fairly loudly, only for me to comeback down, very quietly and sit on the bottom stairs, listening to the game. "If i have to come out there, you will be in trouble", meant I actually went to bed, but i usually got 15 minutes of sight and then sound of the game before bedtime. Sunday mornings involved Dad sitting in the front room, playing his records and reading the Telegraph, the Times, the Guardian and the Sunday Mirror. Mum would be preparing a roast for (usually), the 7 of us, plus partners of Mark and Helen. The plates were always hot, the food hotter, plates were loaded and you had to eat the lot.

We had a large oval dining table and we'd all fit round it. The fun would always start with Julian and I annoying each other, Dad then telling us off, Richard being sarcastic, (a new form of humour he developed into an art form by the age of 15) and Mum telling Dad off for shouting. If Mum left a potato, an argument would ensue as to who would get, and once concluded with Dad throwing it at Richard for some reason.

Later in the day, Mum would find Mark and David in the pantry, door closed, finishing off the roasties. Tea was usually cheese on toast or Pilchards on toast, with a big pot of tea and a cake Mum had made. The house was a always noisy, with shouting, music, the television, crying, laughing and cooking. It was a fantastic place to grow up, no none was ever turned away, whoever they were. I once got involved with the Young Socialists Workers and they came round to talk to me. Dad had them in the front room for an hour, putting them right on militancy, the proper way for disputes to be settled and the role of the unions. My Dad was a staunch Labour man, but stood for no messing about or far left views.

Dad was a pretty impressive figure and was loved by everyone.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

The road to redemption is made of chocolate

1964 to 1970's

I was born in Leicester on the 17th June 1964. I have 3 brothers, Mark, Richard (older) and Julian (younger) and a sister, Helen (older). My earliest memory is of my Dad and Mum taking us to a park in Leicester with a paddling pool and there is a photo of us standing with my dad. From an early age, I have always been quite trusting of people, looking for the good in everyone and tending not to see the bad, until too late. I was probably too generous as well, which has lead to a number of problems as well as losses, such as playing outside on the pavement in Haringworth Road in Leicester, with my toy cars (I was about 5) and swapping them for a Lego brick or something totally useless like that and feeling quite accomplished, as I wandered into the house.

Richard, Julian and Jonathan - great hair!

The other kid had built up the value of his offering to somewhere far higher than the value of my cars, Dad ran after the other kid and recovered the cars, so no harm done, but that gives you some idea of how I am made up. Too willing to do the right thing, sometimes (most of the time) and a bit of a soft touch.

We lived in a council house and next door was an old lady named Mrs Turner. She was probably only 50 years old, but when your 5, anyone over 30 is ancient, so to me she was at least 100 years old. My big problem at that age was touching the iron; she always had out in the kitchen, to see if it was hot. It was, always, and I always burnt my fingers, and was always returned home, having had my fingers dipped in butter to heal the burn, (not recommended).

Me, sister Helen and Mitzy the poodle.

My Dad, Eddie (Ernest Edgar Weaver), was a Trade Union advisor and was instrumental in the setting up of the Indian League in Leicester. As I remember, he was very well respected and up to the age of 14, I recall this level of respect continuing to grow as his career developed and he worked his way up and took on additional roles, such as Magistrate (Justice of the Peace) and an advisor on Industrial Relations to quite a few companies including Geest.

In 1970, my Dad got a job with Pointers in Norwich and the whole family upped sticks and moved to Norwich. I remember thinking that we had to cross the sea to get to Norwich; it seemed so far away from Leicester!

Shortly after arriving, he moved companies and started working for RMC (Ready Mixed Concrete) as their Industrial Relations Advisor. I was introduced to Avenue Road Infant School and met Richard Holmes, my first friend in Norwich and 40 years later he is still my best friend here in England. I set about the school, trying out the new playground equipment (a felled tree lying on its side) and the indoor climbing frame. I managed to break my wrist in the first week and not one to be put off by a small break, went straight back on the frame the week after my plaster was off, fell and broke the other wrist. Rick and I were best mates and played football in the playground (a concrete and tarmac affair), which sloped by 10 degrees or more over the space of about 150 metres.

We used a tennis ball and my job was to smack over a cross from the wing for Rick to pop into the net (a brick wall with a goal drawn on in chalk). I also enjoyed playing in goal and vied for the place of 1st team goalie with Adrian Mulley, a tall gangly lad, who was in fact better than me, but I kept on trying for the team, because i idolised Peter Shilton, who was Leicesters goalkeeper. (A slight aside on football, is that i followed Shilton and so the teams he played for, were my team, when he moved clubs, i stopped supporting the former team and started supporting his new team, as such my support went, to Leicester, Nottingham Forest, Stoke, Southampton and Derby amongst others).

The PE Teacher, Mr Wright, was a cricketer; I remember he looked not unlike Neil Kinnock, with a Bobby Charlton comb over. He also had large thumb muscles on his palms, strange what you recall. My favourite teacher was Mr Page, who reminded me of Norman Wisdom, he was a thoroughly nice man and I have bumped into him since then, and he still is. The one teacher everyone steered clear of was Mr Kite. He was a tyrant, happy to slap you around the head, hit you with a slipper and generally dispense violent retribution to anyone who misbehaved in his class, or even walking past it.

Family holidays were always the highlight of the year. Mum (Cynthia) was from Alderney in the Channel Islands, she was evacuated in 1939, with her Mum and 2 sisters, to Leicester. Mum and Dad loved the Channel Islands and most years we went back, mainly to Guernsey, and we would usually take the Hydrofoil boat across to Alderney for a day out. I remember one year, Mum and Dad settling us down on Alderneys beach in St Anne’s and setting off to find the little cottage she had lived in before the 2nd World War. Most days were spent on one of Guernsey’s beaches, Dad would disappear into St Peter Port and return with fresh bread, Ardenne's Pate’, tomatoes from a Green House along one of the winding lanes and a flask of tea and some soft drinks for us children.
Julian driving with me at the back

Dad would ask us whether we wanted a "Poka Pola" (sic), and we always did, as coke came in those cool little bottles and you got money back when you returned them. We’d also chew our way through Guernsey Gauche’ (Fruit Loaf) or Guernsey Wonders (a type of donut) or custard tarts. We spent age’s rock pooling, with Dad in his trousers, rolled up to the knees holding a net or bucket. He would drag us up the cliffs to see the German Battlements and Cannon positions, built of concrete and still looking as though they had been built yesterday.

In the main these holidays involved Julian, who is 2 years younger than I, and Richard, who is 2 years older. Helen and Mark would usually be left in Norwich as they were some 5 and 10 years older than me and could be trusted (ha!) to not cause too much trouble. Boys being boys, Richard, Julian and I were usually arguing about something, Dad would tell us off, Mum would tell Dad off for shouting and Dad would sit and fume for a while. Mum could also be driven to distraction quite easily by us boys and the threat to, “leave whilst you are at school, so when you get home there will be no one here” was often delivered by her, but never fulfilled.

By the time I was ten, Mum and Dad had discovered Spain and the wonders of Benidorm in the 1970’s. Not yet the rambling high rise tourist centre it was to become, they would take us there, to Blanes or Lloret De Mar each year, and would go back each November with their friends, but not each other. So Mum would disappear with my Auntie Doreen, (who was not related, but any adult was introduced as Auntie or Uncle, when I was a kid) and another couple of friends and Dad would go a week after she returned, with usually his brother Derek, "Uncle Barry" (Doreens husband) dads brother in law Tom, and an odd assortment of friends and mates he acquired through his work.

Dad, Mum and I (with towel), no idea who the other kid is

Whilst Mum was away, Dad was usually off travelling with his job and so our Grandma, Ada (Mums Mum) would come to keep us 3 boys under control. We would then subject her to various tortures, including, but not confined to, abseiling down the back of the house from a bedroom window and appearing feet first at the kitchen window, to shrieks and howls from Ada, or climbing out of the bedroom window over the garage, climbing up between the bedroom roof and the main roof and walking along the peak of the roof to the gable end, which looked down to the kitchen door. I would then call out “Grandma” and she would appear from the kitchen looking for me. I would duck back, she’d go inside the house and I would repeat this calling and hiding routine for as long as it took for her to realise where I was and faint. Mum and Dad would hear about this on their return and proceed to smack my backside for a good 10 minutes, (or so it felt like).

As I have mentioned I've always wanted to please people and this included doing stupid things to gain attention. My friends and I would swim at another local school, as ours did not have a pool. This was very close to a large shopping centre and was on my way home. One afternoon, after our swimming lesson and school had finished, Andrew Bunn (Bunny), Garry Welsh, Gary Harrison and I decided it would be a good idea to nick some sweets from said shopping centre. This turned out to be the one and only time I have ever stolen anything, ever. So we gathered at the back of the shops and formulated our plan of attack.

Garry and Bunny would wait at base, due to the fact that Garry was a good boy and never did anything wrong, but was particularly skilled in Influence and Persuade behaviour and Bunny was probably too scared. Gary Harrison (who I thought particularly cool, for some reason I can’t recall) and I would enter the supermarket, and proceed to stuff as many bars of chocolate into my swim (note MYswim bag) as possible, with Gary also acting as decoy, should the need arise.
In we went; bars of Galaxy Chocolate and packs of Chewits were stuffed into the bag (a carrier bag full of wet towel and shorts) and out we went. No hassle, smooth as you like.

But my cool was shattered not 10 feet from the door once outside, as walking toward us was my Mum. “What are you doing in there?” she asked, “nothing” said I, Gary walked off, thanks mate! “What’s in your bag”, “my swim gear”, I said. “Open it” said Mum, “Shit” thought I. As soon as she saw my booty, she quite coolly said, “Get home, and we’ll wait to hear what your father has to say about this”. My stomach turned to water and I ran, stumbled, home, and promptly hid in the downstairs toilet. Not the best hiding place in the world, but the door had a lock and I judged that important, if I was to survive the day intact.

Mum phoned Dad at his office, which was just around the corner and Dad turned up. By this time (1977), Dad was a Justice of the Peace, heavily involved in Juvenile Courts. I did not know how he would take this, other than I would receive a suitable thrashing, so the door stayed locked. “Open this door so we can talk about this” said Dad, “No, you will hit me” said I. “No, I won’t, I just want to talk, about your stealing this chocolate, and you know your mother uses those shops a lot, this will be really embarrassing for her and me”.

I could hear Mum showing the bag of illicit chocolate treats to my Dad and his brain working overtime as he decided how to proceed. “If we take these back”, I heard him say, “they could prosecute him for stealing, and I cannot risk that”. Mum agreed and said that no one else had seen me, or Gary, who was not yet in the clear, as Dad would be “speaking” to his Mum. “Come out now!” Dad was becoming angrier and I was very worried for my future. “I decided, after probably 30 minutes of to and fro, to open the door, after receiving assurances that I would not be hit. As soon as I walked out of the loo, I took a smack to the legs, one of those that leaves a hand print in red, a hand print so defined; you can actually make out the fingerprints, despite a layer of cloth being between the hitters hand and the receiver’s leg.

At this I made a dart for the stairs and whilst propelling myself up in bounds of 2 or 3 steps at a time, had enough courage and stupidity in equal measure, to yell back, “you lied, you bastard”. Now my Dad was not particularly tall, probably 5’8” and did weigh over 15 stone and had a fairly large belly. But by the time I managed the landing, he was able to clear the turn on the stairs (6 stairs up) and half the main flight, another 5 stairs. I darted for my room and leapt onto my bed, and assumed the foetal position, as it’s known to protect one from assault to the body!

Dad appeared at the bedside, almost incandescent. I braced myself for the sound thrashing to come and waited, and waited. Nothing happened. Instead, after a minute or so, he sat down and said “Do you know what a bastard is?” I replied that no, I did not know and he said, “A bastard is someone who does not know who their father is, I knew who my father was, so I am not a bastard, do you understand?” I nodded and said yes, I understood. “Don't ever call me a bastard again, and don’t let anyone else call you a bastard either, as you know who your father is as well”. With that, he got up, went downstairs and had some chocolate.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

An Introduction never hurt anyone

I never knowingly set out to become a writer. I never knowlingly set out to end up at 46, disabled, frustrated, annoyed (a bit) but with time on my hands and friends recommending I produce a blog, here it is. So who am I and what will the reader learn from spending time looking at my blog.
I am JW, and my intention is to chart my life and experiences from my infancy to present day in a series of blogs. My life has a number of chapters with many stories and a great deal of them involve my experiences when meeting and working with other people. To that you might add - loving, laughing, fighting, arguing, saving, developing, leading, annoying, stopping, starting, helping, fathering, running from, running to, supporting, addressing, lecturing and serving other people. If you know me and want your name kept out of the lights that shine from and on the internet, let me know at - thejonahs@aol.com.

I recently wrote an e-mail to a large number of people who i worked with between 2000 and 2009. I wrote to tell them i am unable to carry on working within the world of Call Centres and Call Centre Technology. Not because i don't want to, but because my body won't let me. It won't let me because its tired, aged from the long-term sideaffects of large amounts of radiotherapy, stiff from the scar tissue left by spinal surgery and knackered and worn from pushing it too hard between 1996 and 2009. Working hard was never a problem, working harder than my body was prepared for, was! So, a more sedentary career path is required.

I could have written about the most recent occurances and events in my life, but that would mean depriving you of a life of changes, some forced on me, others a choice made due to curcumstance or whim. Some laugh out loud ridiculous, others sad and sombre. But, they all account for who i am and why i am the way i am.

So i hope you look in from time to time. I am sure there will be at least one blog that makes you come back for more and feel free to comment. It all starts tomorrow 29th July 2010.