Every Business and Organization in Ladbroke Grove Including Everyone Working or Living in This Great Place, Lets HearTheir Story!
But Who Am I?
I grew up on a Council Estate called the Suttons Estate on Dalgarno Gardens in W10. For those of you that don’t know, The Suttons Estate is made up of Housing Association and Council Tenants and when I grew up there, it was a very rough place to live indeed.
Throughout my time living there between the day I was born in May 1977 to the day my parents were paid £15,000 to leave in 1993, as a child I was exposed to seeing a lot. From Drugs to petty theft to grown men hiding under cars to get away from kid gangs on the estate. Getting into drugs was because their mates were, petty theft was because, well was there another way of getting money? To be fair, money was scarce and kids fighting adults WTF? When I say kids I mean kids. The oldest of the kids must have only been 14 or 15. A mad sense of chivalry of protecting their community from outsiders!! Black and white! What’s right is right is right and what’s wrong is wrong!!
In the early nineties when I was about 13 years old my parents along with anyone else that had been living on the Estate were for longer than 15 years were offered a deposit of 15 grand to put down to buy a property elsewhere. i.e. “get off the estate, we want the flat back to house other people.” Lucky for my parents I was never involved in drugs, muggings or involved in having the audacity to even attempt to fight an adult, another gang in St Marks Park nor the Moroccans from Bevington Road or the Gypsies under the Westway affectionately known as ‘The pikies.”
I cannot completely exonerate myself from the violence though. I was involved in a fierce Brixton Rioteske running battle with another group of Travellers! The battle took place where the channel Tunnel Cleaning stations reside on the First Great Western Trains route to and from Paddington. Although I 100% know where the tarmac we were hurling at each other came from, I had no idea where the half broken bricks came from. Still something else to throw. There I was, a 7 year old, the estates Chivalry instilled in me, but what I want to know, is 1) where were my parents because if they saw me doing this, I don’t think I wouldn’t be alive today and 2) when I say fierce battle, I was standing side by side with Admiral Lord Nelson defeating the French and Spanish at the Battle of Trafalgar, the reality however, none of us actually had the strength to reach each other.
So in ’93 my parents took the money and ran for the hills buying a 3-bedroom house with a driveway and 75 feet garden in Ruislip for £78,000. At the same time they were offered a 1000 square feet lower ground floor council owned flat on St Quintin Avenue W10 for £63,000. Today my parents live in Auckland, New Zealand, their house in Ruislip is worth around just shy of £400k and the flat in St Quintin Ave would likely be worth a million pounds!!! Rags to riches.
Schooling – Barlby Road Primary Then Barbara Speakes
I was Primary School student at Barlby Road School up to the age of 9 then went to Barbara Speak Stage School in East Acton. I had no idea what a stage school was but I did know that I hated school although any street cred a possibly gained was completely ruined when I was seen in my red blazer! Imagine living in a rough area where all you mates went to either Burlington Danes, Holland Park or Hammersmith and I was wearing a Red blazer to and from the estate! Red blazer to and from school dodging bullets and ballet tights during the day! Thank god I was well liked or I could have been dead!
In the 7 years I was at school I appeared in 36 TV Commercials, various programs such as the Bill. In fact I was invited back as a guest in the Bill. My first Commercial was a sugar puffs commercial. My blond flowing locks, blue eyes and looking a lot younger than I was proved to be a good combination for producers and directors alike!
I eventually got a role in Grange Hill but as a 21 year old and in the same year was pencilled in to play a lead role in Lord of the Rings. More importantly though, this is the school where I met the mother of my three children! We used to do modelling jobs at Marks and Spencer in Baker Street together and also appeared in a Paul Daniels Christmas Special!! On one occasion I went to Charleen’s class and asked her teacher if I could speak with my now wife. Without saying anything I gave her the best kiss I could muster leaving her in toilets to wonder what had just happened! I was 13 and felt incredibly proud of myself.
From Stage School To Going To War!
Before I tell how you how I went from Stage School to going to War I want to tell a short story about a Number 7 Bus and North Pole Road.
So I’m about 12 years old in my new dungarees and a pair of proper budget trainers called ‘Matchsticks’ that were a copy of the make ‘PONY’. PONY at the time were proper in fashion. The one thing as a kid I thought was odd about my parents, they always made sure I had a roof over my head and food to eat before spending their week’s shopping allowance of £70 on a pair of childrens Nike Air Max or Adidas Torsion. I remember the Adidas Torsion were bullet proof. No really bullet proof.
On a summer holiday trip to Oxford Street when a return bus fare cost 40p I was with my two mates, David Tanswell and Justin Hill. We were just walking under the bridge in-between Bracewell Road and Eynham Road towards the Pavilion Pub when we spotted the old open backed double decker London Bus pulling in to collect and drop of passengers.
From where we were to the bus was about 60meters. Sprinting has hard as we could to catch the bus which had now left the bus stop and coming towards us David and Justin both jumped on the open platform with me only just managing to grip onto the solitary pole that was in the centre of the open platform. The problem was, I was running behind the bus just managing to keep my grip.
As we started to approach where we just come from back under the bridge passing Jackie’s Flowers on the left I noticed a girl called Laura in the distance who at the time, I used to really fancy and decided not to jump aboard. How cool was I running behind a bus!?
I’m not the tallest and wasn’t then. Hearing the engine go through its gears with what seemed like to power of 10 Bugatti Verons, I was 100% in trouble. Lucky for me the girl hadn’t seen impersonation of Linford Christie! My motion of my legs would have only been visible to an ultra high-speed camera. I had a glimmer of hope of making the platform, but before I could finish my thought Captain Kirk gave the command for Warp Speed.
I went from a 100-meter sprint specialist to world record holder at the long jump with approximately 30 meters between the hop a skip and jump!
Anyway, with the moment of being Barry Big Nuts traumatising me even today, I decided to jump completely missing a world of safety, slid down the hard plastic ribbed pole burning the palm of my hands immediately followed by a face-off with the platform floor losing the fight dramatically.
The ordeal I put myself through felt like I had been dragged from one side of the UK to the other! The bus eventually stopped. Not because the bus conductor had come to my rescue. I don’t think he actually saw my plight. He thought my two mates were both having a fit’s! The reality of course, was that they couldn’t stop laughing and laughed even more when I stood up. My brand new trainers and dungarees resembled an 83-year-old Daffy Duck who had just found his way home after an illegal 48-hour rave.
Do you think I went home to tell mum, or do you think I took my seat, paid my 40p accepting as much emotional pain as I could possibly find room for?
Military – The Parachute Regiment
One of my big why’s in life and from a young age is Homelessness. I’ve always been puzzled how homelessness can become accepted by a person as everyday life, what triggers it and what the very first night sleeping rough was like?
But what’s this got to do with joining the military? As a kid I used to throw the plastic parachute soldier off the top floor of the block of flats on the Suttons, the same flats I said that I would day dream of buying 10 of the flats to house people of have fallen on tough times financially or otherwise to get back on their feet and back into society. That was when I 10. Today, I’m 38, married with three kids and not done a thing to assist the homeless apart from the odd fiver here, the odd quid there.
As a child, we think our parents are weird. That look they gave was disturbing, the look we know all to well now. As parents looking at our children, our kids think we’re weird : ) Anyway, this look of love and a chat when I was sixteen initially quelled my intrigue in the military. Watching movies, documentaries, programs and short films on the military kept me fascinated and intrigued.
In 1999 splashed all over the UK Tabloid and Broadsheet’s were pictures of the Parachute Regiment. Two years later I just took upon myself to go to Wembley Careers Office to sign up for basic training. What were they worried for, I was young, passionate and felt very alive! What did my parents know?
This was the year I did 18 episodes out of 20 in Grange Hill. This was also around the time I was penciled in for The Lord Of The Rings. Things were looking good in the world of acting at the age of 21, but I really didn’t like the industry and wanted to join the Army.
Those have passed or failed Parachute Regiment Selection will tell you it is the hardest emotional and physical test they have ever participated. 6 months of pure hell. The instructors doing everything they possibly could to make the 96 recruits started on day 1 week 1 in 672 Platoon drop out in disgrace. 17 original recruits from 672 Platoon passed out on the Catterick parade square. I had my Maroon Machine, a Beret we had continually battled just to stay in the ring.
Fast forward to March 24th 2003 my battalion which had swelled from its normal barracks size to a 1000 men made up of my 600 Para’s, Tanks, Royal Military Police, American FOO Teams aka Forward Observation Officers that would calling fast air if we were in trouble, we crossed the boarder in to Iraq. Over the first 24 hours 250,000 American crossed the boarder. The tour lasted 4 months not including a month’s worth of rehearsals in Kuwait.
During this tour there are a number of stories I could tell, some I realize now, Horrific and some very funny. The most fateful day though, 6 Royal Military Police Officers lost their lives in a Iraqi town called Al Majar.
A 360 degree firefight irrupted out of nowhere, my mucker’s in my Platoon not knowing the RMP’s had just been murdered. 24 Para’s against a small but very pissed off town. The problem, the Parachute Regiment was created to fight against the odds. So many stories I could tell but for another day.
Would I attempt Parachute Regiment Selection again, hell no! Am I proud of what I achieved? Am I also eternally grateful to have never fired a round in anger, more than you will ever know.
But how did I get into current role as an Estate Agent! There I’ve said it, a profession that is generally hated and it’s the reason why I’m an estate agent. Estate Agent’s are generally good people, they have families too, bills to pay like the rest of us including their own worries. That said, I have a duty of care to protect owners from these fast car driving flash suit wearing no substance telling people that forget they are
It’s 2005 and I have the easiest job in the world organizing and directing soldiers onto different helicopters to go to various sangers. I was on duty 24 hours on 24 off. My time spent off duty was throwing up killing myself in the gym simply for vanity!
Looking good was the least of my worries when I got a call from Char. She called me to say, we were expecting our first child!! As soon as the ecstatic phone call had ended I was practically in my Company Commanders Office asking to leave the tour earlier. I had handed my year’s notice the previous August. Lucky for they allowed me to end my tour of NI 3 months early and prepare for the world of civvi street.
So back in the flat we were renting in a beautiful seaside town called St Margaret’s at Cliff near Dover I was wandering what I would possibly do on the outside? Char and I were in bed pre kids watching TV lazing around because we could haha! This show was a fly on the wall documentary about estate agents. One of the negotiators in their office was telling the camera he had done basic training and during training would carry180lbs on a forced march!!! WTF! I was in an elite British fighting unit with 183lbs on my back and couldn’t stand up I weighed 145lbs needing the assistance of three people to help me stand up. The 400m walk wading through soft Kuwaiti sand to the waiting Chinook was horrific. i.e. no way this guy who failed basic training marched for 10 miles with over 180lbs on his back. What was clear though, he couldn’t do my job but I could certainly do his!
So August 2005 came round and I got a job as a negotiator working for Winkworth in Willesden Green. To be fair to the overestimating estate agent in the documentary, all I got from potential buyers seemed to be was an unlimited amount of complaints. My black and white telling it how it was military attitude to life didn’t have the necessary fluff I needed to sell property.
I asked and begged my colleague to tell me his secret of how he was receiving asking price offers rom the buyers he was showing and I wasn’t?
Firstly, don’t tell me I can’t do something or I’m not strong enough as many people did before I started Parachute Regiment Selection and secondly, don’t tell me your sales secrets! So simple I was embarrassed! Now who was doing the arse kicking! Knowing the right questions to ask built on a foundation of what’s right is right adding the icing on the cake, EMPATHY, are this industry’s perfectly made cake!
The First of Our Three Kids!
November comes around, we had already painted Amelie’s bedroom despite not knowing whether she was a boy or girl and yes we had already decided her name was Amelie. We just knew we were having a girl.
We named her after the little French girl in the film Amelie as we wanted our daughter to have the same boisterous ways about her too hahahahahaha. Almost 10 years on all I’m gonna say is be very careful what you wish for!
There is a more serious side to this story though. As mentioned, I first met Char at school when I was around 12. The year Amelie was born I was 28 and Char and I had only got together in a serious relationship two years previous.
Char was in labour for 31 hours with Amelie and after she was born, Char was laying there in the hospital bed dying. One of my all time best mates told me that the birth of a child is one of the most amazing experiences a man could possibly imagine. Was this that experience?
Char had a developed HELLP Syndrome
HELLP syndrome is a life-threatening obstetric complication usually considered to be a variant or complication of pre-eclampsia. Both conditions usually occur during the later stages of pregnancy, or sometimes after childbirth. “HELLP” is an abbreviation of the three main features of the syndrome:
• Elevated Liver enzymes
Low Platelet Count
Basically this meant her systems were shutting down. I was just looking at her not knowing at the time whether this was normal or not. Blood that showed no signs of stopping looked more like weak diluted strawberry juice. Was it normal, was her skin losing all its colour normal, was it normal for a woman to go through immense pain throughout their entire body normal after birth normal? The doctors and nurses didn’t seem to know what was going either.
One thing was for sure, at the time this was not the most amazing experience of my life. I was feeling more and more guilty. I was planning in my mind who I needed to protect and even to this day, I hate myself because it was Amelie. The guilt of feeling helpless for char coupled with not choosing someone over another I had only just met crushed me.
For the first 7 days of Amelie’s life in the hospital I looked after this little girl I didn’t really have a connection with other than being responsible for. I was confused. It still didn’t feel like the best day of my life!
For that 7 days, the family rallied round and helped massively also and for the first three months or so, I struggled. We don’t talk about things, do we : (
Fast forward to February 2010 I was now in my second stint with Winkworth this time in the Ladbroke Grove Office and my second child was about to be born. Because of Hellp Syndrome Char had developed with Amelie, she was being closely monitored. Secretly, she was crapping herself and to be honest, so was I.
Cut a long story short, Kai was born. I looked at Char, looked her mum, looked at the midwife, looked at my son on Chars chest, made my excuses and left the labour ward pretending to be as tough as I could.
As quick as I could I tried to find a quiet place but could only make it to floor in the reception. I was in inconsolable wreck. An immovable heavy weight on the hospital’s reception floor. The emotions of everything that happened before. Char was safe, Kai was safe. I couldn’t talk only cry. The joy and happiness in the moment that both Amelie’s and Kai’s Birth’s were truly the most amazing moments in my life!
The birth of my third although very special, is special for a very different reason. Again Char’s mum is with us in the Labour ward. Men, take it from me, if you are having children for the first time a woman needs her mum. Do not get in the way of that bond or try to be tough. You need her Mum or you will regret not having her there.
So there I am like David Attenborough on the BBC. Char wants me up by her head so I don’t see anything and I’m like no, this is wicked! Little Logan pops out. Great, we’ve got a couple of nappies and baby wipes. Get your knickers on lets go!
But as we all look down to lovenly gaze down to the little bundle of joy born now of this world, there’s a slight issue! That awkward moment when everyone notices something is not right. The atmosphere changed in an instant. There was clearly an elephant in the room but who of the four of us was going to speak first?
Not only were we forgetting to sort the poor little man out on the bed, no one was still yet talking. Little Logan was a black boy.
It was like a Mexican stand off. Hellp Syndrome was a distance memory. The midwife made her excuses and was pretending to do something in the corner. I looked at Char, Char looked at her mum, her mum looked at me trying to say, ah John, it your baby!!?? Her face contorted with another look of WTF!!
Char looked at her mum the same way Nick the Greek looked at Rory Breaker in the film lock stock and two smoking barrels!! It was a pleading look that was pleading. Her mum looked back wishing she hadn’t offered to help and I was standing in the middle.
In the silence, Char said, “did I”!
Today the kids are 9 5 and 3 and well all know what Fiinnniiiisssshhhheeeddd means.
We Lived in The Middle East Too
The three of us spent 2011 to August 2014 living in Qatar in the middle east where Charleen had grown up before coming back to the UK when she was about 12.
We loved living in Qatar and no matter what the propaganda machine says about the Middle East or Muslims, do not listen!! Go there yourself and experience their culture. The Arabs and Muslim cultures are made up of phenomenal people. Immensely generous and incredibly traditional. This though is a story for another time.
So Who Am I? What Are My Beliefs?
What’s my big WHY in life? What do I stand for? I just want to help as many people as I can. You need my help and I can assist, I’ll give it to you. For me what’s right is right which is probably why I love being an Estate Agent helping to fight and destroy the greed based valuations even if its detrimental to myself!
Life is very black and white.
What’s your big WHY in life? Why do you work for or run the business you own? What experiences have shaped the reasons why are you making difference to peoples lives in the community that are inspiring others? What stories and messages would you like to convey?
Ladbroke Grove is an amazing place with an amazingly rich history, diverse culture with a population of people from all over the world! Human beings from the very affluent to the salt of the earth! We are all here because we love it!
Lets get every business and organization in Ladbroke Grove including everyone working or living in this great place Story! Let’s put Ladbroke Grove on the worlds map. Lets show the rest of the world who we are!
If you live, work, own a business or are part of an organization in Ladbroke Grove and have a story that you would like to share I want to hear from you.