你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,
Mum and Paul soon needed a larger house; there were five of us and only two rooms. We arrived at Broom Avenue, off Broom Lane in 1991. This road was located in the district of Levenshulme. Levenshulme was famed for its antiques village, and very little else. I started at a new primary school, this time Chapel Street Primary. The new challenge of making friends was not easy. Year 3 was not easy. The bullies soon discovered new prey. Who better to pick on than a dictionary-crazed, mathematically-ahead-of-them, wildlife-loving kid who was way ahead of them, or seemed to be because he didn’t eat erasers or fart the national anthem using his armpit as an instrument. I never thought I was better than anyone. They projected this onto me. Made me feel inferior by appearing superior. I hurt lots. Every day. Every year for nearly four years straight. I became more and more distant from the other kids, as I often found people would reject me as a friend. I didn’t trust anyone, initially. Troublesome Peter Ridyard, and snobby Alex Muir became my friends. It was rare I would play out with them until year 5, as they lived far away at the other end of Broom Lane [although just 2km away, it seemed, back then, to be closer to London].
Within days of moving into Levenshulme, Pup had run from the house, and Astrid had run after him between parked cars. Astrid was hit and landed many feet from the point of impact as the car screeched to a halt. I remember the day as it was so confusing for me. I had been taken to see trains go by with Ernie (my Granny Ivy’s partner) at Levenshulme station. We were eating Gregg’s Bakery pasties on the platform and he was telling me and Grannyny Ivy all about how trains worked and the good old days of steam. We returned to my house to discover from the neighbour’s Mary and Bill that they had all rushed to hospital with Astrid. Later that day Paul returned with Paul junior. He told us how it had happened, and how Astrid was. She had suffered severe head injuries and a broken leg. It would take weeks at Booth Hall Children’s Hospital (where I had my hernia operation aged 7), and months of intense physiotherapy and treatment at Rodney House Specialist Support & Outreach School before Astrid with recover.
The day after the accident Dad collected Pup from our home. The only way I would now see my closest friend was when Dad would pick me up.
During May 1991, within days of starting school I finally swam my length at Levenshulme swimming baths. It was apparent I was not going to be a channel swimmer, but I did progress from a width to a length. Class 4PC as dictated by the tyrant Miss Clegg started with a bang. Within two weeks I had many things confiscated by the hairy-nosed teacher. Two Lego men, countless Micro Machine cars, and twenty pence (as provided by the tooth-fairy) went into her large laundry-bag-come-personal-suitcase. My attendance at school however was excellent. I did enjoy learning even if I hated the bullies. Miss Clegg referred to me as a loner on many occasions but made no effort to help me make new friends. I was behaving sensibly (to mix and mingle amongst the other monsters may have got me into trouble and maybe even eaten by Miss Clegg).
Miss Clegg was an enforcer of learning. Whilst under her control, our class worked as hard as possible. We worked on as many ways as to wind her up on the class trip to Levenshulme library [a place of dreams], we sneak off and hunt down the Anne Hooper’s books for a giggle. We also rotated the “who can throw a rubber [eraser] at Cleggy and get away with it” game amongst ourselves. At parents’ evening as with many years of schooling, I’d be told alongside my parents that my work was great, and my work rate was above average but my handwriting was poor. Maybe then I had foreseen the Computer-typed work age. Besides in Miss Cleggs class would I shiver often at the thought of being told to slow down and let others catch up. That, and I had to keep an eye on my back, at the bullies. How could my handwriting be neat under those conditions?
In September 1993, a wise and witty teacher by the name Andrew Jones began to teach us. He allowed us more room with our imaginations and helped us with our vocabularies. This teacher was dedicated to his job. He helped my confidence, encouraged me to be recognised by the class in teams, and congratulated me on a determined improvement of my handwriting. During this academic year several pupils visited Ghyll Head Outdoor Education Centre, close to Lake Windermere. The car park view looked over the great lake. Our supervisory teachers included Mr Jones, Mrs Treanor (the deputy head-teacher), and Miss Spencer.
On the Monday we explored the site grounds of Ghyll Head, climbed the rope course, and I also met numerous mallard ducks. They were already hand tame and loved the bread I had brought them. On the Tuesday, we enjoyed rock scrambling on Humphrey Head overlooking Morecambe Bay. We also kayaked across Lake Windermere seeing several swan eggs along an island to the West of the lake. The other days varied from horse-riding like John Wayne, to gorge walking, tunnelling two miles up an underground flood drain, caving in Ingleside (Yorkshire) and singing on many mini-buses. On the final night we had a barbeque and Mr Jones claimed he was drinker a Larger drink, but we all knew it was Lager! During my stay at Ghyll Head, I had to sleep for five nights in room Gimmer. There was also five others there, and we chatted late into the night with mad post-mushy-peas farting epidemics. The older kids were friendlier than the younger students there. I didn’t feel threatened.
The end of year five arrived, and before departing for home for the summer period, Mr Jones very kindly gave me a set of encyclopaedias he had learnt from as a child. It was a very generous and touching gift, and I thanked him. Mr Jones was my greatest Primary school teacher. In fact he remains my greatest teacher of all time, and I hope he is doing very well for himself.
Miriam Roe was our next teacher. 6MR was a very lively year, with me, Osman and Alex always doing Smashy and Nicey impressions (characters from the TV show, Harry Enfield and Chums). We even allowed Evangalia Votski into our group, she was a very kind friendly Greek girl. She was also the first girl I ever found attractive and wanted to kiss. It wasn’t to be. Miss Roe taught me that even when I wish to be independent that asking for help at times when I required it would not be frowned upon. I survived a year of bullying, and Chapel Street Primary school with its giant six-foot-plus headteacher that was Mr Gary Kershaw. I no longer had Mr Kershaw to guide me through school, and help me avoid trouble. After Summer, I would enter high school in Reddish Vale with classmate James Cliff.
To summarise my early years, I had a coin ride obsession when I was a wee toddler; I most likely kept Professor Peabody’s in Blackpool’s Winter Gardens open for trade; enjoyed many a holiday in Cleveleys and Morecambe with Nana and Dad, and many other family members; I remember getting drenched one birthday in Blackpool with Neil Fanning and my Mum; I even remember pushing my sister Astrid, aged two, up the Great Orme in Llandudno; and if anyone invites you to Scarborough for a holiday, say no. Scarborough can boast grey skies that would rival the likes of a winter in Wales. But now, after three primary schools and years of relative comfort, the ride of life would begin…
TO BE CONTINUED