He left school at 16. Left before he was thrown out, that’s how it felt. Out, and straight to the dole office. Twenty years ear­lier and he’d have gone up to the ship­yards, with his Dad. Twenty years after and it’d be the call cen­tres, where his sis­ter is now. But it was 1992, and there wasn’t much left. Part of the Toon Army at the week­end, but not much else to keep him up there.

Army cater­ing corps was the route out: bet­ter than day­time telly and sit­ting keep­ing Ma com­pany. And it’s a skill that lasts, is cheff­ing. And army dis­ci­pline isn’t too bad: he can keep things tidy, he can get on with the lads, he’s got some­thing to step up to. The Fri­day nights, the were wild though: Eez are good, a bit of whizz, what­ever he can get his hands on. Not too many fights, though always a chance of one if he fan­cies it. Got out as soon as he could, mind, cheff­ing in a pub. Like I said, it’s a skill that lasts. There’s no salut­ing any more, but he still keeps his clothes nicely ironed.

Cardiff, or nearby

A strict fam­ily, they were. God and Wales, fam­ily and farm. He was put to work at 8, they all were. He’s the 4th of 6, and he’s the black sheep. He rode the pony to round up the cows, but he didn’t get to drive the trac­tor. Didn’t get to have a kickaround on a Sun­day. Left home at 16; he’s the only one to get out of the farm, out of the coun­try, out of the family.

He went to play trom­bone in an army band. In for 22 years now, and not sure how much longer he’s got, with the cuts com­ing and him being years older than the rest. He’s not much to say to them any­way. What’s next though? A 6 week retrain­ing course in plumb­ing? Mak­ing his way for him­self. No one to tell him what’s what, or what to do.