Forty-four years on….

As Engelbert Humperdinck crooned ‘Please release me’, my mom was probably screaming “please get out of me!”  Yep, 2 days into spring 1967 at a hospital in Sheffield, a poor working class woman gave birth to the last of four children (not all at once).  I say ‘poor’ in the monetary sense, not because she was having me, although I think out of the four, I was the biggest hand full.
So that’s me for the next 21 years, growing up on a council estate with a cracking view of Bramall Lane and holidays under canvass in Wales and the Norfolk Broads.  Not too bright and didn’t really enjoy school, so with that in mind I decided to stop going at 15 years old.  Apart from the odd Biology class, for which I achieved my one and only O Level.

However, come the official last day of school I went and said farewell to all the people and teachers I didn’t like and the next day I popped on my best StayPress trousers, best 3 buttoned jacket with black and red stripes (swish) and headed off down town to set my stall out.  I must have been in every shop, garage and pub in and around the town centre for a month with only an offer to do door to door sales on commission to show for my effort.  Then, after visiting the job centre twice a day I was offered a Youth Training Scheme at Yorkshire Water  and snapped their hand off.  That was me for the first year slogging my guts out for £25  a week.  Which after paying my mom £12.50 board and buying a brand new Vespa on tick for a tenner a week, I had £2.50 left to buy fuel.  But I did whatever I could to get extra money, guvvy jobs and various other things kept my head above water until they offered me a full time job a year later and I was on a wacking £60 a week, the world was my oyster.  However, back breaking stuff was this work.  No JCB’s but dig dig dig to get those much needed new water mains in the road.  I did actually fall asleep in my soup at teatime a good few times and saw the old boys with bad backs and knackered hands, still digging at 55 years old, it wasn’t a good advertisement for later life.  I also was falling in with a bad bunch, we had a scooter club which was a good laugh, but one by one, my mates started to go on holidays at her majesty’s pleasure and I didn’t really want to join them.  On a sunny Saturday afternoon I was at a open day at one of the parks in Rotherham, I wandered past the Army careers tent and was jumped upon by a Staff Sergeant from Royal Engineers.  Don’t ask me how or why, and with no thought ever before of joining up, I signed on the dotted line. I went for my tests and interview at the main careers office and after being told I was not allowed to go  into the Infantry (too bright, ha me?) and being slightly colour blind I wasn’t the best helicopter technician in the making, I joined the Royal Engineers and before I knew it (March 1989) I was on a train to Surrey for 6 months of pure hell.  Gibraltar Barracks will stick in my mind for ever.  Torn knee ligaments, two half decent kickings by the instructors and no sleep made me think every night, as I slept in a sleeping bag as not to crease my ironed bed, what the bloody hell had I let myself in for.  Anyway I passed basic training and headed to my unit in North London.  I did well and was promoted after 18 months after coming top of my cadre course.  Plus running and Orienteering for unit and army I had made a good name for myself.  But in January 1991 I broke the news to my family I was going to Iraq.  Six months in the desert and a bout of dysentery I came back to 12 years of travelling the world and meeting different people.  I decided to sign off in 2002 and settle in the North East.  Tried another stint at the local water board but after two years realised why I’d left YWA in the first place.  I then had a weird thought about joining the police, so I did!  Never thought I’d get in due to my lack of qualifications but they welcomed me with open arms, I think my forces background helped.  The basic training was mentally exhausting, I was up against college grads who knew all the buzz words and how to impress the top brass.  However, coming from a working class back ground I knew how to speak to people, especially the ones you come across in this line of work, which I think amused the instructors in the endless role plays you grind through during the course of the 10 weeks.  So I took up my office on the East coast of Durham and have never looked back.  I have a beautiful girlfriend and a wonderful 5 year son, who both keep me on my toes.
Due to shift work we (Kelly & I) make most of the time we have together, walking and climbing, visiting the lakes and the local area.  Kelly has started taking photo’s and to be honest they’re very very good.  I see my son Oliver when shifts allow but he seems to have taken a liking to the indoor climbing wall and unlike me, has no fear.  We are still continuing with our quest of completing the Lakeland Wainwrights and are hacking away at them slowly but surly.  Check out Kelly’s website and keep an eye on Twitter for our tweets blogs etc.

High Force waterfall

In the quest to get some good piccys in the portfolio, last week Kelly and me jumped in the Aygo and headed off towards the biggest waterfall in Durham (I think), High Force.  About 12 miles outside Barnard Castle which itself is a lovely place.  Always thought I’d love to be the Beat Bobby there a few years before I retire but hey ho, that’s a long way away.
 Landed in the car park, £1.50 to park and £2 each to get to the falls.  But we saw the pub called High Force Hotel and thought we’d have lunch first.  Went into the pub and it didn’t flick our switch to be honest.  For a start, Kelly, she loves her grub but is quite fussy about what she eats.  Nothing caught her eye on the menu so that’s a non starter as far as food goes, so we had a quick Coke and buggered off to have a look at the falls.  It did look a nice cosy pub and a good one in the winter after a walk, but not that day. 

We gave our tickets to the woman in the wooden hut and headed off down the track heading for the falls.  The track was a bit dark which I think pee’d Kelly off as there were some cheeky shots to be had, but the light was not playing.  Anyway we reached the bottom and was greeted by a shed load of people.  The falls were quite impressive and the noise of the water was deafening, I didn’t realise it was so big (ooo err).  But we had dropped into the river basin and the light had got worse.  I’d brought the tripod for some cheeky slow shutter stuff but Kelly told me to keep it in my bag for another day.  The base of the falls is littered with small boulder’s which Kelly tried to negotiate with her high heeled DocMartin boots but had to squeeze my hand till it went blue to get across.  So with a slightly numb hand we reached the river and she found her shot (above).  But even I thought the light was failing, and as it is quite close to our house we decided we’d come back another day , maybe late spring.  So I helped Bambi on Ice back to Terra Firma and we headed off back to the car.  We hoyed our butties down our necks and set off home, via Woodham to see Bruce the enormous German Shepherd a hug and go home for drinkies and takeaway. 

I like water falls and i was impressed by the drop and the actual volume of water being cascaded off the top.  I’ve always liked water and the effect it has on us and the environment, in fact i should’ve joined the Navy instead of the Army and set to sea.  As you can see it’s a great place but like everything in our beautiful country, the weather takes the micky and you have to be at the right place, right time.  For those who care, on route to the the falls there are a couple of info boards explaining the rock formation, which is interesting to Laymen, as well as someone in the know.  I love that part of Co. Durham and it’s thanks to Kelly i have privilege to see it.