Chapter 1

I was born a few days into the second half of the twentieth century, the second son of a working class family. That January the weather in our small industrial city was, as usual, foul; not that I knew or cared about my countrymen's apparent favourite topic of conversation. Neither did my parents after nine years of trying for a second child.

The first six years of my life were perfectly normal, at least compared to my peers. Like everyone on our little estate, financially we had little but in many other ways we were well off. When I was just three months old we moved into a brand new council house, one of many thousands being built in post war England. {An Estate is a group of houses, usually all built at the same time, that may be considered a small community in its own right. Council Estates are those built by the Local Council (Local Municipality) for rental only. They attracted the lower paid workers } It came with plenty of room and a large garden, the latter became my personal playground as I grew. I didn't know at the time but I was lucky to be in a happy and loving family.

Both of my parents were intelligent, if lacking in any formal education and more important at the time, both were grafters. {A 'Grafter' is a hard worker, usually manual, the opposite is a 'Skiver' who is someone who evades work. } Dad had spent the entire war in the army, enlisting as soon as war rumours emerged. Even though shrapnel in his knee severely and painfully limited his movements, that he counted himself lucky shows what his generation endured. Like most men of his class and age, my father loved a pint of bitter and a few hours spent in the local pub with his friends. Not so usual was the fact that he only went when the family could afford it, which was not very often. Like many things about my parents, I only really appreciated their sacrifices when I was considerably older.

Life for me changed in the late summer of my sixth year. I contracted what was then a killer disease, polio. I was to spend the rest of that year plus the first quarter of the next in hospital. I found out later that the doctors had given my survival only a fifty-fifty chance but had told my parents that I would almost certainly spend the rest of my life in an iron lung should I cheat the grim reaper. Unsurprisingly my mother's lovely dark hair had turned completely grey by the time I left hospital. Like any six or seven year-old I was totally self-centred and didn't realise the full effects of my illness on those around me until a few years later.

After confounding the experts with my full recover I had a taste of what had happened to my family when I finally arrived home. Feeling much better I naively assumed that everything would just continue as it had before I was taken ill. What I couldn't know about was the fear that accompanied this disease. None of my former friends were allowed to play with me, in fact their parents would often cross the road rather than walk past our house if I was outside. My family had been completely ostracised by virtually all of our estate. Even the couple of kindly neighbours that had tried to help were often cold-shouldered by others.

The only person left as a friend was my elder brother James, whose own burgeoning social life was crushed by people's reactions. Considering the grief I'd inadvertently caused him, James was really good to me and helped on many levels but the age difference then was just too much for him to be a true playmate for me. I had little choice but to enjoy my own company. This became the norm for me throughout junior school and I made no friends and quite a few enemies. The latter came because as a loner I became the natural target of bullies. My elder brother had gone through the same ordeal during my time in hospital and with my father's help had learned how to defend himself. He passed this information and skill on to me. Bullies quickly learned that although I was alone, I was no easy target. Of course this took time and I gave and took considerable punishment before I was finally left in peace.

When it came time for the educational move up, I decided that I wanted to go to the city's best grammar school. Given my less than exemplary academic record, my parents were amused by this but told me that if I did my bit and passed the 'eleven plus' exam then they would find the funds to support me. Once again I surprised the experts and passed the examination with high enough marks to go to my first choice school.

Hanley High School had easily the best academic record in the area as well as an excellent sporting one. The former was down, partly to being able to pick its pupils but I feel mainly it was the quality of teachers that they attracted. The fact that it was a boy's only school also helped as certain obvious distractions were missing. I was never going to excel at such a school but I maintained a mid table position throughout, except at languages where I was atrocious. Once again I made no close friends but did manage to mix with a few groups, albeit on the very fringes. Thankfully, I also made no enemies, though I still managed to get into the odd scrap.

By the time I left school I had an excellent and thorough education but non-existent social skills. Over the previous few years I had started to think about the opposite sex but, other than family members hadn't managed to actually speak to one. There were none at school and with those around my home there was a mutual distrust.

Although not mine it was another late summer illness that was once again to signal a change in my life, though this time for the better.

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Story tagged with:
Ma/Fa / Romantic / Heterosexual / Slow /