Stop 2: Kings Langley School

About a year ago when I did my last travelling trip I made a promise to one of my teachers that I would visit my old school one day and drop off a load of my books to the people that educated me, because to be fair if they didn’t do such a good job none of my books would exist anyway, or they would but they’d be absolutely terrible…

Now it was time for me to make good on my promise. Before I left Suffolk I brought my final ten copies of my first book with me. I let my music teacher know that I was on the way and she booked an appointment for me.

I walked through a rainstorm, but I finally made my way up the hill towards the school. I must admit a lot of memories I had as a fifteen year old came flooding back. I went in and was immediately aware that I wasn’t in fact a student anymore, and felt very uncomfortable walking around the premises.

The whole place was strangely cordoned off. I asked around how to get to reception (which is right at the front of the school, but you couldn’t get to it) and eventually made my way around the old music block and gym changing rooms to walk towards the three storey block. I was stopped by a man in a high-visibility jacket and I asked him if I could get to reception through there.

“Not through there mate, this is a demolition zone…” He replied firmly. Then he pointed towards the tennis courts and said I needed to walk that way. Only that the tennis courts didn’t exist anymore, instead there was a huge overwhelming building in its place, which I soon found out fit the whole school in the one building…

I nervously walked into reception and tried to point out that I wasn’t a weird bloke offering teenagers a bag of sweets and that I had a genuine reason for being there, I was then led to the music block by a sudent who seemed disinterested in everything. To be fair he was a teenager and I hated everything when I was that age.

I said hello to Mrs Mendelsohn and waited 15 minutes for her class to finish. While I waited I chatted to the other music teacher who talked proudly about her little girl. Once the class was over Mrs Mendelsohn said she was surprised to see me and thought I was coming after school, so long story short I had to go grab some lunch and come back after lunch was over.

Take two: I grabbed my bag of books and started handing them out to teachers. I gave one to Mrs Arnold and smiled as she said she recognized me (I reckon she was being polite…) and one to the library. I apologized and whispered that there were swear words in the book. the librarian laughed and said that it won’t be a problem.

We went on a tour around the whole school, which to be fair looked like a Scooby Doo cartoon because it all looked the same. At first I thought the music department was really good even though it wasn’t as good as the last music department (To be fair everything in that department was top of the range with loads of room), but when I saw how big some of the rooms were for technology for example, I felt bad for the music department because the classes were big, but not as big as they were in the old department. Plus there were only five music practice rooms when there used to be six.

Towards the end of the ‘tour’ we saw two kids who were about fourteen sitting outside the headmaster’s office. They were saying that they were about to be excluded from school for separate various reasons. When we left and went to the hall Mrs Mendelsohn started passionately praising the girl (whose name escapes me…) saying she loved music and was a great singer, but had very little interest in school.

This really resonated with me; I had issues at school that I don’t want to go into, but ultimately I had no interest in school and it showed. So as we went to reception to sign out I asked if I could give one of my books to the young girl. Mrs Mendelsohn said it was a good idea and I went to see the girl.

She’d gone somewhere, but the boy was still there. So I gave the boy the book and asked him to give the girl the book when she came back. I then gave a passionate speech saying that I hated school when I was younger and failed all my exams, but eventually I followed my passion, believed in myself and got to the position I am in today through hard work and belief. I don’t know if she got the book in the end or even had any interest in reading the book, but I would like to think a nice gesture like that would inspire her. In a world where there is so much negativity and you hear the word ‘should’ on a daily basis, for her to see someone who went to the same school as her, grew up in the same area as her and had the same issues in school as her not only do something with their life but genuinely believe in her could be the boost she needs. You never know what people’s home lives are like and some people don’t ever get that encouragement to keep pushing. Even if the gesture made her smile then I’ll be happy…

And just like that my visit was over. It wasn’t the school I recognized but I felt incredibly fortunate that the old school was still there and I could see it before they knocked it down. Really annoyingly I forgot to take a photo with Mrs Mendelsohn, but I’m pleased to report that she is happy and looking well. I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to Mrs Mendelsohn for taking the time out of her busy schedule to show me around the school and for being so accommodating. I wish you all the best in life and I hope we can keep in touch. All the best!

Oh, and enjoy your signed copy of the book, I hope you are not offended by it 😛

 

Book cover the price of fame

Click here or on the picture to buy this book on Amazon

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Stop 1: Watford

Here we go! My latest travelling trip which has no ending at the moment. The dream is that it will never end but realistically it will end somewhere in Europe where I’ll find teaching or hotel work, or going back to Thailand and teaching again as I have contacts still up there. Anyway back to the subject; My first port of call is weirdly enough back to where I grew up: Watford.

I stayed with a friend of mine who reads this blog and says he doesn’t want to be named in it, so I’ve decided to give him a pseudonym to protect his identity…

I got to Notdaryl’s place at 4 o’clock, it took a fair few hours because I had to get the London Underground to Liverpool Street, King’s Cross, Euston and then the slow train to Watford because the Liverpool Street train was late which had a knock on effect on all the other trains I got. I was greeted by his girlfriend Notkylie who went out of her way for me and let me treat the place like my own home.

Notdaryl had just come back from work and had jumped in the shower. We had a quick catch up and he asked what I wanted to do that evening. Being the assertive feather plucker that I am I replied “Whatever you want to do really, I’m not fussed…” So Daryl took charge and said that we can visit some of his mates that evening.

We first went to his dad’s house in Garston and I saw some people I hadn’t seen in years, plus some new random people who listened to me talk at them about my books until they slowly one by one left the room to drink more alcohol. They offered some to me and I thought it would be rude to say no, so I did a little jig and got myself McTipsy.

Next stop: Matt’s. Notdaryl was saying we were going to Matt’s and kept saying “You know Matt!…” Repeating his name until I panicked and nodded. When we got to his door he answered and confirmed that we’d never met before.

“OH, I KNOW SAUSAGE!!!” Shouted a voice from the kitchen. (Sausage being my nickname from school. Don’t ask…) turn’s out that his missus/wife/humanofoppositesexheschosentolivehislifeoutwith was none other than Sarah. A girl who means nothing to you as a random reader but trust me I’m getting there… Sarah was one of the girls I knew from around the estate I grew up in. I’d never had an actual conversation with her when we were younger but I played football for Everett Rovers with her brother (Back then at football I was – how can I put this politely? Fucking horrendous…) So I knew of her.

Fair play to them, showing how good Watford hospitality is, they offered me ample alcohol and treated me like I had been a friend for years. We then went into Matt’s mancave and he had some proper arcade machines and a fuseball table. We pretended we were teenagers again and played until we got bored, then it was time to say our goodbyes and go back to Notdaryl’s…

Notkylie’s sister Jess was staying as well, and me trying to show off about where I’ve lived and the places I’ve slept before, decided to brag that I could sleep anywhere, and took the smallest sofa to sleep on. Serves me fucking right really; five minutes into scrunching myself on the sofa I thought to myself “This was a terrible idea!”and slipped onto the floor. Fortunately for me the floor was pretty comfortable and I almost instantly fell asleep…

Saturday consisted of similar things, except we went to the pub for a few hours to watch Arsenal annihilate Chelsea (Notdaryl is an Arsenal fan, so he was happy!) then a few of us went back to his and sampled some Thai whisky that my students from Guildford gave me, we chatted about the finer things in life and then passed out one by one like some kind of bizarre Big Brother spin-off…

Sunday, roast dinner, Notkylie cooked it. It was bitching. That is all…

I’m lying, that’s not all, I met Notkylie’s daughters and they were so well behaved and polite. Notkylie was singing their praises before they came around and I could see why; she’s got some great kids there…

On Monday I went to Kings Langley School to drop off some books to my former teachers. I then went back to Leavesden and knocked on a couple of doors to see people. They weren’t in but I had a chinwag with their respective parents. Then I went home because it was time for my farewell dinner:

GLOBAL…..BUFFET!!!!! It was Ronsill quick drying woodstain; a buffet with food from around the world. I met more members of Notdaryl’s family including an uncle who jokingly mocked my size saying how I’d never eat twenty quid’s worth.

Challenge accepted…

If we were playing Mortal Kombat, you would have said ‘flawless victory’, if we were playing Street Fighter you would have said ‘perfect!’ if we were playing…well, you get the idea… I won his respect, and because of that I could sleep soundly for at least one more night…

And just like that it was time to go. I couldn’t thank Notdaryl and Notkylie enough for their hospitality. Seriously, words cannot express how grateful I am. Most of all, it was good to see them and catch up with them again. Maybe in a few years I’ll be in a position where I can return the favour, but for now it’s on to the next part of my journey…

Norwich Castle – in, err… Norwich…

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Norwich canal, just by the train station

Last week I cashed in my holiday before I leave for my next trip (which I hope goes better than the last one!) and went to Mersea island on the first day. I also went to Cambridge to meet up with my former students that are living in Guildford at the moment, but on the Tuesday after hearing rave reviews about the place I made my way up to Norfolk, to see Norwich and what it had to offer…

I got there and was greeted by stunning historical buildings. To be fair I’ve noticed the history that England has to offer far more since I’ve been back, however I made my way through the town and started asking directions as to where the castle may be.

Me: Excuse me mate,

Waiting for a mate: <Looks at me in pure panic>

Me: Sorry to bother you, you wouldn’t know where the castle is, would you?

Waiting for a mate: Yeah sure, it’s just there <points behind him to a huge building about 150 yards away from him>

Me: <smiles> Oh, you mean that big thing that looks like a castle?

Waiting for a mate: <laughs> Yeah, that’s the one!

So I headed off to the monsterous castle-like building and went in, only to find it had been converted into a study centre. I walked in disappointed and saw only a couple of bits of historical interest displayed. Eventually the lady behind the counter told me that the museum had moved and was in the actual castle (apparently it was the castle but it wasn’t the castle…), and the main castle area was a 100 metre walk down the road.

It wasn’t hard to find, and I wasn’t disappointed either. It cost around £7 to get in and I could have paid an extra few pounds for the dungeon tour, which I was interested in, but I would have had to wait an extra 2 hours before it started. So I bought a basic ticket and started exploring…

The castle was of historical interest twice over; not only because of the obvious fact it was a castle and was used as such (to house royalty, to fend off attacks from overseas and from West Ham’s GSE firm on matchday, etc…) but it had also been converted into a prison for 500 years before it finally became a museum, and the downstairs part of the castle showed how people lived in the castle while it was a prison, and had many displays of prisoners, what they had done and how they were treated.

Back to the main castle area, There was one corner of the castle that had originally been intended to be a spiral stairwell, but the idea was abandoned half way through building it and was used from then on as a large open fire to cook food that needed reheating. On this open fire display you could look down and see the staircase where it had been half built.

The final part of the museum was interesting to say the least, because it was a far more modern part of the building and had all sorts of things on display, from statues of animals to old crockery to rare rocks that geologists would go mental over. I took a final look around everywhere and then headed off to find some food.

I fancied something nice and easy, something like a McDonalds, except I couldn’t find a McDonalds in the town centre (Maybe Norwich is too upmarket for peasant food like McDonalds…) Eventually I stumbled upon the market, and thought I’d grab myself some proper Thai food cooked by Thai people who would be amazed by my broken Thai, only to find there were no Thai food stalls, only burger huts.

A quarter pounder with cheese and onions was only £1.70 though, and I enjoyed the fact I was eating something that wasn’t mass produced, it was from a basic stall that some lady rented and was trying to make an honest living. You can’t hate something like that. One thing I learned about living in Thailand is how everyone supports each other and local businesses, so if I’m contributing to that even if it’s ever so slightly, then I’m happy that people like her are using their initiative and making a living rather than feeding more money into the worldwide chains. If only this thought process was the majority then it would create so many more jobs for people, as more shops would open as opposed to everyone cramming into Gregg’s everyday…

I was knackered, so I headed to the train station and went home. Before I got there though I popped into the pub I work in on weekends and gave my boss a box of Belgian chocolates for helping me get this week off (I had no idea I was entitled to it, and I would have left without cashing it in). As I was walking to the pub I walked past a group of schoolkids and one girl moaned, “Awwwww… He’s got Guylian…”

“Yes I do…” I smirked to myself as I walked past them. Then when I got to the pub and gave my boss the chocolates she not only gave me a free drink but gave me the pool table keys so I could play free pool whilst I was there. It may be hard work there but there’s no denying that they treat you like you are part of one big family there, which I think is one of the main draws as to why the place is so successful.

Then I went home to write some more of my book and finally get a well earned sleep. I’m about a third of the way through this book, so I’m hoping to finish it by the end of the year, but we’ll see what happens. As long as I don’t lose the entire file like I did with my seventh book I don’t really care to be honest. It’ll be done when its done…

Mersea Island – Somewhere near Colchester…

Some guests at the hotel I’m working at were from a place called Mersea Island. They said it was a great place to visit while I’m still in the area.

Challenge accepted…

I’m leaving in a couple of weeks to travel around England and then to make my way through Europe in search of work, fun, memories and the occasional drunken mishap that I hope no one ever finds out about… So since I’m leaving very soon, now is a better time than ever to start exploring, especially since one of my bosses helped me bag a weeks worth of holiday pay at my other job, so this week I’m exploring the cities around me, starting with Mersea Island.

I had to get the train from Needham Market to Ipswich and then onto Colchester. There is nowhere to buy tickets in Needham Market so you have to buy them on the train. Only for there to be no conductor selling tickets. Cue my anxiety going into overload when I got into Ipswich (damn this anxiety, I hope it pisses off soon!) Then I thought not to worry, as I can buy a ticket on the train to Colchester.

Yeah… Turns out there wasn’t a conductor on that train either, which let me to nervously say to the staff at the ticket turnstyle that I didn’t have a ticket. I stupidly said that I came from Ipswich (I put it down to being half asleep) to which they asked why I hadn’t bought a ticket at the station. When I told them I originally came from Needham they warned me to say Needham in the future or I could be fined.

Crisis averted! I made my way to the town and got the number 67 bus to West Mersea. I walked for a bit until I saw a cafe called Art Cafe. I laughed because there was a bloke in Thailand who would always fucking talk about the art cafe in Chiang Mai and I went in solely because of that.

I ordered my food and asked where the toilet was. I had to go through a corridor to get there. As I came out I heard someone shout out in frustration “Oh for fucks sake!” I looked around the door and saw the chef looking angrily into the fridge. Of course, the natural reaction was for me to say “For fucks sake is right, what have they done now?” As I walked around the door. He obviously didn’t know I was there and looked embarrassed before moaning about how someone hadn’t stocked up the fridge properly…

Hilariously he came to my table five minutes later and said “I’m really sorry but we’ve run out of dip for your chilli doritos (that came with the sandwich), so that was what the fucks sake was about. Don’t worry, I’ll give you extra chips and extra coleslaw instead…”

The food was really good! I liked the chef even more because he came across as a normal person, and the food that mattered (the food he made, not just ordered in…) was superb. Then I made my way to the beach and had a nice relaxing walk along the beach. The last time I did that was in Puerto Galera in The Philippines last year, so it was nice to be alone with my thoughts…

On the way back down the beach I saw a girl about my age walking four dogs, throwing a tennis ball in the sea for them to swim and catch it. I made a passing friendly hello to her and she responded by chatting away to me like an old friend.

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I must have been giving off some sexual predator vibes or something because she seemed to drop in the conversation very quickly completely unprovoked that she had a boyfriend. I ignored this and steered the conversation towards why I was there and what was worth seeing on the island. She made a few obscure references to places on the island that made me smile and nod my head politely, but the general gist was to follow the coastline and see the beauty this town had to offer. Then one of the dogs decided to run up to me soaking wet and then shake himself dry all over me. Thanks dog…

So we parted ways without me committing any kind of sexual assault (I swear!) And I made my way down the coast. I stopped in a local fish shop and thought I’d try some jellied eels. I learnt something about myself that day; I found out I don’t like jellied eels…

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The post box that was in the news last week after it had been painted gold because of Saskia Clark’s gold medal in Rio. Yon can see it’s been sloppily painted back so it still has gold paint splattered on it…

Then I went on a walk around the public footpath through a few fields, eating a few berries that probably weren’t poisonous and doing a loop back to where I started, then I grabbed the bus back to Colchester and walked around there for a bit to see what it was like. Then on the way back to the station I saw the girl who gave me directions to the town centre was just shutting up her shop. I thanked her and said I found Mersea Island and that it was definitely worth visiting from its tranquility alone. She sounded like she didn’t give a shit…

I was soon back in Needham Market. Straight to work in fact because the guy who was working was sick and there was no one else to cover him. I finished work at around 11:15 and when I got home I was too tired to write some more of my book which annoyed me because I don’t like coming up with excuses why I’m not progressing.

Oh yeah, you’re writing a book still aren’t you? How’s that going?

Not too bad actually, even though I didn’t add to my book on Monday, I’ve still been writing every other day. I’m at over 25,000 words now and it’s getting to the stage where it’s all connecting. So much so that I’m really excited to find out where this book is going to take me. That’s when you know the book is going to be good. I was worried at first because I wasn’t as excited about this book as I was with the others, but now I’m getting that same rush back and it puts a smile on my face to know that my eighth book will be just as good, if not better than my first. And as I read that back it feels really cool!

So yeah! Summary: Mersea Island is worth seeing and the book is coming along nicely. If I was a millionaire I’d buy a small home in Mersea, but I’m not, so travelling it is, which to be fair isn’t a bad second prize…