Being born into the chaos of a world war, it was no surprise when that culture led me towards a life in the military.
The world seemed weary of itself in the 1940s and 1950’s and nothing much seemed to happen. School went by without any significant interchange of ideas.
I looked forward to wandering about at lunchtime, staring over the wall of Swan Hunter’s shipyard, trying to spot my grandfather, and watching the ferries skittering across the waters of Tyne to Hebburn, and generally accepting the idea that school was only somewhere convenient to be during the day.
It felt a waste of time, and the local priest seemed to have more influence over teaching than the headmaster, so I left maths-poor and catechism-rich, ready to face a world not yet ready to face itself.
Things brightened up at this point. No qualifications (that would come some years later with an HNC in Business Studies, as would the BSc in Social Sciences), just the joy of freedom; until the idea of earning a living was mentioned.
With no alternatives on the horizon I became apprenticed to my father in a butcher’s shop – not a recommendation I would make to anyone.
My greatest happiness during this period was firstly joining the Sea Cadets, and when old enough, the Royal Marines Reserve. I was allocated to the SBS and became a diver/canoeist/parachutist, and I was taught other skills too obscure to mention, and discovered the adult world through different eyes. A bigger collection of rogues and nutcases you would be hard pressed to find ever gathered in one place – except on the set of some Hollywood ‘B’ movie.
In the Special Boat Service we paddled canoes, made parachute jumps and drained many a coastal hostelry dry. We dived with primitive oxygen equipment then invaded more waterside pubs, and blew things up; we crossed moor and mountain to blow things up – and drank loads of beer in remote and overwhelmed public houses. Four years of paid-for fun. Until I became a petrol-head and I left the marines to join the regular army.
I had been racing moto-cross bikes at the time, liked nuts and bolts and oily smells, and so thought that my career should take a different path. I found employment as a army recovery mechanic, with diving skills – that was good, excellent in fact, but it’s another story.