About Me

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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
 

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.

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