The trials and tribulations of The Multitrade Kid
(aged 13 and a quarter)
I always knew I was going to end up swinging tools about. Born in 1967 in Sussex, England, then growing up with the skinheads in South East London in the late 70s after my parents divorced. I found myself living with my mother and step father in a run down house that was in need of repair.
My earliest memory, which I will call my cherry popping moment, was being asked to help cut new floorboards for the hallway one Saturday while all my mates were out sniffing glue and and hanging around record shops. I was presented with a tenon saw and a black and decker workmate and told to get cracking despite knowing that mum had bought my stepdad, Dave, an electric jigsaw for his birthday in a few days time. I got the job done eventually and proceeded to bang them in with an enormous wooden handled claw hammer and proper, old fashioned, cut floorboard nails. This was in the days before we had central heating luckily, as I remember the bollocking I got for just nailing in the middle. How was I to know any different? I was twelve, skinny as a rake and twice as stroppy.
In the school holidays I would be woken at stupid o’clock in the morning by ‘Grumpy’ – the affectionate name we gave to Dave, and stagger bleary eyed to the old Bedford van he had and we’d make our way to the yard at Erith where he kept his lorry. Rosie, he called it, a six wheeled Leyland Reiver tipper. HPG276N, I still remember the reg number as this was what school holidays were all about to me. I’d climb into the passenger seat and we’d make our way through the deserted, early morning streets. Past the Royal Maritime Museum and The Cutty Sark at Greenwich, on to Creek Road in Deptford where Associated Asphalt was. This is the point at which I was no longer just a kid, this was the point when I discovered my place in life. I wasn’t a kid, I was one of the lads.
I’d climb out the cab and go into the tea hut while the truck was loaded with 17 ton of hot, sticky, stinking asphalt. Other drivers were there waiting for me, “Oi oi, here comes the tea boy, ow are ya, awroit?”
“Yeah fine fanks,” I’d reply, and make big pot of tea for these dirty great lorry drivers.
By then, Dave would be loaded and come in for his mug of tea and a smoke of Boars Head rolling tobacco and I’d go out and climb onto the top of the red hot wagon and use all my strength to pull the sheet over and lash it down. With burning feet I’d hobble back into the tea hut and be given a big, dripping, bacon sarnie. This is what I wanted in life, to be one of the lads, to join in and share the craic and the banter, and to graft, just like the guys on the roads that we took the asphalt to. They’d be grafting hard and I’d get out of the cab and go and grab a rake, or fetch some diesel and clean their shovels. They’d slap me on the back and give me a smoke. I was twelve years old and already a man.