Monday, 6 September 2010

My First Day At School And Meeting Ken Ashton MBE

Do you remember your first day at school? No not secondary school, I'm talking about Primary school. I do, like it was yesterday. I can remember every thing about it, the first day I went to school was a very strange one and I still rib my mum about it even now.

I went to Newbury Park Primary school. It was between that and Christchurch and I remember my mum bought a seat to go on the back of her bike in case I went there and she would cycle to school. Blimey I have a head full of useless information, well so my wife tells me any way!. The headmaster at this school was a man called Ken Ashton MBE, the football fans out there may recognise the name but for those of you that don't let me explain.

Ken Ashton was the highest referee in the country in the mid-sixties. If you watch the Argentina vs England game from the 1966 World Cup the bloke in the suite trying to sort out the ensuing ruck was Ken Ashton, he was also the man who invented the Red and Yellow card system that is now used the world over. I didn't know any of this when I started school although my Dad was mightily impressed as he knew who he was. This was back in the day when footballers went  and got jobs when they retired. The usual thing, open a pub and such like, but Ken Ashton was a remarkable man and I shall do a blog about him next because his life has fascinated me.He wasn't like today's mob who think its okay to spend money on prostitutes and beat people up. Great examples that they are, Id rather my kid be a politician than a Premier League footballer to be honest. Anyway back to the story.

I was a keen footballer even at this young age and I had a ball with me wherever I went. My Mum knew this as did my Dad. So of we go to meet the headmaster at my first day at school. I'm in shiny grey trousers, a white shirt, red jumper and a grey and silver striped tie. My new shoes hurt a little and I'm nervous. We sit outside on blue plastic chairs in a corridor where there are an array of pictures painted by the kids that went o the school on the walls. The door is a deep purple colour and there are black curtains closed over the glass windows on it and a brass door handle. On the door is the name Headmaster Ken Ashton.

All of a sudden the door opens and standing there is a very smartly dressed man in a dark suit, white shirt and dark blue tie. His hair is greying and is slicked and parted. He smiles at my Mum and offers her his hand to shake, he looks at me and smiles and ruffles my immaculate hair. I like him straight away he has this grandfather look about him. We walk into his office and he sits behind his large desk and I sit next to my Mum. They make small talk about where I live and what the school does and then it happens. He asks me a question.

"Do you like sport young man?" There is a warm tone in his voice as I open my mouth to answer, but before I can my Mum injects in with an absolute gem.
"Yes he does" she smiles
"Football?" he asks, well he is a top referee after all.
"No" she replies "Horse racing" smiling even more sweetly

Hold on a minute back right up there please, what did you say? Horse racing? Where the hell did that come from? I'm not sure who's more shocked me or him to be honest. What the hell do I know about horse racing? I'm four years of age for crying out loud. Yeah thanks for that mother. The silence is finally broken by Ken Ashton.

"Really?" He asks
"Yes" She replies now getting into the swing of it "Red Rum is his favourite"

Huh? Who the hells that? Red who? Nope lost me there mother well Ill let you carry on shall I? Okay then off you go.

He looks at me a little surprised thinking he must have the world's youngest gambler sitting in front of him. Me I'm totally lost here, if this wasn't the most nerve racking day of my life then Mothers just made it 20 times worse. He smiles at me and says okay then its time to go to class. He opens the door and strides down the hallway towards a door on the left hand side, he stops knocks on the door and introduces me to my teacher. She smiles takes me by the hand and leads me into the classroom. I look at my Mum who is now in floods of tears and off I go, the start of my school life.

I had some happy memories there at Newbury Park life was so much simpler then. Ken Ashton retired a few years later. Our paths didn't cross that often but I remember having a photo taken with him and a number of other boys that played in the football teams just before he left. Our paths crossed many years later when I decided to do a referee's course and he was the guest speaker. I approached him afterwards and said I went to Newbury Park and he looked at me and said:

"You weren't the Horse boy was you?" He asked knowingly

I grinned and said "Yes" stunned he remembered. He then said that of all the things parents had said to him that one stuck in his mind because it was so different to what he normally heard. Sadly he passed away a little while later. If you are ever in the area go to Barkingside Wreck, walk amongst the trees around the outskirts of the park and there, against one of the trees, is a little plaque placed there by his family. Ive shown my kids that plaque and also recounted that story to them many times.

I'm writing this blog because my eldest boy Michael starts school next week, a half day at a time, until he settles in. Its so different now than it was back then, when we took the girls we left them at the door and of they went. They did the settling in thing for about 3 weeks, Me? I got left to do a full day the day I started and that was it. It will be no more less traumatic for us as parents, even though this will be the third time we have done this, hopefully he will breeze through it, but its that time when I suddenly realise that he is growing up. He will always be Mikel to me and Ill love him till the day I die, but he wont be my little boy anymore, he will be going to school, he wont be the little boy I dropped of at nursery and then collected.

To him its the start of a new adventure, a time to make new friends and start his journey in life, he will still need me but perhaps not as much, who knows?.It doesn't get any easier I will admit and those of you going through the same thing, I get it, I know what its like, they start to change when they go to school don't they?.

Good luck son, this is the start of making your dreams come true and I hope you have the time of your life. Cherish it because life is so much simpler at school, hopefully you'll make friends for life as well. Whatever happens Ill be there for you whenever you need me.

Love Dad x

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