Mitchell, Roger David - I1
The Early YearsLike most people, I don't remember being born, but what I do remember is that this important event took place at Wonford Maternity Hospital, Heavitree, Exeter on May 3rd, 1949. I can't pretend that I remember the glorious spring sunshine (or was it raining?), nor do I remember the warm, friendly, smiling face of the midwife, but I do know where the building used to be.
My earliest recollection of life was as a toddler. Although I don't remember the earliest years, we lived in a small flat in Mount Pleasant Road, a pleasant and popular residential area consisting of large 19th century houses mostly sub-divided into bedsitters and flats.
Like most young families, my father and mother found it difficult to make ends meet and certainly couldn't afford to buy a house of their own. My father, an ex Guardsman became a police officer in the Devon and Exeter Constabulary. Along with the job came a police house and as young children, my younger brother Graham and I lived in the police house at 181 Mincinglake Road, Stoke Hill, Exeter until I was 10 years old. We went to Stoke Hill Infants School and then to Stoke Hill Junior School until my parents bought their first house in 1959 at 2 Fulford Road, Polsloe Bridge, Exeter. With a new house, came a new school and Graham and I transferred to Ladysmith Junior School. We both went to Mount Pleasant Church almost every Sunday morning to attend Sunday School. My teenage years at Ladysmith Secondary Modern School for Boys were at best, average. In fact I was average at everything. I loathed all sports except for swimming which I was rather good at. Helped by an almost unnatural ability to hold my breath for considerably longer than anyone else in the school, I took medals and certificates at many a school swimming gala!
The violin was the unfortunate instrument to grab my attention in the school orchestra, but I actually became quite good at playing it! So much so, that regular lessons soon took me to the dizzy heights of Leader of the Orchestra. Not stopping there, I joined the Devon Fellowship Youth Orchestra and played 2nd fiddle in many public concerts.
Post school years
In line with almost my entire scholastic life, I left school at the age of 16 with "average" CSE's, although I did do rather well in "Arts and Crafts", "Metalwork" and "Science". I took my first job as an indentured apprentice electrician with the South Western Electricity Board in Exeter in 1965.
My transport through time
With my first year apprentice wages of 5 guineas a week (£5-5s-0d [five pounds five shillings, or £5.25p today]), came financial freedom! It wasn't long before my trusty bicycle was traded in for a 1964 Lambretta LS150. My first girlfriend, Jenny, wasn't impressed with traveling on the back of a motor scooter and armed with my newly acquired full drivers license, I bought my first car at the age of 18. It was a Mk1 100E Ford Escort Estate. At a cost of £60, I could now travel in relative luxury. The cost of a gallon of petrol in 1970, was £0-6s-8d (£0.38p) but even in those days, I could only afford to put in £1's worth at a time!
These weren't the only vehicles I have owned; there were several others including a Triumph Thunderbird 650cc motorcycle (which was lethal!), another Ford Escort 100E, a Wolsley Hornet, a Triumph Herald and a Renault 11. In addition to all my own vehicles, I have been fortunate enough to have had all kinds of company cars from a 1.1 Ford Escort Popular through to a Mercedes E200 - too many to remember!
I met my first wife Anita, around 1976 and we bumped into each other on numerous occasions in the years that followed. It wasn't until 1982 that we got married, in Weston-Super-Mare, Somerset. At this time we were living in Clevedon, not far from Bristol and I was working as area
manager for Kode Services. Our daughter Kate, was born in Bristol and not long after her 2nd birthday, we sold our first house there and moved to a lovely old house ripe for renovation. Not long after moving, the house was up for sale again but this time it was because for 6 months I had been managing my company's west London office and the effects of commuting the 120 miles each way daily were beginning to show!
Moving out of Clevedon was a difficult time for us because not only did I have to carry on working but we also had to look for another house. We eventually settled (with some reluctance) on a house in Newbury, Berkshire. The main problem was that we were moving into a substantially more expensive area and we hadn't really had enough time to make any sort of profit from the house we were selling. I had no idea at the time that this house would be home for the next 25 years!
Not long after moving to Newbury, our second child, Thomas was born. Times weren't easy though because I worked such long hours and was still commuting daily the 50 miles each way to Hayes, near Heathrow airport.
As the years went on, the situation deteriorated. Still working long hours, although by now, only commuting the 20 miles to Basingstoke each way. My work put huge strain on our marriage which eventually collapsed completely following my redundancy in 1992 from the senior management position that I held.
Now unemployed, I met my current wife Linda, towards the end of 1993. She could see that for me, being unemployed had brought on depression. For a treat, she booked a coach trip to the wonderful Keukenhof tulip fields in Holland. At the time, I couldn't think of anything worse than traveling all the way to (near) Amsterdam on a coach! How wrong I was! It was that trip that gave me the inspiration to write to Horseman Coaches in Reading, Berkshire to see if they would take me on and train me. Much to my surprise, the MD, Keith Horseman agreed and the rest, as they say, is history!
Soon after starting my new career as a coach driver, Lin moved in to my house with her two children, Steven and Donna. With 4 children in the house and only 3 bedrooms, space was at a premium and it soon became obvious that drastic action was required! We had the house extended and a further 2 bedrooms added. With the passage of time seemingly getting faster and faster, eventually, all 4 children grew up and left to set up their own homes. Lin and I were rattling around in a 5 bedroom house (but it was lovely to have the space!).
We stayed in the same house for a few more years until our move to Chieveley village in 2009.
By 1970, I had completed my apprenticeship and had become a qualified electrician. In those days, an apprenticeship with the (pre-privatised) Electricity Board - which was 5 years - was a sure sign of a highly competent tradesman with skills in almost all branches of the electricity supply industry. I continued in my role as an electrician for several years working in domestic, commercial and industrial environments. I even headed up the team responsible for erecting the Christmas street lighting displays in Exeter for a few years.
After a further 5 years as an electrician, my desire to learn (something I have always been blessed with), took me into a completely new role within the Electricity Board. I transferred into the Devon group Technical department where I was responsible for assisting with the testing and calibration of 11kv and 33kv switchgear, transformers and protective equipment. This role took me all over Devon working in electricity sub-stations with a dedicated small team of highly trained engineers.
Even my latest role wasn't stretching my desire to learn but due to restrictions within the industry which prevented me from undertaking further education, I decided, in September 1978, to leave the industry for pastures new.
I started my new job with Kode Services (based in Calne, Wiltshire) as a field service engineer. After some basic training, I was given a customer base that covered the whole of Devon and was responsible for maintaining and repairing Teletype paper tape machines. Although I had many customers, by far the largest at that time was the then DHSS Unemployment Benefit Service.
I quickly progressed with Kode Services, undertaking many more training courses including computer-based data preparation equipment and was soon maintaining multi-user distributed data processing computers. Continuing my progression, I moved into technical support, area management and then, regional management.
My next move was in 1985 and it took me into a computer manufacturing company as the national service manager. Based in Hayes in West London, this wasn't ideal and In 1989 I started work at a very small PC dealership in Basingstoke, Hampshire. A year or so later and I moved again to another PC dealership in Basingstoke. This dealership was part of the mighty worldwide 'Computerland' organisation and here again, I held the role of national service manager until I was offered an associate directorship in 1992.
People and situations change rapidly in the computer industry and within months my first marriage had broken up and I had lost my job. This time period was probably the worst part of my life and for almost two and a half years, I was unemployed.
In late 1993, I met my present wife, Linda and in the spring of 1995, decided to completely change my life. I became a full-time coach driver with one of the biggest operators in Berkshire, Horseman Coaches. I was taken on as a learner driver and had completed my training and passed my PCV test within 4 weeks. For the first time in a long time, I was doing a job I enjoyed.
I started at the bottom, driving children to school and undertaking contract work but soon was allocated my own executive coach and was undertaking private and holiday tours all over the UK and in many countries of Europe. I took my advanced driving test in a coach and continued a successful career in coaching. In 1997, I wrote "A coach Drivers Guide to Paris" and this earned me praise from many quarters. I achieved my Certificate of Professional Competence in National Passenger Transport Operation (CPC) in 2000 by which time I was Operations Manager of a nationwide coach holiday company.
The coaching industry in general has been declining over the years as more and more people take to the roads in their own cars. Standards too were not being maintained, primarily because of cost-cutting. Operators fought - and continue to fight - for relatively low value contracts, including the school bus, rather than putting work and dedication into the holiday market. As a result, I decided, after much soul-searching, to leave the industry. It was time I became my own boss!
In 2001, I started my own business in logistics. With a small number of specialist customers, my company provided a valuable service by maintaining expensive and specialised test and measurement equipment. With my small team, we ensured that test kit was calibrated at the right time and transported to where it was needed, anywhere in the UK.
Due in no small part to my poor health, I closed the business down in 2009.
Post work years
After 25 years in the same house in Newbury, Berkshire, we decided that we had had enough of living in town. We sold up and moved to a village around 4 miles from Newbury and have never looked back!
Perhaps it is a little pessimistic of me to call these years "post work years", but it is hard to believe that there might just be another job waiting for me. My poor health results in a lack of mobility and continuous pain, so my physical activity nowadays is somewhat limited. In June of 2012, I was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer which came as something of a blow! Following a biopsy that went wrong, I was rushed back into hospital with Sepsis where I spent 4 days seriously ill. On return home, I developed prostatitis which took several weeks to get under control. My hormone treatment for the cancer is on-going and no doubt will be the subject of more news as time goes on!
In May 2013, I suffered a massive pulmonary embolism (PE). This put me in hospital for 15 days. Doctors tell me I was lucky to survive that episode but there was worse to come. Later, in September, I was diagnosed with Bowel Cancer and after many meetings with surgeons and anaesthetists, it was decided that surgery was too dangerous, primarily because of the risk of a heart attack, further blood clots or other major complications. As Christmas 2013 approached, I wondered whether I would see another one ......
My interest and hobby centres around genealogy and I spend a lot of my time pursuing this. I have always had an interest in genealogy and family history and initially started researching some 20+ years ago, around 1990. At that time, family tree research was probably another one of those passing fads, only receiving attention from time to time. After meeting Linda though, because she also had an interest, we worked hard together to build the foundations of what is today, almost a full-time job!
As this is a biography (of sorts), far be it for me to try and predict the future! The best I can say for now is.......
.... to be continued (hopefully!)...
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