When I was 17, I played for a local men’s football team with some of my mates. That was a laugh, especially as the men were slower in their speed and reaction, so thankfully I had more time on the ball, as coordination was not my forte. Occasionally there would also be youngsters on the opposition, so we sometimes had to pull our socks up. I played left back or centre back and will never forget the adrenaline rush I got from scoring a goal, where all I had to do was just time my run at the near post sticking my head in the way of a corner.
Playing football in my local park allowed me to become mates with boys I had grown up with, yet still without knowing them. Now I was free from my prison of boarding school and attempted to make some new friends. Like many, I’ve had to find my way through life and learn along the way, and hopefully not repeat the same mistakes too often. One of my footballing mates was a few years older and knew a drugs dealer, where I used my paper round money to finance my latest habit, which all started from a freebie.
It was not long before my smoking buddies were taking advantage of my lack of a backbone and survival of the fittest was now in play. I once beat up one of the men as a child. He was now relishing in my weakness and everyone frequently called me ‘Rodney’ or ‘Tosser’. Occasionally he would give me a dead arm or leg as he was now considerably bigger and had the strength to go with it. I was welcome in this gang, maybe as the butt of their jokes, but at that time I did not care. At least now I could numb the pain with lots of laughs and sometimes I was not even mentioned.
I had some exciting adventures, whilst in the pursuit of a spiral tribe, which took me on a treasure hunt around the southern counties. For two weeks on the trot, I had been given broken promises that I could go to a spiral tribe and by the third weekend I was now consumed! I found out where it was and took a £60 taxi to Winchester. I saw other ravers and joined the crowd, walking towards the hardcore sounds & drum roll that came from the illegal rave in a barn house and passing the police en route.
I gave my mates the shock of their lives when I bumped into them. At least now they saw where my heart was and must have been touched by my desire to rave. They found it hilarious that I had paid £60 for a taxi and that I had no guarantee of a return journey. I just believed that something would turn up. The driver was the cousin of my mate who was kind enough to give me a lift home with the rest of the gang, for my last £5. Weeks later my mates even tried to set me up with one of their female friends, but they gave me no warning when I was suddenly left alone with her in the kitchen. My mean mates did not even give me a spliff to calm my nerves. Eventually, my embarrassment ended by one of my mates check up on proceedings and then I heard laughter in the next room.
WEST LONDON COLLEGE
BTEC National Diploma in Computer Studies was a struggle! If it were not being out of my depth and always relying on the help of the teaching staff to throw me a lifeline, it would have been the class prat who often bullied me. I came to college looking like a lamb ready for the slaughter. I used to also dress in hand me down clothes and unintentionally displayed my virginity and I can now understand why my mates called me Rodney. The college was made up of 50% Asian and the blacks and whites made up the rest. I was made to feel welcome by a friendly black man and woman, who introduced me to their friends in the canteen.
A week later I managed to get some money together and buy some garments (baggy clothes), so that I would fit in and yes, the class prat noticed my change and persisted in abusing me. Somehow, I ignored him.
I impulsively invited myself to a dance in Greenford Townhall at the top of the hill on the high street. It was frequented only by black youths, which my mates from the canteen were talking about. At first, I just stood outside, hoping I would see a familiar face. I did! Popping his head out of the entrance, as if looking for me. On finding me, this tall friendly man from college, had a face looking like horror, whilst shaking his head from side to side. I got confirmation of not to go in when walking past three youths, who blatantly barged me in the shoulder. Ok Mr Laing, time for you to go home!
I used to enjoy playing table tennis, which was predominately occupied by a gang who always looked sharp. They always had a following of girls and sometimes they had to flex their muscle. I would normally play these young men and give them a good match. I would laugh inside if I ever beat them, as they now had the shame of being beaten by Rodney. I will never forget the joy I experienced when I twisted up one such a man playing indoor football on route to driving the ball into the bottom corner. Again, my Guardian Angel must have been shining on me as I had two left feet!
It was a miracle that I completed my BTEC, considering that most afternoons I would be stoned from having a smoke at lunch with fellow users in the class. A different classmate had an adorable laugh, which sounded like he was choking. He even got me a job at a supermarket in Ealing, where he & other students from the college also worked. It was here that my heart was ignited when the best-looking girl from my class at primary school said, “Hello Alex”, even though she was a with a model type male. I used to also help myself to sweets that were loose and one day my manager caught me eating whilst working. He simply asked me if I had taken the sweet from the loose packet, and like a plonker, I said yes. Time for a change!
At college I become friendly with a girl, who once gave me a kiss on the lips and all I could do was turn red displaying my embarrassment! She never bothered me again. The icing on the cake of my college experience, was the teacher overseeing an exam saying, “Don’t do anything I would do” as he went outside for approximately 10 minutes.
At 17 I had a strong desire for a quieter life, so I left home. Dad was kind enough to drive me to the council office, where I sat for the remainder of the day with my belongings in plastic carrier bags. This was back in the day when you could just turn up at the council and that day, they would house you, even though I had to wait all day. They called my parents for confirmation that I had left home before I faced my Krypton Factor challenge of taking all my possessions on the bus. The place I was now going to be calling home was a B&B in Southall aka little India. I now felt no stress! I was also able to listen to my hardcore music whilst smoking dope. I was the only white person in the B&B and made to feel welcome, a bit too much by one of my housemates one night. He bought back a woman from the pub and after having his way with her, he asked me if I fancied a go. I politely declined.
A few months later I was traveling every two weeks on the train, jumping my fare from Luton University to Southall to collect my only income via a benefit cheque. I had enrolled on the next course up from the one I had cheated on. What a plonker! I only chose Luton so I could live in the same house as a girl I fancied from college. I never did any coursework, as I did not have a clue. I got the shock of my life when asking a tutor for help. They just pointed to the library. What a transformation from college, where the tutors were only too happy to hold your hand.
Del Boy would be shaking his head at this one. I started selling marijuana at the University, and for the first few weeks I enjoyed the status that came with being a dealer on campus. Luckily, my customers were happy just to get a smoke, until I met my housemate’s friend. Wanting to impress her one day, I told her that I was a dealer and the next day this dodgy geezer took my drugs with psychology. “I will help you sell your drugs”. It was only after I had given them to him, I realized what I had done. This was a sobering moment and it was the beginning of the end.
I made friends with a group of girls who I would spend much time with, including meals and a smoke after. I even got to share one girl’s bed where I eventually made a move, but she turned away my advances, so I stopped. A week later she had a new boyfriend who had a better understanding in the art of persistence.
My weekends in Luton were spent at a drum n bass bar on the high street, with a house party afterwards with banging beats and much smoking. I had no grant and I felt like I was floating downstream without a paddle, so I showed the first bit of common sense in a while and quit!
It was not long before I was at another spiral tribe, this time in Uxbridge in the early 90s. I took my first acid and impatiently took another an hour later. That evening back at my place the acid took effect! We were all listening to music and smoking when I found myself transfixed with the clarity of the music! I was asked for some food and I freaked out, as I was struggling to concentrate on a simple task like making a sandwich. This was my first and last dabble with acid!
I was at a mate’s house party when I was offered an E. This was just the ticket for me to lose my cherry and it was not long before I started to feel like a stud in season. I was finding it hard to control myself as I would be leering over women whilst still standing and chatting nonsense and then suddenly, I started to heat up. I rushed into the kitchen to drink some tap water, but I still needed some fresh air. Just as I opened the front door I collapsed, scraping my head on the brick hallway on the way down. I looked up to see my mate smiling at the door.
I nearly got ran over whilst stoned up. The driver recognized me by virtue of being friends with Deryth. I was duly invited home, in order that I sort my life out! My dad had a work friend who used to be in the Army. He must have mentioned how the Air Corps was the future of the Army. On arrival back home, my dad specified that I was going to join the Army Air Corps and that was that!
At the outbreak of WW1 my Great-Grandfather transferred from the Gordon Highlanders to the Royal Flying Corps. He joined as a CSM and ended the war as a half Colonel! When the RAF started up, he transferred, losing a rank to Squadron Leader but finished up as an Air Vice Marshall, Knighted. My Grand-Father retired as a Brigadier in the Duke of Wellington’s and even though my dad was medically discharged from the Catering Corps, he displayed determination and commitment to obtain his commission in the Royal Corps of Transport in the Territorial Army and retire as a Captain. My dad was still hoping that I would keep the family tradition and possibly become a pilot.
My smoking buddies were aghast! They were all anti-establishment and did not think I was cut out for it. However, they agreed to help me lose my cherry and for me to have one last smoke before signing my life away.
There was much speculation as to who would be the lady in question. Everything was going well until I was lured in by a hand signal. Yes, I was fleeced! For the rest of the holiday I had to make do with smoking the butt ends and stealing fruit. The only difference, before and after Amsterdam was the shame. On reflection, I had lost my virginity going solo as a teen.
Back home I carried on smoking with my mates until one eventful evening. I was dropped home after midnight, but he reversed up the drive to set the lights off and beep his horn. That evening I had never received so much verbal abuse, and I was now livid and wanted to make him pay. The next day he answered his door all smiles. We started arguing and so took it outside. I surprised myself & this man as I started to display all my suppressed aggression which had been built up since childhood. He was out boxed, and in response he told me to wait whilst he got his knife. I did not need confirmation to just start running away! Whilst walking home I was pulled over by the police as my top was ripped and covered in blood. After explaining what had happened, they went to his address with me in the back to validate my story. Later in the day, the man in question turned up at my door to vent his anger for my calling the police on him and that he had to get stitches for his nose. His leaving comments were “If I ever see you again, I’m going to stab you”. Proof, that you cannot please everyone.
I was now able to prepare for the Army. My parents were quietly pleased with my outcome but were gracious enough not to rub it in. I had the use of an athletics track in Perivale, where I did my cardio consisting of 3 x 400m and 3 x 1500m and sprint shuttle runs with a minute’s rest in between.
I successfully completed the entrance exams to join the Army Air Corps at the Wembley Army Careers office and it was one of the top choice regiments on offer. I was a late starter in life, but excited at this new season I was entering. When I hear tragic stories of teenagers losing their lives needlessly to psychedelic drugs, I believe that my Guardian Angel saved me at least twice!