Doing the France tour in 2008 great fun and I had such a good time, but it wasn’t the first time I’d been to France. In fact, I’d been going to France since I was 5 years old with my family.
We had this big Swift Speedbird 5 birth caravan that we’d drive all over France every 6 weeks summer holidays. We covered everywhere all over Brittany and down the West Atlantic coast. We even went down to Cannes on the Mediterranean coast too.
We didn’t half have some great times! I just loved the fact you could go on a campsite and everyone was friendly-yes even the French, it shocked me too! It gave me a certain feeling of independence living free from all the distractions we had back in England.
Aside from the good times we did have a few low moments too. In 2004, we were coming back from Brittany and we had a life threatening accident on the M5 near Birmingham. It was all very surreal to me, and it all happened in slow motion.
We’d come over from France on a Britney Ferries crossing the previous day and we’d set off home in the morning from Plymouth on what was essentially a full day driving.
We were towing the caravan on a big, powerful, green Volvo V70 Estate. It was the middle of the day and all was going well until an Arctic drove past and clipped the back of the caravan. We started snaking uncontrollably all over the middle of the Motorway. My Mum and Dad where in a state of panic trying to get the car under control. It was proving impossible and for a few minutes the car was being thrown side to side across all three lanes. I was sitting in the back right seat of the car, when I looked out the back window and saw three wagons had created a blockade across the three lanes about 100 yards behind us. I knew we were in trouble.
It all came to an end when we were thrown into the central reservation at 60 MPH, spinning uncontrollably on impact. I remember it all happened in slow motion. Apparently this is what happens when in shock.
The fact that all five of us came out unscaved was a testament to the Volvo. It was my first dance with the devil.
Skip forward a few years to when I started high school. We were still living in Haresfinch, St Helens when I enrolled at Rainford High in 2007. I was still tiny at this point, about 5ft, a real late grower. I went in there with the nickname Taz. Taz had derived from rugby, were after one particular match I got injured and the red mist had descended in from of my eyes. I was an angry little bastard when someone upset me. I still am now, but it takes a lot to get me really going, so it rarely happens.
As much as I loved primary, high school proved to even better in the first couple of years. I took up golf in around my second year.
It all started in the summer of 2008, in Blackpool of all places. Me, my younger sister Claire and a few cousins were staying at my Auntie Bev’s bungalow for a few days when she took us to a car boot sale. We used to pick up all sorts of useless shit that only ended up being horded in the garage anyway. But not this golf club I’d bought for 50p.
I was hooked instantly, hitting a golf ball up and down the beach front near Cleveleys every morning when we went for a walk along the beach front, narrowly avoiding the shopping trolleys and the dumped sofas-they made for good target practice.
I’d finally found something that was entirely controlled by me, and the golf club didn’t know how tall I was.
It wasn’t long before I got a full set of clubs, a junior set of Slazenger clubs- you know the real shitty ones they sold at JJB Sports, yeah, well they were the best things since sliced bread to me at the time and they made for a good starting point. I’d often go up to Sherdley Park municipal with my mate Joe who I met in my second year at Rainford.
At the same time about a year into high school I started junior lessons up at Grange Park Golf Club with a coach called Lee-who I’m sure, will be reading this. The reason I was up at Grange Park was because my Dad had done some work for Paul, the head Pro and he encouraged me to come up to the club for some lessons.
I was having lessons with Lee pretty much every week, learning the basics and starting an instant obsession at the same time. Rugby was becoming less and less of a thing by now, and golf was becoming more and more appealing. After all, I was still small for my age and I was getting the shit kicked out of me every week playing for Blackbrook Rugby Club, so it made more sense to me to ear towards golf. ‘’Why would I want to roll around in the mud and get battered every week when I can relax and play golf…and not get hurt’’ I thought.
Most lessons when the weather was nice Lee took me up to the practice area, either on a one to one basis or in the junior groups. To get to the practice area we had to walk halfway up the 10th hole, which ran off at 90 degrees from the clubhouse. ‘’The course looks amazing dad, it’s nothing like Sherdley’’ I told my Dad. It was immaculate and nothing like I’d ever seen before and that made me want to join.
There were some off putting features though that really intimidated, namely some of the old men who were really arrogant and spiteful towards new juniors. And at 12 years old, being the Taz Manian Devil, I was confused at how I should handle them-‘’should I tell them how I really feel? No it was too early for that yet’’ I thought. ‘’I’d probably end up being kicked out if I did that’’
Don’t get me wrong there were some lovely polite people there too. The women really made the effort with me, taking me round the course when I had friends to play with, teaching me the basic rules and etiquette at the club. They cared for me like one of their own, and they still do to this very day. Last year they got together and raised hundreds of pounds for me when they found out what had happened.
After a few months of golf I started having allergy problems…serious allergy problems!-Looking back on it now, I’m sure someone was out to get me. Everything I did there seemed to be an obstacle. My eyes were in a real bad state. They were all puffy and bloodshot red. I ended up at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool eventually, were I had this really nice ophthalmologist called Mr Nayak. He was a legend it my eyes (excuse the pun). He was an Indian chap, very polite and he always used to wear this bugs bunny tie. Sometimes I’d be in a consultation with him and we’d end up talking politics!
I was diagnosed with an allergic eye disease called ‘Allergic Rhinoconjunctivitus ‘. ‘Why why why?’ I thought. There was nothing we could do about it. I just got put on strong steroid eye drops and prescription anti histamines called ‘levo cetirizine’-the good stuff. I was like a zombie; anyone who takes drugs for heyfever will know what I mean. But it didn’t stop me from doing what I loved. Hitting golf balls endlessly on the practice range at Grange Park.