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MY LIFE  - Paul Harris

       
28th July 1965 and I am born into the world. I do not remember anything about, of course, but I think my Mum, Avis, Dad, Kenneth and sister Janet were pleased to see me. Janet was now just over two years old herself and I believe she considered me to be her baby.
 
Born in the North Middlesex Hospital in Edmonton only about a 5 minute drive from 20 Barrowell Green, which would be my home for the next 21 years.
 
Obviously much went on in my early years, I am told Mum and Dad struggled for money, but they never made it obvious to me and Janet, even once I could remember things.

Mum was always around, she took part time jobs to bring in some extra money so we did not go without things. Never one to sit still she is always on the go, our house was always tidy and she always had a routine and stuck to it. I think I get my tidiness from her. She always had two or three purses in her handbag, each one had different money for different things and I could never work this out. She had a system though and it seemed to work.

 Dad was obviously not around as much. He worked long hours to bring in extra money, but I remember dinner was always around 5.30 to 5.40. He would always seem to be decorating or changing something in the house just trying to get it right. I remember him mostly saying No to stuff when we were growing up, but he taught me Cricket and many other life skills. Even now it is nice to be able to go to him with questions about how to do things.

 I have to thank both of them for providing a sound household to grow up in. I had a good childhood and always got what I wanted for Christmas and Birthdays. They both pushed me when I needed pushing, especially with football when I did not want to join a team, and I know they are always there when I need them.

 Now I do not remember this but my mum has told me about it. I very nearly did not make it past the age of 3. We were round my Nan Tarling’s house in Cromwell Road, New Southgate, now demolished to allow for widening of North Circular, although her garden wall remained for many years after it, but that is another story. Apparently we were just leaving when I ran out of the front door, straight through the front gate and headed for the road. A car coming along had to swerve out of the way and my mum managed to grab me and pull me back onto the pavement. Obviously in those days the roads were not as busy, there were less parked cars and the cars drove much slower but still it was a close thing.
 
My earliest memories or what seem to be my earliest are going down to the shops in Palmers Green with my mum. She would have her bag on wheels and I would walk on any wall that could take me. She had a nylon type of carrier bag, brown and orange if I remember correctly. I have a strong memory of it being used to get to get potatoes in from the old fashioned type of Green Grocers, situated half way down the parade of shops before the post office. The shop had an open entrance and large square open area in the middle. The fruit and veg were in boxes around the edges, and the green grocer would get what you wanted, having weighed it in a big silver tray, and pour them straight into mum’s nylon bag. I do not remember much else from our shopping trips and do not quite know why this memory sticks out so much.
 
My mum worked as a cleaner to bring in some extra money, two big houses and a small flat. The small flat was Mrs Bloomberg, who was the mother of Mrs Abraham, who lived in a massive house on Broad Walk. The third house was just off Broad Walk but also quite large and this was Mrs Rosengarten. As you can see all three were Jewish and could obviously afford a cleaner.
 
I do not know exactly when I can remember going to these houses as we used to go with mum during the school holidays, but I must have gone with her before I started school, but there was always plenty to do.
 
Mrs Abrahams had the biggest house, the front room housed a snooker table off the very large square hallway. Off this hallway were two other very big rooms and a small doorway which led through to the kitchen/diner area. Upstairs were, I think 3 or 4 very good sized bedrooms, so vastly different from anything I had ever seen before. Next door lived the owner of the Daily Express at the time and they had an indoor swimming pool, I cannot remember using it much but I do know we went in there at some time.
 
The Abraham’s back garden was just a haven for a young boy. A Massive lawn area, I remember treating it like Wembley. I used to play football on this immaculate grass and imagined myself in a big stadium. At the bottom of the garden was a large green house. I cannot remember if was used much as it was not very well kept, but once again it was very large.
 
Just outside the back of the house was a pond and to the right of it was a built up rockery area. For some reason I think that there was some sort of room under this rockery, perhaps housing pumps or water filters for the pond, and just further on from this was the garage which opened automatically. It was a different world but I do not remember ever feeling jealous or envious, I just enjoyed going there and playing games in the garden.
 
Their children a boy and girl were much older than me and we did not often see them but that was not the case at the Rosengarten’s. Ashley and Eddie were about my age and we played together often. Going to work here with mum was like going round to friends’ houses.
 
The house, off Broad Walk, was not as big, but still much bigger than I was used to. They had converted the loft, which was accessed by a narrow set of stairs, and this is where I first noticed being scared of heights as I did not enjoy coming down them and looking over the bannister at the large drop down to the ground. Eddie I think had this room at the top, Ashley was downstairs on the first floor, and they were joined later by a baby, Vicky. Their garden was square, the lawn was at the centre of it and you had to gone steps to get to the lawn which had a sunken appearance. Around it were raised beds which were to the main level of the rest of the garden. At some point I think a lot of excavation was done, but it was again a really good size and we played out there as much as we did indoors.
 
Mr s Bloomberg’s was the least exciting. An old lady who lived on her own in a small flat in Palmers Green. There was nothing for me to do there and I really cannot remember much about our trips there apart from watching the television.
 
As I say much of these memories are from school holidays but I am sure we went along before I started school.
 
So to school, Winchmore Juniors in Highfield Road. I must have started there around 1969 and left in 1975. It seemed a long time and many of the years I cannot separate the memories I have from them, although my earliest recollection must have been in what is now called Reception.
 
We were having a Music lesson and we used to sit on some carpets placed on the floor. I remember clearly having the triangle in my hand to play during the music lesson. I do not know why it happened, whether I was too distracted to notice or not wanting to ask the teacher but I wet myself. My short trousers were soaked and so was the carpet. Nothing else springs to mind but I do recall this situation quite clearly.
 
The school was a good size and on 3 levels if I remember correctly. I loved PE of course and especially liked using the apparatus in the hall. The ropes were great fun and I loved climbing up and down them. I was really good at this, and we used to play a game which involved avoiding members of the other team who were trying to touch you. You were not allowed to put your feet on the floor, so had to work your round the bars, benches and ropes. It was good fun.
 
Lunches were held in separate buildings from the main school. These buildings were single story and many were used by the secondary school. I seem to remember never having a problem with eating what was provided but do clearly recall the lumps we had in the custard. My favourite thing was a short bread biscuit which we often got served up with the custard.  I would collect as many as I could from other people who did not want them and put them in my shorts pockets for later. One day, someone who knew I did this was kind enough to slap me on the leg, smashing the biscuit in my pocket and leaving me with a pile of crumbs.
 
Assembly used to be fun as well, my favourite hymn was “Morning has Broken”, we used to fight for the hymn books as there were two lots. One pile was old and falling to pieces and the other pile, the red cover ones were nice and in good condition. One assembly for me was not so good, sitting on the floor at the front, crossed legged and with my hands in front listening to what the head teacher was saying, I felt something tickling my hands. As I opened them up I felt a sharp pain and something fly away. I had been stung by either a wasp or bee and burst into tears. My sister who was in assembly as well was called to take me to the welfare.
 
It must have been early on at the school but I remember taking my knights out fit to school. In the back hall there was a cardboard castle for some reason. Maybe an art project or something and not anything small either, this was very grand and we were allowed to play in it.
 
In those days we had a small bottle of milk, and the designated milk monitors would go to collect the bottles from somewhere in the school. The milk was warm and I can always remember that taste, but no one seemed to complain and I always looked forward to it and drank it with no problems. Today the thought of it turns my stomach, how could we drink warm milk.
 
I do not recall getting into too much trouble but on two occasions, that I remember, my behaviour was not what it should have been.
 
The first time was again when I was very young, maybe in year one or two. Me and a friend, Simon Gitter, were spending one playtime just inside one of the entrances. The doors were the type that swung both ways, and we were holding onto the handles, lifting our legs and swinging backwards and forwards. I guess we were not allowed to do this as the headmaster, Mr Martin, caught us doing it. As he shouted at us, the other boy ran off, whilst I stood there paralysed. Thinking quickly I said “shall I go and get him?” Mr Martin agreed to this. Now he may be foolish or he may have realised that we had been scared off enough not to do it again, but I had no intention of going back with the other boy and never did.
 
It was in my last year that the other incident stands out. Mrs Bliss was our teacher and for some reason she was reprimanding me for something I had done or not done, “Harris what do you think you are doing?” foolishly I replied “nothing Bliss” having taken offence at not being addressed using my first name. Promptly I received a punishment which I think was to put my hands on my head and face the wall. It was out of character as I got on well with her.
 
I am sure I was in trouble at other times but these are the only two occasions which I can remember.
 
By this time Mr Goldsworthy had taken over as head. A much younger man that Mr Martin and he got on well with the children. My memory is not very good regarding the teachers I had but Mrs Nelson was there, along with Mrs Bliss but that is all I can recall from the teaching staff.
 
Playtimes were mainly football. We had quite a big sheltered area for people to go when it was raining or to keep out of the sun. At the front of this were two metal pillars. We used these as our goal. It is here I remember playing football with Frank McClintock’s children. Frank was a pro at Arsenal, and lived just down the road from Mrs Abraham’s. Neil was the oldest and in Janet’s year, Ian was in my year and his younger brother Scott and Jamie were in years below us. Neil did not play with us but Ian, Scott and Jamie did. I used to think how great it was playing football with children of a pro footballer.
 
I clearly remember talking to Frank at one point. It was not really a conversation but I was on the touch line for a school football match, either watching or substitute, and he came along and asked me what the score was.
 
I cannot remember them being at school all the time I was there, maybe they left due to Frank changing clubs because I also remember play times later in my time there. Again it was football related and it used to involve teams of everyone else against me and Keith Tonge. Keith was a good friend of mine and an absolute brilliant footballer. I do not know why it was me and him against the rest but although nowhere near as good as him, we managed to win most of the games.  I will talk more about Keith later but it is surprising that my one and only ever fight I had was with him.
 
He had been winding me up all day about something, I cannot remember what and it came to home time. I was walking out of school with Michael Davis and Keith followed, still goading me. Just on the corner of Carpenter Gardens I snapped and hit him. We got into a bit of a scuffle and it was more handbags than anything else, but I remember him getting a splinter from a fence I pushed him into. Anyhow it was all over within minutes, we went our separate ways and next day everything was fine again and we remained friends all through secondary school.
 
I mentioned football earlier and I can now recount some stories of the school football team. I was desperate to get into the team, so much so I put my hand up for left back, thinking it was my way of getting in. Being left footed should be a good bonus. I played one match at left back, got absolutely roasted by their right winger and have never played in the defence again.
 
I did get into the side, in those days it was not 4-4-2 but more 3-2-5. The 5 would consist of Left and Right Winger, centre forward, inside left and inside right. Inside left was my position and I played many games there.
 
One match I remember quite well being refereed by the old brother of one of our teams. I am not quite sure why he was asked but it was the biggest mistake ever. He gave us a penalty which never was, disallowed a couple of their goals for no reason and effectively allowed us to win the game. It was embarrassing and he was never asked again.
 
There was an occasion where we were being handed out some new kit which had been obtained and the teacher said there were two short sleeved shirts and the rest were long sleeved. He asked if anyone wanted the short sleeved and for some reason I put my hand up. When I got it I found that it was not the short sleeved I had seen the pros wearing but a long sleeved one which had had the sleeves cut down. So the arms were quite flappy with no elastic to hold them in. I had that shirt for the whole season and hated it.
 
It was a normal school event for the football team to play the girls netball team at netball. How funny was that. As footballers we were allowed to go anywhere, but as we soon found out in Netball, you areas are dependent on your allocated position. We were all far too concerned about trying to impress the girls that we kept going into areas we were not allowed to, and got beaten quite heavily.
 
The school had a goat, which was kept in a cage just behind one of the football goals. I think its name was Billy but all I can remember of it was how much it smelt.
 
End of year parties in the classroom were fun as well. Tables would be pushed together and we would bring in our party food, jelly, crisps, cakes etc. would be scoffed by all the children, with not a thought for health and safety.
 
During my last year I started to notice girls for the first time. I fell for the girl I used to sit next to in class, Ruth Dangerfield. I am not even sure if I ever told her but I do not think she was remotely interested in me. I think other people knew I liked her as many comments were put into my autograph book as well left.
 
In our final year we went on a weeklong trip to Lower Farm in Somerset. I think I enjoyed the trip but got in trouble one night for going into one of the girls rooms. I do not know why I did it or whether they invited me in to get me in trouble but I got caught and punished.
 
Each night we had hot chocolate before bed. The farm was very isolated and quiet and I had trouble sleeping as I was used to the noise off Green Lanes. The weather was great and it was sometime in May, so the evenings were reasonably long and I remember us playing out on some swings as the sun set.
 
On the trip I had my first visit to Brent Knoll, I would go back as an adult. We enjoyed the walk up it and on the way down we were told to walk diagonally and slowly. A few of the boys ignored this and tried to run down, ended up rolling and tumbling a long way. They were in trouble for that.
 
We visited Glastonbury Abbey, Weston Super Mare, Bath, where we went to the Roman Baths and drunk the Spa water. It was a great time away even if I did feel a bit homesick at nights. We had to keep a rough diary during the day and write it up neatly at the end. I wrote two letters home and received a couple back.
 
One of them I remember saying that Dad kept checking my room before he went to bed forgetting I was away, and also how much food was left in the house as I was not there.
 
On the way back we stopped at Stonehenge. My first visit there and the only time I have been where we could touch the stones. Now days the area is roped off but in those days you could walk freely amongst them.
 
The Worzels must have been high in the charts that year as I remember very clearly the whole coach singing “I’ve got a brand new combine harvester” on the North Circular just approaching home.
 
All in all in think I enjoyed my time at primary school, although I am sure there were many times when I did not.
 
During my time at primary school I must have started Cub Scouts. I do not really remember too much about my time in Cubs. Our Arkela was an old lady and I remember having to do bob a job once a year. This involved going around to neighbours to see if they had any small jobs they needed doing. I hated it. I did not mind doing stuff but hated having to knock on people’s doors. When we did a job, they signed a form and put a sticker in the window with a tick on it so no other cubs would call.
 
There was also a cub camp I do remember very well. I must have been 8 or 9, I cannot recall the age but it sticks in my mind as it was my first time away from home. The first night under canvas was awful. Everyone else got to sleep before me and I lay awake feeling very lonely and scared. I worked myself up into such a state that I brought on a severe headache, possibly my first migraine. Arkela got my things together at some point in the night and drove me home. I remember getting in the car and must have fallen asleep as the next thing I know I am back at home.
 
I went on my camps after that and went away on many other occasions, I have already mentioned Lower Farm and never had a problem again, maybe I was just too young. I say I never had any problems being away after that but it is not strictly true. I always had trouble sleeping away from home. Not to the extent of getting worked up or needing to return home it was just getting to sleep. One example off this was staying at my Auntie Audrey’s. We would often go there during the holidays, just Janet and myself and at night it was dead quiet. No noise like we had coming from the cars on Green Lanes and it was this quietness that I am sure meant I had problems getting to sleep. I was sharing a room with Tina and just remember laying there for hour after hour listening to absolutely nothing.
 
We played football matches with the Cubs, I remember a few games taking place over at Broomfield Park. It was after one of these matches that I recall coming home so hot and with such a bad headache that I had to lay on Mum and Dad’s bed, which had a nice cool cover on it, too cool down, I slept quite a long time.
 
As a youngster I was always mad about football. My hero at the time was George Best and my team was Manchester United. I remember he had a football skills show on at about 5.30 on BBC1 and we would watch it whilst eating dinner. 1974 and Manchester United got relegated, at the same time Colin and Gary Pearson moved in just around the corner and I became friends with them very quickly. They both followed West Ham. I am not sure if it was Manchester United getting relegated or the Pearson’s following West Ham but I then stopped following one United and replaced them with another. West Ham were now my team and they would provide me with many ups and downs over the coming years. I have to say it has mainly been downs but they stuck.
 
We got into and won the FA Cup Final in 1975 beating Fulham and then played the following season in the European Cup Winners Cup reaching the final but losing to Anderlecht. I remember many evenings being in bed listening to the commentary on the Radio as West Ham played in Europe. I am not sure if Mum and Dad knew I was doing this but I never got told off for it.  I can remember the tune to the programme to this day.
 
Talking of FA Cup Finals one of my other early and very strong memories was of the 1973 FA Cup Final between Leeds United and Sunderland. It is the first Cup Final that I can clearly remember watching. Leeds were very strong and Sunderland were in the second division. Sunderland won 1-0 and their goal keeper played brilliantly. I also remember watching it around my Nanny Harris’s house as she had a colour TV and of course I clearly remember having some really nice ham sandwiches whilst watching.
 
I was too young to go and watch live, there was also the hooligan problem at the time which did not encourage my dad to take me or let Colin or Gary take me along. They would bring me home programmes and I would fill myself with statistics and my room was covered with posters from Shoot, my weekly football magazine. I love records and statistics and kept a book for each of West Ham’s seasons. This had results, teams, paper cuttings and various other statistics and it helped me cope with the fact I could not watch it live.
 
In those days the only live matches on Television were the FA Cup Final and the World Cup Final. We had Match of the Day but that would have two main matches and did not include all the goals from the other matches. This was on Saturday night and it was a good format compared to today in so far that if your team was on you got a decent half an hour highlights. However if they were not you had nothing. The Big Match was on a Sunday afternoon and this gave a better chance of seeing West Ham. It was a regional programme so the main game came from your area and was followed by shorter highlights from regional matches. Being in London this did mean there were many teams to choose from so if West Ham were not on the goals were not seen. In those days the cameras were not at every ground, they only went to the selected matches they were covering.
 
All games were played on Saturday at 3.00pm or midweek at 7.30pm. My Saturday afternoons would start at 1.30 with LBC setting up the matches and doing interviews. They would not do a main commentary game like Radio 2 would  but I liked it as they went round the grounds regularly for updates. My Radio would either be on the front garden wall or lent against the shed in the alleyway and I would keep myself amused by practicing my skills with my trusty tennis ball and either the front wall or the shed wall at the back. In the 70’s Barrowell Green had little road traffic going through it so I could stand in the road and kick the ball against the wall, and have enough time to move out the way if a car was coming.
 
Having said that I could not get to live games I did see some albeit Testimonials and reserve matches at Tottenham. My first live match was Pat Jennings Testimonial against Arsenal. One of my mum’s employers – the Abrahams had season tickets at Spurs but they did not go to the testimonial matches and they gave up their season tickets for myself and Dad to go. It was Tuesday 23rd November 1976 and we sat in the old main West Stand. Spurs won 3-2, Jimmy Greaves got two, Peter Taylor got the other, whilst for Arsenal Malcolm MacDonald and Frank Stapleton were the scorers.
 
1st April 1978 saw my Dad take me to watch Spurs reserves draw 2-2 with West Ham reserves. We stood on the corner of the Paxton Road and The Shelf. Then followed Steve Perryman’s Testimonial on 30th April 1979, a bigger crowd this time and another 2-2 draw. This gave me my first sight of some of the West Ham first team and David Cross was one of our scorers. A couple of weeks later and I got my first proper match – Division One fixture Spurs v West Brom, which Spurs won 1- 0 thanks to a Ricky Villa goal.
 
It was almost a year later before my next match, another Testimonial, this time for Terry Naylor, who I would actually play against a few years later in the Turkish League.  Spurs lost this one 2-0 to Crystal Palace. I really enjoyed the experience of the big stadium and watching football live, but it was no Upton Park.
 
Birthday presents mainly had something to do with West Ham, Mum would enjoy her visits down to the West Ham shop to get them. The Shop in those days was a caravan in the entrance way to the ground. She got nearer than I had to the ground and I would have loved to have gone with her. It was the ideal time to have a birthday, just before the start of the season so all the new stuff was out.
 
Sometime in the 70’s, probably around 75 or 76, I got my first introduction to Cricket. I had always watched it on television and played a bit in the garden with dad, but we never got to play it at Scouts or School. I remember the situation very well. We were at Cubs and doing some throwing of a ball into a hoop. My friend Paul Arnold, not the most obvious sporting person, seemed to be landing the ball consistently into the hoop. I asked him how he was doing this and he said it was through the training he was having at Northampton Exiles Cricket Club. The Exiles played about 500 yards away from my house and I went along with Paul to see what it was like. I fell in love with the game straight away, I joined the colts section, played some games and got some great coaching from Malcolm Park and John Lawler. I enjoyed the team aspect but Cricket was also a bit more individual than football was. Paul Arnold did not stay long at the club, he was more academic than sporting but I stayed and loved it.
 
I soon found out I was an excellent fielder. I am not just bigging myself up here but from an early age I enjoyed fielding, had a very good eye, good reflexes and was quite sharp across the ground. John Lawler helped with this, his fielding coaching was great and he told all of us that we will field for much longer than we will bat or bowl so we should enjoy it and be good at it.
 
We played 20 over matches against other local teams and although we were not the best I really enjoyed it and made some friends who I would know for many more years. Botany Bay is one much I remember quite well, probably because we had burgers after the game and were allowed half a pint of shandy but I also remember if for an umpiring decision. I was bowling my left arm medium pace and delivered a ball, which hit the batsman’s pads. John Lawler was umpiring at my end and I was walking back to my mark and he said “appeal”, I did and he gave the guy out. Now whether he was or not I do not know but the ball must have been well dead by that time but I got my wicket.
 
My fielding was obviously noted at senior levels as towards the end of the 70’s I got a few call ups to play for the 2nd Xl and sometimes even the 1st Xl. I was sometimes picked but more often it was a late call up due to them being short and in main it was my fielding that got me the game. Yes I did, on occasions, get the old few overs to bowl but mostly I batted number 11 and fielded. I really did not mind as I loved fielding so much. I enjoyed these times and especially the away matches in the cars there and back, the conversation was often quite amusing.
 
The Colts used to go on a tour of the Isle of Wight. We all felt very important it was like the professional teams going on tour. We stayed at Olive’s guest house and we all loved it. On my first tour one of the older players, Lee Woolway, reduced me to tears. We were playing Sandown and I was field in the covers. Lee was maybe 18 or 19 and the ball was hit into the covers I dived but missed it and it went for four. He laid into me saying I was just being lazy but it was something I always did and more often than not stopped them. I do not know why he rounded on me, maybe he was jealous for all the attention I was getting at the club, I just do not know. I nearly shut him right up when I was fielding on the boundary later ad the ball was smacked out there. I dived full stretch and almost took a wonder catch but just could not hold on, I dropped the six and got a lot of praise for the effort, even Lee came up and shook my hand.
 
The tours were great, a week away, with your mates, playing cricket and generally having a good time playing pitch and putt and going in the arcades.
 
Olive was nice, she ran a gift shop and above this were the bedrooms we stayed in, and just across the road was the beach. We would drive down in a mini bus, all our kit and luggage strapped to the roof and we were in looked after well by whoever was in charge. This ranged over the years from Chris Park, his son Malcolm, John Lawler, Frank Matthews and I think one year Alf Goddard was there.
 
The games were played mostly against the same teams Parkhurst School, Cowes School, Ryde Public School, Sandown Cricket Club and Ventnor Cricket Club, there may have been others but these are what I remember.
 
My favourite fixtures were Sandown and Ryde for totally different reasons. Sandown was due to the tea we had there. They always brought out donuts, apples (yuk) and a pie we nicknamed a cow pat. It was basically a meat pie but it was round and flat, hence the name, but it was large and I loved it. It was it was also an all-day game, starting at 11.00. Most of our fixtures at that age were 20 overs,  the Sandown and Ventnor games were afternoon ones starting at 2.00, which I was used to having played for the 1st and 2nd xl’s, but this was the only all day game. It meant a lot of fielding, different tactics and a much better game. I hated the years when that was the game I had to miss, everyone had to miss one or two games depending on how many toured.
 
Ryde was a lovely fixture. A public school so the ground was fantastic, pitch always good and outfield like a carpet it was  a joy to play on and one of the reasons I loved the fixture.
 
One year was really good, we batted first and I was in when it came to tea. For some reason we were not finished our innings so I got the chance to keep the pads on and bat after tea, normally it was tea between innings. To come off the field, have something to eat and then have to resume your innings. This was something only the pros did and I felt quite special being able to do it as well. I cannot remember how many runs I made that day but that stuck in my mind.
 
We got up to some things whilst away, well who wouldn’t. A group of young lads away from home. I used to pretend to throw myself off the pier by running up to the metal railings and swinging my legs over the top. I am glad I held on tightly and it makes me nervous just thinking about it now.
 
We used to go for midnight swims in the sea, do not know why, it was really cold but we all did it and had a great time. On one occasion on our way back from our swim though we had a really scary moment. Mark Polkinghorne and a few others, who were quite a bit older than us, had joined us after they had had a few drinks. On the way back there was a group of lads in the high street who started to goad us. Most of the youngsters did not want to get involved but Mark returned the teasing and all of a sudden they rushed us, most of us got into the guest house but a few were caught up in the fighting. We were all on the stairs shaking and quite frighten, one of our group came off quite bad. Mark Hubbard was younger than me but much taller, he looked a few years older, I think because of this they picked on him and he gotten attacked quite badly. Nothing major but enough to be shaken up.
 
Needless to say Mark Polkinghorne was pretty much sent to Coventry for the rest of the tour and he was not very popular. I think shortly after this he left the club to play somewhere else.
 
By this time, of course, I had started secondary school. September 1976 to be exact and I only had to go across the road from my primary school. Winchmore Secondary School was in the same road as the Primary School and most people went from the primary school to the secondary one. Some of course did not and to my disappointment Ruth Dangerfield went somewhere else. I never found out where she went and have never been in contact with her since.
 
Many new people came from other primary schools of course and I quickly became friends with Stuart Stevenson, Ian Nash and Mungo Knott. We were streamed in those days and the classes were W at the top and E at the bottom, in between were inchmor, so as you can see it spelt out the school.
 
I was in I so I guess was considered to be reasonably bright, and I stayed in I all through my schooling. Keith was in W and whilst we played football together for the school we drifted apart now.
 
Girls were now becoming of interest but I was very shy and new little of what to do or what was expected. It ranged from telling girls you liked them, this was normally a note passed on by your mate, and then receiving a note back normally saying No. Most of the time giving nice reasons as to why, things like “ I used to fancy you but I am going out with….”  Which was nice as they could have been a lot nastier. For some reason I kept these letters of rejection. I would fold them up, get a piece of blue tac and put them on the wall behind one of the many football posters I had up at the time.
 
The only time I ever went out with a girl at school was when she asked me, Linda Jones was her name and we went out for over a couple of months. Well I say went out in fact we only once went together somewhere and that was a school fayre. As I said I was very shy and had no idea where to take her or even where to suggest going. She obviously got fed up with this and moved on.
 
This does remind me though of one particular success, but it goes back to primary school. Mum and Dad were friends with Dennis and Shirley, they had two children Carolyn and Alison, who lived in Ash Grove. We spent a lot of time with them and would have alternate Friday dinners around each other’s houses following them doing the shopping in Edmonton. Dinner was always home cooked fish with cheese sauce and chips. Anyhow Shirley, Dennis, Mum and Dad were also friends with Mr and Mrs Taylor, cannot remember their first names. They had two children, I think, there youngest Jane was my age and I can recall even at that young age snogging with her. Definitely before senior school they moved away to ways and I can recall very well being in their front room surrounded by packed boxes snogging with Jane before she left.
 
Now we were in secondary school we could walk on our own. Just by the cricket club are some white poles, Carolyn and Alison would walk past these from Ash Grove on the way to school. Janet and I would meet them there and we would walk through the alley down to Highfield road and to the school.
 
I cannot say I really enjoyed school, I found studying hard and I always came near the bottom of the class in tests. I think, in hindsight I might have been better off in N. I did love PE though and looked forward to those lessons, unless of course it was cross country. We benefited from a newly built sports hall, opened in our first year so the facilities were good.
 
Playtimes were mainly football, although it had to be a tennis ball and not a full size ball we were used to in primary school. I was good at avoiding trouble, there were little gangs which went around giving you a grief and I think it was in the second year that they were going around giving people a “scanty”. This involved about 4 of them grabbing hold of your pants and lifting you up in the air. This meant your pants were pulled right up into your backside and I am told was quite painful. I say “as I am told” because I avoided it altogether by going into the year 3 playground and playing football with the older boys I know from Northampton Exiles.
 
At the end of the school day it was a rush to the Ice Cream van. I sometimes get reminded of it by the smell that is given off by the ice cream vans generator. I loved getting a hot dog with onions most nights, but during the summer nothing went down better than an oyster. This was a wafer shaped in an oyster shape, top and bottom with meringue and ice cream in the middle. The ice cream van also sold something called a rocket, which was a raspberry flavoured Ice lolly, these two were very popular and tasty and if you were trying to impress and girl you would buy one and get your mate to take it over to her.
 
I can remember some of the teachers but cannot put them into years of when they taught me. Mr Martini was maths, Mrs Wright was English, Mr Bruce taught Geography, Mr Firth was woodwork, Mr McClaren was our metalwork teacher, Mr Degirman was our German teacher and Mrs Twomy taught us French.
 
One Year Mr Bruce was our Football Team manager and he gave us the most memorable pre match speech I have ever heard. The words remain so clear to this day “ if you score more goals than them you will win” – priceless.
 
Mr Twomy’s lessons were great. Not because of the French, I hated that but she would wear shiny blouses and when she stood next to the window you could see through the material that she was no wearing a bra.
 
The great thing, however about secondary school was the football. It was where I felt most comfortable. No girls to get embarrassed about, no difficult questions in the classroom which I could not answer. Just a bunch of teenagers, who were very good at football, good mates, from all ends of the school year and who got on well together. There was no class system here, Andrew Maracou, our left back was in E, Keith Tonge, Ricardo Dorigo were in W and the rest of us were spread over all the other classes.
 
We were a great team. There is no denying that and from year 1 through to year 5 we kept pretty much the same group together, with the odd one coming in and going out. We won something every year, either the cup or the league and some years both. It was great to be involved in and we shared many special moments. It was also great to be often let out of lessons early when we had a match away from home.
 
We used to get our medals presented in Assembly and would have to go up on stage to collect them and this was also special in front of the rest of our year.
 
I was a good player, but in that team not one of the best. Scouts would always be at our games I never got noticed, maybe I was not good enough or maybe I would not play well when I knew they were there. Keith Tonge did get noticed and was on Spurs books for a while before moving to Brentford where he played a few matches before giving up. David Hatchet and Paul Smith were also picked up but never made it, David did play for Enfield during the time when they were much higher in the league than now.
 
We had some good managers over the years although in year 1 I was pretty much sub all the time. I think Mr Lecturn was in charge of us and he did not recognise what I could contribute. That changed in the 2nd Year when Mr Goode took over. I knew him from the Cricket Club, I very likeable man who got the best out of the kids. Year 3 was the Mr Bruce years, and I think he kept us in year 4 as well, before Mr Ackroyd took us in Year 5 and 6.
 
We used to play finals at the Henry Barrass stadium. This was great, it had a few small stands and steps coming down from the changing rooms. For a couple of years Terry Yorath, who was at Spurs at the time, presented the medals. I scored in a couple of finals and the best was in a 2-0 win over Stationers, where I hit one from outside the area with my right foot.
 
I did not score many hat tricks but my first one came 6th April 1979 away at Albany. We won 7-0 that day with Ricardo Dorigo, Paul Smith, Dale Smith and Robert Bootman getting the other goals.
 
We enjoyed the Sports Days and Swimming Galas as well. At that time Barrowell Green had an open air swimming pool. It was great just being able to walk down the road and go for a swim. Yes the water was freezing but in the hot summer of 1976 it was great to keep call. Most other times it was cold when you first got in but you soon got used to it and as children, I do not think we ever felt the cold.
 
We would spend lots of days down there during the summer holidays, either in the water or on our towels on the vast expanse of concrete which surrounded it and it hurt your feet as you walked over it. In the far corner was a building with a sweet machine in it. I used to love getting a cherry flavoured “sucky sweet” from the machine, I cannot remember what they were called.
 
At the back was an open area just beyond some large trees but still within the pool complex and had high walls to the side and back. Here we could play football or other balls games. It was a very popular place to go until someone put a petrol bomb in it in the early 80’s and it remained derelict for many years before they built some flats on it.
 
Anyhow it was at this Swimming Pool that the school held its swimming galas. I was not much into Swimming but the whole school would go along and watch. I used to take my radio along so I could tune into Radio 3 and listen to the Test Match.
 
In those days I did not spend much of my time out of school with any school friends. I did hang around with Stuart Stevenson after school and during the holidays because he lived close to me, but Mungo lived in Southgate and Ian in Enfield somewhere. Stuart and I would cycle around, seeing which girls we liked we could see near their homes and we mucked around in the local parks or down the Exiles fields playing tennis or Cricket.
 
A lot of my other spare time was spent with Colin and Gary Pearson, they had a friend Barry Fryer who lived across from them and a few other people whose names I forget. There was a big guy called Anthony Zaidman who was a weightlifter and who knew Geoff Capes. Anthony would let me stand on his stomach to show how strong he was.
 
During the summer evenings we would ride our bikes in Barrow Close, playing a game where you had to keep pedalling and not put your feet down in a specified restricted area, two of the sides of this was the curb on either side of the road.
 
We also were in a sort a gang, called the Mongs. It was not a fighting gang just a name we gave ourselves and we would play football matches against a gang from the Larches, where Keith Tonge lived. For some reason I got the nickname “TOAD” not sure why maybe as I was much smaller and younger than them.
 
I remember, as well, we used to have a place down Firs Farm, where we used to hang out. It was an old tree, which had no middle in it. We could climb up the inside and we made our base up the top of it.
 
We spent many hours together, mainly in the holidays but also in the evening before bedtime. I hated it when my mum would come out of our back gate and call me in. Being much younger than the others my bed time was much earlier. I would be up in my bedroom, which looked over Barrow Close, and still see them playing and feeling quite envious that I could not be out there with them.

I got a paper round. I cannot remember when I started or finished but it would have been around the end of the 70’s to the early 80’s. It was a Threaders newsagents just over Green Lanes. My round was Farndale Avenue and I really enjoyed being out early when it was so quiet.

 We would go in to the back of the shop, mark up our round and then deliver. After a while I knew the papers and house really well that I could pretty much mark up without too much reference to the round books. Although you had to check in case people had cancelled or changed. After a while I was out of the shop first and I think I was considered I trustworthy and reliable employee. I soon started to get extra rounds if someone had not shown up.

 Sundays were the worst though. Around this time the colour supplements had started and the bag was so heavy that day. Also many people ordered two papers on a Sunday, and the bag strap cut into my shoulder.

 Christmas time was good as well as we got quite a bit of money from customers. I was expected that you knocked for your Christmas Box but I was reluctant to do this. Whether it was because I was shy or maybe I thought it was not right,  I was getting paid to do it after all. However many of my customers made a point of seeing me and giving me some money for my efforts.

 So now to the 80’s and so much happened to me during this decade. I suppose there were bigger and more important things but the stand out thing for me was 13th September 1980 and my first visit to Upton Park to watch West Ham. The match was against Shrewsbury in the 2nd Division and we won 3-0, Cross, Goddard and an og won the match for the Hammers and I have to thank brother-in-law to be Steve who took me and Janet down there.
 
We went again on the 20th December to watch the Hammers beat Derby 3-1 and on 13th April 1981 they took me to watch Bobby Ferguson’s Testimonial against Southampton which West Ham won 4-3. Janet was keen to go to this one as Kevin Keegan was playing for Southampton at the time. Between then and the end of the season there was the youth Cup final over two legs – West Ham v Spurs, we went to both, and a couple of testimonial matches as well.
 
I had the bug big time and by the time the next season started I would be 16 and felt it was time for me to be allowed to go on my own. There was no problem with money, I had been doing a paper round for a few years now anyway and getting there was fine on the train from Winchmore Hill to Moorgate, then the tube to Upton Park, following a change I think at Liverpool Street.
 
The only problem was my Dad, he was not very keen for me to go on my own. Anyhow I sort of got my own way and on 29th August 1981  I sat off to watch West Ham in the 1st Division play Brighton and Hove Albion. I was very naive and did not really know what time to get there but did not want to risk not getting in, after all West Ham had just been promoted and I was sure there would be a big crowd. In those days of terraces you could only buy tickets for the seated areas. So there I am queuing at the turnstiles at 9.30 in the morning. To be fair there were others there already as well, but as I found out later they only got there that early so they were sure to get their favourite spot.
 
The wait seemed like ages but at 1.30 the gates opened, I paid my money and took my place on the terraces of the North Bank. I just spent the next hour or so taking in the atmosphere, you could smell the grass, and the pitch looked immaculate. Two penalties for each team made it a 1-1 draw, it was not a great game but I loved it all the same.
 
I am not going to detail all of the games I went to, I am sure that would be very boring but I have to recall the next fixture West Ham had. We were away at Tottenham and I had to go. Again in those days it was pay on the door and  I felt it would be safer to stand on the shelf with the Spurs fans. What a night, I had only been to a handful of games but this match became my favourite ever. We smashed them, played them off the pitch. We ended up winning 4-0 and David Cross got all 4 of them. It was really difficult keeping the fact that I was West Ham in with the Spurs lot. I needn’t have worried as after the second goal went in it became very clear that there were many more West Ham in with me. My main worry then was getting caught up in any trouble, so I made my way from the centre to one of the Corners where I could watch in a bit more safety.
 
I really enjoyed watching live football and it was great to be able to go on my own. A big problem though was two games away. 22nd Sept, a Tuesday night and West Ham are due to play Southampton. My dad was really not keen at all for me to be travelling on the tube and train so late at night. We had a few phone calls to his work to discuss the matter, but I was adamant that I was going.
 
In the end, and I think for his peace of mind, he left work early and joined me. It was another great game, West Ham winning 4-2, however all my Dad could think about was the chap stood a few feet away with a heavy cold and sneezing in his direction.
 
I think after that Dad was Ok for me to go on my own and I did not miss a home game that season, when I could I would go to Tottenham as well. It was great in those days, you could decide a few hours before kick-off if you wanted to go and then pay on the door. Now you have to plan weeks in advance.
 
The following season I missed one home game. It was the 9th October 1982 and West Ham beat Liverpool 3-1 and oh how I would have loved to be there. Instead I had to listen to it through an ear piece plugged into a radio at my sister’s wedding to Steve Clark. I even listened to it in the church but I did not really care about god anyway so it did not bother me.
 
The newlyweds went on honeymoon the next day and I promptly moved my things from my small bed room to my sister’s larger room. My Dad had to go away on business that day and I think my mum was a bit low with her daughter leaving and husband away on business. So me moving my stuff no sooner than Janet had left hopefully took her mind off the situation and gave her something to do.
 

Janet and Steve moved into a flat in Winchmore Hill above Ironside Motors. Steve did shift work and was on nights a lot. Many a time we got a phone call, after I had gone to bed. Janet had heard a noise and was worried. I had to get up, dress and cycle round there to spend the night so she could sleep without worrying.


Over the next few seasons I expanded the matches I would go to, I started to go to Highbury, and also to Wembley to watch England. I then started to look around London for other matches when West Ham were not playing and took in games at Brentford, QPR, Millwall, Leyton Orient.
 
It was not long before I expanded my travels and started to watch West Ham away and my first trip out of town was to Wolves where I watched us win 3-0 and Brooking scored his 100th goal for the club.
 
How could I afford all these matches and travel? Well by this time I had left school. I had not done very well in my exams, in fact I failed all 5 O’levels I took and therefore had to stay on in the 6th form. The year was disrupted by our 6th form block being set a light, we think by an old student Adrian Hopson, but this was never proved. It meant us spending our free time in a porta kabin and not in a plush 6th form block.
 
6th Form was fun, it was more relaxed, a lot more free time and you were not treated as children. I still did not work as hard as I should of and played a lot of bridge when I should have been studying. Somehow though I passed my Maths and English O Levels and added a technical drawing one as well.
 
I still had no idea what I was going to do and I sat my last exam on 30th June 1982. My Dad had secured me a job for the summer in the Stores at STC where he worked in New Southgate, and I started there 1st July 1982, the day after my last exam. I worked hard in the stores and enjoyed Thursday afternoons when the security guards came round with the pay. I think I got £71 for my first weeks work and it was cash given to me in an envelope. I had never had so much money.
 
The job itself was Ok, you had a trolley to push around and a job list. You had to go around the store picking up the required items on the job list to put together a kit which was the sent to the shop floor for assembly. Once you finished that you went a got another one. I enjoyed it there and was helped by the fact that most people knew my Dad and helped me out.
 
As I said I worked hard and just as I was nearing the end of my time there I was asked to go for an interview with one of the other Store managers there. I am not sure if my Dad had anything to do with this or if my hard work had been noted, maybe a bit of both. It was not an interview as such, just a chat which at the end Mr Shelton offered me a full time job in the stores. This was great as it really gave me some money to fund my football requirement.
 
My job now was in the metalwork stores working for Tony Zamba. We would again pick items to make up kits but these were more screws, nuts, washers etc., instead of Capacitors, Resistors and the like.
 
There were four of us in the store, a nice quiet black man. Mr Shelton’s nephew Robin, myself and one other person who I cannot remember. There was also Clarky who operated the fork lift truck, which I then helped him with following my successful training.
 
I was only in there for a few months and I did get bored quickly.  I would find myself staring out of the windows watching the office workers come and go and envy their freedom.
 
After a while I must have demonstrated good work and reliability as they transferred me over to Building 8 where I had my own store feeding a shop next door. It was quite easy, pallets would arrive with kits on them, picked from the main store, where I had worked in the Summer. I would have to locate the kits and then issue them out when the shop wanted them. It was great at first, I reorganised it to make it more efficient, had a radio to listen to and it was all great. However there was nothing to stimulate me and I soon got bored. The guys on the shop floor helped by coming in for chats and we played cards in the tea room at our break. Dion, Jimmy and Stevie were closest to me and kept me going but the days were long with so little to do. Jimmy was a large man and very funny, Stevie was slight I build and I could chat easy to both of them.
 
It was around this time that I had my first proper relationship. In my last year at school, one lunchtime I was walking back into the main building, when I overheard a girl say to her friend “is that the one you fancy” and the reply was “yes”. The comment had been directed at me and the girl who said yes I recognised. She lived over the road from me, at number 19 so sort of the girl next door and she was the Sandra, sister of Kim Munden who I was friends with and often walked home from school with, along with another girl Rosida Mohamed. Rosida I quite liked myself but never had the bottle to tell her.
 
Anyhow it took me over a year after hearing that comment to actually pluck up enough courage to knock on her door to ask her out. Even though I knew she liked me. Anyhow I did finally do it and of course she said yes but I was still very shy and really did not know quite where to go with her.
 
I think our first date was down to the Wimpy Bar and I also remember going to see an Officer and Gentleman with her. She seemed much more experienced than me and taught me how to kiss and this included French kissing as well. Wow this is great I thought.
 
Sandra was very slight in build and she did not seem to eat much. I would ring her every day to see how she was but my confidence in those days was short and I did not really know what to say. Most of the time I would ask her what she had eaten and I think it got to her a bit as I think she thought I was checking up on her.
 
Most of the calls were made at lunchtimes from my Nan’s house. She lived just down the road from STC and every lunchtime I would walk down to see her and she would have a nice lunch ready for me, something like cheese on crusty bread or sausage sandwiches. She liked me coming, it was company for her and I liked to see her as well, although over the years there were times I wanted to do other things at lunchtime with my work colleagues but felt obliged to see her knowing she probably would not see anyone else that day if I did not go.
 
There was one occasion I was glad I did go. I turned up as normal and rang the bell. There was no answer, I tried my key but the door was locked from the inside. I peered through the letter box and I could see nan lying there on the floor in her night clothes. She had collapsed in the night whilst going to the toilet and had lay there all that time. I managed to go round the back and find a window slightly open, which I climbed through to reach her. The ambulance was called and she was taking in for a check over. I have never been so scared or afraid, but I am glad I went that day otherwise who knows what would have happened.
 
I think Sandra and I went out for about a month before she finished with me. It was her birthday and I had been down to Wood Green and brought her a ring. I had booked a table at a local beefeater and was really looking forward to taking her out to celebrate.
 
The night before she phoned me and said she wanted to break up. I was devastated, I had never been in this position before and was totally wrecked. I went up into my room and cried my eyes out. I think I spent a good few nights in that room moping and feeling sorry for myself. It was made so much worse by the fact I could see her house from our front room windows. It is a horrible experience and one that I am so glad to say I have never had to experience again.
 
I sunk myself into my football and started to coach some of the younger kids at my old club, Eversley. I helped my old manager out, Tom Wilson, a lovely man and I really enjoyed coaching them.
 
Work took off as well, after a year in the stores I got recommended for an office job and joined the Material Control department working for Terry Poulton. Now much nearer my Dad, I got the know the people in his department and these would be provide me with my social life for the next few years as well as looking after my sporting needs as well.
 
Mick Loughlin was from the North East, a Sunderland fan and we would go to watch Sunderland play if we could. I remember a trip to Cambridge in a clapped out Ford Escort going up the A10. Mick was in a relationship with Jan Mundy who also worked near Dad. Mick and Jan new Maurice North, another Geordie, and there was Cath Harvey, John Blight, Dave Greenway, Ian Burns, Sue Griffiths, Sue Pearson, John Sweet, Richard Kendall and so many others. Most of them were university graduates and I was invited along to their nights out up town, cocktail parties and many other functions. We even had an election party around Maurice’s.
 
Many of these people liked football so we started up a Friday night football session first on some gravel at Haringey Athletics Stadium, which had some floodlights and then we secured half of the AstroTurf pitch, which was fully lit on a Friday night. After this we would go for a drink in the Cherry Tree pub and I really enjoyed those times. Of course of the years people left and it faded out, towards the end we could only just muster enough for 3 a side matches but in the early days there would be at least enough for 6, 7 or sometimes even 8 a side matches.
 
One of the people who worked for Dad and played with us was John Hagger. John was and is a lovely man, very easy to talk to and down to earth. We shared similar views and one major thing we had in common was West Ham.
 
John was the instigator behind my expansion of where I watched West Ham matches and it was with him that I travelled to that first away match in Wolves. It was costly on the train in those days but at the time Persil were doing an offer whereby you could get two adult train tickets for the price of one. I got mum to switch to Persil and John got his wife to do the same and we collected the vouchers.
 
That first trip to Wolves was an eye opener in terms of the policing of hooligans. We got off the train intending to look around Wolverhampton, get some food and a ticket and watch the game. However we were met straight away by the police, and marched off to the stadium, where we were kept herded together and told there were no seats left for the game, standing only. John and I kept our eyes open and took our opportunity to get away when they were not looking.
 
We quickly went to the ticket office, where we easily purchased two seat tickets, headed off for the town centre for something to eat and returned to watch the match.
 
I really enjoyed John’s company, he would often give me a lift home from Upton Park, passing his own house on the way. We shared many interesting times following West Ham around the country. It was a good thing he was with me, he had travelled much himself before and knew a lot of things to watch out for. Had I been on my own at many places I would have got into trouble. There was a cup game away at Birmingham on one occasion in 1984, we played rubbish and were 3-0 down when the West Ham fans invaded the pitch. Within a minute me and John were the only ones still in our seats, it was empty around us. We left the ground and John was eagle eyed enough to get us back to the train station whilst pockets of fans were fighting in little alleyways all the way to the station.
 
I remember a trip to Manchester, again for a cup tie. We managed again to get away from the main group and decided to walk from the Train to Old Trafford, it was quite away but this way we would not be caught up in any trouble. Sill me though, I thought I would be smart and bring a map of the city centre and was freely walking along towards the ground looking at the map. John quickly took it off me and put it away, “bit obvious” he said “if we are from Manchester why are we looking at a map”. He was right, if there were any hooligans looking for trouble it would have been like a beacon to them.
 
It was that game which featured on the television programme about hooligans. There was so much trouble that day outside the ground and on the way to and from the train, but we saw none of it, John kept us away from it.
 
Again in Manchester, this time going to Main Road to watch us play Man City and again John warmed me about the dangers here. Very close to the ground are terrace type houses which back onto one another with an alleyway in between. These were hot spots for away supporters to be dragged down and beaten up in.
 
Another time walking across Stanley Park in Liverpool, he spotted some lads coming up to us. He told me quickly not to say anything to them. They approached and asked us the time, John quickly shook his head and pointed to his wrist, which did not have a watch on and walked on. Once clear of them I asked him why he had done this and he said that they were looking to check out our accents.
 
There was the time we were standing on the Shelf at White Hart Lane watching Spurs play West Ham. All of a sudden a pint of beer gets thrown in the air just to the left of us. John grabs my arm and pulls me as far as he can away from that area. Within about 20 seconds there is a massive fight going on there and apparently the pint of beer going up was the West Ham hooligans signal to start trouble.
 
Work was going well and I was enjoying being one of the office workers, earning more money and being a bit more free with my movements. I could go round to other offices and chat to friends to break the day up, in the stores we had to stay put. In our department we had to look at requirements and ensure there was enough stock. If there was not we had to place a requisition, which the buyers downstairs would turn into an order.
 
It was very interesting work and I enjoyed it. We would have to make sure we were never overstocked and large value items had to be ordered carefully. Normally we would get a new tab of requirements once a month but sometimes things changed like new orders received or stock checks had been done and tabs would come out more frequently. It was very annoying to get a new tab and find the orders you had placed now did not cover requirements and we had to then chase them in, or they had found more stock and you had to move orders out or cancel them.
 
I worked in a great office with many people who helped me and made working very enjoyable. Ian Thorne was my age, an Arsenal fan, and we got on very well. We used to call him bucket, as after a night out we got KFC on the way home and he ordered and ate a whole Kentucky Bucket. Andy Watson and Ilker Salih were older than me but both watched and played football. There was Phil Nimmo and Terry Kelly as well and Dave Greenway, Ian Burns and Sue Griffiths were the supervisors but I got to know them quite well from our regular evenings out. Everyone was great and you got a lot of stick and it was a good grounding for me and taught me many things in how to mix with different people, something I think I lacked at school.
 
Sitting behind me was Bob August. Bob was gay but no obviously so. He gave me the most stick and would regularly embarrass me when a young girl would walk into the office to talk to me. He was nice with it though and taught me a lot about life.
 
The most difficult person in the office was the one I had to sit next to and share a computer terminal with. Wendy Johnson was a very strange women. She travelled every day from Osterly, was always late and grumpy and I think she took advantage of me as a youngster but being mainly very aggressive and controlling. I was very scared of her and had to plan my work around when she was not using the terminal.
 
Whilst working for Terry Poulton I learnt to drive. It was around 1984, I had a private instructor and it was around the time of ABC being quite popular as I always remember True being played on the radio. He was very laid back and often seemed to not be focusing on my driving at all. The first lesson we went out on the A10 and that was fun driving on a fast road for my first time.
 
I took my test but failed on a couple of points and decided to change to BSM. My new instructor, a lady, took me out and from the first 10 minutes told me what I failed my test on and was absolutely right. After another 8 lessons with her I took my test and passed. It is a great feeling to pass. The next day at work Terry was seeing a customer and he knew I had passed. He took me down to meet the customer who was driving a large posh car, cannot remember what it was. We met him at the door, Terry Mobbs his name was and Terry Poulton said to him “Hi Terry let Paul go and park your car, he passed his test yesterday” Great I thought, I was only young and not very confident. So I nervously took the keys and parked his car whilst they both watched me. Thanks for that Terry I thought.
 
Having passed my test I thought it would give me some more freedom but I could not afford to buy a car and my dad would never lend me his. So for about a year I never drove again. My dad had a Morris Marina at the time and felt it was not that easy to drive and would not let me. However after a while he brought a new Maestro, it looked like a hamburger according to Mick Loughlin. With this safer car my dad was OK to let me drive us all to work and also allowed me to pick him up from functions when he had had a drink. However because I had not driven for so long he made me take a couple of driving lessons to get used to it again.
 
It felt very strange telling the instructor that I had in fact passed my test but my dad wanted me to have some practice. Anyhow after this I got more use of the car but only if Dad was with me or I was picking him up. This got on my nerves a bit and after a while and following a couple of good pay rises we realised I could afford a car and I brought a brand new Ford Fiesta. It was maroon and we got it from the Ford Garage on Lancaster Road, which is no longer there.
 
This was great, I could now get around much easier, no more buses or tubes. I could drive to West Ham and also get to play football and cricket without having to rely on others to drive me to matches.
 
I was also able to visit my Auntie Joyce and Uncle John who lived in South Mimms. I used to love visiting them and used to cycle up there but now it was much easier. I went more regularly and started to make a weekly visit so Uncle John and I could play squash. It was also nice to visit because my cousin Lesley was there and we got on very well. She sometimes played squash with us and came to a few football matches with me.
 
Another person who came to a lot of football matches with me was Jane Harwood. Jane was Terry Poulton’s secretary and Phil Nimmo’s girlfriend. She supported Liverpool and Phil was not interested in Football. So Jane and I would go and watch Liverpool play when they were local. We got on really well and enjoyed each others company, so much so we would see each other some evenings for a drink and spent many hours in her house listening to music until the early hours.
 
We had a great trip to Blackpool together as well. West Ham were playing away at Preston North End so Jane and I went up there for the day, had some time on the Beach and in the Theme Park, before driving onto Preston for the match in the Evening and then driving home. It was a tiring day but very enjoyable.
 
Jane joined us on a couple of family outings, a family picnic at Walton on the Naze and a cousin’s day trip to Alton Towers. I used to get stick at the Cricket Club for going out with “my best mates bird” but it was not like that. We were just good friends.
 
Work changed a lot around 1985-86. Many people left and departments were merged and changed.
 
I became a buyer, after material control was closed down. Things were being automated. Terry retired and we had some new people arrive as well. Offices were developed and new furniture arrived as well. It was a big change but at least I still had a job, although I knew nothing about buying and had no training I did feel quite exposed.
 
Les Kerr joined the company and sat next to me with one of the buyers from the previous set up Colin Stephenson. We all liked football and similar things and the 3 of us got on really well. Colin would end up being Purchasing Manager but for now he was one of the boys.
 
Les was a big influence on me. We played Tennis together and went out socially. He got on well with my mum and dad and still visits them today. It was Les who helped me leave home. There was no way I could afford to on my own but in 1987 Les suggested buying a two bedroom flat together. We looked around and after a couple fell through we finally brought 65 Palmerston Crescent in Palmers Green, opposite the Bus Station.
 
It was great having my own place and I look back now and think that I moved out from home without really thinking how my mum and dad were feeling. With children myself now I guess I should have been a little more understanding about that fact their child was leaving home, although it was only down the road.
 
I never dated anyone during this time but Les was constantly trying to help me and encourage me to try. I remember we used to drink in the Cherry Tree and there was a nice young bar maid. Everyone kept giving me stick saying I should ask her out but I was not brave enough. Anyhow one night I thought I would just go for it, I knew no one would be in there that I knew, I walked in, it was very noisy and crowded. I saw her and obviously very nervously just asked her if she wanted to go out with me. She said No of course and I can understand why. I never started a conversation or anything, I just came straight out with it.
 
Les never had any problems with the ladies. He always had someone he was seeing, although they would only be around for a short while as Les gets bored quick, but he is so confident and is such a good socialiser that he always meets some one else very quickly. I was jealous of his ability to do this.
 
There is one story which always amuses me. I really liked this girl in the office, Debbie Oakes was her name. She knew very well I liked her and I asked her out on many occasions. She was seeing someone called Gary but Les had told me they had split up and now would be a good time to ask. This I did as soon as I got the chance but she said they had got back together. I was gutted again, another rejection and found Les to have a chat about it. Whilst chatting I said to him “ I bet she  would go out with you if you asked” he laughed and I bet him to ask her. So off he goes and asks her out and walked back to where I was and you could see by his face that she had said yes. We both had a good laugh about it, she had told him not to tell me, which of course he was always going to do.
 
The story moves on with the fact that this was before we had moved in together and Les was staying with me at my Mum and Dad’s as we were waiting for our purchase to go through and he had given notice on his flat. He was without a car at the time and asked to borrow mine to take Debbie out in. How ironic, Debbie ended up in my car but not with me.
 
To rub salt into the wound Les had an accident in the car and dented my passenger door. We had to hide this from Mum and Dad by making sure it was parked so that the door was always away from the house. We got Neil next door, who was a mechanic, to fix it on the quiet.
 
I am not sure to this day whether Mum and Dad knew about it, or whether Debbie knew that I knew Les had taken her out and in my car. Les and Debbie never lasted long a couple of dates I think, and off he was with another woman.
 
There was another girl I really fell for. Joanne Campbell was temping in our office and she was lovely. We seemed to get on really well and I would spend a lot of time at her desk and he at mine chatting. The fax machine was right next to her desk and it used to take me ages to send a fax so I could talk to her. We used to go off and have coffee together and would go to the pub for lunches. However, she would never go out with me, despite me asking so many times. She was a Jehovah Witness and could not date anyone who did not have the same religious views. It was a real shame as I really felt for once I had met my perfect female.
 
All I had during this time was my Cricket and Football. Football now was being played on Friday nights with people from work over on the astroutrf pitch at New River Sports Centre and also playing in the Turkish League with Ilker Salih from work.
 
The Turkish league was a good standard, our home matches were played at Hackney Marshes. Each side were only allowed two English players and I really enjoyed it. I played up front with a boy called Jan, who was a great player. We hit it off straight away and scored stacks of goals together. One match we came up against the ex Spurs player, Terry Naylor, much slower now obviously but he still knew how to tackle and you could tell he was a pro. It was fun being up against such a good player.
 
During the Summer Cricket was my life, Saturday and Sunday would be spent at the club. I would get there around 8am and start work on preparing the ground for the matches, cutting and rolling the wickets. Getting on the Tractor to cut the outfield and then getting the changing rooms, scoreboard and enclosure ready for the 2pm start.
 
Matches would be from 2pm to 7.30pm and this was followed by drinks in the clubhouse or doing your bar duty and once every couple of months doing lock up as well. We would have nets on a Wednesday night and quite often play mid week cup matches or local 20 over games in the evening.
 
It was fantastic, we had a great bunch of people at the club and I probably miss that today more than anything else. I was a slow left arm bowler and a big hitting middle order batsman, and I have to say it probably the best fielder at the club.
 
Many times after a match the opposing captain would say what a superb fielder I was and how many runs I had saved. I fielded at cover point for the medium quick bowlers and on the boundary for the spinners. I was very quick and athletic diving to make stops and hardly ever dropping a catch whether it be straight at me or one hit a long way in the air. I loved fielding, I would pray that we won the toss and fielded first as it meant I could be out there a long time. It is probably the one thing in my life that I have ever been super confident of in my ability to do it and it really hurt when I returned to playing having given up for a few years to find that although my mind knew what I wanted to do my body was not as it used to be.
 
My bowling was slow left arm. Not a big spinner of the ball but I had a natural loop and got good flight and varied my pace. I regularly took between 60 to 70 wickets a season and remember one year being left on 99.
 
My batting was much more straight forward. Not much technique but I could hit the ball and scored quite quickly. I was fast between the wickets and never tried to never let the bowlers get on top. I scored one 100 over at North London for the 2nd Xl and scored quite a few 50’s as well. My 100 was scored off only 66 balls and my quickest 50 was off only 19 deliveries. I liked hitting the ball hard and a long way if I could.
 
Looking back I realise now I might have scored more runs had I worn a helmet. Many players did but I felt it weighed too much and slowed down my running, however when I returned to playing after giving up for a few years I did wear one and felt much more comfortable against the quicker bowling. As I had poor technique I was concerned facing the quicker stuff and would often get out because of this, but the helmet gave me much more confidence to get in line with the ball.
 
In the 1986 we toured Barbados. It was a great trip, my first time abroad and the touring party numbered about 50. Unfortunately we got the wrong level of fixtures and ended up playing teams who were too strong for us and most of them had played against England the winter before. Having found this out we decided not to bother tossing a coin, we just agreed to let them bat first otherwise the matches would have been over too quickly.
 
The bowling was very very quick, nothing like we or I had ever played against. The West Indians are very friendly people and were really nice to us, but cross that boundary line and they are a different breed and are looking to hurt you as much as they can.
 
We have a picture of one of our top batsman just lifting his bat up and already his off stump is flying out of the ground. Our keeper played one match for the oppositions and said his hands had never hurt so much.
 
For my part I was lucky, I was batting in one match at the point where the only slow bowler we were to see in our 5 matches came on. Myself and Mark Boyle took full advantage of this and helped ourselves to some runs. I scored 32 which was to be our top score on the whole tour, but during this innings whilst not facing the slow bowler I faced some deliveries which I never even saw, some of which cut me in half.
 
We played one match at the test ground, Kennington Oval and that was nice to play there. Once again we got stuffed and I remember fielding on the boundary in front of one of the stands. Their batsman hit the ball out to where I was fielding and I thought this was going to be an easy catch for me. In England it would have been, but the thinner air over there makes the ball travel differently. I watched this ball sail over my head, it even cleared the roof of the stand.
 
The locals are very keen to challenge you on the beach. We played football on the soft sand with some of them and also asked to play beach cricket. This was an eye opener as well, this is played on hard sand, with a baked or hardened Tennis Ball in between the palm trees. Once again they hurl this down at you and it really hurts if you miss it.
 
All in the tour was great, although it was very hot but we all got on well together and had a great time. Barbados is a lovely place.

My niece, Lindsay, was born 29th September 1987. I would spend many hours around Janet’s, playing with Lindsay and it was a fun and enjoyable. My nephew James arrived a couple of years later 7th December 1989.

A very low point in my life came was on the 4th March 1988. My Nan Tarling, my mums mum passed away aged 88. I said before how I once found her lying on the floor in her hall. After that she had got much worse in terms of looking after herself. She had been moved into a home and it was sad visiting her there. She hardly knew who we were and just sat whilst we chatted to her. I have this memory of putting her favorite sweets into her mouth, she could not even manage to do that.

 She was very close to me. I am not sure if this was because she was my Mum’s mum or if because my other Nan still had her husband around, but it was Nanny Tarling we used to spend holidays with and who was often over our house baby sitting or visiting. As I said I used to see her every lunch time as she lived just down the road from work and I am just very sad that she was not around to see my children.

 I remember the day very well as I was woken up by the phone call, I think it was Dad who told me and I must have gone into shock. At the time I was giving a friend, Jean Raynor, a lift into work. I was due to pick here up and after the call I seemed to just carry on as normal. I got to Jean’s and just burst into tears as it finally struck me. We drove into work and I managed to get through the day.

 I still think of her most days, a lovely lady, very strong minded and always gave my dad a lot of grief for some reason, I do not think she thought he was good enough for her daughter. She died of dementia and I miss her lots still.

 Work continued with regular changes taking place and people leaving and new people starting. Les decided that after 3 years of living together he wanted to sell up.

We had started to drift apart, maybe it was living together that did this, but we had many dis agreements and falling out over silly things.

 
I brought a two bedroom flat in Severn Drive and he found something in Meadowcroft Road, Palmers Green. By this time my best mate at Cricket, Duncan Scott had started to bring his girlfriend down. Her name was Karen Pegram and we all spent a lot of time together. Richard and his girlfriend Kim were also around and although I had no one they made me comfortable and never made me  feel out of place. They included me whenever they all went out wherever it was.
 
Karen, Duncan and I went on holiday to France in 1990 and we had a great time. None of us spoke French and it was so funny the first time Duncan and I went to get a drink. We looked in many places trying to find the one that was not too busy and not too empty so we would not be embarrassed trying to ask for two beers. We managed it in the end and whilst in France visited many places of interest, including the Bayeaux Tapestry. We went to many places historic for their part in the war and also went to this Village on an island which is completely cut off from the mainland when the tide comes in, but when it is out you can walk to it.
 
One of the funniest things to happen while we were away was when we brought some ready made lasagne for our evening meal. We put it in the oven and played some cards. Once it started cooking we could smell this lovely sweet smell. It could not be anyone else as we were in the only Gite in the Village. It was just us, some farmhouses, a church and a shop, it was very isolated.
 
Anyhow we soon realised the smell was coming from the oven, had we left something in there. No we had in fact brought Rice Pudding and not Lasagne. I have to say it was the best rice pudding I have ever tasted and we could not finish it all. The local cats loved it.
 
Driving on the other side of the road was fun and confusing. Especially roundabouts, trying to work them out was doing my head in. It was not so much fun on the way back when we got off the very and Duncan was still in French mode and on the wrong side of the road with a car coming straight for us. We managed to avoid that an get on the left side again but that was a close one.
 
Living on my own was nice in some ways but also very lonely. I just wanted someone to spend my time with and some nights I don’t mind admitting I ended up in tears with my loneliness. It was nice having my own place and being able to afford to do things. My sport was my life, my friends were great but I went home to an empty flat and I wanted some companionship.

Towards the end of the 80’s Duncan got me to play football at Old Minchendians. They played on Saturday afternoons and I started in the 5Xl with Duncan. I did well there and enjoyed it and it was not long before I went up through the teams and ended up in the 1st Xl. This was OK, the football was better but I did not know anyone and it was a bit lonely. We travelled a long way to some matches and I think I left after a couple of seasons.

At the start of the 90’s I was playing football for Enfield Park. Paul Woolston who I knew from Northampton Exiles Cricket Club was playing for them and took me along. We played Sunday mornings and home matches were played at Wormley. 

I never really felt that I produced my best there. At the Turkish team, Eversley, School and Old Minch I always felt confident and felt I did not have anything to prove. At Enfield Park it was different. I worked hard and my strike partner, Dave Bicknall appreciated that. He did not run a lot but he did score a lot of goals and I felt this put pressure on me. Even the most easiest of chances I was missing and it affected my confidence. 

I do not think the team played to my strengths, which were having the ball into feet and playing off me. We had Mark Laws in midfield who was a runner with the ball. Very good but it bypassed me a lot. Alongside him was Archie, he was very vocal and gave out a lot of stick if you did something wrong. No one misses on purpose but every time I did I felt him on my back. 

I think due to my hard work in the team I did win the managers player of the year award, but the players player of the year would have been much more of a confidence boost. 

James Farren was our goalie and got myself, Paul Woolston and himself a trial with Harlow. We went pre season training  and I came third in the cross country. Harlow were doing well and got to the third round of the FA Cup that year. For some reason I did not continue there, I cannot remember why, I certainly was not asked to leave. Paul and James stayed and James was reserve goalie for the third round match. 

I stayed at Enfield Park for about 5 years, but I got fed up with the aggression being shown by players both physical and verbal. I just wanted to enjoy my football. Don’t get me wrong I did not mind the physical tackling but players were getting silly sand trying to hurt people. 

I ended up in court on one occasion when one of our players, Craig, was elbowed in the cheek and it was fractured. That was enough for me and I remember my last match at Waltham Abbey for the reserves. I scored a screamer from about 25 yards out, a volley. Archie was playing and it was fitting for me to finish with that and not have him ranting at me.

Early in 1992 Karen Pegram mentioned to me that she had the perfect woman for me. Karen worked at Hazelwood Junior School and knew me very well from our time spent at the Cricket club, Northampton Exiles.
 
She arrange for this woman to come to a quiz night we were having at the cricket club. During the week my granddad Harris passed away. He had been ill with throat cancer for a long time. I was not close to him, I do not think anyone was, he had given my Nan Harris a hard life but they had remained married for over 60 years so that cannot have been bad. I was not as upset as when my Nan Tarling passed away but it was still sad especially when I saw my Dad.
 
Unfortunately for me the funeral was on the same day as the quiz night and I did not get to meet this woman that Karen had said was my perfect match. Funerals are never happy occasions but I was really choked when my Dad got up and spoke about his Dad.
 
The summer went on and we had a disco coming up at the club, early in September. I hate discos so volunteered to the do bar duty that night. Anyhow Karen invited her friend from school and pointed her out to me. She looked quite nice and I said to Karen give her my phone number and ask her to ring me. I was not being cocky just still very unconfident and shy.
 
Anyhow a few days past and no phone call, so I kept pestering Karen and she said she had passed my number on and would mention it to her again. Then one night I cannot remember the date the phone rang. Hello said the voice I am Helen I think you were expecting a call from me.
 
We chatted for over 45 minutes, it was so natural. I actually made her late for a date. She finished with him that night and we arranged to go out on September 15th, 1992. I remember the day well for a number of reasons. I had a business trip to Wales that day, and how funny it was that Debbie Oakes was going with me as by now I was her supervisor.
 
The other reason is that it was black Wednesday, when the interest rates kept going up by the hour. We listened on the radio panicking because we both had mortgages.
 
Anyhow we got back quite late so I got to keep the hired car for the night. So turned up at Helen’s flat and pretty much the first thing I said to her was “don’t get excited about the car, it is a company one, I drive a fiesta” We went to the Pied Ball and I pretty much spoke to the top of her head for most of the night as she fiddled nervously with a beer mat or ash tray.
 
We spoke on the phone a few days later and she sounded really upset. I cannot remember what it was over but I went out a brought her some flowers and a cuddly bear. Her flat had an entry phone system and she was out, but someone was just coming out and I was able to leave them by the front door to cheer her up when she got home.
 
I think it did the trick as she phoned to thank me and it was the start of a wonderful relationship. We got on so well together and she was going home for half term in October and I sort of invited myself up there. Home was Ayrshire and she went on the train and I drove up a few days later and then we drove home together. Those 8 hours in the car on the way back were just the best. We held hands for most of the trip, only letting go to change gear when required and we chatted and chatted.
 
By December 1992 we were engaged and the wedding was organised for the following summer, 30th July 1993.


We were married at Enfield Registry Office and had our reception at Nortel Networks Social club. A nice day, not too hot, quite sunny and the only rain we had was just as the evening do was getting under way.
 
We drove that night down to Gatwick in readiness for our flight the next day to Lake Garda in Italy. We had one week up in the mountains and one week down by the Lake.
 
The mountains were lovely, nice and call and the walks and views were fantastic. The Lake however was very hot and I did not enjoy it as much as I did the first week. We had a hire car and it was very scary driving an automatic left hand drive car down some really tight hairpin bends in the pouring rain at night as we headed down the mountains to Lake Garda.
 
I must have been very tired when we got there as I parked up but must have left the car in drive and it started to bounce forward towards the hotel. I tried everything to stop it but was getting confused with the different pedals and controls and it hit the hotel. Fortunately we were going very slow and there was just a small dent on the hotel door and nothing on the car. I am just glad no one was watching apart from some of the hotel staff.
 
Anyhow we had a nice week there and went to settle our bill at the end of the week. On the bill was a 50 pound charge for the bar. I explained we had not used the bar, this must be a mistake. The receptionist said no mistake it is the cost for damage to the bar door when you hit it with the car.
 
I think I went slightly red, paid the bill and we got on the coach to take us back to the airport.


At this point in my life my time at Northampton Exiles finished. Duncan Scott had been captain and I was his vice. We did a pretty good job we felt but some controversial characters at the club wanted a change. We had two people standing against us in the AGM of 1992. Shaun Lawler and Errol Lisk. Shaun was a great player probably the best we had but he was very unrealiable, often late and often not available. Errol was older, late 50’s, also a good player and respected at the club but his playing days were coming to an end. Neither Duncan or I could understand why they were standing against us. Anyhow on the night of the AGM for some reason the venue was changed at the last minute. I cannot remember why this was but normally it was held at the clubhouse and now it was to be in a church Hall in Oakwood. This meant a lot of people did not turn up. By this time Shaun had pulled out of running for Captain as many of his supporters also supported Errol and they feared a split of the vote.
 
That night many of their supporters travelled together to the AGM, ours were not so co ordinated and in the end we lost the vote purely because not enough of the people who would have voted for us made it to the AGM.
 
Duncan could not carry on at the club and resigned his membership and I did the same a few days later. I could not play at a club which had no foresight for the future and one that clearly what a more laid back approach they Duncan and I would offer.
 
We were firm on time keeping, net practice and many other things. You have to be to have a club run properly, otherwise all the work gets left to the same people and you can go out and toss the coin not knowing who would be there for the start.
 
Duncan went to Old Minchendians and I followed. I really did not settle there at all. Duncan was Ok many people he went to school with were playing there and he knew many of them from playing football there.
 
For me I had been too long at Exiles and did not play as freely at Minch as I did at the Exiles because I had to prove myself again. I really struggled, my bowling went down hill and I never really got a chance. Batting was Ok and I was quite steady in the middle order, but I only lasted a couple of seasons there.
  
So all in all life was good, we managed to finally sell Helen’s flat in 1994 but made a £10K loss on it. Fortunately both of us were working and in well-paid jobs and we managed to pay it off in just over a year. We were now living in Severn Drive, in the flat I had brought and having had a few years together and having paid the debt off we decided it was time to start a family.
 
Craig Stuart Harris was born 29th April 1996 at 11.20pm and we were both pleased but tired. Helen had some problems with the birth and it was decided early on to give her an epidural, so much for the Natural Childbirth Trust courses we had gone one, and we spend two days in labour, quite comfortable chatting away.
 
Eventually they decided to induce her to speed things along but still he was not coming out and eventually they performed an emergency c-section. It was a bit funny as Helen was all prep and lying on the operating table, screen up and surgeon ready to start when someone realised she had not signed the consent form. So hands shaking Helen tried to sign this form, it was quite amusing but at the end Craig appeared and we were very happy.
 
Little did we know then what the next few weeks would bring. I visited them both the next day and Helen said she was very tired but we both thought this was normal, she was being given some blood to replace what had been lost.
 
Next thing we knew was that they were concerned about her stats, her bodily functions seemed to be shutting down. They said it was nothing to worry about, so like you do you do not worry, you leave it in their trusty hands. Another day went by and then they said they could not monitor het too well on the maternity ward and had a free bed in intensive care. Again we were not overly concerned as they did not seem to concerned themselves.
 
They put Craig into the special baby care unit, not because there was anything wrong with him but just a good place for him to be. Days went passed and still her results were not changing.  I would spend my days going between Helen and Craig, timing it so I could be there when he woke up to feed and change him. It was quite good because the nurses showed me what to do, had we been at home we would have had to learn for ourselves.
 
More days would pass and this was getting silly. Helen could not see Craig because being in one part of the hospital he could not go to another for fear of spreading stuff. Helen was not making any progress and we were now getting concerned and she was rightly upset because she could not see Craig.
 
So we decided to discharge Craig and take him to my mums,   I would stay there to and then when I visited Helen I was then allowed to take Craig in.
 
Finally after about 10 days her results changed, she was on the verge of being taken by helicopter to a specialist hospital in London, but I am glad she was not. After another day or so in intensive care she was allowed home and it was only a few days later when we saw her Doctor that we was told she nearly died. Things were that close, but we never knew.
 
Eventually I brought our family home and we started the first year with Craig which would be very very tiring. I had been tired before but this was different, your whole body aches, your mind does not work right and you drift off anywhere you can. That business of feeding every 2-4 hours, the constant attention, the never knowing how much free time you would get I just did not enjoy.
 
I did it though but now realised that having a baby was hard work, upto then we had almost pleased ourselves what we did and when. We went out when we wanted and often on the spur of the moment though. Now with a young baby we were often too tired to go out even if we could.
 
I remember thinking that the outside world did not exist after getting home from work, and it might seem strange to say it but I felt very isolated.
 
We got through the first year though and things settled down a bit and I enjoyed it much more when Craig started to interact rather than me have to instigate all the play with him.
 
My Auntie June passed away in June 1997. She had had stomach cancer and she was the first of my aunties and uncles to die. I remember her saying that she wanted to be cremated so that it would burn the thing in her that had killed her. Very sad time.
 
In January 1998 we decided the flat was too small for us and we started looking for a house. We looked at many areas outside London as that was in our price range, then we were very lucky to find one on the Great Cambridge Road which was just round the corner from where we were.
 
It was reduced in price because it needed loads of work and the seller had been trying to sell for ages. We moved April 1998 and spent a week at my mums whilst the house was rewired.
 
During this time my Nanny Harris was getting ill. She was already downstairs in her bed and it was nice that we could visit and she could see Craig. In October she was moved to North Middlesex Hospital. I visited her one lunchtime and had a lovely chat to her. Just me and her no one else was there and we talked about families and things and it was really lovely. I would not see her again as she passed away that afternoon, 3rd October 1998. I was not as close to her as I was my Nanny Tarling, as I did not see her as much but I also still miss her every day, and I am so glad I went to see her that lunchtime.
 
My uncle Alan at this time had stomach cancer, not known to his mum, my nanny Harris, he fought on whilst she was alive and did not want her to know he was ill. He struggled through to the following Nov 1999 when he then passed away.
 
Alan was the youngest of my uncles and Aunts, he was a lively and very funny man who made the room brighten up when he entered and got parties going when they were flagging. He was a top top man and my biggest regret is that I could not face going to see him in his last weeks when he was getting iller. I feel so ashamed now not to spend time with him following the years of good times he had given us, but I just could not see him that way.
 
The following summer I lost another Uncle. 15th June 2000, my uncle tony, my mums brother passed away having had a heart attack whilst in hospital. He was married to Auntie June and I am not sure he ever really coped with not having her around.
 
We went on holiday to Isle of Wight in August and it was there that I decided to start researching our family tree. Losing so many people in a short space of time made me realise I did not know much about where we came from and the people who would know were not always going to be around.
 
For the next 8 years it would consume much of my spare time.

So I started my family history research and soon became engrossed in it. I started by listing all the people I knew of in my family. I then asked people to fill in information about themselves and also to tell me what they knew of those people no longer alive. Quickly the information grew, along with some great things from the past. Following the death of my Uncle Tony, I was passed a box of stuff. It contained war medals from my granddad, photographs, an envelope from Buckingham Palace to my great grandma for putting up people during the war and also a page from a rent book from 1883 from a great great granddad.

Through my mums line I found Stephen Tarling, not a direct relative but researching the same name. There are 3 branches of the Tarling family, ours are from Epping. He kindly met me at the family record centre and showed me how to find census information and birth, deaths and marriages. We spent all day there and he was most helpful. With his help as well, the Tarling line quickly grew.

The Harris line was proving a bit more challenging. First the name is very common so searching was not easy, but with my Dads help we pieced things together. A piece of paper in possession of my uncle who had taken notes about the family from my grandma also helped greatly. There was one word, Bedfordshire on the top corner of the paper and from this I found our Harris line living originally in Shillington, Bedfordshire. Without that piece of paper I may never have found it. Anyhow I could write for hours about this but I will leave it that I now have found many distant cousins around the world who have been a great help, but I have now stopped my research as there is just not enough time and it costs too much money now as the information now required is from such a long time ago. 

In 2000 Craig started Karate in Potters Bar. He loved it and this was every Saturday morning. It did rather muck up our weekends as we would leave at 10am and not get back till 1pm, but he really did enjoy it and it gave him so much confidence. We had less luck trying to get him to ride his bike without stabilisers on. We got them off and if I pushed him on his way he would cycle OK but he was so lacking confidence he would stop peddling and obviously fell off. After a while he just had enough and did not want to do it again. I do regret not keeping him going with it, I ride a bike now and it would nice for him to join me, but also would enable him to get around to places much easier. 

Not much happened over the next few years. I still worked for Nortel, Helen picked up supply work when she could, Craig went to Worcesters school and enjoyed it there and life continued quite happily. We did the normal things families did, trips out, holidays etc until 2003 when things changed, for the better though I must say. 

In January 2003 Helen decided that it would be best to get sterilised. After the problems with Craig’s birth there was no way she wanted to get pregnant again and we both thought it was the best thing to be done. Yes we would like another child but the risks were just too high. 

So we went to see the consultant and left with a different decision to make. He asked why she wanted it done and when she told him he said he was aware of the condition she had, HELLP syndrome, that advances had been made and special care could be provided if we wanted another child. Now were we lucky with him or would all consultants have told us the same. We will never know but we went away quite excited and decided to try again for another child. The months went past with nothing and Helen had said she did not want to be pregnant after her 40th Birthday in April 2004. Month after month we tried but with no luck, it was beginning to be a chore having sex, never thought I would say that. Anyhow on the 21st July 2003 we found out she was pregnant and we were both so happy. 

I knew the next 9 months would be so stressful worrying about Helen’s health, which would not be helped by regular trips to the Whittington Hospital in Islington, which involved, car, tube and a long walk up a very steep hill. 

It was not helped further by the hottest summer since records began. 17th August 2003 saw temperatures top 39.7. 

Even in September the heat was up around 25 degrees for much of the time. This month saw Craig take part in a Karate competition. It was a proud moment for us, he loved it and got round to 2nd stage but lost to someone much older than him. It was a bit nerve racking watching him, first time as a parent watching my child perform at something.

We eased Craig in gently regarding the fact that he would have a brother or sister. For 7 years it had all been about him and now we needed to prepare him for the future. We did little things, first by asking how he would feel if he had a brother or sister, and then went into a bit more detail before finally telling him. He was fine, in fact quite excited by it, but we continued to make him feel special. He was a the main bedroom, but we would now need the bigger room. So we decorated the 2nd bedroom. We kept him involved, he chose what he wanted and in November it was done and ready for him to move in. I put some tape at the door and he cut it with some scissors. 

By this time we found out we were having a little girl. Just perfect, one of each. I had a name already. Always wanted Kirsty, and it was a done deal as soon as we knew it was a girl. 

At the end of 2003 I was 15 stone and it was time to do something about it. I have always had problems with my weight but my sport kept it under control. Now not playing anything I was putting on the pounds. At our Christmas get together that year my uncle made reference to my size. It was time to do something about it, but over the next few years it went up and down, being on and off diets but seemed to settle down in 2012 when I think I finally got to grips with it. 

The start of 2004 saw us preparing for our new arrival. Many trips to the shops to buy baby stuff. Decorating the study, as it was, into a nursery and the end of January 2004 saw Helen finish work. Snow was heavy at the end of the month and the journey home on 28th January was particularly nasty. Cars were sliding everywhere, M11 and M25 were very difficult. It was rounded off by sitting on the A10 for nearly 25 minutes, right outside my house but on the other side of the road. Still I got home safely in the end. 

Early in February Helen is booked in for an elected C-section. This is due to her previous condition and the date is set as 18th March 2004, unless something happens before that, Kirsty will be born then. This was good news for me as I was worrying about how I was going to get her to Whittington Hospital if she went into natural labour. 

Work is not great at the moment. My boss just does not know the first thing about what and how we do things. She does look after her staff’s interests well but in terms of doing things and the actual operational stuff she does not know, so she makes ill informed decisions which then affect us and we then have to do a lot of work either changing procedures or getting her to rethink her decisions. Funny thing did happen though when I got a phone call at work from Helen. She tells me Craig thinks he has swallowed a ball bearing. Think, I said surely he knows. Anyhow a trip to the hospital and an x-ray later, reveals he had swallowed it and the doctors rushed around trying to find out what it was made of in case they had to get it out. The ball bearing came from a game he was playing, the doctors had the box, contacted the manufacturer and found out it was OK and he could pass it naturally in a few days. Strange that he should put that in his mouth but refuses to try any new foods. 

End of February and Helen is struggling. She has swollen legs, high blood pressure, carple tunnel syndrome (cramps in her right hand) constant headaches, lack of sleep. Her Doctor was surprised that the C-Section was booked for 18th March 2004, he said that was too long and we should discuss with our consultant. We did this and the date was brought forward to 9th March 2004. 

4th March 2004 and Helen is kept in hospital following a routine check up visit. Her blood pressure is up and they found protein in her urine. I remember it being a very tiring time, working a full day, getting Craig, getting to the hospital to visit, home, bed routine, getting Craig ready and off to school and then off to work again. At least she was in the hospital now and we no longer had to worry about getting her there. 

I remember the day Kirsty was born so well. I started early getting Craig ready for school and dropping him off at a friends. I made my way to Islington via the tube and sat in McDonalds at the bottom of the hill watching the world go by. It was a lovely sunny day and most relaxing knowing when she would be born because of the c-section. We were first on the list and and at 11.41 Kirsty was born, screaming the place down. I was asked to go over to her to calm her down, turned to say something to Helen but because I was no on the side of the ward I was actually in front of the screen. What I saw would live with me forever. Helen’s insides on the outside, she was being sterilised at the same time and I quickly looked the other way again and never looked back. 

Once again getting her out of hospital proved to be very difficult. It was 13th March before she and Kirsty finally came home and it was such a relief to have them both with me and Craig. 

So over the next few months we enjoyed our new addition, Craig was very good and played with her, helped her with stuff and we were all happy. We are also both very very very tired. I made an entry in my diary on 19th April saying that I forgot how tired you could be. I knew we would be tired but I had forgot how tired. The lack of sleep is one thing but it is the disturbed sleep, late nights and early mornings that really take it out of you. I remember my whole body aching. 

Kirsty had a few problems in the early months and in turn it caused us problems and we had quite a grizzly baby on our hands and once we found out the problems we knew why. 

First of all we found out she had reflux, this is like heartburn where acid from the stomach comes back up the body. I remember one night having such a time making her settle, she was keeping the whole house awake and Helen needed her rest. So at 11.30pm I took her out in her pram and walked her up and down the foot path on the A10, so at least her crying would not disturb anyone. I was out there for two hours and finally she settled down to sleep. Once we found out this was reflux we got some Gaviscon and things settled down. 

The other problem we noticed was that she would always look to her right. We even tried turning her bed round to see if she changed but she did not. We took her to a cranial osteopath who found she had a problem with a neck muscle and this would be causing her lots of pain. Two or three session of neck massage fixed the problem and no more pain for her and she moved her head normally. Unfortunately this had gone on for so long that she now has a permanent flat part of her skull, but that does not show or matter, at least her problems were sorted out.

2004 for was a hot summer, regularly up in the 30’s, especially around June time, the heat was stifling. Probably the wrong time to do it but I decided to build a garden shed. We needed more space, but also we needed a bigger fridge and freezer, and the only way to do this was to build a brick shed and put electricity in there. To save costs I would do it all myself and as I had a wickes near to me at work I would go there lunchtimes and pick up 10 breeze blocks and bring them home, or anything else we needed. 

Fortunately we were building on the site of an old garage so there was a concrete base in place and my Dad came over to help me with the first couple of rows of house bricks. I remember it well, it chucked it down with rain, still warm but very wet, it was early July 2004 when we started. The gazebo helped but not much but after about 7 hours we had the first two lines down and I could then carry on from there on my own with the breeze blocks. A little bit every day. 

It went up and kept going up, I left room for windows and a door, so when I got to the height I needed, Dad came along and did the wood work for the windows and doors and we used Perspex rather than glass. We both worked on the roof together and our friend Brian kindly ran the electric from the house to the shed, in exchange for some beer. It was finished early in September and made a big difference to us. Cost only £650 to build. 

During this time our cat, Harvey had started weeing everywhere. We were not sure at first if he was reacting to the new baby but having got him checked out it was urine infections. They kept coming though so we could not really afford to keep him and with Kirsty crawling around did not want cat wee on the carpets. At the start of October I drove Harvey upto Scotland to take him back to Helen’s Uncle David, who had bred him originally. He would get more care up there. Scotland and back in the same day, I was shattered but relieved not to have that problem anymore. 

Craig was carrying on as normal, we tried hard to include him but also realise a lot of our time was taken up with Kirsty. He was great though, never complained, would play with her on the floor sometimes but most of the time just carried on with what he was doing. I remember this summer he had started talking about what jobs he would want to do, at this point it was either an Artist or a electronic game designer. He also moved up from Beavers to Cubs and seemed to really enjoy going there. 

Our year was not helped by Kirsty cutting so many teeth, within 6 months she had 5 teeth, so a lot of the time she was unhappy and crying, sometimes it was nice to leave the house for work. 

We also had our worst holiday ever. One of Craig’s friends parents had a caravan in Great Yarmouth. We thought it was a good way to keep costs down so we agreed to hire it. When we got there it was very small and as they use it a lot they had left a lot of their things there, so there was not much storage space. We had my Mum and Dad along as well and my Dad insisted on putting his chair in the middle of the small room and watching the cricket, which meant Craig could not amuse himself on his PS2 and with Kirsty teething and crying it was not surprising I had a migraine everyday. 

Looking back at my diary for that period I mention that I was terrified at being left alone with Kirsty. I think this shows how difficult a period it was, the neck problem, the reflux and the teething all at the same time was not good for her, but at the time we did not know all these things and I could never get her to settle and was scared being left with her. 

At work it was very boring and did not inspire me at all. Really it was only the people around me that kept me going. This year our boss Gill Firman retired and they asked me if I wanted to take over from her. It did not take me long to decide, I had no inclination to do it, I had seen how the Canadians took advantage and how difficult it is managing people, frankly  I just wanted my own responsibilities and get on with my own work. Sheila Shah took on the role and I cannot say that I think she ever really enjoyed it and possibly maybe regretted it in the end.

By Christmas Kirsty is crawling around, but it was quite amusing that she will not cross the metal rods in the doorways which join the carpets.  I remember Craig going to see Santa and when he was asked which of the toys he would like to take by Santa Craig replied “ I don’t like any of them.” 

I started 2005 with Jury Service. Always wanted to do it and now finally been called. It was at Wood Green. I went along quite eagerly only to find by lunchtime they did not need me, the same happened the following 3 days so I was getting a bit fed up. The following week though I got on a case. It involved a sexual harassment case at Pearsons the retail store in Enfield. After a few days hearing the evidence there was, in my mind, not enough to find him guilty. So after a while of deliberating that is what we agreed, and that was that, they no longer required me. I enjoyed the case but it was over too quickly. 

Other than that 2005 just came and went. Kirsty continued to make progress, I remember thinking how daring she was as she would always try things herself, like coming down the slide on her own, at Tumble Tots she just goes off on her own, whereas Craig would hang around by Helen. Craig started putting himself to bed to give us a hand in the evenings and this helped. We went out at the weekends for walks, I still had my job at Nortel and Helen had picked up half a days work on a Tuesday which helped with the money. 

Craig went on his first camp with the cubs and also had progressed to a purple belt at Karate. We also swapped the bedrooms around with Craig moving into the small one ad Kirsty into the second largest. The reason for this was that really Craig only needs a bed, and a desk. As long as he had tele, PS2 and computer he is happy and it really helped us as Kirsty has so many toys. 

We muddled along as usual all quite happy. 2006 summer was once again very hot, by June 30 degrees and we used the swimming pool a lot in the garden. World Cup year and Craig sort of seemed to be getting into football a bit. He had been collecting stickers and getting to know the players, although he still seemed less keen to actually watch a game, unless it was on at his bedtime then he would say he wanted to watch it. 

West Ham made it to the Cup Final and played really well against Liverpool. I had not expected them to win just give a good account of themselves, but with one minutes injury time left they were winning 3-2 until Liverpool scored a fantastic equaliser. It was hard to take being so close, extra time brought no more goals and we lost on penalties. I have the DVD of the game but have never been able to bring myself to watch it again. 

With Craig showing an interest in football I got tickets for a pre season friendly at Upton Park against Olympiakos. I cannot really describe my emotion or feelings as me and my son walked out of Upton Park Tube Station. I had done this so many times on my own but this time my son was with me. I am sure I had a tear in my eye. We walked down to the ground, brought him a shirt and watched the match. Really he was just loving the spectacle of it rather than the game but do you know he wore that shirt every day for about 3 weeks. 

After that we mainly went to reserve matches, but these were good as you could meet the players coming out, we got many signatures, including Teddy Sheringham’s. Our first proper match, Premier League was at White Hart Lane for Spurs v West Ham. Spurs won 1-0 unfortunately, I missed the goal as I was downstairs getting Craig a drink but the noise was great and he really enjoyed it. We went to a few more games but really you could tell he did not like football, it was just the big stadium and the event so we stopped going but it was nice to have done that as I had begun to think it would never happen. 

The tickets for the Spurs game were provided by Tony Baldwin at work. It had been announced during the year that our jobs were being made redundant and were moving to India. I had worked with Tony on a lot of projects and it was a thank you for my help. It was a nice touch. 

The announcement of redundancy was not a surprise, the economy was in trouble and Nortel like many others were losing money. India had cheaper labour and this was a move that would save them money. Still it was a shock when it happened and after 24 years working for the same company soon it would stop and I would not have a job. We were told in August and by December we had finished at Nortel. I got a nice redundancy package and we paid off some of the mortgage and I had to get my mind round being a house husband as we both agreed it would be much easier for Helen to find work than me. 

The last few months were not helped by us having to train our replacements, we remained professional and helped them take our jobs and then we left and I would not see people I had worked with for years on a daily basis anymore. 

January 2007 saw Helen secure a job until September and that really helped us financially and stress wise.  I settled into the job of looking after the house and Kirsty and quickly realised that I did not have to entertain her every minute of the day. She was nearly 3 now and at first I tried to occupy her every minute. Painting, followed by stories, followed by making things it was all too much. Someone said to me that you do bits with her and then have a break and then do some more. This really helped as before then days had been so long. 

What I did miss was the adult company. For 24 years I had been in an office or around people, now my day was spent with a 3 year old. I would go out to Sainsbury, not to buy anything but just to see adults and overhear other conversations. The first few months being at home were very tough. 

Around Feb 2007 I have a car crash. Fortunately I was on my own, Kirsty was at playgroup. I was driving along in Enfield and a car was parked on the other side of the road. From behind it a van came over to my side of the road to get round it, I was almost on top of it by then. I stopped and he saw me but for some reason he kept coming, whether his brakes failed I don’t know but he hit me straight on but very slowly. The car was nearly a write off but they did repair it and they could not get any reply from the driver, his firm or the insurance, so it was left on my record as unsolved. 

Later that year I realised I needed to use my brain in some way. So I looked at all the courses available and thought book keeping might be enjoyable and possibly give me some work if I qualified. 

I signed up and received my pack. I really enjoyed the course and it got me using my brain again. I took 2 exams and by November was a fully qualified book keeper, I passed the final one with 93%, but would it lead to any work. Well not immediately but I did have some work coming in. A friend did some audio typing and suggested I registered. Basically you listen to some recordings of interviews and type them up for market research. It was quite time consuming as I was not very fast typing and had to keep going back to listen again, but the cash was handy and helped and I felt a sense that I had contributed again by bringing in some money. 

The days went by, Craig started at secondary school and Kirsty started Nursery in the afternoons. This was nice, I would get her when she is fresh in the mornings and by the time she was getting crabby and tired she went off to school. Those couple of hours were precious. She made friends with Isaac and Matthew, but at the end of the year Isaac moved to Kings Lynn with his Mum and Dad, we were sad to see them go but as it turned out their move changed our lives later on. 

At the start of 2008 I had to do something seriously about my weight. I was 17 stone 4lbs and I could not believe it. We started slimming world and by Oct was 12 stone 13lbs, it was hard work and there were some ups as well as downs but I felt much better. We had the kitchen wall knocked down in September and it was really nice having a big kitchen diner. Kirsty was now settled into full time school and Craig was doing well at secondary school. 

Helen had a full time job now which was nice from a money point of view but we had lost her to the marking and planning that goes with the job. Evenings and Saturdays were now lost and it was not very nice. 

During this time I had been applying for admin jobs. So frustrating as I knew I could offer much to all of them but I never even got to an interview stage, I needed to do something so got involved in the PTFA at Kirsty’s school. It was a good group and I enjoyed the meetings getting to know new people. It kept me busy and gave me something to do with my days. 

2009 finally saw me have to get reading glasses. I had noticed that things were getting a bit fuzzy but just held them further away, but by March I had my glasses and they really helped. So survived 43 years without them. 

I used my free time to scan all my photos that we had so we did not have to keep albums. 2500 photos took a long time but it kept me busy and was worth it in the end. I looked after the garden and also enjoyed watching the Blue Tits who had nested in a box that Craig had made at Scouts. 

I picked up a little bit of labouring work. The guys who took our kitchen wall down who we know quite well needed some help mixing cement up on a job. Did a couple of days with them and earned £120 and once again I realised how nice it was to earn some money and feel like I had contributed. I know looking after the house and Kirsty and doing the shopping is contributing but sometimes you just need something else and frankly I was getting bored and lonely. 

My next door neighbour, Jean, a lovely old lady passed away and I miss our chats over the fence, and this did not help with my feelings of being alone. 2009 was turning out to be a very long and depressing year and I could not see any light at the end of the tunnel. 

We went to Hunstanton on holiday that year, and being so near to Kings Lynn we visited Kirsty’s friend Isaac and Sarah and Bino in Kings Lynn. Both Helen and I loved the place and both said how nice it would be to live there one day. 

We got back from holiday and the boredom returns. What else to do but eat, comfort eating, I had been doing it throughout the year and the weight was piling on again, by the end of the year I was 16 stone 6lbs. 

A big change though in my fortunes happened at the end of August. On my web site I had been advertising my book keeping services without any success. However a friend of ours had seen my site when searching for book keeper in Enfield. Her friend was looking for someone to help her with some work she was doing. 

I went along to meet her and agreed to do 2 to 3 days a week at her house in Loughton. It was a mixture of invoice raising, credit control, and help desk support for a Web Hosting and email provider who were once big but now scaling down. By Christmas I was on a regular 3 days per week, working now from my house and working directly for the company, albeit as a self employed contractor. I did not know how long it would last as they were trying to sell the company but I had a job, something to do and I was getting paid whilst being able to run the house and look after Kirsty. It was perfect. 

2010 started much better, I felt good, if not still overweight, but Helen had work and I had work and with that I had people to talk to even if it was on the end of a phone. The year started with lots of snow. Temps down to -7 and schools closed for a few days. The kids loved it and I enjoyed it as well, sledging down the hills, building snowmen and having snow ball fight. 

The PTFA was going well and through this I got to know Julie Pleasance very well. A single lady with a young daughter. She is easy to chat to and has similar interests and we chat on messenger and facebook quite a bit. I do not seem to make friends easily but I hope that I can remain friends with Julie. 

During March I nearly told the company where to stick their job. By this time the person who hired me had left and the owner had got his girlfriend to do the other 2 days I did not do. This was Monday and Tuesdays and always on a Wednesday morning I would have to sift through the rubbish she had left to work out where everything was. When I left it on Friday it was always clear. One handover she left me 135 unread messages in the inbox, some of these were even from Monday. I told the owner unless it improved I was off, the money was nice but I did not need that sort of hassle. Anyhow it did improve and I kept working. 

We had lost touch with Karen Pegram, who had introduced Helen and myself back in 1992 but through facebook we connected again and in May 2010 went round to her house to see her, Duncan and her boys. We had a really nice afternoon and it was great to catch up. However despite our best efforts to get them round to visit us, they never did and Karen moved away to Cambridge later that year. 

I was never so proud as I was in July of 2010. Craig passed his Karate Black Belt and what an achievement that was. He started so many years ago, but the work and effort he has put in has been great and it is fantastic that he can proudly say he is a black belt.

It was during this time as well that Helen and I have decided we now would like to move to Kings Lynn. Having seen Isaac, Sarah and Bino so happy up there and having seen how nice and peaceful it is up there we are now making plans to move. It will not be until Summer of 2012 though as Craig needs to finish his GCSE’s but we can now start planning, looking and saving money. With the interest rate still so low 0.5% we can keep knocking money off the mortgage so that when we come to move we will be able to financially.

Enfield had changed so much over the last 20 years. Gangs were all over the borough and kinfe crime was rife, children were getting stabbed regularly and at least 3 people we knew had been mugged for their mobile phones. Our neighbours had changed and whilst they were Ok they are not the sort who will chat over the garden fence. On one side we had a family renting and living off benefits and for some reason that wound me up. The injustice of people who do not work but have loads of children, pets, take away meals etc against those who do work but can only just get by was always wrong to me but when this family moved in next door it brought it closer to home and I began to notice so much more. To be able to sit around all day whilst others had to work and at the end of it be in almost the same position seems unfair. On the other side we had a youngest couple, very pleasant but hardly ever around or out in the garden. When we had moved into the property we were blessed with socialable neighbours on both sides and I missed that.

 I had also grown tired of the traffic. It had begun to get so difficult to get anywhere that I became reluctant to go out anywhere for fear of spending all the time in jams. London was heaving and a simple journey could take 10 mins or 30 minutes you just never knew what lay in store for you.
 
I was really falling out of love with the area I had lived in for over 40 years. Another factor making life difficult was Helen’s work. As a teacher she had always had marking and planning from when I first met her, but over the years it had grown to ridiculous proportions. Saturdays were now almost entirely taken up with work and during the week, she would work at home most nights until 9.30 or 10.00pm. It would make me annoyed that they should put this pressure on teachers who had no real work/life balance any longer.

It was time for a move which would help on two fronts. We could change to a new area of our choice and liking, and we could clear the mortgage which would mean we required less money to live on and hopefully both work less. We could not do it right away as Craig was in the middle of his GCSE’s, but we had now decided and would begin to plan and save for a move away in a few years time. 2010 ended with much anticipation about a move away. It also ended with me weighing in at 18 Stone 4lbs the heaviest I had ever been and it also ends with Kirsty booked into the dental hospital for her to have some teeth removed under a general in the New Year. It was going to be a tough start to 2011. 

In January 2011 we get the appointment through for Kirsty to have her op. I knew I would have a migraine that day, it was bound to happen. The hospital in London had no parking in it or around it so we had no choice but to take the tube and see how Kirsty was afterwards to decide how we would get back. We got there mid morning and they were great. Kirsty seemed Ok but we had to wait until late in the afternoon before she could go down. She was very brave and we tried to be as well. There were two choice of aesthetic, one with via a needle the other via a gas. We tried the needle but Kirsty was not happy with that and we did not want to upset her further, so we agreed on the gas. Due to that I had to accompany her down to theatre, Helen could not do it. It was horrible watching her being put to sleep, they put the mask on and after a few seconds she flopped and her head jerked from side to side.  I wished they had warned me as afterwards they said that was normal. 

Anyhow I left her and went upto wait with Helen. I seemed like hours but in fact was only one. She came back up a bit groggy but seemed fine and she was pleased that the teeth were out. So were we, it was a big relief to have her back safely. By this time it was very late so we got a cab home, I did not mind paying the £40 for a bit of comfort after a very stressful day.
 
It was also time to do something about my weight and fitness, I was 18 stone 4lbs and had an enormous stomach. To start with I brought a bike. I always liked bike riding and it was a good way to exercise. The first week was difficult not only due to getting a sore bum and other muscles really aching but also because of my weight it was really hard work, the best I could manage was middle gear very low. However I remember really enjoying it and cycling either for pleasure or to get things from the shops. Wherever possible I used the bike instead of the car. 

I also started badminton on a Tuesday morning. Julie Pleasance was free Monday and Tuesday and her friend, and now my friend, Caroline Canty was also free. So we started badminton just the 3 of us. Once again it was hard, I took 3 or 4 bottles of water along to replace the fluid lost. I would come off the court as red as a beetroot, but we kept it going and all really enjoyed it and it was helped later on when Sharon Parker joined us to make it 4 people. 

All of this was good exercise but to really lose the weight we needed to change our eating. We signed up for Weightwatchers and they had an app for the Iphone which made the diet really easy to follow.  By the end of 2011 I was 13 stone 4lbs, I had lost 5 stone in the year. I felt really good. Badminton was so much easier; I rarely got tired during the games now. Cycling was a joy now, going round in the very top gear most of the time. Also my migraines had stopped and that could only be down to us eating better foods. 

I will not pretend it was easy, there were many times when I just wanted a take away or got frustrated because only a 1lb had come off that week, but we stuck at it and it was worthwhile. Now I had to keep it off. 

During the year we started to do some visits to Kings Lynn. We wanted to get to know the areas, see what we liked and what we did not like. Look around the town, see what the kids thought of it. It was good research and worthwhile doing but I cannot tell you the agony of have to drive back to London. I just wanted to be there right then. Seeing Sarah so settled in her nice house, seeing the relaxed way of life, I wanted it right away. 

We told the family during the summer of our plans and the reaction was disappointing, but over time they seemed to come round to the idea and understood our need to move. It was not going to stop us anyway but I was worried about Mum and taking her grand children away from her. In Enfield she was able to pop over every Sunday to see them or during the week if a school play was on or sports day, but moving away would not allow her to do this. However we could not put our lives on hold and we really needed to do this for the reasons mentioned earlier. 

Helen finally managed me to get me to agree to a holiday abroad. Kirsty and Craig had been going on about going abroad again and Kirsty was desperate to go on a plane. So we agreed on Majorca and we had a great time. Not too hot, we had a pick up from the Airport and the apartment was nice, with a pool and just across from the beach. We forgot our diets and enjoyed the food, the kids had a great time and it was not too hot for me. 

At the start of the new football season Enfield Town moved back to Donkey Lane stadium just down the road from me and I started to go and watch them. It was nice to be able to leave home 15 minutes before the start, pay cash at the gate and watch a reasonable standard of football. These days if you go to a premiership game you have to plan it weeks in advance, and then it costs you a fortune. 

I went to quite a few of the home games and the season finished with us gaining promotion. Most games were home wins for us and it was really quite a good atmosphere down there. I had played a cup final myself there in 1977 whilst in Year 1 at secondary school and it had not changed much apart from the new athletics track and the addition of 3 temporary stands. I tell you though some matches left me absolutely frozen. I had forgot how cold it gets standing on the terraces. Even two pairs of socks did not stop the cold and at half time I would often walk around the ground a few times.

One thing I found quite amusing though was the way that not only the teams changed ends at half time, but the crowd did as well. So different to the football I had watched over the years.

 2012 was a very big year for me and our family. It would see us move from my home town Enfield to a new life in King’s Lynn. Although our house sale and house purchase went very smoothly indeed, it did not actually feel like that when we were going through the process.  I remember thinking how slow the days were going once we had a buyer for our house. It seemed to take ages but that is probably because I was at home and analysing everything, it did not do me any good at all, I just got so frustrated over the whole process. In reality though, we put our house on the market in February, found a buyer in March, completed the sale in May when we also found a rental property in King’s Lynn and also put an offer in on a house which we completed on at the end of July.  The timings were perfect, how much of this was down to my planning I do not know but we were very lucky with everything.

 We had a couple of months at Mum and Dads, which was tough for everyone but we all got through it. We were all cramped for space but the kids never moaned once and it was nice to be able to sell our house without having to buy one at the same time. During the time at Mum’s and then following the move to Norfolk it was really difficult to diet but having said that I ended the year at 14 stone 4lbs having started it at 13 stone 4lbs, so despite not dieting whilst at Mum’s and also being very relaxed with our food in the first few months we were in Kings Lynn I kept the weight gain to a minimum, unlike other years after dieting where it had all gone back on.

 So now we were in King’s Lynn and how we loved it. I do not recall a time where both Helen and I were so relaxed. Yes I was concerned about money and how we would get by, but I always have done. We settled in really well, as did the children at their respective schools and we made many trips to the beach and local places for walks and events. I will not pretend though that it was all perfect. I had moved a long way from my home town for the first time ever and also moved to an area where I did not know anybody. At times I felt very lonely and isolated but we did our best to make friends where we could.
 
I had lost my job as well. The company I worked for Corpex was sold in April to Swift Computers. They promised me 3 month’s work which ended up being 6 months before they no longer had need for my services. The work with Corpex started in 2009 and really without that we would not have been able to make the move to Norfolk. The extra earnings we were getting were used to decrease the mortgage and also to put away in savings for the moving budget. So it was not money we were reliant on but it was nice money to have all the same. What did hit me most was once again not having anything to do with my time and having the feeling of not contributing to the family.

I started helping out at the community allotment in the local Park. It had just started up again in May and I was one of the first volunteers. We had a wet summer so could not do much but by the end of the year the plot was tidy, all dug over again and ready for us to grow things next year. It about 5 minutes away on the bike and it is nice to have somewhere to go during the day.


more to follow soon.........