Ian and I grew up on the same council estate in Birmingham, about 100 yards away from each other. Right from really little we hit it off and by the time we went to infants school we had become "best buddies". I guess he really liked "older women" because I was a whole, oh I don't know, 10 months older than him so we used to walk to school together and then play together after school.
One time, I remember, we decided we were going to set up a snail hospital "to help all these poor snails that we kept finding in my back garden". So we gathered as many snails as we could, lined them all up on our back fence and then dipped them all in a washing up bowl full of soapy water to "get rid of all that gunky stuff". We never could figure out why they all kept dying!!
His dad died when he was 40 leaving his mom a young widow with five young children to feed. Times were tough for everyone but particularly for her, as I'm sure you can imagine. I found out many years later that she worked four jobs just trying to keep those children fed! She later found happiness with a Polish man who I understand was very good to her and the kids, but for many years it was tough going indeed! I remember Ian told me one time you always knew what you were getting for Christmas because his mom would be knitting away and all of a sudden she would say "stand up and put your arm out"! Many years later he also told me the story of how she must have bought a second hand scout's outfit from some old dear so that he could go to scouts - problem was the legs were waaaaay too wide for his scrawny legs and he ended up looking like Eric Morecambe!
The outfit was also the wrong shade of green so when time came for a general inspection all the other scouts closed ranks around him! Another time I happened to mention that one of the older ladies in our local area had a beard (I was a little kid and I was fascinated) and had he ever spotted her, when he said "oh that would be Mrs. Skull who lived in the flats opposite us". I almost fell off my chair laughing and asked if her late husband had been Mr. Crossbones, but Ian said he thought she must have liked her beers somewhat as he used to go round to her house to collect the empties in order to get the 1p back on each bottle and give it to his mom!
As I say, Ian and I were great buddies up until the end of junior school (so from ages 3 to 10) when it was no longer "cool" to be friends with a girl - or at least not until a few years later when being "best buddies" with a girl was probably all you could think about! I left school at 16 and went to college, eventually emigrating to Switzerland at age 21 and Ian joined the army, absolutely hated it (said it was worse than school) so went into the construction industry as a labourer and worked his way up. We lost touch until one day, 36 years later, I spotted his name on Friends Reunited and contacted him. It was great to get back in touch again after so long! He told me that he was sick to death of England, the rat race and chasing after the eternal ££££££ so taking his courage in both hands he rented his house out, bought himself a Postman Pat van and headed off to Bulgaria with a couple of mattresses in the back and his tool box, for no better reason than "because he heard it was cheap". He wasn't interested in chasing money out there either - he wanted to make just enough to "live" so that's what he did. As a builder it would have been pretty easy and he could have had more work than he could handle had he so wished. But he didn't want that - he wanted to live a little!
Anyway, we chatted back and forth for a while and in 2011 he asked what I was doing that summer. When I said "nothing" he said "why don't you come out to Bulgaria so we can catch up"! My husband had not long left me so taking my own courage in both hands I thought "what the hell" - and that's what I did! Now my elderly mom rightly said "you knew the boy but you don't know the man" so I booked myself into a hotel on Sunny Beach and flew out to join him. But oh my goodness, you wouldn't know it had been 36 years since we had last seen each other! We laughed so much I thought I was going to get lockjaw!!!!
Anyway, we got along so well that we decided to set off and explore Bulgaria in his Postman Pat van for a couple of weeks, and it was a blast! You know when you have grown up with someone and you know all the people in their past - well we had so much catching up to do! We had both learned Russian at school so could decipher some Bulgarian words - and on that basis we decided we had to go to "Cозопол" because we loved the sound of it - that's Sozopol to you and me! You see even then we both had the same sense of humour!
|Out and about in the Postman Pat van!|
|Not politically correct now but Ian is 4th from right at the back and I'm 2nd from the right at the back!|
|Both members of future Team GB! - 1969|