Things were starting to improve a great deal for me and it was mainly to do with my training three times a week.
Now, this is widely known and many more people go to the gym or do some form of exercise.
Back in the 90s, this was a rarity and there weren’t many people who hit the gym regularly.
It felt like I had discovered the best-kept secret in the world.
As not many trained it took a while to see the positive correlation between my attitude and training.
All of my life I’ve trained in one capacity or another from boxing, Thai boxing, BJJ, wrestling, karate, and the gym.
As you have read so far and you will read in later blogs I’ve had some serious demons in my life.
These were largely kept at bay from hard intense training and later on, when I injured my back and couldn’t train for close to 18 months this was one of the darkest times of my life.
I will go into a lot more detail about this in the later blogs but as for now, I’m just laying the framework.
Boxing had improved everything around me as I wasn’t so hostile and my confidence had skyrocketed.
The only drawback from this was I seemed to be fighting a lot in school.
Looking back about 90 percent of this could have been avoided.
I was scared to become a victim especially after what had happened in the past and now with a new school year full of people I didn’t know I wanted to make sure nobody laid a hand on me.
This is quite a destructive way of thinking but even now in this modern time, I don’t know another way of dealing with things like this.
If you fight in school now you are expelled if this was in place when I was at school I wouldn’t have made it past the first year.
I understand that attitudes have changed considerably since the 90s but wearing pink ribbons to say your anti-bullying doesn’t do the victim any favours.
Telling the teacher and becoming a rat also marks you for the rest of your school life and there is no going back from this.
The flip side to this though is very positive. I’ve seen many quite unassuming kids go into fight gyms and within a couple of months, they are a completely different person.
The bullying has stopped and they are not spending their lives scared and miserable.
The first time I tried Brazilian Ju-Jujitsu in 2011 was such a humbling experience. I didn’t think I would show up and start owing people but when a 120 pounds 19-year-old kid with jam jar glasses is tying you up in knots without breaking a sweat you can’t help thinking to yourself wait a fucking minute.
Back to the story and the boxing became a lot more intense and it wasn’t just pads and circuits anymore. We would also run around the fords car factory which I think was around 2 miles and Neil and the other trainers started to take us on the pads.
They would sharpen our reaction times and it would teach us to move out the way and the most important lesson that the punchbag doesn’t hit back but an opponent would.
Then the trainers started to play psychological games with us to teach us to push on.
The buzzer would sound to tell us it was rest time and they would scream at us to keep going.
Many people threw up or at times couldn’t continue but all of us wanted to be here so nobody complained.
We then would play other games with medicine balls where we would have to race to the centre of the ring, wrestle the opponent who was picked at random then get the ball back to your corner.
I remember getting put against this lad about my size and him beating me in about thirty seconds.
I was pissed off but not angry I just didn’t like being beaten and I understood my footwork was off.
I kept watching the rounds and the lad who beat me was called back into the ring.
Before Neil had a chance to pick anyone I jumped back in the ring taking the trainer and the lad who beat me by surprise.
I grabbed him and wouldn’t let him get his footing. He was faster than me but I was stronger so I kept moving him so he couldn’t get on even ground with his feet.
I pushed him almost out of the ring and got the ball back to my corner.
All of the trainers were cheering as they had seen my reaction to getting beaten earlier.
There was no malice involved and the lad even laughed and shook hands with me afterwards and this was exactly what the trainers were trying to install in us.
In school things were getting better as well as the teachers left me alone as I was no longer disrupting the lessons.
I still didn’t have a clue what I was doing a lot of the time but that was OK for many of the teachers as they were more interested in a quiet life instead of doing their job.
Then for the first time in a while, I got a nice surprise from the school.
Miss. Kitchen called me into her office to tell me that I was no longer on the report.
Luckily for me, she was not vindictive like many other teachers and she genuinely wanted me to do well.
She was impressed with my change in attitude and told me she didn’t want to see me on the report again.
A lot of this change was because of boxing and I still got angry in school and people still pissed me off but I had an outlet to get rid of my rage.
Miss. Kitchen had not made the connection to the spike in fights I was having in the schoolyard or after school either.
I would get a detention and a bollocking for this but I was used to staying behind after school so it was no real hardship.
Miss. Kitchen loved the fact I would always tell her the truth as well and I never went through school twatting people for nothing.
Why were you fighting?
He hit me.
You should have come and told a teacher
OK year detention
Why were you fighting
He was taking the piss out of me
Why didn’t you tell a teacher?
OK year detention.
The thing is the fights died down after a while people don’t tend to bother you when they see your game to throw down with them and you can fight so at the time I was in a happy and secure place.
Then when I thought things could not get any better I learned that we would be going to Colomendy again for a week.
My experiences were not great here but a lot had happened since I was last there and besides, it was a week out of school away from home.
We seemed to get there very quickly which confused me because when making the journey as a kid it seemed to take forever.
John Farrell, Billy Collins, Ian Black, and I all sat together so glad to be having a week away and it was also a relief to see the teachers looking so relaxed.
I was right in my thinking and the week wasn’t a patch on the horrible experience that I had when I went with my old school.
It seemed they had scrapped the 1972 safety brief now and the only thing we had to do was a fire drill which took us thirty minutes at most.
The first night we were all in bunk beds with our friends and Mr. Harvey told us that we were on holiday so it was OK to have a chat with our friends.
He instantly regretted it because as soon as he left the dormitory everyone kicked off.
Not in a violent way but for the most part, everyone started making screaming sex noises and shouting out each other’s mum’s names.
I remember having tears in my eyes laughing as Peter Bell was in the next bed to me and he was screaming
Beryl oh Beryl
Chris was laughing but screaming back
Oh Eileen Oh Eileen oh yeah
I’m pretty sure I dished a lot of this out and within minutes we were all screaming the dorm down.
Harvey came charging back into the dorm going ballistic.
Right stand up outside your beds
How dare you abuse my trust you have all let yourselves down
We all stood there with our heads down and took the bollocking. he was right we had taken the piss big time and then we were ordered back into bed.
Harvey slammed the door behind him and you could hear a pin drop as everyone was silent.
Everyone was wide awake but didn’t dare speak then someone farted and it sounded and smelt like they had shit themselves.
This was better than winning the lottery when you are 12 and we were all pissing ourselves laughing.
This was twice as hard because we were trying to be quiet but failing badly.
We were not quiet enough and we started talking to each other as the dirty bastard who farted had got rid of the tension in the air but replaced it with what smelt like a slaughtered cow.
Then the inevitable happened and suddenly the dormitory filled with light.
This time we were in trouble as Miss. Kitchen was in the middle of the dorm and she was furious.
She made it very clear that if she had to get up again we would all be in a world of shit.
We all lay in our sleeping bags listening and we knew she meant business.
She left the dorm and we realised that we were taking the piss a bit now and went to sleep.
We also didn’t want to be half-dead when abseiling off cliffs or when canoeing so we played the game and went to sleep.
We were all waiting to go out for the afternoon and we were told that any fighting or bullying we would be sent home no questions asked.
We learned that Wayne Bassnett had been sent home for going too far with a practical joke.
There was a Pakistani boy called Shoabe who spoke with a thick American accent.
I’m not sure what the deal was with Shoabe as he left after the first year of high school and we never saw him again.
I think his dad worked for an international bank but I can’t be sure as we didn’t speak so often.
We were getting ready to go out for the afternoon and Wayne smashed a stink bomb on Shoabes back.
Shoabe not realising Wayne could fight slapped him across the face and shouted come on man let’s go in his American accent.
Wayne was pissed off from getting slapped so he battered Shoabe.
I don’t think Wayne meant things to get out of hand like this but he wasn’t going to let anyone hit him either so he ended up getting sent home and Shoabe stayed.
I’ll talk more about Wayne later as it will fit into a funny story I have about him and how I would be mates with him years later.
All of the pupils and teachers were sat by a lake after the day relaxing and suddenly we all heard Mr. Harvey kicking off.
Even Mr. Harvey was surprised until we realised Woody had secretly recorded our bollocking from the night before.
Luckily Harvey could take a joke and this happened many more times throughout the week.
When we were least expecting it we would hear ourselves being played back on tape.
You would think we would get sick of this but quite the opposite it seemed to get funnier each time.
At night we would go to the shop and get crisps and coke and all relax out in the sun.
I had brought a lot of Viz comics to read and someone would always borrow them and the teachers were surprisingly ok with us reading them.
For those who don’t know The Viz was a comic for adults who have run since 1979.
In the mid-90s, it was the third best-selling comic in the UK after The dandy and The Beano.
It still sells but I haven’t bought it for years. It’s not just me who says this but it just isn’t funny anymore.
I think they must have fired all of the good writers as I remember fondly pissing myself laughing on dozens of occasions.
It speaks volumes that this now sells about 50000 a year when in the 90s it was selling millions.
Well, it was great while it lasted but I feel now they should either get the old writers back or just give it up completely.
I remember someone also brought a pocket TV and we were all desperate to watch it.
I remember even back then being bored with it in about ten minutes
The signal was awful and the screen was tiny but then it was the 90s.
I remember John Farrell was locked into the pocket TV and I kept messing with him.
Leave me alone
I kept on winding him up
Arlo Fuck off I’m trying to watch it then the room went silent
Harvey was stood behind him and all eyes were on us then Harvey said without missing a beat
Yes Arlo he’s trying to fucking watch it
The whole room broke down laughing and Harvey left the dorm pleased with our reaction.
We were to do a self-defence class that day and I unknown at the time was about to meet one of my closest friends in my later years.
The class was run by a guy called Dwayne Whitaker and he was 16 years older than us.
We didn’t become mates for a few years later but right away I knew I liked him.
His class was hilarious and interesting and he got us all involved from the very start.
I would find out that he was a third Dan black belt in Taekwondo.
I’m skipping forward a bit here just for context.
Dwayne was a wheeler-dealer and he was always up to something trying to make a few quid.
When I trained in the Venus gym years later he would come in with robbed Ralph Lauren shirts and other stuff he was into at the time.
I would see him sporadically over the next few years but he was always nice and would always stop to talk.
Dwayne knew everyone and was well respected but he always gave everyone the same respect which said a lot about his character.
When I left the army in 2002 Dwayne and I became very close. He had worked on the nightclub doors for years and we seemed to have a lot of mutual friends.
We also seemed to end up at the same parties and like myself, Dwayne could go missing for days.
One of the things which stuck out though with Dwayne is both me and he had a relationship outside of partying and he has over the years helped me out of some very difficult situations.
I’ve always returned the favour and luckily it’s never got so serious.
It’s a lot more reassuring when you are in trouble and there is a crew of lads ready to back you.
Most of the time this could be sorted with a phone call and most of the time things were quashed quickly.
Another reason I had so much time for Dwayne is he was by my side both during my success and in my darkest days.
It’s easy to be someone’s mate when your all making money and the champagne is flowing.
When I went to rehab for cocaine addiction and walked away from that life he stayed loyal to me and nothing changed between us.
We didn’t see as much of each other as he was still mixing with a lot of people who I had to avoid to get clean.
The only time I was pissed off with him is when he got sent to prison.
I found out that he was in trouble six months after he had been locked up.
Typical Dwayne just kept it to himself but If I knew he was away I would have sent him some stuff and even gone to see him.
Dwayne was involved with a counterfeit money gang and he found out the hard way that one of the lads who came in towards the end was an undercover cop.
He was given two and a half years in prison and he served half of that.
One thing which turned my stomach was the police trying to get the gang to incriminate themselves further.
The officer kept trying to persuade Dwayne and his crew to take the money into various casinos.
They refused to do that and quite luckily to as they would have been looking at at least ten years each.
Here is a link to the story below
When he got out he was the same and it never really affected him although it took him a while to get back on his feet financially.
Typical Dwayne got locked up, went to prison, and knew everyone in there so he had no problems.
Dwayne, unfortunately, died in 2015 he was sick for a while and had been in for numerous surgeries.
I can’t remember what was wrong with him but I know he had complications during surgery and he died on the table and I was devastated.
He had in his last few years been running a nightclub security team in Spain and his boss was paying for his flights there and back weekly.
He was getting well looked after and was making decent money.
He was still training in the gym and was quite healthy apart from his conditions but when he was suddenly gone it was a shock to us all.
It was more of a shock that we met in a passing encounter and became so close.
I went to his funeral in 2015 but I wouldn’t go to the wake.
It would be full of booze and cocaine and that was the last place I needed to be when in a low place.
It likely wouldn’t have made me spiral but why take the chance?
I know he would have understood if he had been alive and I said my goodbyes at his funeral.
I still think about Dwayne a lot he was one of life’s good guys and he was so good to me in the time I knew him.
Once in a while he would piss me off when he would ring me at a random party on a Tuesday afternoon from the weekend and I would have to go and get him and take him home but I couldn’t stay mad for long.
I feel it important to tell Dwayne’s story now as even though he will likely feature in later blogs I’ve learned from experience that this blog has gone in a completely different direction than I expected so rather early than never.
You’ve never forgotten Dwayne not just by me but by many people you’re missed greatly.
Back to the story and we left Colomendy after a fun week of relaxing and we were ready to go back to school after the weekend feeling refreshed and ready to continue.
I was off the school report and was training hard and things were happy for the moment.