MY LEGS Story..........
As the title suggests this is going to be an unusual story about my legs. It`s has been prompted by the present surgery circumstances and difficulties that have arisen from being unable to continue my life in the usuals way.
But first lets go back a few years, to a time when I was a young boy of about 10 years old. I was in the primary school and lived just across the road from the school, a quick run over the zebra crossing and I was home. Mum was always pleased to see me again and of course the cup of tea went down well. I didn`t always go direct home as there were a couple of bullys in the higher class and they didn`t like me. They often used to wait for me by the school exit and so I had to find another route. Luckily there was a back exit which meant I had to make a big detour, and it went up hill as well. A couple of miles in distance but it didn`t bother me and because of this I discovered my running legs and it kept me out of trouble as well.
I used this attribute a great deal in the primary school in that I became a good footballer, playing in the playground with a tennis ball. I was always selected by the others to join their teams and eventually became a goal keeper. That wasn`t easy as the playground was very hard and diving around on it left a few bruises behind.
When I was 12 I moved onto a Sec.Mod school which turned out to be not much more than a place for the sons of barrow boys and ambitious sportler. I fitted in well here as I learnt pretty quickly which side I was on and how to get the respect of those hard guys. They spent their playtime in the outside toilets making deals with other kids by selling the cigarettes that they had stolen from their Fathers. I played playground tennis and such likes and enjoyed my rest from the teachers Bla-Bla.
In the first school year here and in preparation for the coming football season we had to make a team. I was put forward by a friend as a good goalkeeper, and that remained my position for the rest of my school time. We played twice a week and were trained by a ambitious teacher, a Scotsman called Jock Aleka. His name was never to be forgotten by me!! Tell you later why.
Our school had a high reputation for it`s football achievements and they were passed onto the newcomers as well. We won all of the seasons games against all the other North of London Schools and so became champions. I made my goalkeeper reputation here and was then added to the North Londoner Schools Football team, playing every Saturday morning on the Hendon field, and playing against all the other school teams from London. I was the number one goal keeper and I rarely let a ball into the back of my net. Father bought me football shoes and so that I was the same as the rest of the team. Up until that time I had been playing in modified normal shoes, where Dad had hammered in a set of six studs into each shoe.
Our team was always winning and at the end of the season we were top of the league. Did we get a cup? No that didn`t exist in those days. I remember my last season in the school and that we had won everything, also in the North London team, we played in the final in the Edgeware football club Stadion. We Lost!! But most of all I remember the one morning in the school congregation, I was called up onto the stage and presented with the valued school colours. A proud moment for me.
This I got because apart from my goalkeeper achievements I was also Champion in the 80 meters
Hurdle race and Long Jump Champion (including School record) for North London. I nearly made the English athletics team but just missed out on the trials in the White City Stadion. Also I payed wicket keeper in the schools team, and we won all the games also.
During the normal school I used to go home for lunch, sometimes running one direction in order to save money. I also trained my long jump technique over the lunch time at the back of the school.
Oh yes and why do I remember Joch the Scottish teacher? Well during my last football season I`d suddenly had enough of football, playing twice a week in the school and then on a Saturday as well. After one lunch time I should have taken my football shoes with me to play in the afternoon game, but I didn`t want to play. Jock asked me where my shoes are and he got my answer back! He said that I should get the cain (bamboos stick) which I did then he gave me `six of the best` on each hand. Then sent me to Mr. Blow the physical training teacher for a work out. I had to climb up the ropes with my swollen fingers!
My Mother told me a story when I came home one day. She`d had a visit from a boy from my school, he asked her `Are you the Mother of Jim Sullivan?` Yes she said. Then he told her that she should be proud of me because of all of my sporting achievements. That was such a pleasure to hear and from a boy that I didn`t even know him.
After all of those intensive sport ventures I left school and tried to get into a normal way of living. Sport was not forgotten as I then took up cycling, racing on the track and road. Training with the club at weekends and sometimes riding very long distances. One free day I rode from home in North London down to Portsmouth, slept in a bus shelter then rode home the next day. Following day rode to Clacton on the East coast, slept in another bus shelter then went home again. All of this with hardly any money and nothing to drink on the way. I remember on the way down to Portsmouth I stopped at the top of Guildford hill, rang the door bell of a nearby house, and asked for a glass of water, which I got.
I kept up my cycling hobby until I joined the RAF as a musician. When I was 15 music became a big love of mine, I started with a simple system clarinet which Father brought home for me. I loved trad jazz and made a study of it in my spare time. I formed a Traditional Jazzband of five friends and now and again we`d play in the intervals of big jazz clubs in London. Cy Lauri, Hunphrey Littleton, Chris Barber, they enjoyed our efforts and we had a lot of fun.
Oh yes one year after leaving school I changed my job, or should I say jobs. Worked in a factory for a week making bicycle wheels, then in another factory then in a warehouse next to the Tower Bridge. This last job was a long way from home but I did it everyday with my cycle, through all sorts of traffic and weather conditions. I got to know London very well during this time which helped me later in other jobs.
During my `square bashing` time at the beginning of my RAF career I discovered that was pretty fit. They put us through it in many ways but I always came out with my head high. After the six weeks were over I went home and there a neighbour said to me that` You went away a boy and came home a Man!. She was right and that was a big turn around in my life. I studied music in Uxbridge for one year, lived in a tent in Cyprus 2.5 years with the RAF band. Played music all over the middle east, Bagdad, North Africa, Kenja, Malta etc. Then came home to the green country that I had been missing. I didn`t stay much longer in the RAF and I moved on to working in a wine import company again next to the Tower Bridge. I was employed as a bookkeeper and I then spent the next three years studying accounts. Of course I learnt a lot about wine and as my friend worked in the labor we used to exchange notes together sometimes!
I got my qualification and then applied for a job with a renowned graphic design studio, owned and run by David Judd. From 150 applicants I got the job. I spent the next two years running around London and travelling mostly in taxis, from the studio to advertising agencies and back. Picking up work and delivering it again, very often having to make presentations to the art directors and their clients. It was an exciting modern world at a time when the design world of London started to wake up. I also got involved in Interior Design and represented David Judd all over the UK.
Sport did not exist at this time, my legs took me to work, walked me around all the best furniture and textile showrooms and stores in London, then took me home again. My feet were wearing the best Brogue and Oxford styled shoes made by leading London designers. My clothes were made to measure, having a different suit for every day of the week. It was a great time and I loved every minute of it. But a change had to be made, I needed to discover new things, and so I became self employed as a painter decorator. Something that I had learnt from my Father. I had contacts, I received a lot of work and I was fit enough to do it. My legs helped me a lot at this time, for example I had to paint all the rooms in a seven story block. A lot of stairs, a lot of work and sometimes all night. It was a bed sitter house and when someone moved out -I moved in. Getting it ready for the morning arrival of the new tenant. I worked in churches, villas, ruins and also at that time for a famous Scottish song writer. He had just won the Eurovision Song Contest with `Puppet On A String`, he made a fortune and was therefore able to pay for my invoices.
But like always time came and I needed a change and so took over a Pub in Norfolk. Nice time but not profitable, so I looked for something else. Found it too.... a job in Thetford Norfolk working for Sir Terence Conran in his Conran Fabrics (Habitat) business. I began as a clerk and within one year I was the boss, reporting to Terence in London. Sport was just existent, I played as wicket keeper for Thetford Cricket Club, in one game I made my record with 50 runs and took all 9 wickets of the other team. Even made the local newspapers!
Times changed and UK became a member of the Common Market - later the EU market which we are now trying to get rid of! We had a bad time as we had to change so many things, money to Euros, Feet & Inches to centimeters, and many more things. It was a very expensive time for the country and for example the textile weeving machines in Manchester became obsolete because of the metric system. That`s why Conran fabrics went down at that time. Business suffered in all directions.I left Habitat and Terence Conran and pottered around in Cambridge. A beautiful place full of life and friends. I worked sometimes in a riverside Pub and became a trusted employee of the owner.
Tell you more about that later.
Cambridge has many cafes and tea shops one of which is called `The Whim`. Directly opposite the university it was a popular retreat for students, but also for the foreign language students too. One day when I was drinking my afternoon tea I saw a very attractive young lady on the other side of the room. She was beautifully dressed and had shoes from Bally on. Her blonde hair, blue eyes and fine figure could not be unseen. I had to talk to her, and I did. We had dates, and one of which will never be forgotten. I hired a punt on the river that runs through the University. I got my friend to come along with his gitarre and so the the romantic scene was set. His voice and music were super, andme?, I was poling the punt along the river. Sunshine and university buildings could not have made a better scene. After about 45 years we are still together having worked and lived in so many countries and having travelled the world, raised a Swiss family in Zurich and now having retired together.
Oh yes the Pub Owner episode? Anna and I worked a season in Corfu Greece and over the winter time we returned to Cambridge. I worked sometimes in the Riverside Pub and Olive and her husband told us that they would like to put the pub in our hands for the Xmas period. Wow that was great but you know there are opening and closing rules? Well I knew them but something went wrong! Anna was with me and we opened up for the Xmas lunch and then during the closed time in the afternoon I roasted a Pheasant, in a brandy sauce. It was fantastic but the problem was we got drunk on it and we fell into a deep deep sleep and didn`t get around to opening up for the evening. We didn`t even hear the customers banging on the entrance door!! The pub owner heard about this on his return and we got more that a telling off!
I think that`s maybe about half of my story for the moment but actually I think the recent years are more interesting and exciting than the earlier. I`ll let you judge, right now I am training my legs as they have to work normally again so that I can tell more stories about my life. Anyway today I walked 20 meters with support, like being a baby again but with more body weight.
Hope you`ve enjoyed the first episode, let me know, if yes then you`ll get more.
It`s always nice to go back into the memories of the past but the future is more important. This we build on the foundations of our past experiences but sometimes it`s not easy to go forwards. Like for me at the moment I have to get my legs working again so that I can persue my dreams and be able to deal with the challenges. This in itself is a challenge and I am going to reach my goals, only with this attitude can I go through life. I have always welcomed sport competitions and have this fighting nature in my blood and apply it to my normal life also.
So now to continue with the second part pf my stories.
Like I said I was living in Cambridge and met this charming Swiss Lady - Anna.
I had just been informed that I had been accepted for a job in Corfu, working on a new golf course and being in charge of the shop. Not a big job but a chance to get away from the what was at that time a decaying UK.
Anna and I agreed to meet after three months in Corfu as she had to return to Zurich because she had to fulfil her working contract. On the 1st. August the time and come to pick her up at the airport. Swiss air arrived with Anna, dressed in a beautiful yellow Cacheral Blouse and yellow trousers, she then came down the stairs to the runway. The romance began.
I did my job in the golf club, played a little, enjoyed my lunch in the local Taverna. There I ate everything from goats meat to heads of lamb! I learnt some Greek, learnt to dance like the Greeks and above all learnt to love the people. When you work with such people they take you into their hearts and I did the same.
Anna and I returned to Cambridge for the winter and that`s where the Pub incident comes in. We made a lot of University friends and had some very enjoyable time with them. But I needed work and so set about look for a job again. I was contacted by Mr. Kasansies from Corfu, he offered me a job helping to plan a new golf course around his hotel. This I accepted and 1st.April Anna and I returned to the beautiful island. The weather was bad, it was raining and cold, not what we expected. We didn`t have the right clothes and when I got to the hotel I was told that there would be no golf course! A disapointing start for sure. The director and hotel owner said that I could work with the garden staff, this I accepted and I took on the job of painting the swimming pool.
Anna was give a position in the hotel reception in the second hotel. Accomadation was in the staff quarter, oh my something like that we`ve never seen before. After a long winter the walls had not dried out, in fact water was running down them. We had no choice so had to put up with everything. Our tears were running too......
After a few weeks, the weather changed and I had fun working with the greek staff. Our staff food was pretty bad but it kept me alive. Anna`s job was a challenge for her and she got on very well with it. She knew what was going on in the hotel and used to tell me lots of stories about the different affairs that were taking place. One affair suddenly went too far!! The discoteque manager, a handsome French man that had just arrived for his second seasons, got the sack. So they need another manager and asked me to do the job. I had all necessary experience and so I took it on. Suddenly I was an executive and had all the privileges. Being served in the main restaurants, receiving turnover provision etc etc. The disco had room for 250 people and I had my own staff, three Australian girls in hot pants for the service and a Scottish girl for the music. A cool time, exciting, challenging and one that needed a lot of courage sometimes.
One night an American aircraft carrier anchored in the bay. There were 2,000 sailors on board
and they hadn`t been on land for months and hadn`t seen a woman in that time either. A big group of them came to the disco, they were like animals, their aggression was unbelievable. I had to watch my step but it all became too much and I had to call in the police. They had broken all the toilets and hand basins in the toilets and were threatening guests. Luckily nobody got hurt.
There were a lot of good times and just a few bad ones, one of of which is still difficult to understand today and tought us how dangerous it is living in a foreign country. Anna got a disease, which one we still don`t know but the doctor didn`t want to give it a name in interest of the hotel business! She was given injections and luckily recovered, for the moment anyway, but for a few years it returned for a short period again.
We decided in September it was time to move on, so we got all our things together and packed our bags. At that time Greece was under military control so taking money out of the country was not allowed. We packed all of our Swiss Francs and dollars into a small collapsable umbrella, Anna carried this on her arm and onto the ferry boat. Wow that was a risk but so is life sometimes.
We finished up in Munich and lived there for one year. My legs helped me in my work as I became a window cleaner, sometimes working in a gondel outside of the 35 floor! Otherwise up and down my little ladder cleaning windows allover, I know the insides and outsides of all the banks and beer houses. I earnt according to the number of square meters I completed in a day. I needed a lot of energy and agility and once again my legs brought me through.
Anna and I got married in Munchen, in the famous English Garden. Then later went to live in Switzerland in Adliswil. Anna`s parents found us a nice flat and so that was the beginning of my new life in Switzerland.
It wasn`t easy to get a job at that time, permissions for foreigners was difficult. But I found one and this gave me a start. Factory shift work, every week another shift, after three weeks it would start again with the first shift!! A hard thing to get used to but eventually I got a job in 3M in Zurich. There I stayed for 21 years before they decided to send my job to London. So I had to train a Londoner in Zurich how to do my job then they took it away from me. I went into early retirement and started a few more careers - more later.
Very early I discovered that 3M didn`t have a sports club and that there were big differences between the marketing, sales and accounts department. I got permission from a directer to form a club and within a short space of time I had up to 100 members. I used to organise training evenings and weekends for running and cross country skiing. Sometimes weekends in training centers near to Zurich or even in Tessin. I became well know for this area of sport and made a lot of friends. I also joined a local running club which met once a week and sometimes we went on races together, one of which was in Austria. Kitzbuehl was the starting place for a 72 km. long cross country race which I took part in twice. Another was the Engadin Ski Marathon, there I raced 7 times. You can`t imagine it becauses the start was on a lake, with 12,000 skiers!! Eventually I became one of the elite races as I improved my times in every race. I took part in many other races including mountain runs, 50 km running race etc. I was well trained, running between 10 and 20kms per day in training 6 days a week.
I also taught Christina my daughter cross country skiing, eventually she became 3rd. on a junior national championship race. Then moved over to Biathlon where it was discovered that she had a great talent in shooting. She became twice Swiss Junior and twice British junior champion. We travelled to many European championships together, my role the management and trainer.
I gave up my daily training because of a new goal. Anna and I and the two girls went on a camping holiday in Spain Had a great time and discovered those beautiful white houses in the hills all around . We got the crazy idea of buying one as holidays in somebody else`s property was never satisfiing. We went home and thought about it, we didn`t have money for a venture like this so we had to find a way. We did!! We began delivering newspapers every morning, three rounds in a very difficult and hilly area. 5am every morning getting home again at 6.30am Then I had to go to work for the day. This paid off and we were able to save. I also used to deliver newspapers in the evenings as well, that took care of my training and only because of my good condition was I able to do this.
We worked hard and saved our money and bought the dream villa in Spain. We had a beautiful garden, swimming pool and super views even down to the sea. Our summer holidays were spent there for many years and for me it was a super training area. Running up from the beach to the villa and then taking a swim, and also doing all the very hard work in the garden. I loved it and it remained so for many years. After my enforced retirement I was able to spend more time there. I learnt how to play golf, taking lessons from a pro. and getting a low handicap of 10 after only 3 years. I even worn tournaments there and later in Switzerland too. Anna was working hard in the insurance company and had moved up the ladder. Her resposibilities were high and she mastered these. We`d bought our first property in Switzerland a flat from an Italian architect and lived there for some years, then moved onto another property. A new house which turned out to be not exactly what we wanted. Now we have the dream, a large top floor flat with views all around. Newly built and interior according to our wishes. In between times we have sold our villa in Spain, our two children have their own families and so Anna and I make our holidays in various parts of the world.
After leaving 3M I worked for two years with avery good friend in his creative digital studio. He produced 3D graphics for advertising and I looked after the marketing side of his business. I learnt a great deal about he professional graphic software that he was using and so I went on to start producing something absolutely new at that time - abstract visuals. I set up a little studio at home and started my production. I knew that such a thing as this would not sell in Switzerland but UK and USA turned out well. I covered my costs anyway and more than enjoyed the creative work.
One day in my friends studio I had to model for a product video for HP. I did my acting in front of the camera and to my surprise it went really well. It turned out that I am photogen!
That was some years ago but I didn`t forget it and so I eventually started working as an extra is various advertising scenes. I did this for a year to get experience. Then one day on a shooting, and I had to be there very early in the morning. The two models arrived, after lunch. They had to repeat their scenes so many times without bringing the right results, so I said to myself that I can do that better. I knew what they might be earning and that against mine was a joke. I mad e decision to give modelling a try.
I went to a young professional photographer, paid him for the two hours, and then performed in front of his camera.
The results were great and I took them to Peter who works in the famous Scout Model Agency in Zurich. He liked my work and we made a few more photos, and then it started. Within a short time I had five shootings and these for namehaft Companies. It was enormous fun and I loved doing it. Meeting new and usually much younger people, exchanging stories and having a good laugh together. This has now been going on for almost six years now and I have travelled allover Europe,
Sometime Anna came along with me for the ride.
Barcelona, Berlin, Kolongne, Munich, Hamberg, London, Latvia,Mallorca and Miami. Some of these places two or thee times. My website which I use for references is full of photos from shootings and films. Yes I have also preformed in a couple of films and further also on the stage.
I have performed in the theater in Zurich, Basel and Hamburg. A great experience with super people.
To weigh it all up I wish to continue in the same way, as a now professional commercial photo model. I have made a name for myself as I can deliver. Until now I have been fit and healthy and nothing has stopped me performing, but having had a hip operation recently this has put the brakes on for me. My legs have always been so important to me in everything I`ve done so now I get back
on the road again. Agencies have started to ask me already if I`m fit so believe me the motivation is there. So the `Time Out` is finished and the frustration to go with it - I am ready for the next stage in my life.
hugs to all