My best teacher

29th July 2005 at 01:00
'Mr Scott was this grey old man who taught us tumbling routines and showed us how to do somersaults'

Golden Hillock secondary was a boys' school when I started, and it changed to a mixed comprehensive in my third year. It was an old Victorian building, a bit run down, in Birmingham city centre next to the BSA Armoury where they made bicycles.

Two people stand out, both of them PE teachers, Mr Scott and Mr Littleford.

Mr Scott was about to retire when I was in the first year. Here was this grey old man who looked like Captain Birdseye teaching tumbling routines, showing us how to do somersaults, backwards and forwards. I was a bit nervous and he said he wouldn't ask me to do anything that he wouldn't do himself. I'll always remember him saying, "Whatever you do in life always make sure you give it 100 per cent. Don't ever be frightened to try something." Mr Scott stood out in comparison to the other teachers, who'd all been in the RAF together - they were unsympathetic so-and-sos.

When Mr Scott retired, Mr Littleford took his place. He was a delightful guy who taught cricket and football, and he used to take us on inter-school gymnastics competitions. He was an excellent teacher. I did gymnastics until I left and I was going to try for the Birmingham boys' under-16s team, but I got into a fight and ended up going through a window.I cut the tendons in one of my arms, so that was the end of my gymnastics days.

By the age of 13 I was getting into music, but I didn't have lessons because back then it was a case of survival - who was toughest in the playground. You were considered to be a bit of a girl if you went off to music lessons. This could be one of the biggest mistakes of my life, I thought. Things turned out for the best, but that's a stroke of luck.

I regret leaving school before my exams. It was for the silliest reason, which I can admit now. I spent every weekend, from Friday night till Monday morning, travelling round the Midlands with an outfit that supplied sound systems for clubs and parties. Geography was on Monday morning and the chance of me doing homework was impossible. I was good at geography, nearly top of the class, and we went on a field study course near Ludlow, where we had a great time. We had to spend a term writing up our report of the trip.

In the first week a few people had done about 10 pages and I'd done one, and three-quarters of that was taken up with a picture. I'd always give the same excuse: that I forgot to put my homework in my bag.

After a few weeks I'd still only done one page. I didn't have the nerve to stand up in front of the class and say I hadn't done it. So I persuaded my mum to write to school to say that although she wanted me to stay on, I was determined to leave and earn a living.

In the Seventies you could pick and choose jobs; if you didn't like one you could go back to the job centre and get another the same day. I had 42 jobs before I joined the band. Me and Mickey Virtue were good mates from school.

We started hanging out at youth clubs and met the others in the band. They were all from Moseley Arts school. We've stayed together because we were friends before we became a business.

I've looked at the Friends Reunited website recently and it would be great to have a reunion with people from Golden Hillock who we haven't seen since we were 14. I see Mr Littleford in Moseley whenever I go back to our old haunts. He still drinks in the Prince of Wales in Moseley. He looks exactly the same as he did at school; he's got the same mullet haircut, except it's grey now, and he still wears his tracksuit. I'm so happy to see him around.

UB40 vocalist and trumpeter Astro, real name Terrence Wilson, was talking to Judy Parkinson

The story so far

1957 Born in Moseley, Birmingham

1962-68 Greet infants and junior schools, Birmingham

1968-72 Golden Hillock school, Birmingham

1979 Joins UB40

1980 First album, Signing Off, and double A side single 'Food For Thought' 'King'. Support the Pretenders on tour

1983 Album Labour of Love, including worldwide hit 'Red, Red Wine', stays in charts for two years

1993 Return with No 1 single '(I Can't Help) Falling In Love With You'

2003 UB40 presented with special Ivor Novello Award for international achievement October 2003 Single 'Swing Low' released. Adopted as official anthem for England team for the Rugby World Cup

2005 June New album, Who You Fighting For? July 2 UB40 play Live 8in London Nov-Dec UK tour

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