I have something in common with Anne Widdecombe. We both lived on the Andover Estate in Holloway, London Borough of Islington. I lived there between 1976-85 when I was aged 11 – 20. She lived there for a week for a tv documentary after which she described the place as a dump. The estate is better without her constant presence. When we (my three sisters and mother) moved there we experienced for the first time, indoor toilets, a bathroom, central heating, and finally, a bedroom to myself.
It was quite an adjustment to make living in north London. All my friends who I’d spent the previous 11 years with were scattered mostly around other council estates in the London Borough of Southwark to make way for a new park being laid out. In the summer of 1976 I went to Cyprus for the first time, returned to attend Paragon School near Old Kent Road for three weeks. And then moved house and started attending Tollington Park Secondary School. I was put in Mr Metcalfe’s class, he was a games teacher. My experience of secondary school left me with the conclusion that games teachers were amongst the most sadistic members of the human race as I witnessed on one occasion a pupil being slippered, not by my form teacher but another. Classmates included Robert Lucas, Simon Mwaniki, Bill Langmead, John Keenan and Diane-Mary Tackaberry. Other classmates included Jennifer Manyan, Androulla Prodroumu, Lorna Pemberton, Raymond Dyer, George Spyrou, Costas, Charles Buchanan, Oguz Celik, Samantha Benjamin, Austin Bowler and Kirsty Allen.
My early years in secondary school saw me become quite introverted, spending play time sitting quietly reading The Sun, and later the Daily Star whilst others played football. My passion for football returned in 1989 when I was 24 and coincided with Palace’s promotion to the First Division as the Premier League was called then.
Music has always been a big part of my life. From watching Top of the Pops in the early 70s onwards. My first obsession was Elvis. Presley that is, although I have more time for Costello nowadays. My first record I purchased was a Carpenters single. The first one I’m now still proud to own is Gangsters by The Specials, it was 1979 and I was 14. That was my year zero musically, although getting into ska took me back to the 60s eventually. The 2 tone look was something I embraced, I had the suit, the Ben Sherman shirt and the moccasins. The DM’s didn’t get worn till later but Monkey Boots were. Combined with a no 1 crop it was a look that confused some, it was a cross between a Mod and a Skinhead.
By 1981 it was all over, as quickly as the Pistols arrived and went. I got into UB40, Dexy’s and new wave. I liked bands like Orange Juice and Wah. Then Ian Curtis hung himself and I listened to Joy Division. I couldn’t get into most of it apart from New Dawn Fades and second side of second LP. Then Blue Monday came out. My tastes were veering towards what I could dance to, David Bowie, Blancmange, Kraftwerk and others around this time (early 80’s). Even early Spandau Ballet. But then they became a pop band. Just like Wham.
The first live band I saw was Madness at the Lyceum. Unfortunatly they attracted a lot of nazi’s then who were chanting ‘seig heil’ through the quieter moments. Suggs and the rest got off the fence not long after and made it clear they were unwelcome at their gigs afterwards.
Family life got in the way of my interest for some time but as my boys were growing up we developed a shared love for The Strokes and The Libertines. By now I was too skint to buy music and I’d grown tired of wading through Max Bygraves at Car Boot sales. That’s when I learnt how to download and wow, the world really was my oyster, no longer hunting around in record shops.
I went from a progressive primary school to a progressive secondary school. No uniforms. At least not after the first year when everyone soon realised no one else wore one. I managed to avoid the fashion disaster of Farah’s that the soul boys thought were the height of cool, ha! How wrong they were, they still look like something you wear when you’re retired and shop in M&S.
Years 4 and 5 were an opportunity to ditch science forever and do subjects I wanted. I chose English Literature, Geography, Woodwork and Technical Drawing. I caught appendicitis on a geography field trip and spent an extra week in Airedale General Hospital near Keighley. The NHS refused my mums insistence that I was helicoptered back to the Whittington Hospital in Archway. As well as options I made new friends, George Karpasitas who was from a good communist family, and Gilroy Aubin, who frankly, was a little intense, and Jeff Cochran. I’m not mentioning the girls. My English teacher was a stern Scottish woman called Miss McDonald. Yes, Miss, despite being a mature woman. No man captured her heart. She put us into the English O level a year early ‘for the sake of practice’. Most of us passed. Alas I peaked too early and none of my educational experiences saw me reach the same heights of success. .
I first got paid for work when I helped out a stall holder on East Street market in Walworth when I was about 10, I think I got 30p then. I then at age 14 started working two evenings and Saturdays at Gibber of Holloway. This was a fruit & veg retailer and wholesaler, two different sections, one for general public, the other for restaurant owners or those who wanted boxes and crates of fruit and veg, not just a few pounds of this and that. My job was to bag up olives with some lemon slices and cloves of garlic for the Mediterranean population locally. I then went ‘on the bag’ where I sold directly to customers a few selected items which they otherwise didn’t want to have to join a queue for. Sweet potatoes were tried and found to be a big success but generally it was bagged up citrus fruits. My pay was 40p an hour. After a little while I asked the ‘guv’ for a pay rise. ‘Do you think you’re worth it?’ he asked. There was no going back, only one possible reply to such a question. I thereby acquired a pay rise up to 65p a week. No trade unions in the workplace there. I worked there for about two years and was known by the staff as Jack. The one and only time I’ve not been known by my name.
I acquired my feelings of injustice about society gradually. One incident I clearly remember was a trip to Harrods where I was spoken to rudely by a member of the sales staff who was annoyed with my sabotaging the sale of a piano to a posh kid out with his parents. I think I might have been 13 at the time and the number 14 bus went all the way from Hornsey Rise to Knightsbridge.
Last week I should have mentioned that when working for first 40p and then 65p an hour my wages were supplemented by tips which I acquired when I used to carry out boxes of fruit and veg to customers vehicles. The heaviest items were sacks of onions and potatoes but by lifting them onto my shoulder this spread the weight across my body and was less likely to result in me having bruised feet by dropping items by cradling them towards my chest.
Being Turkish in London with parents with limited English meant I had to spend some of my childhood working as an interpreter when my mother had some business to attend to at the DHSS or Citizens Advice. Being quite good at writing I remember getting asked to write sick notes for my neighbour who was bunking off school. I used to bunk off school one day per academic year and see the sights of London on the bus.
One of the highlights of my school years were school trips away from home. My year group had several over the years but studying geography meant field trips to Yorkshire and Abergavenny. When I studied photography in the sixth form that was another nice trip. On my first trip I managed to lose the rest of the group on a trip in Canterbury so used public transport to travel back to Deal.
Things I recommend; reading. I’d started reading the Guardian in 1980, still do.
2 tone – punk ska fusion, and anti racist politics, what’s not to like?
Public transport in London
Things I don’t recommend; following the crowd. It was pretty lonely being into 2 tone but it got me a lot of respect, and interest from girls.