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.

Delving into my childhood whilst writing my story

As you will remember I have been writing my story, to help me make sense of myself as I get older and leave a legacy for my children.

Regular readers will also remember that over recent weeks I have been struggling with January blues. In fact according to the media this week is the week where people feel their lowest, and Monday was labelled Blue Monday. As you will remember exercise has helped chase away those blues, but this week those blues have been harder to chase away, so I decided to jump back into my story.

I have been delving into my memory banks, bank to when I was a toddler, like my memories of making Christmas decorations, going cockle picking with dad and my uncle George and auntie Sheila. That made me smile, in fact it gave me warm feeling. A feeling of love and happiness. Now my childhood was by no means perfect but there was a lot of love. That love has helped me chase those blues a little further away.

My story is starting to take shape again!

After a few stuttering starts I am finally back on track writing my story.

I have wanted to write a book for years, but never really had the confidence. Then last year you may remember that I started with a mind map or several on paper. Then it sort of got stuck there as I got bogged down with detail of the mind map and lost my confidence.

Then just before Christmas I decided to give it a go again. I transferred the work I did onto an electronic mind map with much less detail.

I finished this map yesterday. This time I decided to write an overview of my story using the map as a reference point to develop the story.

I started writing up the overview this evening using google docs. As it gives me the flexibility to write when the feeling grabs me, and I can then go back to the map to remind me of any details I may forget.

Now I know I may falter again, I also know that I can adapt my approach and go again if it becomes a struggle again. My reason to write is stronger than my reason not to.

We all have a choice.

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We all like a good moan. In fact moaning and complaining can be quite comforting, as we examine our circumstances critically and then on balance decide that we are generally satisfied with our lot.

There are a number of people who feel trapped in their current lives and are deeply unhappy. I have been there, I was felt I was trapped in a job that I was making me deeply unhappy. The behaviours that I perceived were expected of me were not in line with my personal values. I didn’t think I had a choice to change my circumstances, I didn’t have the self-awareness to see that I did have choices. It was only later when I changed my role that I realised that I had a choice to be happy at work if I wanted to take it.

The key to exercising choice is to raise your self-awareness. Get to know what you like, and what you dislike. Know what really makes you tick and what you are capable of. For most of us we are much more capable than we think we are. We often work and live well within ourselves and rarely step outside of our comfort zones. This is understandable to some extent, most of us would find constantly being outside of our comfort zone quite stressful and tiring. However it is important to challenge ourselves regularly.

If you are unhappy in your job or your life you need to know what it is that is making you unhappy, and why it is making you unhappy. Is the source of your unhappiness within your power to change? If not what are you prepared to do? Can you walk away from the situation and start anew somewhere else? What would be the consequences of this action? Can you accept the consequences, are they better or worse than what you have now? If you think you can live with the consequences and take responsibility, then you need to set yourself a goal and make a plan of how you are going to achieve it.  If you are not able to live with the consequences of walking away, you need to accept the situation that makes you unhappy. That does not mean that you have to be unhappy. You have to change what you think about the situation. Once you have accepted that you can not change the situation you are in and that you are not prepared to leave the situation behind, you need to spend time looking at all the positives that are in your life and how you can make them more prominent in your life than they are now. This is also a good time to examine your aspirations, and concentrate on those aspirations that compliment all that is positive in your life. Once you have identified those key aspirations, it is time to set yourself some goals, and then plan to make these aspirations a reality.

This is by no means an easy exercise to undertake alone. Having a coach will help you work through every step. The coaches role is to guide you through a process. You provide the content and all the ideas the coach provides the process and challenge to help you raise your self-awareness, set your goals and evaluate your success. Coaches do not give you the answers, they just hold the flashlight for you.

If you think you could benefit from a coach get in touch. We can discuss your situation and see if coaching is for you.

matt@mattycoach71.com

 

 

Story of Me

I was 46 this week. Which is no special landmark, in fact it is something or nothing. A non-entity of a birthday I suppose.

Throughout the week building up to my birthday I had been asking myself what has brought me to this point in my life. It certainly doesn’t feel it has been part of a master plan. Saying that I can think of a number of goals along the way.

I thought it would be interesting to piece them all my stories together from birth until now to actually see what has brought me to this point. A memoir of sorts.

I suppose there was a couple of things I wanted to achieve:

  • I wanted to see if I had the memory to be able to remember enough events in my life to make it meaningful
  • To map out events in my life that have shaped who I am
  • To document my life for future members of my family to read when I am no longer around to tell them

As some of you will know I am a sucker for a mind map. So that is where I started. I first drew a mind map of my life. I find this method of bringing my thoughts together incredibly easy and within minutes I had filled a page with recollection from different times in my life. I don’t think in straight lines so that is why I like working with mind maps as they allow you to leave a subject and then come back and add more at a later stage.


Once I had my life mindmap I could then move onto more detailed maps of each aspect of my life. This again was suprisingly easy to do and I found myself triggering memories in the dark recesses of my mind, some of them that have not seen the light of day for over 30 years.  Below is a picture of my mindmap for the first 10 years of my life. It started quite slowly and then it just started flowing, and I found myself coming back again and again to add more.


This is project is really still in its infancy, but I can tell you it is really satisfying and enlightening. At times it has been quite emotional, which I suppose is not surprising really for someone who cries watching X Factor.

Now I have a mindmap for each stage of my life I have started writing my stories. When I have a few put together I may share them on here, we shall see.

As an exercise so far I have found it enjoyable, which I suppose is all you can ask for. When you are trying to make sense of your life and think about your future it is vital to know where you are and how you got there.

I will keep you posted on my progress.