Butcher Boy ( Part One, Early Days).
It was March 1972. I was 14 years old and living on a council estate in East London with Mum, Dad and sister Ruth. We weren't poor but we certainly weren't rich either! Dad worked at the local Gas works as a Boilermakers mate ( whatever that means) and earnt £17 per week. There were only two main places of work for a man at that time in our area, Fords in Dagenham or Becton Gas. Dad had tried Fords a few years earlier but the shift work got him down and he decided to leave and work at Becton. Dad was a grafter, it was hard, dirty work. he would come home late at night covered in coal dust but never complained, just got on with it.
Mum was a dinner lady at the local school, not mine, which was a shame, cos I could have done with the extra rations!
My sister had left school and was training to be a nursery nurse, she went to college in London but also had a Saturday job in Bartons the local Bakers.
Me, I was a cocky little teenager, bit scrawny but good looking. With blonde hair and blue eyes, the girls loved me and I just loved the girls!
I was listening to Al Green, The Chi-Lites and Michael Jackson, yep, I was a Soul Boy. Strange really as although my taste in music was very black, my fashion was very much "white boy". Ben Shermans, two tone tonic trousers and Solatio shoes, if you weren't wearing this kind of gear in my area you were a nobody. So imagine a young boy with long blonde hair but dressed as a "skin head", that was me!
At 14 I was slight of build, my nickname was tinribs, although I played rugby, it was for my speed not my size. I was beginning to find my feet in the world, always up to mischief but never anything heavy. Loved a scrap, what 14 year old boy doesn't, but in those days it was all fisticuffs and nothing else. I would steal from Woolworths ( just because everyone else did), bit of a cocky attitude, would talk back to mum but never Dad!
Dad never laid a hand on me but his word was law, he could give me a look that would reduce me to tears within seconds and that remained the same until the day he died and by that time I was 48!
We had never been out of the country on holiday, back then there were no day trips to France or holidays to Spain. Holidays for us were an Aunts caravan in Dovercourt, only 40 miles away but in those days it could take practically the whole day to get there. Dad drove a Ford Corsair ( DYU 697C), strange how I can still remember the number plate after all these years!
Our house was quite big by most council house standards, 3 bedrooms, downstairs toilet as well as a bathroom and toilet upstairs. We had moved 5 years earlier from a two up two down old house on the other side of town. We used to joke that they were pulling it down to build a slum. As the years went on that proved to be the case, as the new estate that was built, now has the worst reputation in the whole of East London.
Elsewhere in the world Don Maclean was number one with American Pie, closely followed by Nillsons Without You. The music scene was all over the place, Engelbert Humperdink was still in the charts along with The New Seekers and The Partridge Family, yet Glam Rock was coming in with T.Rex, Slade and The Sweet.
Fashion was also a bit hit and miss, men still dressed as though they were in the sixties yet were growing their hair long, women were unsure if they should still be wearing mini skirts or something longer, maybe even Trouser Suits. The buzz words were Adidas, Laura Ashley and Pierre Cardin.
Edward Heath was Prime Minister after taking over from Harold Wilson in 1970. Unemployment reached over one million for the first time.
Richard Nixon visited China. Luxembourg won the Eurovision Song Contest. Ceylon decide to call itself Sri Lanka and everyone was talking about a new film being released called "The Godfather".
Just along the road from where I lived, Fords were turning out Escorts, Cortinas and the Capri. Everyone wanted a Ford Capri!
Deep Throat and Last Tango in Paris were playing in Soho but for the rest of us it was Carry on Matron, The Poseidon Adventure and Steptoe and Son.
The Winter Olympics had just finished in Sapporo and true to form we ended up with no medals! Joe Frazier was the Heavyweight Champion of the World but was later destroyed by George Foreman in 2 rounds, 6 months later. Britain had a good Light Heavyweight Champion by the name of John Conteh.
So, my life was all good at 14, stable, good parents, doing reasonably well at school but no genius.
Little did I know that this year would be a significant turning point in my life and would shape my future forever.