2012 was an interesting year. I was still small at around 5ft 3’…still shorter than my Dad and around the same height as my Mum, but I wasn’t expecting much as both sides of the family were short with then only exception being the men on my Mum’s side-there was still hope yet even though I felt I had more characteristics from my Dad.
Whilst my height hadn’t grown though, I was certainly developing as a person, in part due to the golf club and partly due to leaving school. My older sister Laura regularly called me ‘an old man’ because I acted a bit more serious than usual and probably because golf is perceived historically as an old man’s sport-yes golf is a sport. Not that it bothered me though; I quite liked being a bit more mature than the average 16 year old.
It was not long after I’d finished my last GCSE exam in the May of 2012 that I started work. I went into the family business, a small building company based in St Helens that had been started back in 1978 by my grandad-on my Dad’s side- and passed down to my dad when he passed away in 2001. I was gutted that I didn’t get to know my grandad properly, being only 5 years old when he passed.
I was to train as a bricklayer, much like my dad and his dad before me. Bricklaying was something I was interested in because I just generally liked building things, be it Lego when I was a young kid-who didn’t like Lego-or an igloo when it snowed. It was just something I enjoyed.
I was to start at St Helens College at September of that year doing a two year NVQ and diploma apprenticeship. St Helens College wasn’t a great place to be, at least not the ‘technology campus’ in which most construction trades were taught anyway. I didn’t really relate to most of the students there, they were very different to me. I felt I had had a better upbringing than most of them and I didn’t act the same as them, as I said earlier I was much more mature than my peers of my own age. For example they still wore chavvy clothes and they couldn’t think for themselves, I’d think of them more as sheep as many people are at that age, following their mates rather than voicing their own opinion as they think it’s cool. Furthermore a lot of them were into drugs and smoking, which really wasn’t my thing. I’d never tried drugs or smoking and I had no interest in sneaking off for a ‘quick spliff’ when the teachers weren’t looking.
Not all of them were like that at the college though; there were some good eggs whom I quickly became friends with. I was mates with a lad a few years older than me, he too was called Chris and another lad my age called Kurtis. The three of us actually had brains and didn’t do drugs and we generally cared a bit more than the others. This was because we actually had jobs but the classes got grouped together with the ones who didn’t have jobs and didn’t really care that much. A lot of the ones without jobs just seemed to be there to fill the time although it would be unfair of me to say that they were all like that.
Our tutor was a funny guy called Ged, a proper eccentric. I liked Ged a lot, mainly because of his brilliant sense of humour which matched up with mine seamlessly. He used to have a laugh with all the students take the micky out of them if there work wasn’t up to scratch. He only meant it jokingly though and it was good to see teacher who seemed more human than the ones teaching useless algebra at school.
I only went to college one day a week and I worked the other 4 days, mainly with my colleagues Mick and Mark who did the civils side of the work we undertook. Mick, our labourer was a good worker and a funny guy but not funny in a jokey kind of way. I found him funny in some of the things he’d come out with as he’s very much a no shit kind-of guy. Mark, our bricklayer on the other hand had more of a sense of humour, as many people do within construction. I could relate and understand Mark more as he’s much more calculated like myself and he was easy to get along with. I have to admit though, I often wondered what they thought of me. Did they like me? Did they feel I was intruding on what they’d been for many years before I came along? In truth I didn’t know but I didn’t let it bother me. Mick would often joke that I was ‘a spy’ ready to report on anything they did wrong. I wasn’t and I knew my place when they came out with things like that. My usual response was ‘well you’re not doing anything wrong are you?’ I must admit even I’d find it hard to have a comeback to that. Overall we got on fine though, so I was happy.
After about a year in work I was starting it to grow- a miracle by some stretch. Why had it taken this long? I was 17 by this point. Many of my mates had beards and deep voices by this age but I still sounded more like Joe ‘squeak’ Pasquale and had little more than blonde fluff on my face. I still wasn’t interested in girls and my sisters thought I was gay at that point. I wasn’t gay in the slightest though I just couldn’t be bothered with girls as I liked playing golf more-after all, golf wouldn’t nag me would it?…plus if I started with girls then I wouldn’t have as much time at my favourite place-the practice area at Grange Park-and then I wouldn’t be happy.
Golf was going well by the time I’d been in work for a year and I managed my work-golf time well. I’d been in working with my new coach Adrian who was a little more technical than my previous coach Lee. Adrian was based in Warrington-the enemy of St Helens in rugby league- and he often coached on the European Tour circuit, which just went to show how good he was. I liked being technical and being the small, short hitting teenager I was, I wanted to be able to hit the ball better thus improving my distances, and the only way to do so was to get more technical.
Golf was still causing havoc with my eyes though at that age. The fresh grass and the landscape in the summer meant pollen counts were high and being on a golf course wasn’t the best place to be when I still had my allergic eye disease-allergic rhinoconjunctivitus. I was still under the care of my friendly Indian ophthalmologist consultant Mr Nayak-whom I greatly respected- at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool and everything I did made his job that much harder. He didn’t like that I played golf and worked in a dusty environment for obvious reasons, it made the problem worse. There were only limited control measures I could use at the time so it resulted in me being on steroid eye drops pretty much all the time. The problem was though, I couldn’t take them all the time as they did damage to my eyes long term. Just one of many dilemmas and one of many medical problems that was to come.
When would it end?