Growing up in Gosport

Today I thought I would add some more to my story. I decided to write some more about my early life in Gosport. Now this will not necessarily be accurate as I left Gosport 37 years ago on Saturday. Saying that it is my version of events so is true to me. I found it quite entertaining to write. I also found it quite revealing about where I put myself in the scheme of things. Enjoy.

Grove Road

I was 6 when i started St Johns (Grove Road) Primary School, so I had only been at school for a year when I got there.

It was a primary school so had children from 5 yrs to 11 as opposed to Brockhurst Infants who only had children until they were 7.

It was a much older building than Brockhurst Primary. the 2 last teachers I had at St Johns were both men and both ex Royal Marines therefore hard as nails. I can’t imagine ex Marine commandos being primary school teachers nowadays. There wasn’t much messing about in their classes. Saying that I don’t remember them being really scary in fact other than one of them being scottish and in 42 commando and the other one being in the Royal Marine band I have very little memory of them.

For the first year I remember we still got free milk in the morning. Up until the late 70s all school children got free milk at school. This was a throwback from post war Britain when most children were not getting enough calcium in their diet. By the mid to late 70s most people could afford and get hold of dairy products. Also the economy was in a bit of a mess therefore Margaret Thatcher when she was a minister stopped free milk in schools. Another reason why my generation hated her so much (Margaret Thatcher the Milk Snatcher). When we did get free milk, it came in small individual glass milk bottles. In the winter it was fine as the milk came to you cold, when the weather was warmer the milk was a little sour. The milk monitor (the well behaved boy or girl who was chosen to hand the milk out) would give you the small bottle with a straw. The bottle had a foil cap which most of us pierced with the straw. thinking about it now, parents would have a fit if this happened now. Giving children warm sour milk, encouraging them to pierce a dirty foil cap with a straw to drink this slightly off milk, can you imagine the outrage. I wonder how many of us poor hapless milk drinkers died of dehydration due to severe food poisoning.

When you were in the older years (the junior side of the school, rather than the infants) you were allowed to buy sweets and crisps in the tuck shop, such delights as blue bird toffees, mojos, and small packets of snacks (normally beef or tomato flavour) along with tip top sugary drinks, could be purchased during break time. my favourite was blue bird toffees. Little did I know,that I would eventually live in the city where they were made.

The class I was in had a pet guinea pig, that we could look after at weekends and half term holidays. I duly put my name down to care for this pet. We looked after it once, my mum had misgivings which in hindsight were correct. We only had it for a weekend, but never again. They are smelly, noisey and shit a lot. We kept it inside, that is why we noticed the smell. No one told us you could put it outside! I only found that out as an adult when Lisa insisted we have 2 as pets. To be fair they are no bother when they are not in your bedroom!

Just after the guinea pig debacle, I embarked on another ill conceived activity. I took up the violin, much to the joy of my big brother. It lasted about 2 months. Saying I was shit is a bit harsh, I was only 9, and I can tell you playing the violin is fucking hard, our teacher said so (well not using those words obviously). You have to memorise where to put you fingers to create the correct notes! So you really have to want to do it and have an understanding non-aggressive big brother to stand any chance at succeeding. Luckily the school had an instrument loan system so mum and dad didn’t have to fork out for a violin.

Playing Out With Mates

The estate where we lived was very child friendly, with the vast majority of the space being car free. There was also at least 5 play areas, and then just across the road was the rec, which went right up to the hard.

At weekends and during the holidays us kids had the run of the estate.

We would ride up and down the paths on our bikes. The popular TV programme of the time was CHiPs. A drama about the exploits of 2 motorcycle policemen from the California Highway Patrol. To recreate the motorcycle noise, we would attach football cards to the spokes of our rear wheels, thus generating a buzzing noise, that to an 7-8 year old sounded just like motorbike (of course it sounded like a piece of card had got caught in the wheel, and nothing like the engine of a motorcycle). All the kids on the estate either had Grifters (the coolest bike in the world ever) or choppers (more old school, and fucking dangerous). Now I had asked for a Grifter for Christmas, I understood they were expensive, but I thought Santa could stretch to it. Santa clearly was having a difficult time in the late 70s, and for some reason had got me mixed up with a middle aged woman. This is the only explanation I could come up with. I imagined there was a middle aged woman somewhere in southern England looking puzzled at a green Rayleigh Grifter and wondering how she was going to carry the shopping back from the High Street on it. Meanwhile I was stood in our dining rooming staring at a Rayleigh Mayfair. A fucking Rayleigh Mayfair, the bike of choice for district nurses and women that like to keep active by going to the shops on a bike, not, I repeat not for 7 year old boys to re-imagine the exploits of the California Highway Patrol. “It’s a girl’s bike!” “It’s unisex, anyway that is all that Santa had”. Fortunately I did not have any impressive swear words in my vocabulary, otherwise I think I may have been eating soap for quite some time. Gutted would have been an understatement. So started a childhood of humiliation. “oi Smithy why have you got a girls bike?” “Are you a girl?” “No its unisex!” This was always met with fits of laughter. The word sex is and always has been hilarious to boys under 10 (any age really).

So anyway I ended up loving my girls bike and everyone got used to it in the end. Look here comes Smithy on his girls bike.

One of our other favourite games we played as did most children in the 70s was War. All boys (and girls too for that matter) played war in various different forms. We all had toy soldiers (the airfix ones were the most popular) so we all recreated battles in our bedrooms. When we played out we would organise ourselves into the allies and the germans, and having running battles through the estate. We all had toy guns, but we often preferred to fashion guns out of windfall branches (once you found one the right shape you would keep it for weeks). I was fatter and slower than the rest of my friends and they would shout at me to catch up on a regular basis. This time we were running from the Germans when we got to a wall on the edge of a playing area. The other boys had climbed the wall and jumped over the other side when I had got there. I hated climbing, they were shouting for me to climb over and join them. They implored me not to be such a girl. The wall my side was chest height so about 3 foot. I managed to clamber up and sat on the wall. Without looking I swung my legs round and pushed myself off the top, fully expecting the same drop on the other side. This however was not the case, I plummeted 6 feet through shrubbery and nettles coming to rest on my ample backside in a bed of nettles. Upon hearing my screams and cries for help my friends promptly ran away in fits of laughter exclaiming that i would have to be a POW for the rest of the game and that the mission was more important than the individual.

The Stag Beetle Incident

As mentioned previously I nearly always the good guy. Most kids liked me because I was just nice. There was once whilst living at Pipet Close where I was unintentionally mean to a girl. I have felt bad about it ever since, so I am satisfied that I have paid penance for this heinous act. I will in my defence say that it was not all me and the said girl was a gobby cow, and probably had it coming, just not that.

We we playing in the alleyway at the back of my house where there was the shell of pigeon coop (i think that was what it was. It was a raised up structure running alongside the alley that had 3 walls and no roof). There were 3 of us boys and this girl, who frankly was being a pain in the arse. As we were playing this huge beetle flew in and landed on the ground next me. The girl gave out a shriek. Someone shouted, that is a stag beetle, put it in her hair. So without thinking I picked it up and did what I was told (I am not sure but I think it may have been me who gave the instruction). She started screaming really loudly, informing me it was hurting her and pulling her hair and asking me to remove it. So I pulled at the beetle, the more I pulled it the tighter it gripped onto the girls hair. This was not going well. The beetle attempted to fly away, no doubt scared witless. No matter what we did (which to be honest was limited to pulling the beetle away from her hair) the beetle did not move. The girl ran off screaming something abusive. I legged it along with my friends. We never spoke of that moment again.

Author: Matt Smith Personal and Professional Coach

Performance and Life Coach

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