My parents hard-work paid off in 1983 when we moved the 0.4 miles from Blacksmiths
Avenue to Paterson Place in Shepshed, number 88 to be precise.
Their refusal to have anything on credit, or buy me decent bikes to leave lying round
at the mercy of bad weather and thieves saw us move from what was essentially a two-up, two-down to a three-bedroom detached
with an open-fire, breakfast bar and big-garden.
It was essentially my Mum and Dad's dream home, what they had worked so hard and
saved for but we would only stay for three-years due to them wanting to run their own business, a pub!
For me, the move could not come at a better time, because things had got somewhat
strained with the old gang in Blacksmith’s Avenue. There was this kid, who we shall call “Nigel”. One snowy
afternoon in February 1983, when we still had proper snow, the sort that would last for a week or two, I dug out my sledge
and went to call for our next-door but one neighbour Raymond Mitchell. I used to have loads of fun round there with Raymond,
his wife Shelia and their daughters Joanne and Caroline. Raymond was a shift-worker so he was at home that day and he and
Joanne agreed to come sledging. We were walking towards one of the many slopes we would hurtle down, when we passed Jenny’s
front garden. Jenny was a mate of my mum's who had not long moved into the street, she had two kids at the time Peter and
Emma. They were playing in the garden with Nigel.
Despite being the same sort of age as Nigel, we had never got on and when we did, it used
to end in a fall-out. Today was no exception. Nigel raced up to me and wrenched my scarf off my neck and chucked it on the
floor, totally unprovoked. I lost it and gave him a slap. It broke his nose. He bled all over Jenny’s new three-piece-suite.
My mum was furious. Raymond and Joanne, bless them, took me out of the way for a couple of hours until the furore had died
down. Ray stood up for me, saying I had done nothing and was provoked, accidentally lashing-out. I had not meant to hit him
that hard. Expecting a rollocking off my Dad, when he got back from work – indeed the dreaded “wait til your dad
gets home” had been delivered, much to my mum’s dismay he praised me for standing up for myself against this snidey,
little brat. My smugness was short-lived as Nigel
got one of his mates who did Karate to kick the crap out of me as revenge a couple of days later!
the move to Paterson Place was not the end of my problems. I made quite a few-enemies there. The first being the woman next
door, who would scold me for sitting on their wall – well it was the wall that divided the driveways of the two properties
and she took exception at me perched on there chatting to my mates. It became a long-standing joke amongst me and my
mates and sometimes we would sit there deliberately and count the seconds it took for her window to fly open and a torrent
of abuse to come our way!
contempt towards us intensified when my Dad put a “Vote Tory” sticker in his car, a company XR3i! Yes much to
my shame, they did vote for Thatcher but it was more ammo to the wall-woman next-door who once told me to “Bugger off
back over the road”. It turned out that she was a local Labour party activist and back then, Shepshed appeared to be
divided into two parts with Brook Street roughly being the dividing line and south of Brook Street was true Blue Tory whilst
Labour had the northern bit. I may be wrong and in mitigation, I am no Peter Snow armed with a “Swingometer”.
the wave of euphoria following the crushing of the Argies, Thatcher was returned to power on 9th June 1983, the
next-day this charming woman told me “Don’t come crying to me when your Dad is out of work!”. Her own husband
was long-term unemployed and without wanting to sound too much like Norman Tebbit, he did not seem to suffer much hardship
on a Friday/Saturday night when it came to going down “The Gobin” which is the Lifeguardsman Inn on Brook Street
and rolling home pissed up yorping his head off. I remember the early hours of one morning, my Dad yelling out the window
to them to shut-up when they staggered their way back from the pub waking half the street up! He was and still is
a hard-working bloke, he used to do market-stalls at Donington Park, Watnall and Melton in spare-time to bring in more money
at weekends as well as work all the hours god sent during the week. My mum worked full-time too in a pub, the Green Man at
Loughborough to be precise. They were not true Blue, inherited wealth Tory stock but from working-class, council estate backgrounds
trying to make a better life for themselves and it pains me to say it, back then the Tories probably had their best interests
at heart. Labour were an absolute joke and as Kenny Everett once pointed out, who would vote for an old-fool like
Michael Foot hobbling about on his walking stick? Well actually I think he said something about kicking Foot's
walking stick away, which wasn't very nice but there you go.
must admit, before I saw sense, I lived up to being the perfect Tory Brat brilliantly. I think more of it was to do with winding
up our dear neighbour rather than any political affiliation. The Miners Strike in 1984 saw me lurch sharply to the left, how
could Thatcher just ruin their industries and
their communities? The brutality of the police on the picket-lines also had an effect on me. I was fascinated
by the dispute, which to be fair did not affect Leicestershire that much. There was a band of striking Leicestershire Miners
called “The Dirty Thirty” and a friend of my Mum and Dad's John Kelly who was a Central TV cameraman gave me one
of their badges as a souvenir and I have still got it to this day. John was out filming the sort of civil unrest and
disorder which back in the 1980's was every-day news! Disorder on the picket lines and of course football hooliganism. If
this sort of thing happened nowadays, people would be shocked and stirred but back then mass violence on TV was a way of life.
I later became a member of CND and got to know Chris
North, the local co-ordinator very well. However before I saw the light and averted the path of becoming the next William
Hague (circa the 1977 Tory Party Conference with-hair version) I met our then local MP David Ashby. He was doing a walkabout
in Castle Donington on the council estate where my grandparents once lived, I remember shaking his hand and thinking
“what a charming man representing our interests in Parliament”. It seems strange thinking back, almost like the
time when I lived in Blackburn and stumbled across Jack Straw MP, former Home Secretary on his soapbox in the town-centre
giving a speech….to all of three people! One being Stuart, the Clitheroe village idiot! Mr Ashby of course was deselected
in 1997 when he lost a libel case against the Sunday Times. In 1994, I understand, to ”save on costs” during a
trip to France, Mr Ashby shared a hotel bed with a male travelling companion. In October 2008, I was able to book two-rooms
in Calais for just £58! Although this was not as high-profile as say Stephen Milligan’s fatefully placed Satsuma and
David Mellor’s romps in a Chelsea shirt with an unknown actress, it was a blow to John Major’s “Back to
basics” standpoint. Ironically it was evidence given by Mr Ashby’s wife that was so fundamental to his downfall!
the name Stephen Dorrell was sacrosanct for many years in our household, because he helped re-house my Grandparents due to
problem neighbours. My mum went to one of his constituency surgeries and was very impressed with the-then dashing young Dorrell.
Honestly the way they talked about how Dorrell had helped Grandma and Grandad move house, it was almost as if he had rolled
up on the move-day dressed in an old sweater and a pair of jeans and mucked in with loading the van! He didn't of course but
there you go!
about Tory MPs! However there was one incident in Paterson Place around 1985 which perhaps would have impressed the powers-that-be
at Conservative HQ when I made a fateful attempt at being a Thatcherite and very nearly succeeded. Back then, I owned a train-set,
admittedly it was not a very spectacular one, a single line built on a board running in an oval, I had two locomotives, half
a dozen carriages and wagons and that was about it. One day, one of the neighbourhood kids came round, saw my pathetic excuse
for a railway and rushed back home and brought two of his own trains, diesels. As we played away happily, I saw an opportunity
to modernize my train-set in a much less drastic way than Beeching did in the 1960’s when he shut the
majority of rural lines. I asked the lad how much he wanted for his trains and agreed the princely sum of £4.00. I took the
four pound coins out of my Dusty Bin moneybox and before Ted Rogers could have done his 3-2-1 trick with his fingers, my soon
to be ex-mate was running off home happy. He had got rid of two toys he had no track for them to run on, made four-quid in
the process and I had doubled my loco-stock for a fraction what they would have cost say in Geoff’s Toys at Coalville
or Zodiac Toys in Loughborough! Capitalism does work, so I thought as I proudly ran my new engines round the track!
I think he was halfway to the little sweet-shop that used to be on Brook Street, where Spencer’s
Bakery shop now stands, when his mam apprehended him. The dirty-deal was exposed and in her housecoat, she came storming round
to number 88 and hammered the door down during an episode of "Blockbusters" on Central.
My poor, unsuspecting mum who was oblivious to my dealings bore the brunt of this woman’s
venom. The dreaded shout of “Mark, come here please!” drowned out some, spotty academic sniggering and asking
Bob Holness for “ ‘P’”. Meekily I answered the call and was ordered to fetch the trains and give them
back. Sulkily, I thrust them into the midrift of this vile, old harridan – whom I noted had a hairy mole sprouting on
The four pound coins were duly returned, but that was not enough for the witch at our doorstep.
She launched into a bitter-tirade about Paterson Place being a lovely place till we arrived at number 88. That was too much
for my dear mother! At the time, she was the manageress of the Green Man in Loughborough – a nice pub by day but by
night a horrible little place. She had seen it all at the Green Man, brawls between rival football hooligans, no matter who
they supported, Leeds, Sunderland, Chelsea, she had ejected and barred them all. She had experienced the terror of some idiot
in the army letting off a training-bomb, anyone who remembers the Green Man will know it was situated beneath the Carillion
Court shopping centre – its location adding to her fear that her time was up. So this little woman was no match for
her and she soon left with a flea in her ear about her family not exactly being the Walton’s!
As for me, my hopes of becoming Thatcher’s junior Minister for Transport were in tatters!