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Just to begin with could you please tell me a little bit about your disability or health issue

please?

In as much as what, what I've got wrong with me?

Yeah, well, yeah if that's the way you look at it.

Well I think that maybe, what I haven't got wrong with me may be the better source. Uh,
I've got a condition ca-, uh, called G6PD deficiency, which is a blood disorder and I've had
that nearly all my life. Um I've, I've, I've just, I had in 2008 a triple heart bypass. In 2008
also I had my prostate removed and in 2010 I lost my sight.

When and where were you born?

I was born in uh, Paddington in London. In St. Mary's Hospital.

And when was that?

What year?

Yeah.

Well it, my birthday was June 8th 1948.

Brilliant, just so we get it on tape.

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Yeah.

And where were you, did you live in Paddington?

No I don't, I don't really remember. I tell you where I know that I lived for many years was
um, Layfield Crescent, Hendon. Um, near, uh not, the North Circular Road. Staples
Corner.

So is that near the Police College?

It's right behind the Police College, yeah. The Police College, uh, wasn't there when I uh,
when I first moved into the area. Nor, nor was, uh, the biggest shopping centre, which was
Brent Cross Shopping Centre. That wasn't around at uh, when I was growing up. Uh, it uh,
transpired it used to be where the land was was uh, orchard. Used to go scrumping. And
we, we used to pinch the old apples and the lady who, who do- she'd leave the apples fall
on the floor and uh, she wouldn't let us pick 'em up, so we used to pinch 'em.

What did your mum and dad do?

Uh, my dad was uh, he was in the navy and then when he was uh, out of the navy he was
um, a gas fitter. I don't know whether my mum ever worked to be quite honest. I don't
know, I don’t know.

What about brothers and sisters?

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I've got four sisters. Uh, they're all, I they, I call ‘em all uh, sisters. I've got a, um a stepsister, brother. She's, she's always been my sister and I don't go that step-sister larkey I
just, she's a sister and she is.

Did any other members of your family have a health condition or a disability?

My, my mum, she was a chronic sa- chronic asthmatic. My um, sister's son in Wales has
got the same conditions, G6PD deficiency that I've got um, but uh, a lot worse than I've
got. I've had, I've had in my lifetime maybe possibly the maximum three complete blood
transfusions, where my nephew's had maybe double that, may even be in the, nearly
coming up to the dozen blood transfusions.

How old is he?

He's um, he rung me up to, he rung me up a little while ago cos he thought um. He's, I
think he's 50 now. He rung me up because he thought my sight was to do with the G6PD
deficiency, so he was a bit frightened that it would go down the same line and I reassured
him that it wasn't. Yeah.

Could you tell me a bit about the G6PD deficiency? Like if you know like, what the, it's a
hereditary thing is it?

Yeah. I think that they came, that they've, they've, Addenbrooke's, I've been all round the
hospitals in London and uh, I think when I came to uh, up to Cambridge to live,
Addenbrooke's were the people that diagnosed it. And they said it was, it's out to in the
Mediterranean um, majority of people that get the, get the condition. Um, it's something to
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do with my red and white blood cells, they, and my spleen not being able to differentiate
the good from the bad. So once it goes into um, a downward spiral, then my condition just
deteriorates. If I get a, a cold it can transpire that I get a cold and it really affects my uh,
liver and kidneys and yeah. So I really have to keep a, a, I have a, I take a tablet every
day. Taken it for years, um, a folic acid tablet. Uh, and drink anything that's uh, that's got a
lot of iron in it. So that, so to keep my immune, my iron levels up. But uh, touch wood, the
condition, uh I've been able to keep it really relatively under control. And I know when I um,
when I go, um, start to go down cos uh, my urine changes colour and it goes to, um, a
really dark red.

Right.

Um, and then, but now I can't see it to be able to, to have that uh, warning sign. But uh, I
know if I feel really down and um, not very good, lethargic, that I need to go to the doctors
and get some bloods taken to see where, what my anaemia is and see what, how my
blood count is and check it that way.

And they'll give you a full blood transfusion?

If, yeah I, I've I have um, without realising, on a couple of occasions when I've gone, gone
delirious, uh, and I've not recognised it, I've urinated best part of all my blood down the
toilet. Because something up here tells you it doesn't, doesn't correlate and you just get
into a real spiral. So yeah, I've, I've done that a couple of times.

And so then that would be straight to hospital I suppose, would it?

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I've, apparently, the last time, I can't remember the year, but I, the last time, I think it was
well before 2008, the last time I think they turned round and said that I wa-, I virtually died
um, cos the blood level was rock bottom. But hopefully I, I won't let myself get into that
condition again. Yeah.

So you've, you've had this from birth then?

Yeah.

How, you said, but you said it wasn't diagnosed until you came to Cambridge?

Cambridge, yeah. They had- loads of different hospitals that I was transported around
were trying to do study on it, and uh, apparently a ho- uh Cambridge Addenbrooke's, they
found the, the cause and what was dia-, and the diagnosis and I think somebody put uh, a
study in The Lancet about it. Yeah it's uh, quite an odd. Yeah.

I've not heard of it before myself, I have to say.

Yeah.

Is it, do you know the prevalence of it? Is it rare or?

I'm not sure whether it's rare rare, but I should imagi- um, I was told not to eat green beans
and not to do, eat certain things uh, but um, I've just learnt to, to uh live with it. I've, there's
not a lot that I don't eat that's, uh affects me anymore. So, yeah.

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Brilliant. If you're like, if you have an iron deficiency, do you eat like, I don't know lots of,
are you allowed like broccoli and stuff?

I, I eat a lot of vegetables. I eat a lot of vegetables but I also like uh, cabbage water, that's
got a lot of- Yeah, so that's got a lot of iron in it when you, when you, you know drink that.
But they've, they've put me on Folic Acid, I don't know how many years I haven't, I've been
on that. It's, yeah I take one tablet every day. 5 milligrams.

And has that made a difference?

It has it, yeah, it does. It's kept everything uh, quite on the level. Yeah I'm uh, quite ok
about it now. I've, I know really when I get a cold or, or flu that I've gotta really keep an eye
on it and if I, if I do feel really bad I, I immediately ring the doctor and they have me in and
do some blood tests and find out and then they turn round and say, right you've either got
to go in and possibly have maybe a couple of pints. Not beer! It's more the pity, but a
couple of pints of blood so that they bring the levels back. They, one or two or quite a few
occasions they wanted to take the spleen out, because the spleen is like a filter I, I, I think.
And I think it, it was never distinguishing the good from the bad. It was just take, it was just
taking everything and making me really run down. So my, uh, so I was jaundiced and uh,
all my blood counts were really rubbish.

Why did they not take it out? Was there a reason?

Cos it started, it's, it's a, it's a condition that goes do-, can go down very very quick and it
can right itself at, nearly as quick if it, if it's caught right, yeah.

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So going back a little bit to, to your childhood. Can you remember what your parents' or
sisters' attitudes was to the, to the uh, G6PD condition? Did you affect you much as, did,
did? Obviously if you were being ferried around a little bit while they were trying to
diagnose you? How did that aff- how did that affect- what opinion did the, the other
members of your family have?

Do you know what I don't, I can't tell you that because I can't remember that side of my
childhood. I just don't know why. It, um, my, my three sisters that lived at home, they could
tell you that they, whether they had a, a lovely childhood and what they done but I've got a
so- I've got something in where, in my memory that I don't know anyth-. I, I get – I find it
really fascinating that children can tell you when they were three years old and, and
upwards and I've got none of that memory. I just, it's as though I've blanked it out for some
reason. And I don't know why I blanked it out. I don't, I, I don't know whether it's, whether I,
it's a safeguard mechanism that I've, I've uh, accomplished over the years. That, if
something isn't right, I, I cut it out and I don't know. I really don't know that answer to that
question.

When does your um, when can you remember? Um, what um, how old are you from when
your memory kind of starts as it were um, again?

Um, I think I left home about, when I was about 16. I left home I think about when I was
about 16. Um, I, my, my mum was a, um, an asthmatic, chronic asthmatic and uh, really
and truly I think she was also an alcoholic and I think that reflected on um, the family. My
dad used to do a lot of work and then come home and cook for the chick- for the kids. Um,
I can remember a little bit of that but I, um, I, I remember that, that when she was drinking

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that uh, she would put uh, whiskey in the medicine cabinet. She'd put a whiskey in
anywhere that you could hide uh, a glass of whiskey.

Right.

Or you, she'd open a bottle of whiskey and she, everybody would say, there's no, no whis-,
there, you know, you haven't touched the whiskey today? And she'd say, no I haven't.
Look in, look at the bottle, and the bottle would be looking like it's full but she'd put cold tea
in there.

Right yeah.

And it weren't until two days later that it started to ferment that you would know that it, it
was a bottle that's been opened. Um, it's a shame really that that was what it was. Um,
and I have, I have um, memories of her going down the pub. Um, and me going down the
pub underage, uh, being let into the pub with friends. Uh, and that was what it was in
London in them, in them days. And I remember on occ-, on occasion that she would get
drunk and my mates would get drunk and she would virtually carry them home. And I didn't
ever like that, so I never used to drink in the same pub, not very often if I, if my mum was
in there I didn't like to go there. So it was something that I just wasn't very um, au fait with
and I just didn't like it. And then when my mum came back to the house, she'd bring
people back to the house and they would be drinking and eating loads of food that, and I
would get annoyed but it was, um, they were all sponging. And I used to not like it. So I
wasn't a very uh, so I left home fairly early in my life.

Where did you go when you left home?
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I, I had a, I had a, what they, what they call um, it was an auntie or a nan but she was
nothing to do with my family, but she used to look after me every now and again. She lived
just round the corner from where I lived. And uh, I, I she had one, two, she had three
daughters and I used to go round there and uh, be virtually part of the family. I, I, the door
was always open I'd always go in there and um, after school or whatever and have
something to eat and maybe it was my bit of a retreat. So, yeah, so. And my, and my nan
or my auntie or whatever you like to call her, she um, she was bombed in the London blitz
and she uh, she had a drawerful of artificial eyes and she had her eye uh, eye blown out
and she had an artificial eye. And in them days, cos your, eyes did never match. She'd just
pop, press her uh, underneath her cheek and the eye would fall, fall out and she'd put it in
her drink and she'd say, I've gotta keep my eye on you. And uh, sh- when I ever walked to
the shops with her, she was in her, she was getting quite old at the time, but she would,
she'd walk the iron legs off a donkey she was really fast.

Uh-huh?

And I used to go, I used to go on a Saturday morning to uh, shopping out with her and
we'd go into this cafe and we'd have uh, pie and mash every Saturday and I'd walk- carry
the shopping home for her and then she would be sitting on the settee and watching the
um, uh, uh, the wrestling and-

I knew you were going to say the wrestling. My- Uh-huh?

And, and the uh, horse racing and she'd have the paper and she'd tick out all the winners.
And she would invariably win but if, she never ever put money on it. But she would variably
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pick the winners. And if she was sitting on the settee and Mick McManus was uh, well you
know, fighting. She would be on the settee and she would be moving left right and centre,
go on give him one and yeah it was, she was a cracking lady. Absolutely cracking lady,
yeah.

So um, were you working at this point?

No, no.

Were you still at school?

Uh, 16. I would think I'd left. Yeah, I think I'd left.

Mmhmm. So what did you do? How long were you living there and what did you do then?
Um.

Uh, I, I did. I, I just, from my, I used to go to me, to my nan's or my auntie's or whatever
you like to call her uh, whenever I, I, I wanted to, the door was always open. So I mate- I
might just go there and do some shopping for her and go, and she'd give me a couple of
pence to go down the shops and come back and I'd I'd uh, one particular day, I earnt
enough, when I went back and forwards down the shop. I had, I ate 20, 21 um, oh what
were they called? Um, Milky Ways all in one hit!

Brilliant!

21 Milky Ways, yeah.
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Brilliant.

And I cut my, I uh, I was fighting with uh, one of her daughters, just mucking around in the
house and um, I fell of the s-, I fell over the settee and I put my teeth through my tongue
and cut my tongue so that it was hanging off and she give me, told me to drink water water
water water and to this day, I don't, I never had any stitches in it but I've still got the scar
where I bit my tongue. Yeah.

Woah.

Yeah. She was an incredible lady. Absolutely incredible. Not had- did- the house wasn't
very clean. Uh, it was uh, you know, lots of people used to say, woah that's disgusting
place. But she made me feel really at home.

Yeah.

Uh, she was a wonderful lady. She, she got bombed in the, in the, in the London blitz and
in, in an also, also another drawer she'd say to me, feel my arm. And I'd feel her arm and
there would be a lump come up and eventually the skin would break and she'd get a pair
of tweezers and she'd pull a bit of shrapnel out. And she'd wash the shrapnel under the tap
and she'd put it in this drawer and she had hundreds of pieces of shrapnel and I use-, said
to her, why did they not operate you and get the? They said, they, they don't do that. They
reckon a lot of shrapnel work its way through, out through your body. But she had, she had
all on her shoulders scar marks where they, it just break through the surface.

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Right. Wow. Wow.

Yeah.

So um, where did, what what, tell me about your life after that. What, where did you go?
What did you do?

Um.

I mean you'd have been, what, you'd have been what, 20 in 19-, no 18 in 1966?

Yeah.

Which was quite big, it's quite a famous year isn't it? In terms of, like culturally and stuff,
we had the World Cup and we had The Beatles and stuff like that and the whole Swinging
Sixties thing.

I wasn't into football. Never have been.

Same with me but…

Never, never have been into football. I've been into, I like cars. I like cars. I had, I had um, I
had, I had uh. Yeah I was you know, so I don't know where the, what age I moved out of
London to be quite honest, up to here, so up to here. Because I um, I had a motorbike and
I used to race the motorbike up the Ace Cafe up the North Circular Road. I used to put a
record on and race up before the record finished and race back. So I had a motorbike
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then, so I don't know. I don't even know what age that you would qualify for a motorbike
license.

No. But you can drive from 17 but I don't know if that's now or whether that's changed
either. Um, so, were you like a part of any like, cos then obviously back then you had the
mods and the rockers and sort of?

Rockers.

You were a rocker?

Yeah, Yeah.

Class.

Yeah, yeah we used to go and go down the Ace Cafe and then we'd go down the seaside
on the bikes.

Brilliant.

Yeah. Don't, yeah I didn't really, yeah.

Did you ever um, did you ever get involved in any of the? Cos there was quite a lot of
trouble and stuff. Uh.

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There was, there was an article in the paper, um. I believe it was called, you know when
you have Hendon versus uh, Collingdale gangs?

Mmhmm. Yep.

Uh, and I think they had in the paper uh, the Hendon Mafia.

Right, yeah.

And it was, it was, it was, I suppose it was gang- little gangs really wasn't it? But we're, not
to- like today with knives and all this and it's got a bit out of hand today hasn't it?

Yeah.

It's, it's drug related, I sort of don't think it was any of that side. You know, it was none of
that side of stuff. You know, I, I do I do recollect a bit of, um, having a tuck shop in the
school. I wasn't very good at school. I, I learnt very little at school I was uh, quite
mischievous I think. Um, but I remember uh, pinching, breaking into the tuck shop and
pinching uh, stuff that was in the tuck shop with two or three friends. Just boys' pranks you
know?

Yep.

Uh, there was a sweet shop near the school that used to sell you cigarettes and I think
they were in a little paper packet, four Domino's cigarettes. For, I can't remember what it'd

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be, about a thruppence. Or you'd get a joystick, which was two cigarettes or, or, in a, in a,
roughly about, what would, what would two cigarettes be? Four inches in length?

Yeah.

And you, you'd be able to buy them singly from the bloke behind the counter!

Were they um, were they kind of manufactured like that or was he just selling them like
that?

I, I think the Domino's were in a packet, they were manufactured like that.

So you could buy four cigarettes? That's brilliant isn't it?

Four, yeah. You could buy, you could buy uh, uh, one joystick. And yeah, you know I
suppose it's only, it's that in those days the, the pubs and the shops uh, stayed afloat
possibly by people, youngsters frequenting in them. You know? You, I, I, I remember what,
we had a uh, police station opposite us, out opposite the pub, the Hendon, The Welsh
Harp.

Right.

And uh, the person uh, the landlord would have a leg up if the, they was having a raid and
we would just move out the, out the pub. Yeah.

Brilliant.
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Yeah, I, I, I do, now uh, now my memory's coming back a little bit, When I was um, in that,
I can't remember the year though, that, that how old I was but I was driving at the time,
yeah. I was driving at the time, I had, I had, I had um, a mini and uh, prior, maybe a couple
of years prior to that, The Welsh Harp pu- um, was um, I don't know whether you ever
know London? It was, it was loads of factories along the North Circular Road used to
discharge a lot of stuff into The Welsh Harp.

Right.

And there used to be a glass factory, and the glass factory would shed all its waste glass
into, near at on the North Circular in the back of the, the lake, type thing.

Right.

And then they would get somebody to move it at, later on. But we used to get hold of um,
something that would slide and we'd climb the glass and we'd sit on this little bit of a, uh,
bit of wood or whatever that was shiny enough and slide down the glass!

Wow!

Right? When, how crazy are you? You could be impaled on blades of glass.

Yeah. God yeah. Wow!

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Yeah, but we would be in. It was um, we had, we used to have a rope that uh, that we
would swing from one side of the river to the other, and the other person the other side of
the bank would, would, that, they would swing and we'd jump, change ha- change,
change.

Wow.

Uh, so we'd go over one side of the river and they'd go over the other. And we'd do the old
jacket potatoes and um also the uh, but uh, sausages, prick ‘em on a stick. It used to taste
really nice, you'd have a black face with charcoaled jacket potato. Have you ever tasted
jacket potato that's charcoaled?

No?

Absolutely incredible! You, you, if you'd, if you'd done it today you'd think, oh I can't eat
that, but when you're a kid you, it was, inside it was pure white potato but on the outside it
was black as coal.

Wow.

Yeah.

Marvellous.

Yeah it was black as coal, but I was plo- I was prodding the bank this one particular day. I
can't tell you how, how old I am. I can't really remember. Not, I don't even know whether it
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was, I was ten I don't know But I was prodding the bank and poking around with loads of
bin, there was loads of bin bags and I poked this bin bag and I poked it open and a hell of
a stink and I poked it open a bit more and uh, there was a dead baby in there.

Wow.

Someone had had, had, had an uh, abortion and uh, put the baby into the plastic bag and
the umbili- uh, umbilical cord was, was still uh, hanging and the, the, the baby's body was
swollen uh, and the eyes were a little bit out their sockets and I went out, I went home and
told me mum and she give me a clip round the earhole for telling her a pork pie. But it
wasn't a pork pie because the police came and uh, somebody took it away uh, in the boot
of a car to, to be uh, examined.

Right.

But the smell was horrendous, this little body um, just inflated with, I don't know whether it
was water that makes it inflated but the smell was horrendous. But yeah.

Wow.

Yeah. I found, yeah so I found that, a dead baby in, in, in there. But the pub, we used to
keep the pub's, the pub had uh, off-licenses and uh, to make your money to get some,
some crisps or sweets or whatever, you'd go round the back of the pub and you'd take
some nails out the fence and slide the fence back and go in the back of the yard of the off
license and pinch the soda siphons and the empty beer bottles. You'd slide the fence back
and take the, all the soda siphons and the beer bottles to the off license on the front and
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he'd give you money. And then he'd put 'em back in the crates in the back yard and the
next day you would slide the fence back and you'd do it again.

Ah that's brilliant, absolutely brilliant.

Yeah.

Um, did you, do you remember much about school or anything like that? Or what you
studied or anything?

Mm I don't. I uh, my schooling was, uh, wasn't every good at all. I, I'm, I was um, I don't
even think I could read and write very well. I didn't learn a lot at school, I really didn't. It
wasn't, it wasn't, it wasn't for me. I don't know why but it, I don't think I, I achieved very
much. I know I was, I know I was good at technical drawing uh, but that was possibly it.
Um, I've learnt over, over my lifetime that um, what I've achieved in my lifetime up to the
present day is uh, not due to school in any shape of imagination. I think I learnt more being
out of the school environment. Uh, yeah.

So um, why did you move up, why did you move out of London and up um, to Cambridge
way?

I was interested in cars, fix, um, mechan-, uh fixing cars and I worked with a friend in, in
Hendon uh, in Kennning Car Mart. Um, and we decided to, he, he had family up here in
Huntingdon.

Right.
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And we decided to, he was coming up here quite frequent and uh, he was saying, well he
said, I'm moving up there. I'm gonna get married and move up there. And I think he moved
up well before I did and I used to come up and visit and visit and I eventually came up and
stayed and we talked about opening a garage business. So when we were in, I was still in
London, there was the Hendon auctions, that there, there was a Hendon auction, all army,
ex-army surplus material and it was, we went to this auction and it was all army vehicles
that were, uh Land rovers, that were wrecks. And what they used to do, you used to buy
them as a wreck and the, I think the MoD used to restore them right up to roadworthy
condition and you could purchase them, but you could only purchase them if, if you, if
there was another war they could come and uh, take them immediately.

Really? That's fascinating.

Yeah. They could take them immediately. So we bought one and, then we came up to
Huntingdon and, to start the garage business. And at the time it was quite slow and um, I
went in, I went into, I went into a factory to, to um, work for a little while. I think it was, I
think it was called Silent Channel. They made all rubbers for car, rounds car surrounds for
loads of ma- uh, car manufacturer's bits.

Right. Uh-huh.

So I worked there for a little while but um, factory life wasn't for me because uh, it's in an
indoor environment and you, you go in in the morning and you didn't know whether the
world had come to an end because you didn't see anything until you got out there at 5:30
in the afternoon.
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Right.

So I didn't, I weren't there very long. And then over the year, we started the garage breakuh, business, breakdown business. Um, me and my mate we fell out. Um, he carried on
the business. I then, what did I do? Oh yes, I was riding down the, a road in the car and I
see uh, a sand and gravel company advertising for a dr- lorry drivers and I went and
applied. And they said, have you ever drove uh, a mixer before? Concrete mixer?

Right, yeah.

And I turned round and said no, and they said, would you be interested? And I said yeah.
Anyway, cut a little bit of a long story short, I blagged my, I never had an HGV license at all
when I took the job and I went to start the job on the relevant day and they sent me out
with a man to show me the ropes on this Readymix lorry. And uh, after two or three days
they said, see that lorry in that corner? That's your lorry. And I'm thinking, dear oh dear I
haven't got a driving license and I've just blagged this job. So I, I worked it. And I worked, I
can't remember if I worked for that company for either two or three years without no
license.

Wow.

And one particular day, the Transport Manager come up to me he said, Mick your license.
And I thought uh-uh and I'm waiting and I'm thinking, I've been sussed here. And he said,
we're putting everybody in the company through class two licen- license, would you be,
would you wanna do it? And like I said, is there any cost to me?
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Yeah?

And he said, no there's no cost to you. We'll pay it, the company. So I said, yeah I'd be
willing to do that. So we uh, they sent two people every fortnight on a driving course and
then the next two weeks they'd send another two and the next two weeks they'd send, until
the whole company was, passed the class two driving license ext- test. And the first two
drivers went on the course, they failed. The next two went on the course, they also failed.
So there was an, myself and another person, we were the fifth and the sixth to go on this
course. And my mate was, got so nervous going to the testing centre he said to me, Mick,
he said, can we stop in this um, uh, pharmacist? I wanna get some tablets. And I don't
know to this day what tablets he got. Anyway, he got these tablets and he put 'em down
his neck and when he, when he went to the test station, he went round the course in
Leighton Buzzard and he got back to the testing station and the examiner said, you've
failed. So he came up to me he said uh, Mick, he said, I've failed he said. That is one
bastard test uh examiner. So I said I haven't got, right. So my name was called and it was
the same examiner. So I, I went out the test station and there was a, a disused railway
line, so I made it where that I, I proceeded with caution, went over the way, railway line,
done, done the hour's test round Leighton Buzzard, got back to the testing station, asked a
few Highway Code questions, he turns round and said, you've passed. So I goes back to
the, the ar- so out of six people, I was the first out of the six to pass, the other five failed.
So I go back to the uh, to my off- to the Transport Manager and I’m waving this ticket that
I've passed with this class two driving license and I turn around and said, I want a rise. And
he turned around and said, in certain words, sod off. He said, you'll get a rise tomorrow.
He said, there's a new lorry coming and that's yours. So it was an 8-wheel tipper.

22

Uh-huh?

So I had an 8-wheel tipper license and that's how I got my driving license.

That's brilliant. So when you kind of like upgraded to the, the like the class two license,
they didn't notice that you'd never had a license all along?

Never had, never to this day did they know that I didn't have a-. You see in them days you
could, you could uh, you could go into a job and have an argument with the foreman at the
job and turn round and say to him, oh lick em and stick em. And you could walk out that
job at 10 o'clock in the morning, walk round the corner and you could blag yourself another
job. You could, you know, I've, I've, I've turned round and said I've, I could drive a crane.
Never sat in foot in a crane in my life. Or I could drive a dumper and I've just been able to
virtually blag that part of my, my growing up really.

Brilliant. Uh-huh?

My friends say, used to say to me, you could sell sand to the Arabs but uh, yeah.

So what happened then? So you were doing, you were driving these lorries? Um, what
happened then in your life?

Well I, I got the license and I decided to legitimately go and see if I could go and get an
Operators' license.

Mmhmm. What, an Operators' license for what?
23

To run my company myself.

Oh right, mmhmm.

So I went on a six weeks, six consecutive weekend course in um, Milton Keynes to learn,
uh for uh, to be an O-, uh have Operator's license. It's what they call a CPC today.

Right.

And a lot of c- uh, I think today, every employee who sits in a lorry has to have a CPC,
where years ago it was, the CPC was for the Operator to have Operators' license. But
today they've just expanded it and expanded for s- for I don't know really what reasons.
But anyway I had a, um, I took this exam and I passed and got myself an Operators'
license. So when I got the Operators' license, I purchased, I had a friend who, who was in
the sand and gravel business and had tippers. And uh, I went in his yard and there was a
4-wheel tipper in the yard. And I said to him, how much do you want for that? And he
turned round and said, uh, make me offer. And I said, I'll give you 1500 quid for it and he
turned round and threw the keys at me. And I bought a 4-wheel Volvo and I had it maybe a
couple of years? And, so then I progressed from that to uh, um, an 8-legger, which was a
32-tonne vehicle.

Wow.

And then I bought another 4-wheeler. I had a couple of people work for me. Um, and
when, when people work for you, they don't put in, their, their heart and soul in like you do.
24

You know, and when they, at night you'd, you'd pull up in the yard and they'd ring you up
and say, I just broke back lights or the back light's aren’t working or the engine's not
running right, and I'd be down at the yard 'til 11 or 12 o'clock at night repairing the lorry
ready for the next day. Um, and a couple of 'em had uh, uh wrote the lorries off. So when
they wrote the lorries off I decided that I'd get the insurance money and I'd purchase one
brand new lorry uh, and I would drive it myself and run it solely on my own. So I done that
for many many years in the end.

Was that haulage, like up and down the country and stuff?

Yeah, it was sand and gravel.

Right.

Muck, tarmac, muck away. You know like Mick George?

Yep.

Yeah it was. I run alongside Mick George in the early days.

Uh-huh. Did you know him?

Yeah, I'm very very friendly with Mick George.

Really? Wow.

25

Yeah, yeah. He is today, he's one of the biggest hauliers in the area.

Yeah.

Yeah.

So where were you based then? Were you speci- in London?

St. Ives.

In St. Ives?

Down Meadow Lane. Exactly the same yard where Mick George is.

Right. Wow.

We uh, the guided bus, which used to be the railway line, which used to, we used to, we
have sand and gravel down at Fen Drayton was ARC, or Amey Roadstone as it used to be
called. So we used to get uh, get up early in the morning down at Fen Drayton and we
would load the trains for Kings Cross with sand and gravel. And the sand and grav-, the,
the train would have to go regardless whether you loaded one compartment or all of 'em
before a certain time in the morning.

Right.

26

Because uh, at, the line had to be open. So you know, we'd, we'd load the train uh, early in
the morning. And then, once the train was loaded we'd do the deliveries to the customers
all around Cambridge.

Wow, that must have been a really early start.

Yes, Yeah. Yeah I've, I get, I used, I still to this day get up at 4 o'clock every morning.

Wow.

I just can't get that timescale out my head, regardless.

Yeah, wow.

So we used to load the train and then go and deliver um, to the customers wherever. I, I
franchised for Hansons. Um, they were a sand and gravel firm. They bought uh, ARC off
uh, off of, uh yeah, they bought ARC out.

Right.

So then it was Hansons, and I had a franchise with them, which I had a lorry painted in
their colours. And they would, I, I, I worked for them for many years and every-, I'd buy a
brand new lorry and every three years I would uh, sell it and then buy another new one.
So, I would then be able to just park the lorry up Christmas Holidays and go on holiday,
come back and know that the vehicle's there ready to roll again.

27

Brilliant, yeah.

Rather than, used to, I used to, employed somebody to drive them sometimes and they'd
done more damage when you got back, or you'd get a phone call midnight. I've just, I've
just hit the, the um, the bridge at um, when I was loading and put the steering out and you,
all of those things. And it, in the end I just thought, I don't need all of this so I just used to
drive the lorry myself in the end. So I've done it for, oh I had, had my, my O license, it was
in 1991. And I sold the business in 2000- and, yeah, 2008 just before I went under the
knife for a triple heart bypass. I didn't think, I thought maybe I weren't gonna survive the,
the triple heart bypass, so I sold the business. I went under the knife, uh, I then took a year
off work. Uh, done all the rehabilitation that they told me to do. If they said to me, you've
got to walk six miles I walked six miles. And then I took one year off and went to the gym,
done everything that the, the British Heart Foundation told me to do and from that day to
this, uh, I've never had a problem.

Why did that come about? Why did you need a heart bypass?

Um, I, I um, I used to work, I, or I'm a worka-, I was a I'm a workaholic. I always wanted to
work and I'd work, I'd go back to work today. If I got my sight back today I'd do exactly the
same, loved it to the nth degree. Was my life. Um, and I knew what I could physically do,
physically and I used to go home and uh, I would cut my front garden, I'd go and cut my
back garden. I'd go and cut my daughter's front garden and back garden and I'd go and cut
my mum's back garden all in the same day. And I would, and uh, one particular day I got
home and uh, went to cut my front garden and I couldn't do it. And I'm out of breath and,
and so I go to the doctor and i said to him, I'm physically out of breath. I just can't do and I
know, I know that usually I can do all of this all in one day. And he checked me over, he
28

said, there's nothing wrong with you. I said, he said your heart is a-ok. I said, right. So, I go
back to work. Um, couple of weeks later, I'm still not happy with the situation. I wa-, if the
lorry, if the, if there was muck stuck in the back of the lorry, you'd jump in the lorry and
you'd, you'd dig two, two or three tonne out of the back of the lorry. And I was exhausted. I
couldn't dig it out the back of the lorry. So I go back to the doctor I said, there's something
wrong. I said, there's something wrong I said. I'm physically exhausted. So he checks me
out he said, there's nothing wrong. So I go away. Um, I then go away up to Sunderland on
a weekend with my family and my grandson wanted to go swimming and I said, I'll go
swimming with you. And I went to walk to the swimming pool with him, and I'd, only a little
bit of a gradient and I said to his dad I said, I can't do this, I can't walk. I said, don't you tell
my daughter anything or, or anybody, that what's going on. And I gets to the swimming
pool and I said, I can't go in swimming with you. I'll watch you but I can't. And anyway, I got
my breath back and um, I carried on the weekend away and I had an auntie that was
about 80 at the time and we were walking in the shop in the precincts, and I would make
excuse out to stop and look in the window because I was totally exhausted. She would,
she'd beat me in the walking and I was totally exhausted. And I said to my son-in-law, I
said don't you mention any of this. I said, I'll go back to the doctor when I get home. Well, I
went back to the doctor and I said, I'm totally exhausted. I don't know what's going on. And
he got a bit fed up with me. And I think he then transf- he, he told me to go to the hospital
and put, they put me on a treadmill, wired me up and couple of minutes onto the treadmill
they said, shut it down. They said no you can't do any more. You're gonna have a heart
attack. So it was my persistence that um, come to the conclusion you know, they know, I
know, I knew that it was something wrong, I didn't know what. So I went to Papworth and
had a stent put in my heart. Uh, they go in through the groin. And you lay there, you watch
it. Um, them put this wire up and quite a odd feeling. You can see on a monitor your heart
operating.
29

And you see them feeding this wire through to it. And they'll tell you, you go, you'll go like
you wanna wee yourself. And eventually they put this stent in and opened an artery up or
a vein or whatever like you would call it. And they turned around and said, there's another
one that's gotta be done but we, we've put you under too much stress. Cos when they're
doing that, you can, that's why they keep you awake, cos they wanna know whether
you're gonna- give you a stroke. So they said to me, we gotta do another one in a couple
of months' time. So I'm thinking right, I can, I'll go back to work soon. So I'm, I'm work, I'm,
I'm work- cos I hadn't had a heart attack, the law is quite odd, because I have never had a
heart attack or a stroke or whatever I could still drive a lorry. With it, with being, being
illegal.

Right ok, interesting. Yeah.

So I waited for the, the, to go in to have this second stent done. And I think, oh well I'll get
that done and back to normal. Well, laying on the table while they try and put this wire
through on this other side of your groin and go up. And they said, we can't put it. We can't
get it in. So I fell to pieces. I cried like a baby. I thought, oh my world's come to an end
here.

You just can't, you won't be able to do anything, you were thinking was it?

I said, I said to myself, I gotta go. They said you've gotta have a triple heart bypass. From
one minute you're going in and having a stent, to the next time you're going in and having
a triple heart bypass. So um, I've been told that I'm gonna have, gotta have a triple heart
bypass. So I'm walking around the streets waiting for the day of the operation.

30

How long did you have to wait?

I'm not sure whether it was two months or three months. Uh, but I do know while I was
waiting I wasn't in a good place. I would uh, walk down the town and I'd meet a friend and
they'd say to me, how are you Mick? And I'd turn round and burst out crying. And I think,
this isn't me. I don't do this. And I would disappear from their company and eventually I
thought this isn't, this isn't good. So I went to the doctors and um, said to him exactly
what's going on and he reeled off a two-inch lot of paperwork uh; stress, anxiety, panic
attacks. Uh, was that the three? Stress, panic attacks, anxiety, yeah possibly three. And I
read the literature and I then got myself in the situation that I could understand what I was
going through. So I found strategies that I could put myself under control if I started going
into a panic attack where you're hyperventilating.

Yep.

So I used to clasp my hands together and put them over my mouth and nose and tell
myself to breathe as slowly and as slowly as possible. And that's how I used to get myself
back to norma- normality when, when I went into a panic attack or anxiety or whatever you
like to call. So eventually I got the telephone call to go and have a triple heart bypass. It
was November the fifth I went in hospital, 2008. I went on the, under the knife on the sixth
and I walked out the hospital on the eleventh. On the eleventh. And they told me what not
to do for uh, you, cos your breastbone is cut in half.

Right, yeah.

31

And, and pulled apart. So I, what they called it now is, I'm a member of the zip club, so it
looks like a zip. Um, so they break, they break all it, all it open, do the heart operation and
then wire you back up. Literally with some wire. But you're not allowed to, they tell you
you're not allowed to put your arms on the ends of the table, the chair uh chair and lift
yourself up because all of this is still raw. So they teach you how to get up off the seat by
wriggling yourself forward and doing it by your legs like that.

Right. How fascinating I've never thought of that, yeah.

Because you mustn't put any weight on, on your arms.

Yeah.

You must, you know, mustn't stretch your arms out that wide, too wide until all of this knits
together. And they reckon it takes about 18 months for it to knit together. So I had done
everything they told me to do. I done all the rehabilitation. I done all the uh, gym exercises.
Referred to the gym and got myself uh, bit, bit of weight off. Quite a bit of weight off
actually. Um, yeah so I got a bit of weight off. I um, had one complete year off cos I sold
the lor- the business. Um, I went to a friend, and my friend's got a haulage business, his
name's Mick George.

Right.

And I said to him, I wanna come back, I wanna go back to work. He said, Mick, he said,
there's a job for you any day you like. So I went and drove for him. And I drove for him um,

32

and then he asked me to start to train his drivers to be um, more aware on the roads.
Driver efficiency.

Right.

And um, fuel efficient and all of this. And I was blown away because he said, Mick, he
said, you've done it all yourself. You know how to save money, you know, with driving a
lorry proficiently and I want you to teach my drivers. So I used to just sit there and test the
drivers. And, it's a bit vague after that for a bit because my, I went, don't know how long. I
don't know if it's, it's again one of my systems that, I shut stuff down if I don't, can't work
with it but I lost, I went to bed on a Saturday night and when I woke up I couldn't see. So I
was trip to Addenbrooke's hospital. Uh, and I stayed there nine days in a room a little bit
smaller than the room we're in now. And uh, this Doctor Mayo, very very lovely man,
worked with me all the time to see if he could save my sight. He stayed with me 'til one
o'clock in the morning on the first day I was uh, admitted to the hospital and he said, I'll be
back at nine o'clock and he was back at nine o'clock. And it, I had all the confidence in the
world that that man, if anybody could, he could, save my sight. And he, he does, he does
um, does all your family history all the way through. He, he checks all your ailments right
from. That's ty- his field. And he done no end of tests. I had no end of um, biopsies on the,
my temple for checking stuff out. Anyway, the condition what I've got is called Optic
Neuropathy. Apparently my s- eyes are perfect but the signals from my brain to my eyes
have malfunctioned. So it's nighttime 24/7. My, my eyes are perfect.

Is your- are you, is your sight loss total?

No.
33

Right.

No. There's very, there's about 4% of people who are uh, are blind, totally blind. Some of
all, some, the majority have got some light perception.

Right.

But this isn't good. This isn't good. You know I stayed in that hospital for nine days looking
out of the window trying to see any sign of, sign of light.

Yep.

A glimmer of light. Mentally what it does to you kills you. Absolutely kills you. You've got
cancer. You're blind. Just the words. You've got cancer. You're blind. What the words do to
you devastate you, absolutely devastate you.

Yeah, yeah.

I take nothing away from people who've got no legs, but I think I would much prefer to
have, have no legs and have my sight. And I'd, I, and I take nothing away from those type
of people. That's how precious sight is, it is absolutely crucial. I could, when I had sight, I
could turn my hand to anything mechanical; lawnmowers, uh, washing machines,
everything I could fix. And uh, when it's taken away from you, the emotional side of it you
know, you're, you're in a terrible state. I wanted to commit suicide. I flagged it up at the
hospital. I said I, I am suicidal. Um.
34

And this was overnight as well? You say it just, you went to bed and woke up was it?

Yeah. Yeah.

Wow. Sorry, so you told them at the hospital that you were-

Suicidal. Um, and they, it flagged up. They've, they have to flag it up on the computer and
I've learnt now that, when someone says they're suicidal, this is my take on it, they're
crying out for help. People who commit suicide don't mention it to nobody, just go, jump
under a train and do it. I mentioned it cos that's how I felt. I felt there was no, what what,
what was the, what was it worth today to, you know. You had sight one day you didn't
have it the next day. You know, your world come to an end, can't do, you can't drive any
more, you can't do this you can't do that. It, I was devastated, absolutely devastated.
Emotionally I was drained. I sat, I've sat on the, on the railway line thinking, go on jump.
I've sat a river, go on jump. Emotionally it, it's not good. And I think every single person
who's partially sighted or blind has, have, has that emotional stuff going on in their head.
When you're totally blind from birth you know no different. Take that away from nobody,
because they know no different. I know what I'm missing. I know the colours of the flowers,
my grandchildren.

Would you like to stop for a moment?

You know. Yeah it's devastating. I don't think you ever come to terms with it. You, you live
with it. Well I have, I, me, I don't, I don't ever accept it, I live with it. I um, wish it would be

35

different but it isn't. I, I Cam-, I was put from in Addenbrooke's. Uh, they had an ECLO
nurse and they put me in touch with Cam Sight, which is where we're sitting now.

What does ECLO mean? Sorry?

Its Eye Care something Officer.

Ok.

Um, well we'll find out later on the, the lettering. And they put me in touch with Cam Sight,
and Cam Sight do um, counselling. And I came to the counselling group with six people
who were visually impaired and finding it difficult to come to terms with, cope. You can sit
in a room like this and sit with six or seven people who are visually impaired. You can cry
like a baby, and I've cried like a baby. A man crying. Emotionally, you can tell these people
what you would never tell your family, how you're feeling, because every one of those
people in this room are feeling the same. I used to go, come out in the morning and try and
read a number plate on my car. And the next day I'd go out in the morning and I couldn't
read the, see that number plate. So you convince yourself your eye condition's got worse.
And what it does mentally for the day, it flows, throws you into oblivion. Your, everything
you're doing you're thinking, ah no it's gone a bit more today. You know, and you're
walking the streets like, bit like a zombie really. And you think to yourself, this isn't good at
all. And then you talk to yourself and you turn round and say, why are you doing, why are
you putting yourself through all of this anxiety by trying to read something that you, that
isn't possibly gonna be any beneficial to you? You know, trialling, see, I can see it today I
can see it tomorrow but I can't see it the next two days. Mentally it, it, it's killing you. So I
stopped reading number plates. And the weather outside can make a difference. Um, the
36

winter I don't like, because it's a lot darker earlier. So my uh, my sight is that much worse
after two o'clock because it's dark at that time in the winter. I need a lot, I need as much
light as you could possibly throw at me.

Right.

I could possibly look at the sun, makes no difference to me. I can't wear sunglasses
because it's night-time all the time. You wouldn't be able to look at the sun. I could look at
the sun, makes no different to me. So, yeah, so I, I came to this counselling group and I
done the course and stayed in f-, in touch with all the people that was on this course right
up to the, to this present day. So we bounce off each other. If one of us is having a bad
day, they call and say, what you doing? And pick each other up. I've come a long way
since the day that I, I lost my sight. The majority of my sight. I've come a long way. I've,
um, I'm quite proud of what I've, how I've coped. A different way of life. I've, I've met a lot
of lovely lovely people in the unsighted world. We don't judge each other. We're a nation
of, oh that bloke across there or that bird there, she don't, she doesn't look, she looks ugly.
You know. We don't, we don't look at it in that respect. We can't see that you look ugly. We
can't see whether you've got a pimple on your face or on your nose. So we don't, we don't
judge in that respect. We're equal, we're all, virtually all equal. You know, you, you've over
your lifetime, I've done it many a time, met, met somebody and you've took an instant
dislike to the person. They've done you no harm. They've said nothing to you, but you take
an instant dislike. But this, go in an environment with people who are visually impaired,
that, that doesn't, that doesn't even enter the, it doesn't enter our, your mind. It doesn't
enter your mind. You, you, what, one, every, there's not, if I put six people in this room who
was visually impaired, there is not one that is the same as the next person along. Some
people can see something and the other person can't. Some people see something and
37

else, some other people can't. I, when I was doing this group with counselling I, I um, when
I closed my eyes at night I seen newborn babies, they're naked and they're all interlinked
like with, you put your fingers together. And the more I concentrate on 'em they go into
oblivion and disappear. And I could be sitting in the car or on a bus and I could see a tree
in the middle of the road. I know mentally it's not there but it, it's my, in my sight it's there. I
can see uh, I can see um, when I done the London to Cambridge cycle ride on a tandem
and I was, we were three hours into the ride and going through the country lanes in the
bushes, I could see faces of masked, um, not gargoyles but masks. And uh, when I closed
my eyes and open them and go back they're not there. And I used to like doing my garden
and when I was cutting my bush, in one of the bushes, I had me hands in the bush and
from the tips of my fingers to my elbow there's, I can see all insects, every creature's
crawling up my arm. Right up to, and I'm looking at them and I can see all the insects and
spiders and everything. Withdraw my hand from the bush and they're gone. Put my hand
back in the bush and they're all there. And I’m thinking, I don't know. I'm going mad here.
So, when I came to this group, I pucked, plucked up the courage to tell these people that
this is what's happening. And a, one of the uh, people who run the group went outside, got
a magazine, brochure and came back and she said, there you are Mick, she said, that's
your condition. It's Charles Bonnet syndrome. Yeah. It's what your mind makes up for
what's missing. Mm. Yeah. Some people see buses coming through the room of the
house. And some people can see um, cats running round the pelmet of the house. Some
people think that they've got another room in their house. It’s called Charles Bonnet
syndrome, and I, weren't until I mentioned it that then stuff come a bit clearer. Cos I was
thinking, I'm, they're gonna cart me off to a mental hospital cos this isn't good. But it's a
condition that uh, is out there. You know, I can look at somebody's face, I can't see
features and their faces change colour. Go green, go red. And then I shake, turn my head,
look back at ‘em and their colour's changed. It's quite odd.
38

Did you get any counselling to help with that or anything?

I, that's what the counselling was here.

The talking therapy with the group?

The talking to everybody, you know. Then they bring a, uh, a brochure out turning round
and saying that uh, this is what the condition is. So when you know that there is, it's not so
in your face. You, you think, oh right well you know, it's, it is what it is. I, I went to bed one
night and closed my eyes and see the new-born, the babies like they were and
disappeared. And the next thing I see a television picture and a picture of a man there.
Absolutely crystal clear, all the colours, all the man's features of, and I'm smiling. I can feel
myself smiling and I think, I've got my sight back. And when I've opened my eyes, reality
kicks in. It's, I've made all of this up through this, whatever it's called, Charles Bonnet
syndrome. It's absolutely incredible. Um, yeah so the groups help, the, the, the emotional
support helps. Uh, I, you know, people, you, you'll walk along the road and you'll see a
person with a stick. I didn't give a blind person a, a second glance when I had sight. Didn't
even think anything about the condition or whatever, what they, a person's going through,
how they're coping mentally. But it is, it is a mental uh, thing more than, to, to, to cope with,
cos every day's a different day. Every day throws a different challenge. I found, I found that
how I cope um, is I, I've been in, I've been in the counselling groups and people here at
Cam Sight uh, say to me, Mick I've got a person who's, who's not coping very well, would
you give them a phone call? And I give 'em a phone call and I chat to them because I
know I can, I can s- possibly, if you was got no sight, you might not be able to verbally say
how you're feeling. But I personally, I, I can generally, I'm a very good conversationalist. I
39

can generally work it round so you will tell me eventually, but it might be an hour. Might be
three days later. But eventually your, you'll think, well I can trust this person to be able to
tell him how I am feeling. So I do a, a lot of pe- they, they ask me to go and talk to
somebody or go and visit 'em cos they've never been out the house for ages. I've got a
friend now, it's, it's been three years. He moved from um, Herne Bay and he lost his sight
through diabetes. And uh, he lives in Hertford, and they asked me to go and visit him cos
he's never been out the house in twelve years. So I visited him and spent the afternoon
with him and uh, he's totally blind. And I didn't have the dog at the time, I had a cane, white
cane with a ball. And I, when I left him, I said, are you gonna come out with me the next
day? And he said, yeah. He hadn't been out the house for twelve years. And I'm thinking,
no way. So I go and meet him and step him from his house to the road counting the steps,
backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards, 'til we know the number of steps. Then,
from the road to the, cross the other side of the road. Count the steps backwards and
forwards, backwards and forwards and eventually he, he can walk from his bus, his house
to the bus stop. Get on the bus and I can say, I'll meet you in Cambridge, and he'd meet
me in Cambridge. He um, he's now got a guide dog. He's now got a guide dog, but
between me and another friend that's what we done, to walk him. Cos he's got no, cos he's
got no sight uh, he's got no geographic wherever he is.

Right. I understand.

If he would have lost his sight in Herne Bay, where, in, he know, knew Herne Bay like back
of his hand. So he'd have had a little bit of du- memory of where he was. You know, if you
say to somebody, am I standing at the end of the road near the pub? He would, he would
know where he is. But being in here, he, he could be in the middle of the desert. You spin
him round he'd never know. Got no idea. That's, that's played a great deal in my condition.
40

Because I had a haulage business I know the area like the back of my hand. You can't get
me lost in Ca- in, in Britain. You can't get me lost. If I sat with you in the car and you said, I
wanna go, pick a, pick a place. I could say, all right I'll direct you there by you turning
around and saying to me. I'll say to you, what can you see? And you tell me what you see
and I can tell you where you are. I done the, I done the uh, hundred mile centenary for
Cam Sight. And we done two days of 50 miles on a tandem, and this lady picked us up
from here uh, picked me, picked us up from my house. And she got maps in the car and
she was, she wanted to go to Littleport. And I said, do you trust me to take you to
Littleport? She said, can you? I said, you tell me what you s-, when I ask you what you can
see, you tell me and I'll tell you where we are. And I took her to Littleport. We done the 50
mile tandem ride. Next day she picked me up from the house she said, I wanna go to
Linton. So I took her to Linton by her telling me where she was. Gets back to the house, I
said to her, I said, Sally, I said, you're never gonna mention this to your friends, that you've
been guided for two days by a visually impaired person are you? She sat in the car and
she roared with laughter. She said, that is, she said, I'd never even thought of it Mick. She
said, I never even thought of it. But I, I walk in, I walk in Cambridge with my guide dog and
lots of people turn round and say to, I can hear them, that man's training that dog. I wish. I
wish I was training them. They, they, I dunno why. Maybe, uh, does blind people have to
have no eyes?

Right. I understand. Yeah.

Do you have to have no eyes? Do you have to wear dark glasses? I ca- I can't wear dark
glasses, cos my condition is night-time all the time. So it would be, it'd virtually be I'd have
no sight.

41

Yeah. Wow. Tell me about how you came to get uh, Molly and a little bit about her and
about how you worked with her and stuff like that.

Well I um, I turned round and was trained with a white cane. Uh, um and what I used to do
to get around and about, home quick. I used to walk in the road. Not a thing that you
should do and I'd be hitting the curb and I'd walk to facing the traffic and all of a sudden
you'd get a beep-beep-beep. And the person winding down the window and they'd say to
you, excuse me, you know you're on the road? And I'd say, oh no. So I'd step onto the
path, onto the grass. When they disappeared I'd step back on the road because it was
quicker because it's flat.

Yeah. Uh-huh. Of course.

See with a white cane, when you hold it in front of you it give, you, the cane is your height.
It's measured for you. So if you're six foot, you have a six foot cane. So when you hold it in
front of you it, you're safe for two paces, two steps.

Right, I get you.

So you know that in those two steps there's no hole, so you're not gonna disappear down
no hole. And then the next two steps, because you're, you're swiping the cane left, left to
right. So you learn to use the cane, and then you learn to use, you can, if you go down a
step you can tell the depth of the step or coming up. You, you get quite adapt to it with it,
with a cane. Anyway I done the cane training, got used to the cane and they turned round
and said, do you know that you can have a guide dog? And I said uh, I don't really think it's
for me. Said I don't really wanna go through. Don't, so they said, think about it. And they
42

said, we'll come and evaluate everything and they came and evaluated everything and
they said, then brought Molly to the house and um, they said, why don't you come on the
training, fortnight's training? If at the eleventh hour it wasn't for you, walk away. We won't
think nothing more about it and if it, you want it to happen a year later or two years later
that's all fine. So I wasn't never sure whether a guide dog was for me. So I went on the
fortnight's training. Right up to the eleventh hour I still wasn't sure that it was for me but I
qualified and came away with her.

You trained with, so you train with the dog that you would, you will get if you um?

Yes. Yeah. Yeah, the dog. They bring a dog to think that they, they think that, right that
person walks. They come and evaluate how fast you walk uh, how mobility you are and
they try and match you up with a dog. Um, I can't see black cos of my condition. So I
asked for whether I could possibly have a, uh, Golden Retriever, uh lab and Molly's that
colour.

I'd never thought of little things like that.

But I, I still trip over her now and again. I still trip over her, her now and again. But I done
the training, got home and she's been the best thing that ever happened to me. I, I always
go out every day. I've, I just don't stop indoors I can't cos of when I worked outside in
whatever condition. I, my world's too enclosed with the condition, sight. It's, it's, it's another
mental side of it. I don't like sitting in uh, a room for very long. Um, I don't do indoors that.
If I was, if I was feeling unwell I, I'm not great indoors. I like to be out and about and
breathe the air and just get about. So uh, Molly's wants to have a uh, walk every day so I
walk her every day. So she's been a, a terrific asset to me. Absolutely an incredible dog.
43

How long have you had her now?

I've had her nearly three years now.

Did you have pets before? Did you have?

No.

Right, so that's quite an adaption in itself, an adaptation in itself.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, she's a very very clever dog. She um, sit on a train line and she
will not budge when the fastest train goes by, she won't even move a muscle. You know,
she won't fidget. Fireworks, she won't fidget she won't make any distraction. She just will
not deviate, deviate from the job that she's doing.

Marvellous.

She is an incredible dog.

She's snoring a bit down there isn't she?

Yeah, she, yeah.

Oh bless her, oh she is. How wonderful.

44

Yeah, I've gone to no end of um, the PE, PS boards and uh, she's, she's started to snore.

Brilliant.

And you, they see everybody at the table looking at each other as if to say, who's that?

Oh brilliant.

Yeah. She is a in-, she is a really cracking dog.

How would you say, what has she enabled you to do that you couldn't do before? How has
she changed um, changed things for you?

Uh, I don't think she's stop-, I've don't think I've, she's, I've done anything different than I
would have done if I had of, hadn't of had her but you are a lot more confident in your
walking. Um, uh, you know, you’re, when you got the cane uh, you're, you're a little bit
hesitant to see you know, if you've picked the right signal up. Cos it, the, the cane gives a
signal up your arm to, how the condition of the pavement is. So with Molly I don't need to
do that. She'll, she'll walk me round bins. She'll walk me round holes in the, in the path if
there's a hole. She'll just do exactly what it says on the tin. She is my eyes. She'll come to
a, uh, a crossing and she will stand at the crossing and she won't go until I give her a
command forward and then she'll go across the road. And then she'll get to the next road
junction and she will stop until I give her a command forward. She's done, in the time I've
had her, she's, she's walked in front of me possibly about three times literally to stop me
from walking into the road. Just walked, just totally come across my path. But uh, I've
heard people turn around and said, it, have you come to a, a time when you know, you
45

both gelled? And I said, I haven't come to that. But I do trust her. I do trust her and she
trusts me because you know, she, for her food and keeping her groomed. Cos you're
taught all of that. Um, she is one cracking dog. Her sister is, uh, uh, Claire, who's, what's
done emotional support, she's got Molly's sister. And Molly's sister is black. And the people
who, who trained her, who puppy walked her, they live in Colchester and I still keep in
touch with them to this day.

Although Molly went with you when you went out the room you, you weren't like, didn't
have the harness or anything like that. Is that cos you're so familiar with the?

This area, this, this building. Yeah. That's, that's a, that's another thing that you, you get
um, wherever you go you need to, people not to move stuff so you get familiar with the
surroundings. So that, you know, when I, when I go into a restaurant, soon as I walk in the
door I have to stop there. I can't, can't go no further. Because it's total darkness. All
restaurants are ambient lighting, riduc-, ridic-, ridiculous aren't they?

Of course, yes. Yeah, yeah. That's very true, yeah. Same with pubs and.

Yeah. So I go in to the doorway and I have to stand because my, my sight condition, uh
I've then go to, my eyes have got to start to adjust. So I might stand there for five minutes.
I might have to stand there for ten minutes 'til my, my sight uh, gets to the grade that I can
see.

How many places would you say you're fa- so familiar that you can kind of, you don't need
to have Molly's harness with you? Um, right so there's this building probably. Are there,
like, shops and stuff near you that you use or?
46

No. That, I, I, when you go shopping, I, I don't do, I don't do grocery shopping unless I go
to a supermarket and ask for assistance. When, when you go supermarket shopping it's
easier, you don't get yourself wound up by turning round and uh, cos you can't see nothing
on the shelves. So you'd still be there if you went in at 8 o'clock in the morning, you'd still
be there at 8 o'clock at night. You just can't, you, it's, it's one of them things you, you, it
would, it would frustrate you to the nth degree so don't ki-, don't frustrate yourself. Go in,
go in, ask for assistance, turn round and walk with them and say, tell me what you see on
the aisles. What aisle are we in? Are we in the baked bean aisle, are we in the biscuit
aisle? Are we in? And then when the, you walk down the aisle you say, yeah I want four
tins of that, four tins of that.

So, that's supermarket staff or, who will?

Yeah.

Are they good at that? Do you fi-?

Some shops are some aren't. Some shops are really good and some haven't been uh, got
no concept. They've, you know, you're a bit of a pain in the backside. Yeah, yeah. The
same, the same as um, taxi drivers when you book a taxi. You know, you'll say uh, I've got
a guide dog and they'll come along and they'll, their, their, their religion, they're frightened
to the death of the dog. Absolutely. It's, if I, if I get in the taxi and she sits in the foot well
and I push the seat back and I sit in the passenger side and they want that dog as far
away from 'em as they possibly can. Cos the moment that dog licks them they have to go
home, change of clothes, wash because their, it's unclean. But you'll, you'll get them that
47

they'll turna round and uh, by law they're not, never to, allowed to refuse you, picking you
up. If one refuses, you can go to the Licensing Authority and, and ask for their license to
be revoked cos that's one of the conditions, that they've got a license to, to uh, for guide
dogs. So, yeah. They'll um, I, I've only had one where I booked a taxi and when the taxi
driver didn't arrive I rung the company up and they turned round and said, sorry the
driver's allergic to dogs. So we waited for another uh, taxi driver. Anyway, I was a bit, bit
put out by it. I, so I rung the council the next day and I said um, I told them the story and
uh, I said I want you to look into it to see whether the driver's got a doctor's certificate
exempting him from being a, uh, for, for having an allergy. And I, they still haven't got back
to me yet about it.

Tell me about the sports that you play.

Well, when I, when I done this Emotional Support trying to get my head back to some kind
of normality. They do tandem riding here. A volunteer takes you out. So I decided to, I
used to like cycling. Prior to me losing my sight I've never done none of these sports, none
of them. So I've got more time on my hands than I wanna shake a stick at. So the way that
I can cope with today or tomorrow is by doing all these activities; meeting people, having a
coffee and a chat uh, doing the activity, socialising. So I done the Can, Cam Sight tandem
riding with Chris he takes you out whether you wanna go out for half an hour, two hours.
He'll just take you, go wherever you wanna go. He'll describe where we're going and I'll tell
him what road we're on. And uh, then we'll come back here uh, then I will possibly go into
Cambridge, go into the library. There was, I could do some work in the library but with the
cuts they've taken the facility off out the library at the moment.

What facility was that?
48

Well I had, they had some computers that uh, were accessibility for blind and they talk to
you. And at this present moment in time they've taken the computers out of the library so I
can't do that at the moment. So, I then, on a Tuesday I play Blind Tennis.

How does that work?

It's got a, the, is, the, ball's a bit larger than a tennis ball. It's not as hard, it's made of a f- a
good solid foam and it's got a bell in it. And you're allowed to, different sight conditions.
Uh, B1 is total blind, B2 is my category. You're registered with British Blind Sport. So they
look at your history of your eye condition and they put you in a category. So totally blind is
B1, B2 is what I am. Uh, so when I play Tennis, I can, it can come, the ball can come over
the net and I'm allowed three bounces before, if I, if I strike it in the first bet, if I hear and hit
it in the first bounce that's ok, but if it bounces and then I don't hear it and bounces again
and I still don't hit and I, third time I hit and that I hit it, it's still in play. So I, I play Blind
Tennis in Cambridge.

Where do you? Do you play that on a normal tennis court?

On a normal tennis court indoors, yeah. Um, I, I swim on a Wednesday with a s- uh, a
group that's partially sighted and blind in a swimming pool that, we don't bash into the
general public, you know? We just go into a pool with volunteers who keep an eye on us,
tell us when we come to an end, to the end and turn round and uh, we swim for 45
minutes. I do, I've tried archery and that's worked on a clock basis. Um, I've tried um, uh,
green bowls and that's also worked on a clay, clock basis. So you have a somebody that's
sighted, sighted, sighted tell you, if you do archery, you strike the first arrow and then
49

they'll say to you, you've got it at six o'clock, you wanna come up uh, a foot to say, three
o'clock and then you strike the next arrow and see if you can hit the bullseye. I done 22
arrows once at uh, um, Graffham uh, and I struck seven bullseyes.

Wow.

Yeah, yeah. By other people telling me what's what. I've done sights, um, I done sailing up
at Graffham. Yeah. Um, I've also um, when I had my triple heart bypass I done a nine-mile
charity bike round, ride round Graffham water. I done it with Mike, Mark Foster the
swimmer, for, for um, British Heart Foundation. And I started, I, I went round and, Sunday
before the race or the event, whatever you like to call it. And um, I went there on Sunday
before cos I wanted to see if I could do it and not make myself look a, an idiot. I had sight
then, and I rode round there and I thought, yeah I can do this. And I stopped at a pub for a
pint to, halfway round, so I knew I could do it the Sunday of the event. So I started off with
Mark Foster and, it was a Sunday and he turned round and said, I'm, I've, I've gotta crack
on now. Cos he said, his mum lives in St Neots or he does, so my mum's doing Sunday
dinner. So he wanted to crack on, finish the race and get, go home for Sunday Dinner. So I
cycled, carried on cycling. In my lifetime I've never uh, won nothing in my life and I came
first. I, I come first and I didn't even know that I came first. Like, I just was, just done it and
yeah. So I got a medal. But when, when I had the triple heart bypass and waited for, for
uh, waiting for the operation. Again, similar to eyesight the, your, what your mind plays on
you is, is awful tricks. You know it uh, cos you don't know when you're walking, gonna be
walking down the street for your last time. And the anxiety and uh, and all of those
emotions are, are, are so heightened. They're so up, up there they're, they're virtually
swamping you, you know with, with am I going to be here tomorrow? Am I not? The
emotional side of waiting for, I suppose any surg- uh, any major surgery has gotta be uh,
50

mind-blowing. Mind, absolutely mind-blowing and the sight loss was uh, as bad if not
worse than the emotional side of waiting for a triple heart bypass. So I've come a long way
um, emotionally. I still get, I still get um, down days. I think there wouldn't be a person
who's hasn't got sight loss wouldn't tell you that there's down days, where you think what,
what, what, what point am I, why am I here today? You know, why am I here? I went to
church uh, to see if I could get my sight back. Whether God would give me it back. You
might think it's totally daft, the majority of people listening to this more likely think it's totally
daft but you've got to do what you've got to do. If it's a way you cope with today, go with it.
If it's the way you cope with tomorrow, go with it. You know, I can't tell you no different, you
know. You'll find your own, whatever way, your own coping mechanisms and everybody
has got coping mechanisms. Everyone, everybody can turn round and go to work and they
think, well I'm not coping today and they've got a coping mechanism, they might go and sit
in the car and listen to the radio and get their selves back on track. Everybody's got a way
that they bring themselves back to some kind of normality. But when, when I done the
counselling, I turned round and said, if you'd have asked me prior to losing my sight what I
thought of counselling, whether it be marriage, alcohol, drug-related, whatever, I'd have
said to you, pull your socks up, get on with life. Now I know that, what counselling's done
for me, if you need it for any of those go and get it because if it saves you from getting into
depression, anxiety, panic attacks, coping mechanism, go with it.

How do you think, cos you obviously have an acquired disability. How has that changed,
how did that affect your attitude towards people with disabilities? Um.

Empathy.

Right.
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Yeah, got a lot of empathy with people.

And that's come?

I've got a lot of time for people. There's a lot of people out there that's got a disability and
they just get on with it, and they get on remarkably well. But if you really got down to the
nitty-gritty, I bet if I was to ask the majority of them how they're coping in mind, what, mind,
in their mindset they would all turn round and say in some degree that, that they, mind is a
uh, fascinating uh, part of the, of your, your whole structure. Uh, and you can, you can talk,
you can talk yourself into no end of things. You can talk yourself into a disease that you
haven't got if you, if, if you. It's, it's, you know. I have got a load of empathy with people
who have, have, all disabilities. And we, we get, we find that we, I talk to, I, I, I went to a,
um, oh it was the same meeting that you went to and the man who's doing the sports
challenge.

Oh yes.

Lovely. He's got no arms.

Yeah.

And I shook his hand, I shook his arm and there was no, you can't shake my arm because
I haven't got no hands. Uh, it's quite odd isn't it?

Yeah, yeah, you just adapt, get on, move forward.
52

Well you either, you either do or you don't. You either sink or you swim. And you know,
sitting at home and, and moping about it, I, I wouldn't wanna be there. I just wouldn't
wanna be there, you know. I don't do, I don't do what, tomorrow. I don't plan anything um,
substantially. Uh, I take every single day as it comes. Whatever's today brings whatever
today brings. Whatever tomorrow brings, what is tomorrow. I don't do far in the future
because it can change. Everything can change. You could be employed today, gone
tomorrow. You know, but at the end of the day, you know, you, if you, if you've got no, if
you, if you're unemployed, you're breathing. This is a fantastic place out there. You know,
the birds, trees, everything that, that you, you come across, it's all got a purpose. It's got a
terrific purpose, you know. From a little acorn tree grows you know, birds pollinate flowers,
it's, wasps, every, bees everything. Everybody, everything's got a purpose and it isn't until
you, you sit back and you think this is a wonderful place. It might not be at the time when
you're going through all of these turmoils and tribulations that you have and anxieties and
all what's been thrown at you. But I've, over the years I've uh, I've met some wonderful
people and I've done some, some talks in places and I'm thinking, why do, would they
wanna listen to me? Waffle on. Feel sorry for myself. But I, I do feel sorry for myself. I,
yeah, I do feel sorry for myself but I'm only telling you as it is. I'm not sugar-coating any of
it. I, why should I coat, sugar-coat it? It is what it is, very painful. And if I can help one
person to um, to st-, uh, take on board, uh, diabetes. Cos diabetes takes the majority of
people's sight without realising and it's, and once your sight's gone through diabetes it's no
returning. It's, it's awful, absolutely awful. I would, I, I, I m-, I was in Cambridge a year or so
maybe back and I was in the pub and I was talking to a person at the bar and he was a
young person about 24, 25 years of age and he was wearing contact lenses. And we went
from one pub to the ne-, to the, another and we were get-, slowly getting drunk. And uh, he
said to me, he said, I've got contact lenses in and he said, I've never, I haven't taken them
53

out my eyes for seven months. And I said, you're kidding me? He said, no, he said, I
haven't had time, said, I've been working. I said, you've kidding me. I said, you've should
take them out and, and give your eyes your, time to breathe and I convinced him to go to
the hospital or the doctors the next day. I never seen him since, from that day to this
because I said, if they've, if your, if your eyes have grown over them.

Yes totally.

I said, you could lose your sight.

Yeah.

I said, you've gotta take, what it says on the tin, you've gotta do. You know, even if, even if
you're tired, take them out, clean them, look after your sight. Cos you don't wanna be like I
am. And I don't know to this day whether he'd taken that on board and gone the, the next
day. Hope he had because I hope he, he got his sight ok, cos I d-, I don't like this.

Um, I think we're coming to the end now. Is there anything you'd like to add that we haven't
spoken about?

Well, I'll tell you the, uh, a story that uh, I, I, my brother-in-law, he, he was dying of cancer
and lived in Stilton. And um, I used to visit him every day on the bus and it used to take me
nearly all day to get to him and back. And this one particular day I said to him, I went to
visit him and he said, uh Mick, he said, it's about time you went home now. And he said, I,
he lived in Stilton, and he said, walk out the village and cross the road and stay on that
side of the road and the bus stop is about a mile outside the village. So I done that and I'm
54

walking like he's told and the path run out and I've, didn't have the dog at the time. And,
uh, he, the path run out I thought, no way can I go to the right in case it's a ditch. So I
could hear the traffic so I went onto the road. And I'm walking on the road hitting the curb
and a person turned round and said, um, a, a car went by and the person spun the car
round, came back, she got out the car she said, excuse me you're on the road. I said, I
know. I said, I'm waiting, I'm waiting to go to the bus, find the bus stop. She said, can I
help you? Gets to the bus stop. I said, thank you very much. She said, I watched you
walking out the village. She said, I wanted to help you. I said, well you have thank you.
She put her arms round me and started crying. And I thought, oh dear what have I got
here? So, she uh, said, in the car across the road is my daughter. She was born blind. And
I said, I don't know what to say to you. I said, I can only say one thing, one thing. I know
what I'm missing, your daughter doesn't. And that was the end of the conversation. And I
wanted to meet that lady for m-, a long time afterwards and I done everything I could to
meet her with no avail. I go on my guide dog training with Molly and on the very last day I
tr-, gets, I'm uh, getting evaluated and uh, and the man who's evaluating me says, Mick
get in the car, put Molly in the boot, get in the passenger side front. I gets Molly in the boot,
puts myself in the fr- front passenger side, puts the belt on. I get a tap on my shoulder and
she said, do you remember me? And I'm saying, keeps talking. She said, I'm the person
that helped you at the bus at Stawtry, uh, Stilton. I said, no way! She is now a mobility
instructor for visually impaired at, at guide dogs.

Wonderful. Well if, on that note, such a positive note, we'll end it if that's good with you?

Yup.

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