I hope you have enjoyed reading about this part of my life. Gloucester has changed beyond recognition in the thirty years covered in this book. I have also changed a lot during this time and am reasonably happy with my circumstances. I have come to realise that I am never going to be completely satisfied with my lot and even though I have a wonderful wife, a nice house and a comfortable standard of living, I will always be dogged by a deep sense of failure.
In the years following the end of this book, I went on to become a shooting champion, competing in this country and in America. I learnt to play the harmonica and have played the blues on stage with some great artists. I have also learned to play the guitar, something I wish I had done when I was young enough to make more of it, but now I play just for the pleasure of it. I still ride a motorcycle though my trusty BSA is only a memory. I ride a Harley Davidson now.
I am a reasonably accomplished photographer and have a portfolio spanning such diverse subjects as sporting events, fashion modelling and musical events. I have sold many of these photographs over the years; Bella Freud, the fashion designer, purchased one of Kate Moss. I took a picture at the Gloucester Guildhall of Kent Duchaine, an American National Steel Guitar virtuoso. Kent has used this picture for the cover of one of his compact discs and for his promotional material, such as posters and on T-shirts. Many of my sporting pictures have been used in publications as diverse as The Irish Post and The Target Gun Magazine.
When I think about my achievements and my standard of living, one thing that saddens me is that my parents are not here to see it. My mums illness and subsequent death was a great blow to our family. She represented the softer side of life. Once she was gone there was only masculine hardness left. The balance was all wrong. It might have sounded as if I didn't think much of my dad, but nothing could be further from the truth. He was his own man and I respected him for that and in our own way, we loved each other. Sometimes I do things and think to myself how like him I am in. I think that's what life after death means. If you have children, you live on through them. I chose not to have any children so when I die that will be the end of me.
It may seem that I have blamed others for my failures at school. I do not mean to do so, just to explain things as I remember them. I talk to young people now and find that they are so positive in their goals. The encouragement that they get at school is so different to what it was in my experience. Their aspirations are so much greater. When I left school, I didn't know anyone who went to university or had a degree. Now the children of many of my friends go to university and have a clear plan of what they intend to do with their lives. Whether such a positive environment would have helped me I will never know. I was very headstrong so I have the feeling I may still have rejected any help that might have been offered. I blame no one for my lack of education but myself.
Even though I am essentially an insular person, I am lucky enough to have some good friends, most have been mentioned somewhere in this book. Without them I would not have the rich experience of life that I have had. These friends sometimes say to me that they envy some of my talent at one thing or another, but to me my talent is very limited. I admit to a modest amount of success in certain endeavours but can never get away from that overwhelming sense of failure, which sometimes bears down on me like a ton weight.
Gloucester, my hometown. I staked a claim to a very small part of it when I bought the house in which I live, but my memories of Gloucester are far more valuable than any material possessions. Those memories are a source of comfort to me. When I feel down, I can go into town and just walk around. Maybe I'll bump into a friend, maybe not, but everything is so familiar it doesn't matter. I feel good just being there among my own people.
It is a great source of pride to me to be a Gloucester Boy
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Copyright © 1999 Cliff Ballinger. All rights reserved.