It was back in the 1970’s when I really wanted to be an artist and enjoyed painting landscape watercolours and portraits. However I opted for silversmithing as it was on our school curriculum, our school was in Sheffield, where back then it was well known for its silversmithing industry. Our head of art, architecture and silversmithing was a great chap called Michael Jackson, no not the singer ! The first piece I ever made was a very crude silver ring for my Mum.
Mum started off working for the NHS as a Staff Nurse at Cherry Tree Hospital in Stockport. She spent many happy years working as a nurse. She worked long hard hours as all NHS staff do. Her reward came from being compassionate, caring and looking after others. She loved being a nurse.
By the end of the 70’s I had started a full time apprenticeship and also studied several courses at Birmingham School of Jewellery. I’d given up on becoming an artist. I started off on a work experience programme run by the government. They paid the wages, £25 a week for 6 months with the option of the employer taking you on at the end as an apprentice. 6 months went and I was kept on at Wincraft Ltd off Hillgate in Stockport. Sadly my boss Alan died in tragic circumstances and I quickly had to find another job, which I fortunately did.
My Mum remarried to my stepdad Geoff when I was a teenager & they moved to Four Oaks in Sutton Coldfield. I often spent weekends there, my Mum was then working at a fantastic shop, Parry’s Antiques, just opposite the cinema. She taught me a great deal about antiques and collecting. She also had me clean all the silver in the shop. A laborious job if you’ve ever done it on a large scale. Mum encouraged me to start collecting small pieces of silver, especially the more unusual small collectable pieces. My first purchase was a silver vesta case, one of many more to follow.
Monday’s I spent in Birmingham studying my creative jewellery making courses before returning home later on the train to Stockport.
Over the years ahead, I learned much more, passed my Retail Jewellers Diploma and became fully proficient in making all types of jewellery and restoring antique jewellery. To have a career which I enjoyed was very satisfying but sadly it was poorly paid.
The most influential boss during my apprenticeship was a great chap called Geoff Cooper. An eccentric man with a taste for Rolls Royce and Morgan cars. He did help me by offering to pay for my 2 year diploma, on the condition that I passed both years or I would have to repay him ! Geoff our boss gave us all a tour around Manchester in his Rolls Royce, 4 of us at a time. Those were his happy days, my happy days too. His workshop on Market Street was fully staffed with 12 of us at the bench and a couple more staff in admin etc. They were good days.
Money was tight in the early 1980’s, I was now getting by on £50 a week whilst many of my friends were earning much more. I was living in a house share in Fallowfield, there wasn’t much money left after I had paid my rent. I wanted to start driving lessons but couldn’t afford them. So I took on a variety of other part time jobs to help to pay for this. Sadly I had to leave G.L. Cooper of Market St. Manchester when I was offered a higher wage elsewhere. But it was few more miles from my home in Stockport, so now I had to get a car.
My first car was a proper Fred Flintstone car. A mustard coloured Datsun 120Y coupe, registration GBG 344N. Even typing that makes me cringe. Driving down the motorway in heavy rain one day, I noticed my feet were getting wet, very wet. When I later checked, the floor pan had large holes in and needed some serious welding. I put a makeshift piece of plywood under the carpet and then took the car back to where it was purchased and asked them to weld in a new floor pan to at least make it watertight.
Two weeks later someone drove into the side of me and the car was a total write off. Next up was my first of 3 Austin Minis. Those of you who have met me will realise that I’m a tall chap for such a small car, but I fitted in quite nicely. The two tone beige with brown vinyl roof was my first Mini AVR 417T. I was skint yet again, the insurance company refusing to pay out for my rusty Datsun until I asked that they checked the police records ( I was injured in the crash so they had to attend for a statement) Thankfully my Mum stepped in and gave me a loan for the Mini. As luck would have it, this one got written off too when I taxi drove into the back of me and fractured C3 & C4 vertebrae in my neck, and also broke my arm.
You might begin to wonder if it was just bad luck, I was seeing more of the inside of a hospital ward rather than my workbench. By the time I got around to my third Mini, a few years later, one of my good friends Philip Day, (now one of Stockport’s most inspirational Billionaires, CEO Edinburgh Woollen Mill, & now living in Dubai) he had a super fast white Vauxhall SRi. We used to go to Bolton on double dates, he was dating his now wife Debra, I dated her best friend Mandy. No way would all four of us been comfortable in my little Mini. I seemed to be constantly skint, Philip was really generous and insisted on paying for meals, never drank alcohol and always drove. He was a great friend, always smiling, always looking out for everyone else first and foremost.
Around this time, in the late 80’s, I was working and partying with another charismatic friend Matthew ‘Matty’ Bentley. My red Mini Sprite A839 YUX didn’t come close to his nippy Ford XR2. We took it in turns to car share on our drives to and from work in Manchester, seeing who could get there quickest. Darting in and out of bus lanes, undertaking, overtaking, thinking we were driving much faster cars. We were still young.
Our diverse musical influences included Bob Marley, Joe Cocker, Bobby Womack, Prefab Sprout and New Order. We listened to vinyl all the time, we took vinyl records to various peoples houses around Heaton Moor trying to start the odd weekend party.
We got to see New Order together, I had worked at the Hacienda in Manchester in the past, selling merchandise part time at various gigs. I managed to get us some free tickets. We were both always skint, any free gig tickets were most welcome. New Order were a bit out of sorts that night but we enjoyed it and got to meet and have a laugh with Hacienda owner Anthony Wilson. He was a real character too, so different to his TV appearances on Granda TV.
To be continued …….