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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.


  1. What a beautifully written, absorbing piece. I wish my memory of childhood was as good. Love the bit about the drumsticks and the dust :-)

  2. i loved reading it. i liked the part about your mum trying to control 3 boys:-)