My name is Dave Black (the sites name may have given you an idea of that), I was born and raised in the Sparkhill area of Birmingham. My first school was Anderton Park School, although everybody at the time referred to it as Dennis Road School (the main entrance was on Dennis Road). I was only there for a short time when my parents managed to secure a place for me at English Martyrs School - I hated that school, it seemed that the emphasis was more to pump my head full of religion, and less about knowledge, I'm sure that this school stunted my ability to learn about life.
Like any child, I asked many questions, however when I asked questions about religion, I never received a satisfactory answer. One question I remember asking was 'if the earth was about 6000 years old (like I had been told by one of the teachers), then why are there posters on the wall saying that trilobites were amongst the earliest forms of life from about 400 million years ago'. So which one is telling the truth? The answer was 'you shouldn't be asking them sort of questions'. I was also told to ask one of the priests from the adjoining church, their default answer was 'to find the truth you must read the bible', as I said, I never got a satisfactory answer.
These teachers wanted us to believe that darkness at night happened because 'God' covered the earth with a blanket, and that the stars that we could see was light shining through tiny holes in that blanket. They also told us that trees shaking their leaves caused the wind, that thunder and lightning was caused by clouds crashing into one another, and that rain fell from those clouds because they had split open after the crash. Yep, I hated that school because they tried to fill my head with crap.
In June 1969 I took the '11 plus' exam, for anyone not knowing what this was, it was to test 10 - 11 year olds on their academic ability, thus deciding what form of higher education was to be offered to them. I passed; this then meant I could go to a secondary school that had 'higher' education standards. When I told my teacher that I'd passed her answer was 'you don't deserve it' - not a very encouraging reply, but heh, I'd passed and was on my way to 'a big school', one that I later found out focussed on education, and not religion.
The education authority had chosen a place at Duddeston Manor Bilateral School in Nechells for me, so in July 1969 I visited the school with my mother to see the school and to sort any necessary paperwork. The school was 2.4 miles (4 km) from where I lived, and as I had never been to that area before it fascinated me. Factories, railway lines that were very close to crumbling old houses, the gas works, the smells coming from Ansells brewery and the HP sauce factory, and right in the middle was this fairly new housing estate with tower blocks and wide open green spaces.
In September 1969 I started my first day at the school, I didn't know anybody there, I was alone and nervous in a place that taught almost 1200 pupils, but since I've always been a loner there didn't seem to be much point worrying about my position. I did make friends - temporary school friends, not to be confused with school friends that become life long friends, because I hardly saw any of them after leaving school, and now, I've since lost contact with those ones as well.
At the age of 14, we were asked what subjects we intended to study for us to follow our chosen career path; I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do. Since I was good at Metalwork, Technical Drawing, Chemistry, and not too bad at Physics I hoped that it would have something to do with those, and when a new subject called 'Computer Science' appeared on the curriculum, I chose that one as well.
In 1974, after nearly 5 years learning at a 'big school', and armed with 3 'O' levels I entered the world of work - on my own again in the big wide world of 'earning a living'. I say on my own because many of the kids at school started work in a place that already employed a family member, I didn't have that luxury. Unfortunately that job only lasted 38 weeks, redundancy meant that I (as well as the rest of the workforce) was no longer required - just 17 years of age and already on the scrap heap, well that was what I thought.
Anyway, I found employment after a few weeks, moved from there after a couple of years, then spent the next 5 years or so drifting from one job to another - that could be done in those days. You could see a job advert, pick up a phone, dial the number, talk to someone in charge at the company, arrange an interview, attend the interview, secure the position, and then start work the day after. Another way of finding work was to ask anybody that you saw in the building that you were passing and say 'any jobs going mate?' Most of the time you would get the answer 'sorry mate, nothing doing', however, sometimes the reply would be 'we do have some vacancies, what type of work are you looking for?', those days are long gone though, it's all CV's, cover letters, keywords, online applications, agencies and so on - now technology analyses ones suitability by an algorithm.
After all this moving from one job to another I eventually settled down, so in 1983 I started work as a centre lathe turner making components for roller shutters. Within a few years I was fabricating security grilles and gates, operating and maintaining the rolling mill, designing and making 'one offs', and helping with fitting; I was expanding my knowledge and skills all the time. I had worked there for so long that I could do almost any job there - except drive. In essence, the boss of the company gave me free reign to do whatever I wanted because he knew that nobody would be waiting on me for components. I had a high degree of accuracy, I was fast, I found solutions to problems, repaired items that others said were unrepairable, I was always ready to help my colleagues, and I would design and make items that would benefit the company.
About 1999 the boss was about to sell the business, after 125 years as a family concern it was to be no more - his heirs had chosen different professions years earlier and were not interested in the running of the family business. My current boss was a 'pen and paper' person and didn't see a need for technology in his office, the new boss already had up to date tech in his other factory, we hadn't met yet but I was hoping that I would have some involvement with this technology. I knew very little about my new boss before I met him, yet he knew all about me, it appeared that my old boss had been singing my praises - to me, this was a good sign.
The company changed ownership sometime in 2000, not many months later my life was to change completely - I had a stroke in February 2001. This affected my physical abilities, balance, co-ordination, speech, and manual dexterity, after 6 months sick leave it became obvious that I was never going to be able to return to that job.
One of the things that my condition didn't seem to take away from me was my cognitive skills, slowed them down, but did not remove them. Whilst trying to work out what I was going to do with the rest of my life I was encouraged by my occupational therapists to look at other forms of rehabilitation. That other form of rehabilitation came in the way of a charitable organisation that helped disabled people to find work, they offered me a place with them, and I accepted.
Being an organisation whose priority was to get their clients back into the workplace, they understood that not everyone there knew enough about the necessary technology that would allow them to at least have a chance when applying for work - constructing CV's, cover letters etc. I knew next to nothing about modern computers before I started with this organisation, they taught me the basics, and that got me hooked. I then worked out that since most modern offices had a computer, then my future employment should revolve around this.
To improve my chances of full time employment within an office setting I needed to gain some experience, but without a job how do I get the experience? Simple, I would engage in voluntary roles within an office environment. This worked, and after a couple of years doing voluntary office work, and several job applications later, I secured a full time job as an admin assistant, alas, it only lasted 3 years, and because of redundancy I find myself on my own once again.
Just because I'm down, and it seems to me that I get knocked down quite often, doesn't mean that I'm going to stay down - no, I'll just get back up, and carry on like I've always done.