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The Bermuda Years

Photo of Bermuda Beach courtesy of Ian Macdonald-Smith
Photo of Bermuda beach courtesy of Ian Macdonald-Smith

After a couple of years working with Matty, we both wanted to spread our wings and set off to work abroad. Matty took the initiative first. He applied for a job in Bermuda and also to be a long haul steward with British Airways. His dilemma came when he was accepted for both jobs. Go on, he said to me, you take the job in Bermuda, I will take the job with BA. We agreed and off he went for his final medical with BA. 

He had passed all the other tests, just the medical and a blood test to go. Then out of the blue, his doctor phoned our work. I answered the call. Matty’s doctor demanded to speak to him directly when he returned from lunch. It was the worst news ever. Matty had leukaemia and was told he had only months to live. 

I didn’t accept the job in Bermuda which I had now been offered, I just couldn’t do it. It felt wrong. Here we were, both wanting to work abroad and then being devastated with this terrible news. Matty insisted I took the job, but I wouldn’t. I couldn’t.

We compromised and I explained to Brian Shadbolt who interviewed us both at his jewellery manufacturing business in Warwick. Brian kept my name on record, he used to own a jewellery manufacturers called The Gem Cellar in Bermuda. A few months later, Matty had found a potential donor and another job came up in Bermuda at Sovereign Jewellers.

I set off to Bermuda on 17 August 1990. My Mum and my stepdad Geoff both wishing me well and probably hoping they never had to bail me out of another car crash replacement. Days after arriving, I met Paul McCartney & Phil Collins on separate occasions. Just as you do, walking up Front Street alongside the harbour. 

Matty sadly died on 14 February 1991. 
We had an all too brief friendship, but a very rare and special one. He never got a chance to fulfil his dream. 

Later in 1991, I had a few visitors from the UK. My old housemate Collette who came over to visit and met her now husband Bruce who she lives with in New Zealand with their two lovely daughters. 

My Mum insisted on coming on her own, leaving my stepdad Geoff back at home. I think Mum just wanted to check I hadn’t bought another crap car and wasn’t living the life of a drug baron. Little did my Mum know, I now had a moped. A noisy venerable 100cc Honda. Mum literally clung on to me with her fingernails in my ribs, desperately hanging on behind me on my moped. We went to see show at the Southampton Princess. Elegantly dressed as always and not impressed by the moped. I had another stern telling off and Mum insisted I bought any car available, as long as it had four wheels, four seats and a bloody roof ! I bought a red Subaru Justy J10 called dimples as the previous owner lived at Port Royal golf course and the car was covered in dimples where the golf balls had smashed into it. Who knows how many windows he lost if the car was anything to go by. But at least I had taken Mums advice on board and now had 4 wheels. 

I thought I would only be in Bermuda for a year or two, but 10 years later I was still holding onto my work permit and for a couple of years after. It was becoming a bit like the line in the Eagles song Hotel California, ‘you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave’ Truth be told, I had become very involved in the local community and didn’t want to leave. 

I was playing Sunday football and eventually started my own team and after a few years went on to form a proper Sunday league with fixtures, that wasn’t as easy as it sounds as so many people wanted to play and playable pitches were scarce. 

The football celebrities were numerous. 
I met David Beckham, David Seaman and most of the England Football team over a couple of days. Spent time with Harry Redknapp and Frank Lampard doing some football coaching in Bermuda after I took my CONCACAF badges. Took my badges with Clyde Best, one of the first ever black players to play in England’s top league when he signed for West Ham Utd. They were all great people. 

I immersed myself in becoming a charity fund raiser. My speciality was organising 70s and 80s discos and football tournaments. I became close friends with Paul Sofianos who was a local radio and mobile DJ. We worked together for many years, we alternated the discos between 70s and 80s with a few Blind Date events to spice things up. We received great sponsorship from American Airlines, Gosling Bros (famous for their incredible rum) and Sovereign Jewellers, who I worked for. 

The first football tournament was attended by Lord Waddington, he gave the winning trophy to the B.A.A. Wanderers. As the tournaments grew, so did the amount we made for various charities.  

Lord Waddington presents trophy
Mark Evans makes a donation to the Bermuda Special Olympics
Mark Evans makes a donation

Paul Sofianos and I sat down and planned each event meticulously, we even made are own radio adverts. The discos were a huge success. The venue wasn’t very big, the Mariners Club could hold 300 at most, but we sold every single ticket. The biggest came in 2000. We planned it a year in advance, so when Paul suggested we contact David Bowie to ask if he could make an appearance. I was given the task of finding out if David could help, he lived in Bermuda for several years with his gorgeous wife Iman, he always enjoyed saying hi to everyone. I met him several times. I had also met his PA several times, she was happy to ask for me. She asked me for my phone number and then asked David to phone me, he did phone to say sorry he couldn’t attend as he was away working in New York but if we held another charity event to let him know and he would do his best to attend. 

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My Mum’s early influence on my career

My Mum’s early influence on my career

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 …….