Well, I had fun.

 

Childhood

I was born on 20th December 1946, about 18 months after the end of World War II. Turned out my parents were slow at almost everything, not just procreation.

We lived in a block of flats, I think they were called a tenement buildings then, opposite The Oval Cricket ground. Apparently, the floor sloped. We moved away when I was two.

My new home was 6 Rossendale House, Rossendale Street, Northwold Road, Upper Clapton, London E5. I liked the Upper bit when I grew up. It impressed the girls in Southend. HERE is the Google street view. Ground floor, right hand side. The small slit window was the toilet and the square one was the kitchen. I think they've modernised them now, and knocked 2 flats into one.

My parents were Jewish, so that makes me Jewish but I'm agnostic. No problem with religion, just not for me, thanks. My maternal grandfather was a Russian Communist. He was a confident of Trotsky and left Russia for London in 1927 when Trotsky fled. So I'm told, who knows. However he was a communist, he was interred during the first part of the war and read the Daily Worker, er, daily. He was a cobbler by trade and had his workshop in the spare bedroom of his ground floor flat near Hackney Downs Station. He also had a Vodka still which was filled with the potato peelings and steam would rise as it dripped whilst distilling. I can't remember ever being given any of this but regularly got a sip of Mackeson. Probably why I drink a bit too much now. My Grandmother died when I was young and I hardly remember her. I have an image of a small round lady swathed in black.

I didn't know my Father's father but knew his mother who died when I was a teenager. Small and petite she didn't say much. When my Father died, we sat Shiva, the Jewish ritual for mourning. My Mother, who thought she should be orthodox wanted us too, but my Father wouldn't have been bothered. He ran away from his Barmitzvah (Jewish coming of age ritual lots of rituals in this religion lark). Anyway, the family gathered and it was a hectic few days as people came and went. The idea behind this ritual is to keep the bereaved busy with good memories so they come to terms with their loss. It works, I would recommend it when you lose someone dear to you, nothing to do with religion really. Someone produced a faded black and white photo (not sepia, it wasn't THAT old) of an elderly bearded man standing behind a sofa with one arm on the chair back and the other folded across his front. He was old. On the sofa was a young girl, looked about 15. They told me it was his wife. I couldn't believe it. I asked if it was his second but was told it was the fourth. He's worked the first three to death so thought he'd have a young fit one this time. Not really joking.

I attended Northwold Road Junior School. It's probably still there, a Victorian pile with outside loos. I think I enjoyed it there. I sat next to Helen Shapiro for a while, think she was a precocious kid at the time. Suppose you would be with a recording contract at 11.

Then at 11 I went to Upton House Secondary Modern. It wasn't very modern and the top floor was shared by Joseph Priestly who's building had been bombed during the Blitz.

I'll return to the school days below.

I wasn't good at formal lessons, still not. However I can learn anything if I work it out for myself. You can judge for yourself later in the book.

So, at 15 I left school to go and be an apprentice mechanic at the Main South East MG dealer, University Motors. As I write this at 17:18 on 9th May 2014, I'm still in business in a related motor trade computer system company. 53 years and still associated with the motor trade. Eat your heart out Boycie.

I suppose my extended childhood ended when I met Lynne. We got married in 1968 and we're still very much in love 46 years later. Makes you want to puke doesn't it.

I very vaguely remember my first day at Northwold Road Primary School. I think I cried, holding on to my Mothers apron (mothers always wore aprons then, this was 1951). The school was OK, I didn't really hate it. As I said above, Helen Shapiro was in my class and we sat next to each other for a term. She was a stuck up snob, but I can understand that, she was about 9 at the time and a recording star. Wow!

Another attendee at the school and we knew each other well as we lived in adjacent blocks of flats and our mothers would go to Ridley Road Market together each week was Alan Sugar. We became good friends later, when we were about 14. However, one day he turned and started calling me names and throwing stones at me. I've no idea why and to this day his actions intrigue me. However, when we had both left school, I working as an apprentice mechanic, he flogging car aerial of a market stall, he asked me if I could lend (invest would be a better term) ・・100 as he was starting his own radio manufacturing company. Now, in 1961 a ・・100 was a lot of money. I was earning ・・3/3/0 (for those born after decimalisation that's ・・3.15). I declined the invitation, not the first mistake I've made or the last.

I bumbled along, always near the top of the class but never actually top. I was always in trouble as I have a huge rebel streak in me. It was becoming apparent then and the teachers didn't like it. I had to be tamed like a horse.

When we sat our 11 plus exams. (not sure I fully understand all these qualifications), but it was an exam we sat at 11 which graded us for our next school. Clever clogs went to Grammar school and the rest to Secondary Modern.

I failed, but only just. The Headmaster called me in. I was surprised when he started to talk about my exam results, the conversations usually were about me doing something wrong. Anyway, he explained that he had written to the headmaster of Grocers, the Hackney based Grammar school. He explained that the teachers thought I should go to Grocers as my course work was good, I appeared bright (mum would scrub me with metal polish every night) but I wasn't good at sitting exams. This is true and I've had problems with exams ever since. The headmaster name was Mr c.. see, age turns your brain to mush. I was just thinking of his name, just seconds ago and now I've forgotten it, hang on, it'll come back..... Ah, that's it Mr Kershaw. I was rejected, too many boys that year. This is the post war bulge. All the kids brought into the world after the war and when it was safe to bring children into our world. It's always been very competitive for those born between 1945 and 1950 as there's so many of us competing for the girls (and boys, of course) and of course jobs, council flats as well as anything else going.

So, I ended up at Upton House Secondary School in Homerton. Right opposite the car heater manufacturing company, who's name escapes me but it was two letters, I think. If you know, send me a postcard. Was it KL?

The top floor of the school was occupied by part of Joseph Priestly Secondary Modern. The school building had been destroyed in the blitz and the school was sharing buildings with a few of the other schools in the area. Of course we looked down on these wretches and many a fight ensued based purely on tribal differences. Not really, we all just loved to fight, any excuse.

The future was bright for that school, on the corner of Upper Clapton Road and Brooke Road, opposite Lea Bridge Road was an ancient pile called Brooke House. In ruins, it was eventually pulled down and a brand new glass and concrete palace was erected to be the future home of Joseph Priestly.

We used to have woodwork lesson at a girls school (why did a girls school have woodwork rooms when our boys school didn't?). This was opposite Homerton Road Hospital. When I cut my hand on a plane I was taken to the hospital for treatment. The wound was dressed and I was given a tetanus injection in the bum. The nurse threw it in like a dart at a dartboard. I fainted and they put it down to being me being allergic to penicillin. Not sure why penicillin as it was a tetanus injection, I think. Wasn't the last time I was to cut bits. But that will have to wait for 50 odd years.

At this age I was in love with cars. When I walked to my first school some mornings an MG TC (I think it was a TC, could have been older, maybe a PA, PB or J) went past. Chap had screen folded flat and donned a flying cap. Of course he also had a silk scarf streaming behind him. I just fell in love with that car, the looks, the rasping sound of the exhaust, the impression of speed, fantastic.

I really got a buzz out of metal work lessons and the teacher, who's name I've long forgotten but was bandy (feet pointed towards each other) gave me every encouragement. To the point that I would bunk off other lesson to spend time in the machine shop where I was making and single cylinder engine. I was regularly caned for missing lessons.

It all ended when I decided to leave education and start work. I had got a job at University Motors as an apprentice mechanic. I would leave when we broke up for Christmas, just after my 15th birthday on 20th December. The headmaster called me in and tried to dissuade me from leaving. When he heard where I was going to work he became animated and told me they were a terrible firm and his MG Magnette had been serviced there and he wasn't happy with the work, Guess I should have said that as I would be there now things would be much better. Can't be a smart arse all the time, can I.

My earliest memory, if I remember correctly, is walking along the Main Upper Clapton Road from the flats towards Springfield Park and seeing a Black Man coming the other way. I held on to my Mothers hand tight, I'd never seen a Black Man before. She explained that they had come form a far off land to drive the buses.

 

Ok, as my Booba (Yiddish for Grandmother) would say, "enough already". Lets get on to the detail.