When and where did you live locally?
I was born in 1972 and lived in Park End until I was 13 and then I moved to Berwick Hills in 1985 with my two sisters and my mam and dad. My dad worked for British Steel until 1979 when he was made redundant. As a family we then spent the next few years, as most families did, living in challenging circumstances. We moved to Berwick Hills so we could be closer to our nana and grandad who were very ill and needed daily care. I left Middlesbrough and started my teaching degree at Sheffield Hallam University in 1996. I went to Park End Primary until 1984 when I left to attend Langbaurgh Comprehensive from 1985-1989. I had trials for Boro, as almost everyone did, but athletics and the 400m was my main passion.
What are your fondest memories of growing up in Teesside?
Where do I start? Playing on tarzies down the beck, it was about occupying yourself in those days, there wasn’t the technology then that there is now. Olympics on the street: laps and sprints between and around lampposts against the other families on the street. We also played tennis on the street (only moving to avoid the odd car that drove past) during Wimbledon fortnight with metal rackets bought from Doggy Market. Playing Curby and hide and seek. We visited Whitby, with the scary stories of Dracula keeping us awake at night. We used to go on the moors in our grandad’s car to do some bramble picking so mam could make jam. We loved the smell of grandads car, the mixture of fabric and petrol, there is no smell in cars like that anymore. Due to money being tight, those days out were really precious, especially when we went to Redcar, Saltburn or Whitby on the train. The train station always seemed dark and damp, running through the tunnel shouting so we could hear our voices echo everywhere.
Obviously Ayresome Park holds great memories: the 4-1 win over the Geordies to stay up and stop them going up. The last match at Ayresome, plus the summer pre-season friendly against Seattle Storm when we scored and the Boro fans all stood up in the main stand and pointed to the away end singing ‘you’re not singing anymore’ to an empty away end. Very funny! The best for me was the win against Wigan to promote us back to Division Two. Seeing Mogga, Pally, etc stood in the directors box was amazing. Nobody could talk the next day as we had no voices left. Seeing Bernie Slaven stood on the Holgate fence after scoring some of his great tap-ins was always exhilarating. I represented Middlesbrough and Cleveland Harriers for 3 years and I was a very successful young athlete, I was town and county 400M champion and also represented the Harriers at national level. We also had two huge street parties in Park End, I love looking back at the photos of the Queen’s jubilee and we also celebrated Charles and Diana’s wedding, this was a memorable day for me as I represented Charles as the street replicated the wedding. I got dressed-up in a tuxedo and married Diana (Sarah, from the street).
Where did you move to?
After leaving Sheffield Uni in 1999, I moved to Barnsley soon afterwards, to live with my now wife, who is a massive Barnsley FC fan, which has been very interesting over the years with the matches against each other and players who have played for both teams: Hendrie, Anderson, Fjørtoft, Wilkinson, Hignett, etc. In 2011, after working in three secondary schools my wife and I moved to Dubai. This was a huge move for us, living there compared to going on holiday was a big difference. Being so far away from home with no family was a challenge at first, but as all the expats are in the same situation, we found friends very quickly and these became as important as family.
Are there many differences between Teesside and where you are now?
You probably couldn’t get two greater extremes of Middlesbrough and Dubai. Middlesbrough: -It’s history of ‘building the world’ by providing Steel to build so many buildings and bridges around the world, e.g. Sydney Harbour Bridge, Tyne Bridge etc. ICI, Captain Cook, Transporter Bridge, Northern European climate.
Dubai: Desert climate with stifling summers, Islamic culture, huge skyscrapers and manmade Palm Islands. The UAE was British ruled until 1971. I’ve really enjoyed the 2nd December National Day celebrations whilst I’ve been in Dubai. The students, teachers and parents embrace this momentous day.
Do you get to go back ‘home’ much?
Not as much as I’d like to, but now I’m retiring to Spain, I intend on getting the 2.5 hour flights home on a regular basis. What do you miss about Teesside/the North East? The Boro! The North East coast: Redcar, Saltburn, Whitby, Filey, Bridlington and Scarborough. Parmo’s My family. But also the hidden gems of the area, Sleights, Roseberry Topping, etc.