Most evenings after a hard day’s work I have a chill and read, listening to a favourite album, before getting our tea. I try and have a theme each week, a particular genre or era of music. This week turned out to be 80’s popular chart stuff, albums such as ‘True’ by Spandau Ballet, and ‘Now that’s what I Call Music’ (remastered on CD). I found listening to this music reflected a cheerful time in my life, but in hindsight perhaps fake happiness.
As regular followers will know, I live with Cerebral Palsy (CP); my best mate. As with all besties (I think that’s the in word these days), there are going to be times when you fall out. To be honest, for most of my childhood we hated each other – or more to the point I hated CP. He messed with my speech and coordination; often giving the less educated a fine opportunity to extract the urine.
For my first nine years I lived in London. The fortunate thing living in the capital was there were specialist facilities, such as a ‘Speech Unit’ within a mainstream school. This has the best of both worlds, integration and a safe environment. Somewhere I would say I was happy in the time spent there. In November 1976 after a long hot summer stuck in London trying to sell our house, we moved down to ‘Sunny’ Hampshire, a little town called Winchester. Ironically, (as I hate the place) my parents chose Winchester to live because it had the services that would benefit me. However, unlike London there wasn’t a speech Unit or anything similar available at any of the local schools. It was a case of going into mainstream education, from a class of 10 (in the unit) to one of 30. Let’s just say not the most productive environment for me. Although, to be fair, my teachers were as supportive as they could be. I remained in mainstream for four years, including the first of a few repeat years (one in primary, one in senior and two in further/higher education). Kids being kids, my ‘classmates’ thought it would be fun to tease and bully me because I was ‘different’; to such an extent that I was so unhappy thus leading to my parents looking for an alternative. After much investigation, a ‘special needs’ school was found that was felt best suited my needs, ‘Lord Mayor Treloar’s College’ near Alton, Hampshire, about a thirty-minute drive from Winchester.
Treloar’s provided me everything mainstream couldn’t. It was an environment where I thrived on all levels. I was back in smaller classes, thus was getting the support I needed to progress academically. Sport, I was able to excel in athletics and swimming, being selected to represent the school at regional and national events. Socially I was popular, although this got me into a spot of bother at times. I had a number of girlfriends, and remember having slow dances to tracks such as Spandau Ballet’s ‘True’ at the school discos. I use to love strutting my stuff to fine tunes such as ‘Give it up’ by KC & The Sunshine Band and ‘Karma Chameleon’ by Culture Club, both feature in ‘Now 1’. My musical tastes have broadened considerably, but these are a few guilty secrets from my school days. By the time I left in the summer of 1984 after my completing my CSE’s and the odd O’ level, I was riding on the crest of a wave, invincible!
As the saying goes, “All good things must come to an end”, and in autumn 1984 they sure did for me with a massive crash of the wave. This next period in my life proved to be a very dark time, yet helped make me the person that I am today. Like a good soap opera, you’ll have to wait until my next installment to know what happened.