Who Am I? Part Eight


As promised I’m going to start sharing some of my incredible experiences with you too. So as well as tying up the loose ends to this particular chapter of my life, I’m going to start and finish this post with a couple of things that happened to me many years ago.

It was during my cannabis and pill period, I suppose I would have been around 17, I remember having my first experiences of being “the witness”. I remember on a number of occasions, even when no substances had been taken, that I could be sitting around in a room with a group of people and all of a sudden I would have the experience of simply being an observer and not someone who was actually there. I just assumed it was my eyes playing tricks on me because the colour of things would alter as this experience occurred. So, all the yellows, reds, blues and greens etc. would still be yellows, reds, blues and greens, but the hue would be different. They would look like colours that were not of this world. It was almost as though I was outside my body, but it was nothing like an out-of-body experience. It was very strange indeed and it would be many years before I understood what it was all about.

I went back to Swindon for a few days and at some stage knocked on the door at 80 Gladstone Street. Sonja answered and I told her what had happened. I said that we’d like her to come to the funeral, she said she’d rather not, so I said my goodbyes and left, and that was the last face to face contact I ever had with her. When I’d moved out I took my Hi-Fi equipment and record/CD collection and left Sonja everything else. It sounds very saintly of me but it wasn’t. I simply didn’t want the hassle of having to move stuff.

As I stated in a previous post the landlord had been quite dodgy and I’d sought legal advice over a matter concerning the property. I then moved in with Vic, and shortly after, Sonja decided to move in with Bobby and Doug in Kent, so we both washed our hands of 80 Gladstone Street. It was ironic that we had been living in Gladstone Street and my parent’s new flat was in Gladstone Avenue. They had only been in there for a month when my dad died.

He’d been a bus driver, working out of Holloway Garage and later Archway Garage in North London. He’d retired in the January of 1986 and now in October of that year he was no longer of this world. He had been quite a social sort of bloke so he’d also been quite popular. The funeral was at Highgate Crematorium and the procession was to drive past the bus garage so that my dad’s ex-workmates could pay their respects. What ensued was a crazy and in some ways quite awful episode. The funeral procession had been driving slowly anyway, and on top of that, it was at a very busy time of day so we got stuck in traffic. As we crawled along, bumper to bumper in the traffic, it was as though we were on display to the world. It was that time of day when all the schools were kicking out. At one point we were stuck in the traffic unable to move and some school kids started to laugh and make fun of us. They were coming right up close to the car windows and pretending to cry; the journey just seemed to go on for ever. Eventually it was all over and it was back to the flat in Wood Green for booze and nibbles. The flat was packed. Prior to and just after the funeral the phone didn’t stop ringing. Then gradually, once the dust settled, it stopped and barely rang again. It became apparent that virtually all the people who attended were my dad’s friends and not my mum’s. My dad had been very social, my mum was the opposite. My brother only lived down the road in Enfield, but he hardly ever visited. My mum was stuck in the flat on her own and with squatters in the flat above. It was not an ideal situation so I moved back to London.

When I think back to my time in Germany with NAAFI and my crazy marriage, it’s hard to believe it actually happened. It is so far removed from my life now. However, on reflection I must have been an absolute nightmare. With regard to Bobby, she may have had her issues but in hindsight I can see that she was actually very tolerant of me. I look at it this way, if I had a daughter would I want her getting involved with me as I was then? Not on your life! So yes, she showed remarkable tolerance in allowing us to live together. She also knew that we called her BA behind her back, then there was the time I spiked her curry oooohhh I could go on… As for Sonja, it was no life for her being married to me. Every night I had my headphones on listening to my music and every night I would drink. I never did anything nice for her; it was just a case of me wanting my comfortable space outside of the staff hostel, my endless supply of booze and food indulgences, but I didn’t want the wife to go with it. It was no wonder she had her own stuff going on. About five years after I last saw Sonja I bumped into her sister in Swindon Town Centre. Nicki said that Sonja had married again and divorced and was with a new partner living in Cornwall. Wherever she is now and whatever she is doing, I only wish her well.

Since I started this series of posts Tony “Big Tone” Black has reached out across time and space, which has made me very happy, and the legend that was Slippery has now retired to that great NAAFI shop in the sky. Slippery… I salute you!

Probably the first miraculous experience that I can actually remember as being extremely strange, exceptionally beautiful and beyond doubt, very, very real, happened some years ago. I can’t remember exactly when and I can’t remember where I was living at the time. It may even have been before I went in the army. I heard my name being called. It was just once and it was the softest and sweetest voice you could imagine. It was an androgynous voice. It was neither male nor female, yet at the same it was both. “Richard”… I opened my eyes and realised I was in bed and that the voice had very gently woken me up. I looked at the clock and it said exactly 07:00 am. I had to get up for work and had set my alarm for 07:00 am, but it had not gone off. There are no words in the English language that can do the sweetness of that voice justice.

Well, that’s going to be it for a few weeks. I’m off to Belgium, Germany and Holland. Thanks for supporting my blog!

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Who Am I? Part Six


The truth was about to come out…

When I arrived at Kathy and Joe’s place it was obvious that something had been going down. I’d no sooner got through the door when Kathy said, “I’ll leave you two to talk”. Sonja then proceeded to tell me that the whole thing was true; she really was the most stupid international criminal mastermind in the entire history of the human race. However, it doesn’t end there. My wife, being a compulsive liar, had ulterior motives for telling me the truth. It turned out that within about 24 hours of me leaving her ex-boss’s office that day, roughly two weeks before I left Germany, he set off for the UK and turned up on Kathy and Joe’s doorstep at 08:00 in the morning with a “heavy”, just as Joe was leaving for work. The heavy apparently wasn’t much of a heavy, but that’s not the point. I couldn’t believe that Sonja would bring that kind of nonsense into the house of friends who had been kind to us. But she did leave a forwarding address after all…

Somehow, Joe let them in and left for work,leaving Kathy and Sonja with the two “geezers”. Sonja was confronted with her dastardly deeds and had a piece of paper thrust in front of her, which she promptly signed! The piece of paper was her admission to the theft of her ex-boss’s money. He now had her over a barrel. She told me that she signed the piece of paper because, “I was so frightened I literally wet myself”. I was more annoyed about being lied to than anything else; had I known that my wife was a criminal mastermind I could have prepared myself. But it did explain a few things. It explained why she was always taking money from the cash box when I went to pick her up in the evening. It also explained why she’d been removed from the other job; she had obviously been stealing from her other employer too. Two things I never understood though, why we never had anything to show for her actions; for the life of me I just don’t know what she did with all the money she stole. The other thing was that I could never work out what all that working on Christmas day stuff was about. It was obviously a lie; I can only assume that she arranged to spend part of Christmas day with someone else because she did not get any attention from me.

Sonja’s ex-boss had her signed admission of guilt and was going to involve solicitors. She was terrified and looked to me for support, but I was still angry at what she’d done and told her I would stick by her but as it was her mess she needed to resolve it. She needed to engage her own solicitor and wanted me to come with her, but I said no and told her she had to do it herself. In fairness to her she did. The money owed was whittled down to £1000, which to be honest, I thought was a bit light. But her ex-boss, via the negotiating of the solicitors, said that if she agreed to pay him £1000 he wouldn’t take it any further. It broke my heart to write that cheque! I told her that if she ever lied to me again and I found out, we were over.

We over-stayed our welcome at Kathy and Joe’s; it’s not really relevant to go into the details, but various things happened and I decided that we could not impose on them any longer. I went out one day and drove the 15 miles or so into Swindon and rented a house from a dodgy letting agency (you must be thinking that I use the word “dodgy” quite a lot, but it was just the way things were then). The rent, including rates, or whatever it was called back in 1986, was £300 per calendar month, which was a hell of a lot for that era. I didn’t realise until we’d moved in that I’d rented a house smack, bang in the middle of Swindon’s red light area…

Somehow, amid all the chaos, I’d finalised all the necessaries in regard to my job with Sun Alliance Services, and I’d been on a two-week training course in Wales. We were residing at 80 Gladstone Street, just off the town centre in Swindon and my marriage was just going further and further down the tubes. We still had some stuff stored in Kathy and Joe’s garage, but Joe’d had enough of us and during a visit to Lyneham, without Sonja, he told me he wanted it out as soon as possible. I should also mention that the “Adams Family” had moved to Kent when Doug got posted back to the UK, and Sonja had been communicating with her mother via Kathy and Joe’s phone. This was during the days before competition when BT had the monopoly and call charges were still high, especially during the day. I’d used their phone a few times, so just before we left I wrote Joe a cheque for £5, which would have more than covered my usage. However, nobody really anticipated just how much Sonja had abused the amenities, and when the bill eventually arrived Kathy and Joe nearly had “his and hers” heart attacks! Luckily, we were tucked up in Swindon by this time. I bumped into them in Swindon town centre one day. I was on my own and Kathy launched into me about their phone bill; that was when I first found out about it. When she calmed down I told them about our “lovely” house and invited them round. They said they had to go off and do something but if they had time on the way back they would pop in. They didn’t, and I never saw them again.

When Bobby had been with her husband before Doug they had lived in Wroughton, which is a tiny town just on the outskirts of Swindon. He had also been in the military, so Sonja was already familiar with Swindon before we’d gone there together for the first time. One day she was in town when she bumped into a long-lost friend from her time spent living in Wroughton. So, Sonja took to hanging out with this friend and all her mates. As a result, I’d come home and find the house half-full with kids of a similar age to Sonja. It was at this time I suppose, that I realised I’d grown up a bit; it was probably because of the responsibility that came with being a Hi-Fi salesman. We also , against my wishes, had the sister from hell move in with us.

At some stage I found that Sonja had told me another blatant lie. I knew that she’d been in my briefcase because, yes you’ve guessed it, she left evidence, but she denied it. Other things happened and it was apparent that we couldn’t go on. Now, this is where I had great respect for her. Me, being a bloke, I just let things go from bad to worse without really saying anything. But it was her who actually said that maybe we should think about a break.

I went to London, supposedly for two weeks for some breathing space, but after about a week my dad said that it was pointless me being in London if there were things that needed sorting. I knew he was right, so I came back unexpectedly. I’m sure by the look on Sonja’s face that she’d been into all sorts while I was away, but I didn’t care. We agreed to split and I said I would sleep in the spare room.

In a few months time my life would change forever.

 

 

Who Am I? Part Two


375811_4123703570261_303439096_nIt’s worth mentioning that I’ve called this series of posts “Who Am I ” for a reason, which will become clearer in due course…

My time in the army was very up and down. I’d wanted to join something that I thought would be worthwhile, that would give me a sense of purpose and where I could experience comradeship. I certainly had all that most of the time while I was training at Wood Green Karate Club. But to me, the army was a big disappointment. The adverts on the TV suggested that you would have real mates in the forces, but I found it to be just the opposite. Your friends would steal from you, and the animosity at times towards those who didn’t fit in was quite disturbing. I’d originally set my heart on signing for three years in The Royal Tank Regiment. But on the day that I went to sign on the dotted line I opted to join The Royal Artillery for nine years. You could sign for three, six or nine years and the longer you signed for, the higher your pay. That was the only reason I opted for the nine-year stint.

It soon became very apparent that the army in general was a very hypocritical organisation. I felt that I couldn’t trust anyone and I grew to hate it. The trouble was, I couldn’t just quit like it was an everyday job. I had to wait until I’d served over three years, then I was able to buy myself out. It cost me £300 in 1979, which was a lot of money back then. I don’t regret joining though, because I did have a hoot as well. I very quickly became a very heavy drinker (the beer in Germany, where I was stationed, is very smooth and easy to drink). I lived for alcohol and consumed vast amounts during my time in Dortmund with 26 Field Regiment, Royal Artillery. I kept the lads entertained with my impressions and pranks, but I would also become very quiet and withdrawn. The emotional pain was very intense, and the more I hurt inside, the more I tried to drink it away.

Germany is a beautiful country and I would go out quite often on my own and try to meet Germans. The soldiers had a very bad reputation, which was deserved, for causing trouble, so I tried to steer clear of all that. When I did go out with the lads we normally had a lot of fun, but I really enjoyed mixing with Germans in my regular haunts; the kind of places that, in general, the squaddies did not frequent. My moods were becoming increasingly more up and down, to the extent that it started to affect my relationships within the battery. Looking back, it would be true to say that some of my behaviour could have been considered strange and it wasn’t until years later that I understood what I had been experiencing. It got to the point where I’d had enough, but didn’t see a way out. Then one morning on parade an opportunity came my way.

They wanted a lower rank to volunteer for duties in the officers mess. I knew there was a huge regimental parade coming up that would have meant a lot of tedious work. I thought to myself, if I volunteer to go in the mess it will keep me out-of-the-way and I’ll avoid having to take part in the parade. My hand shot up, and there were no other takers. It also gave me respite from the mundane, day-to-day life within the battery. My time in the officers mess was the best time of my army “career”. Me and the other lads in there got up to all sorts; I felt like a naughty schoolboy and had an absolute blast. I couldn’t possibly relate all the stuff we got up to here on my blog. I’m obviously not the same person I was all those years ago, so a lot of what we did would not be appropriate to be shared here. However…

One thing I will share, because at the time it was just so funny. We would get the unwitting officers to pay for our alcohol. The system was that if an officer wanted a drink from the bar they did not pay cash. They had to sign a chitty. The chitties would all be added up and the total cost was taken from their salary on a monthly basis. So the trick was that if an officer wanted a gin and tonic, we got them to sign the chitty and when their back was turned we would put extra drinks on it. None of them ever checked their final monthly bills, so as long as we didn’t do anything silly we got away with it. All good things, unfortunately, have to come to an end. My emotional pain was ever-present and my odd behaviour continued to be noticed. I was in a very withdrawn state one day whilst serving some afternoon tea. One of the officers I was serving was my own Battery Commander. He was actually a very nice and genuine man, and he became concerned at how I looked. He asked me what was wrong but I didn’t answer. Eventually, after some probing I burbled an answer that indicated I was unhappy and wanted to leave. It was decided that if I really felt the way I did, then I should watch the notice board for any postings that may come up.

Before long I saw a posting advertised for the Salisbury Plain Range Detachment (SPRD) back in the UK. I applied for it and was soon on my way. It was probably one of the most dead-end jobs in the army. I think I arrived some time in March 1979 and by the end of December I was out; a civilian again. SPRD drove me around the bend, but luckily we had a great commander; a captain who’d come up through the ranks. He understood how I felt and didn’t stand in my way. So, £300 lighter, I was back in the world. I made sure I got a job before leaving; a live-in job at a hotel near Ascot in Berkshire. My relationship with my dad had broken down completely by this time so I did not want to go home to London.

The hotel was situated in an area that was a completely different world to me. Even back in 1979/1980 the properties around there cost more money than most people will ever see in their whole lifetime. The area was full of very well-to-do people, some famous actors and also royalty moved in shortly after I left. I soon realised that the hotel was not for me and that I really missed Germany. I decided that I would apply for a job with NAAFI and try to get back to Germany. I seem to remember making a phone call; where I got the number from I don’t know, and being invited to Kennington in London for an interview. A few weeks later, in March 1980, I was on my way back to Germany. I was going to work at the main NAAFI shop in Münster-Gremmendorf. Oh what fun we had…..

To be continued..