I started High School in September 1991; I was no longer in the same class as Richard, who was in the other “half” of the year meaning I’d have little to no classes with him (the intake was around 250 kids per year and these were separated in to 8 different “forms” of 30 or so kids). I was in Form 7.5 (i.e. year 7, class 5) but did make new friends almost immediately, including a rather portly young man called Allan. It was around this time that I’d too start to fill out, and I’ve never been thin since! We were friends through the majority of High School but he didn’t follow us through to 6th Form, instead working for the local Sainsbury’s Supermarket before moving away to Sheffield. It’s been several years since I’ve seen him (more often than not I’d bump into him in Scarborough town centre when he was visiting his family – he was a big man when last I saw him both in height and weight) but he told me he was happy having come out to his parents and found love.
In my class was a girl called Rebecca, who I fell for almost instantly. I was trying to chat her up in my own useless way (I’ve always been useless with women) in Design & Technology Class but was constantly being pestered by a boy in the same group called Matthew (Matt), who wanted to talk about pop culture, toys and action figures. After the first few weeks when it became clear I wasn’t cool or handsome enough to win Rebecca’s affections, I spent more time talking to Matt, despite the fact I actually found him quite annoying at first and we would constantly get into trouble for talking during lessons.
In year 8, a shuffle of classes meant that I ended up in Form 8.2, now the same half of the year as Richard, who I’d continued to be friends with in and out of School; I introduced Matt to Richard and as we all liked many of the same things being pre-teen boys, he was a good fit for our little expanding group of friends. I’d like to say that we were geeks before it was trendy to like films, Star Trek, superheroes and the such-like. Matt brought Miles (who I’m still very good friends with to this day) with him to the group, although before 6th Form he was on the fringes. We definitely weren’t the cool kids although we wouldn’t be troubled by the bullies too much during High School. In our last year of compulsory education, year 11 at age 16, there was however a falling out in our group, which then splintered. Matt (for some reason which I can’t recall at this point) was ostracised by the main group, including Richard, and was no longer welcome to hang around with them. I remained friends with both sides, although in the summer break between School and 6th Form I got my first job (thanks to my soon to be ex-Brother in Law) washing dishes at a newly opened Italian restaurant where he worked. This meant that there wasn’t the time to hang out with Richard so much any more, and, as he wasn’t going to 6th Form and had started to smoke & drink, we started to drift apart. I tried smoking to “fit in” but after that first try decided it wasn’t for me. We did of course start going out drinking and clubbing during our 6th Form years, but by this time I barely saw Richard at all and Matt & Miles were now my best friends.
6th Form was fairly uneventful for me; Miles would meet the girl whom he would later marry (many years later after she’d returned from University when we were in our early / mid 20s) after introduction was made by Matt, and although there was a very small amount of interest from a couple of girls, unfortunately I didn’t feel they were for me. Ultimately, it was a means to an end; the precursor to the big one; University. The trouble was, although Matt was sure he’d read Politics, I had no idea what I wanted to do. Matt was involved with campaigning for the Local Labour Party candidate Lawrie Quinn prior to the 1997 General Election (which was won by a landslide, making Mr. Quinn the first ever Labour MP for Scarborough & Whitby (he was unfortunately ousted in 2005)) but I was studying Psychology, German and IT, none of which were fields I really wanted to pursue post 6th Form.
At the end of the 2 years of 6th Form, Matt was accepted to read Politics at Huddersfield University and went off to start what he hoped would be his political Career; although he obtained a very good degree qualification, he instead went into recruitment, but I’m getting ahead of myself. My exams were done, the results were in, but I hadn’t applied to University. Matt was having a great time at Uni and, when he would come home, would meet with me to insist that it was an experience I’d very much regret not taking if I didn’t go. My Sister was in her third and final year of her Nursing Diploma, and so it was decided that as I could still attend 6th Form for free for another year, I’d enroll in a couple of extra classes and hope I had decided what to do by the end of that year – that and it would mean that my folks weren’t paying two lots of tuition fees at once (this was back in the day when it was around £1,300 per year, not the mammoth £9,250 it is as I write). Matt had studied and enjoyed Law at A-Level, so I decided I’d give that a go. I also chose Business Studies and Media Studies, all at AS-Level (which was at the time effectively half an A-Level). Business Studies was tedious; essentially economics with the interesting parts omitted. I did however very much enjoy Law with lecturer Peter Ashton, who was good fun and drew you into the subject. I consulted with the head of year and asked that I be given permission to drop Business Studies and complete A-Level Law in a year, studying both years simultaneously. Although related, the two years were in fact different elements (year 1 focused on the hierarchy of the courts and how the Justice System worked with year 2 being solely criminal Law) which could effectively be treated as separate subjects and as such I was permitted. I’d found something that I really enjoyed reading, and decided quickly that this was it. I’d be a lawyer. I applied to Huddersfield (where Matt was studying), Leeds (where my Sister lived, and who had told my parents she wouldn’t be returning to Scarborough after her education) and Northumbria at Newcastle (a very well respected University – I knew I had no chance of being accepted). I was accepted at the first two even though my A-Level grades were average, and chose to join Matt at Huddersfield. He’d lived in the University Halls of Residence in his first year, but had arranged to rent a house not too far from Campus for us to share when I joined him. The house was on a huge hill, which took some walking to get up; it was small (and Matt insisted I have the smallest bedroom) but was comfortable enough. There was no shower, the lounge sofas were not great to sit on and the kitchen looked like it had been in situ since the 1960s, but it was home away from home. On my first day of Uni, which was largely concerned with enrolling on the course and being shown where everything was, I met and became friendly with a girl called Sarah. Some years later, in 2015, she’d give birth to our beautiful boy. So, if it wasn’t for Matt, Sarah and I would likely never have met. He was also the friend who put me in touch with the partner at the law firm where I am now a partner myself, nearly 14 years later. As I said, he’s played a pivotal part in the story of my life, for which I will be forever grateful to him.