Where I’m at 
My roots are are right here in Norfolk UK and I have a feeling of empathy and belonging here that I don’t feel anywhere else. I have thought about living in other places I’ve been to and liked a whole lot many times. But when I think of family most of them are here and have been for as far back as can be traced; and for me where family is home is.I have stayed with friends in the Ozark’s on the Missouri/Arkansas border and I love that part of the world and the people there are friendly and amazing! But then I think of my grandchildren and how they are back in Norfolk thousands of miles away, and at that point get me back home.I stayed quite recently (end of August 2012) down a little lane in Co. Mayo (Ireland) which reminded me a lot of some of the little lanes of the Norfolk of my childhood with tall hedges and grass in the middle of the road; and I thought for a while I could live there and love it! I probably could have – and been very happy. I do understand why those that live there love it and speak fondly of it! But although it’s nowhere near as far away as the Ozark’s, It’s not just up the road to my grandkids so maybe I’ll visit Mayo from time to time (or any one of several other places in Ireland I’ve been and loved) and come back here between visits.

I love Albufiera in Southern Portugal, and Key West too! I’d love an apartment to come and go from in those places when I feel like it and in Nashville too where I’ve always found the people friendly and I have so much I could learn from the great writers that gather there.

I’d like a rock of my own to get under in outback Australia, I loved Brunei and the laughter of the children who tripped me with a rope stretched across the walkways while I was walking back through the Chinese river edge stilt village late at night on the way back to the ‘portacabin village’ that was home while I worked on the Sultan’s new Istana (new Palace) and several other places I’ve stayed a while. But end of day, when back in Norfolk and with my little ones, I soon got that feeling of belonging here again in a way I didn’t there.

Aberdeen (Scotland) was home from home for several months at a time back in my late teens and early 20’s and in it’s own way I loved that old granite city too! I even wrote a song about Aberdeen a while

back that I sometimes sing but have never recorded. However, maybe it’s because I have some of my flesh and blood ground into the road at Brooke just south of Norwich where, as a child of five I got crushed into the road by a threshing drum (heavy farm machinery for those that don’t know) I always end up back here? Or maybe it’s because Norfolk is very much a farming and rural based – like my own roots that it draws me back here? I bet that has a lot to do with it too. A lot of true country folk have scars caused by farm machinery so I’m in good company on that front as far as I see it. Anyway, because of that accident there’s always a little of me here even when the rest of me isn’t (albeit the traces long since washed in and soaked in out of sight). Or is it my roots that pull me back here? I can walk around the churchyard in the village of Horsford just North of Norwich and see most all of my family history for several generations in that one yard (on both my mothers and fathers side) and I can see the tip of the tower of that church from where I live. I survived that accident but had a broken pelvis, two crushed vertebrae, crushed kidneys etc etc which in old age play me up ‘real bad’ at times – and always to some level or other. It’s my reminder of how lucky I am to be alive!Pain is of the living and pain for a reason like that is the pain of a survivor! A frailer person or a child with less sheer will to survive would not have seen the further 62 years I have now seen (I remember being told by doctors at the hospital back then that my will to live must be exceptional to have survived that). So all I can say is long live pain! Come the day when I have no pain it can only be for one reason – so I’m happy to have that daily reminder that I’m alive. Sometimes pain will slow me down and when I would be out doing other things I’ll be sat at my PC writing a song instead – and it helps keep me concentrated on the song too (so that I don’t think about the pain)! Thereby I recommend pain as having it’s good points for me now, though I can’t recommend anyone to go get run over by a Trosha (Norfolk for Threshing Engine drum) just to be more concentrated when writing songs! Just practise instead – pain may not work for you!

My Country Roots
My parents already had a pretty much grown up family of four older brothers and sisters waiting for me when I arrived on 12th May 1945 (quite late in life for them – my mother was 40 and father 45) and were still quite young by all real standards when they died (the strain of looking after me I reckon, as I was a little bit on the wild side and, as a consequence, was always having accidents or whatever).My father had been serving in the Military Police during the 2nd world war and stationed in Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire and immediately the war ended was decommissioned and was back in Norfolk (Brooke south of Norwich) starting his new life on the land within a couple of weeks of wars end (he was Norfolk born as was my mother). But the family had lived in army quarters there and, seeing as I had got impatient and wanted to be arriving, my mother and I were still in hospital there when I arrived while the rest of the family moved back to Norfolk (much to my disappointment now, as I only know Norfolk as my place of childhood memories, and with that fact and the long line of Norfolk roots I have I feel wronged that I wasn’t born here)To have been born somewhere else (even a quite nice place like Hertfordshire)! Is something that I really never came to terms with. But even as an older man I still get impatient! So would probably do the same if it all went round again. The rest of the family came to meet us at Norwich station when I was less than two weeks old but – but I missed out on my hereditary right to be being born.

When I got into doing my family tree investigations though I found that this was something of a tradition for the services had dictated a similar fate for my grandfather! Apparently my Great Grandfather (who was Norfolk born – at Horsford) was stationed at Chatham Naval Base in Kent and my Grandfather was born there. I have over the years told a lot of my older Norfolk friends that I was born a foreigner (outside of Norfolk) and they pull my leg about it, but worse things than that happen in the name of service to families who spend time in service of their country (no matter what their country) I have no doubt. End of day I’m just grateful for having grown up in such a stable and reasonable part of the world! That time growing up there in Brooke was a

stabilising thing! There was no real bad company to get in (or I’m sure I would have got in it) and, just after the war, the peace and happiness there it seemed was in the very air we breathed and accidents or not my childhood there overall was a very happy one (as you will probably gather if you listen properly to track 11 of my CD “Sippin’ Cold Tea” and the memories and thoughts expressed therein).It was right back then that I was first exposed to Country Music (though strange to relate now we had no electricity in the old cottage I grew up in until I was 13)!The old ‘wireless’ radio we had was a so called ‘accumulator’ battery powered one and those accumulators had to be charged on specialist gear most usually only found at the local garage workshop/petrol station. But it was enough for us to pick up The American Forces Network in Germany and listen to great shows like The Smoky Mountain Music Show and the likes! Where Bluegrass, early Rock-a-Billy and Country was to be found in plenty – and I loved it! That love has stayed with me ever since.

My brother who was 17 yrs my senior had also picked up on that music and when he had a wind up record player for his 21st birthday got himself a record collection that, though quite eclectic in content (you may have found a Johnny Mathis song or two etc.,) did nonetheless contain a lot of early stuff from the likes of the “Son’s Of The Pioneer’s” and Frankie Laine etc., (which I was always getting wrong for ‘ruining’ by playing them without changing the needle – back then you were supposed to do that before every play!

The first time I saw one of the “new” vinyl singles was at local Brooke Youth Club and I was amazed to be told how it was ‘unbreakable’ (what they should have said was that compared to the old Black Shellack 78’s it was not so easily broken, because to tell me it was unbreakable meant it had to be ‘flying saucered’ across the room and well — it broke)! Not a popular move!


My first song I wrote
Having lost my mother from womb cancer when I was twelve my father, who had been ‘stood off’ because the farm owner was getting out of farming and would be letting the land to another farmer (who didn’t need my fathers labours) took over the role of mother as well. Through the landlords’ generosity we were allowed to stay on in the tied cottage we lived in (because, as he saw it, it wasn’t my fathers fault his labours were no longer needed on the farm) and my father quickly secured a job at coal merchants ‘Sellex” (coal yard) at City Station, Heigham Street, Norwich. Where he worked hard as a pace setter loading the delivery trucks with hundredweight sacks of coal all day – and keeping the books on what came in and went out of the yard as well! Then came home after a day of hard graft like that and did the cooking and the one acre garden by hand growing all of our own veg, etc., feeding chickens and rabbits and ferrets and keeping the hedges all around the boundary neat too (and all with the use of hand tools only)! It’s no great comfort nor pride to me now that at that time I knew nothing at all of what the strain of all he was doing was putting on him! I was blind to it all and never even considered it exceptional! I had kind of grown into that situation, it was just the way it was not something I dwelled on or thought about.All I thought about back then was girls and music! Not cooking, nor washing not gardening for sure. My thought on all of that was just; “bye Pop, I’m off up the village – I’ll see you later”!I wrote my first song at about that time and can even well remember I was standing in the kitchen just inside the back porch when it all came to me (quite quickly from start to finish).

I remember too the wave of emotion I got when the right words and lines came through and fell in place perfectly one after another. I couldn’t understand why I felt so emotional about it? But I have heard others say how that moment of creativity striking does that for them too. I never actually wrote it down though, thinking it was so good I would remember it forever! That was a mistake I should have learned from – but in fact still make on occasion.  Especially if I wake up with a good new song going round in my head and just can’t force myself ‘fully awake’ and out of bed.

I’ll convince myself it’s so good I WILL remember it this time – but never do and many a good song (possibly some of my best) have been lost that way.However, I can remember still that it was about a police woman! Now, here’s the thing, back then I had never ever even seen a police woman in real life, never mind knew one. But here was this (fantasy like) police woman (I think complete with stockings and suspenders 🙂 ) turning up in my first song! At least my early teen hormones must have been on track even if my writing and subject matter had a way to go.The final words here about my father and my time in that house I grew up in with him must be that looking back now it’s no great surprise that with all the strain he was living under, at age sixty two (when I was seventeen) Pop died suddenly at work – with a shovel still in his hands! I never saw it happen, but I have an image of him doing so in mind almost as if I had seen it that has never left me. Funny enough, for all I never helped him a great deal when I could and should have, I had a closeness with my old man that few (I now realise) are lucky enough to have.

That balanced childhood and parental love (from both sides but especially from my father doing everything for me once mother had gone) which I was selflessly given right back then, set me up with a kind of wealth of spirit that is beyond financial wealth by miles and gave me a start to life that set me up to handle anything else life could ever put my way. Whatever it is, perhaps because my mother had struggled on for 10 years with cancer and was so bad that by the time she died I was pleased for her that her suffering was over.

Whereas my father died very suddenly and completely unexpectedly was just removed from my life which meant change on a massive scale too. So having lived alone together once mother died, and thinking that he was going to be there for years — I missed him terribly when he went and there has been a hole in my life where he should be ever since that fateful day (in that coal yard) all those years ago, and it is with pride that I was able to bring a few of ‘sage like’ words into this CD project with me on track 11 (‘Sippin’ Cold Tea’).


My love of Country Music continued 
Once my father died the landlord was still prepared (bless) to let me live on there on my own. But my family (older sisters and brothers) could see I was never ready for such a responsibility and so it was, that they decided I should go and live with my sister Maureen who was the nearest of my siblings to me age wise being (although she was 12yrs my elder and who had a young family of her own).That was a hard time for me emotionally because it meant not only losing the old man, but also moving away from friends I’d grown up with – which was hard if well intentioned. But although we got on OK, I was aware that a few times when I came home late or whatever I would wake her little ones up (and I was of an age where coming home late was a desirable thing)!So, although neither she nor her husband Hector nor any of her family ever suggested they thought me in the way – it just seemed right to me to try to find a way of giving them back their peaceful nights. So I joined the east coast Herring fishing fleet which meant that for months at a time I was away and also that there was the hope of earning some better money because I couldn’t afford to live on apprentice money anymore (not that they charged me a site for my keep) and had become fixed on a dream of having my own roof over my head where I could come and go as I wanted without disturbing anyone else and I would never be thrown out or negotiated out of – because it was mine! And life on apprentice money was not compatible with survival never mind having my own home. Thankfully! Back then there was no character weakening social system in place to pick me up, pamper, molly coddle and weaken me like would doubtless be the way today, so that move of joining the fleet meant (for all I was only a decky learner on not very good money to start with) I could nonetheless sleep on board even when in harbour and that answered half the problem straight off, and hope of the better money and home of my own later.It was whilst in the fleet and away from on the spring voyage (for which we would be based in/from Aberdeen) that I had my love of country confirmed and thoughts of the truth (a whole lifetimes living even) a good Country writer could pack into a few lines of a song – because in a little cafe on a corner not far from the quay there was a juke box with Bobby Bare’s version of ‘Five Hundred Miles (away from home) on it, and give or take bit that’s what I was!I played that thing till the needle nearly dropped through it I bet. Also on there was a Hank Snow single that had Married By The Bible (Divorced By The Law) on one side and his (still the best as far as I’m concerned) great cover of Old Shep on the other. I loved it when the fish were landed, the work was done – and I could head for a frothy coffee and a few times round on those old favourites of mine.

Thoughts of writing continue
Because of being away a good lot it also meant old neighbours with hearts of gold (Joyce & Jimmy Rose) could be approached about living with them so I was back in my childhood village. They were great and even though they had four children of their own I was treated as one of them and, their children being nearer my age, they were also coming and going late at night making my own comings and goings less of a disturbance of note. Life was good there and I love it that they (Joyce and Jimmy) lived until they were in their 80’s and died within days of each other only a little over a year ago.I also love it that at their funeral I was treated as one of the family still – even by the younger generation members some of whom I hadn’t seen since they were very young and others I had never met. That all just goes to show how much love there can be in the world from just ordinary folks as well as how lucky I was to grow up where I did with the neighbours I had.Once the drifters became obsolete and stopped running (by which time I was 21) I did many things to earn a crust and in fact got a kind of job based wander lust. I had decided I’d maybe like to try to do that word game thing of trying to write a lifetime into a song of just a few lines or verses and even that maybe I’d one day write songs that were of a reasonable standard? But I couldn’t settle for what to me seemed the easier task of writing pop songs. It had to be Country and I thought that the more different jobs I had experience of, the better I would write as I’d have hands on experience of more things.

So it is fair to say I was a bit of a job jumper. But after a while, once my family was born I decided to re-train as a carpenter which would surely be what I fitted in best at being. But even then my quest for life experience coupled with my restless feet means I have done many many different things after that retraining (when building work contracts were a bit hard to find in recession times) so whether before or after that re-training, here are some of the things I’ve done: meat porting, forestry work (even had my own selection of chain saws and an old Fordson Major tractor complete with hydro tongs for hauling the timber out with) truck driving (class one qualified), trawling (where I got a compound fractured hip to add to other accidents I’ve had in my time (most of which were down to being a little bit less restrained in my thinking than a lot of people are – including writing off a number of cars and a motorbike plus numerous lesser accidents like zipping 10 mm of my left index finger tip with a faulty skill saw, which is not helpful to holding guitar chords).

I also for a while did oil rig construction work (check out my songs The Black Old Oil Wells by El Gato’s Men) and spent five months in Borneo working on the Sultan of Brunei’s new Istana (new palace) when he built it to celebrate independence from the Brit empire and becoming commonwealth instead.

Plus, going to the other extreme I’ve tried my hand at sales inc lingerie sales (re-enforced gusset madam – certainly madam) factory including chocolate factory production lines, I trained as a sizer in Cautaulds St. Mary’s Mill Norwich, did insurance sales etc. etc. But the only thing I truly hated was cold calling! I always had this vision of a little old lady with a cat on her lap answering the phone – and then being worried all day about who the man that called earlier really was?

Throughout all that time though (up till 1991) I was also working at home doing up one house we lived in after another to get better for my children than I’d had! But then I eventually overstretched myself on bank money doing barn conversions with my own house up for security to borrow the money. It was in late 80’s and Thatcher was squeaking about how her government had got the economy right and it was time for everyone to think entrepreneur and the country needed people who could to use their assets to get on – so I did! Then her Chancellor

Nigel Lawson pulled the rug, quadrupled the interest rates, gathered in the money and assets for the banks and they wrote off their 3rd world debts and made record profits the next year.I still will always believe it was a well organised ‘set up’ to get the banks the means to clear of those 3rd world debts using the hard earned money of those trying hardest to better themselves – instead of their own money.The very next year the banks made record profits and, to world acclaim, wrote off those 3rd world debts without spending a penny of their own money. It had all came from hard working people who’d had the rug pulled). I’ll always believe it was a conspiracy on those lines – and I was one of those on the wrong end of it. I got called in by the bank – who subsequently then totally asset stripped me of all I’d ever worked for!So once again I was homeless only this time taking my wife and children down the plughole with me – which was a hard pill to swallow! I had promised myself that they would never be homeless like I had been at 17! But it was  exactly as my eldest son was 17 that happened! Despite my massive effort to avoid such a thing ever happening it was fate telling me; work hard as you like boy – you cannot beat me!! I can throw the most unlikely and amazing twists into you life at the drop of a hat and don’t ever forget it, or think you can beat me because you cannot! Worse, we did not qualify for public housing apparently because (according to the powers to be at South Norfolk Council Housing Office) we had made ourselves homeless by our own doing!

So, for a while we lived with my wife’s mother again like way back before we got our first home – and her mothers well meaning good hearted neighbour too in their two tiny single story two room homes – with our three children separated  – one (our daughter Sally-Anne) under one roof with the mother-inlaw, and her neighbour (who moved in with her) and the boys Darren & Garry under the neighbours roof with us! It was a massive and extreme fall – but also a prime example of good working class people who stuck together and gathered round to help us.

The working class to me are the salt of the earth! I’m talking about people who get ‘used’ in order to earn a crust and pay a mortgage or rent here – whether on a mind blowing job like being polite (often to those who don’t deserve it) on some help line, or digging a ditch or self employed in some hard working form or other to try to better themselves and get on. I don’t differentiate between the successful workers and the most lowly who never get far from the bottom. They all collectively are the thing that I think of as workers and keep this world serviced and turning in a recognisable form and will, for the most part, lend a hand if needed.

Throughout that whole time my love of trying to create a song or two kept me from going crazy or doing something silly. I was always going to write that BIGGIE that saved the day 🙂 and with the new Country scene happening still at that time and young Brit acts like Tony Rouse and New Dawn etc picking up on some of my songs that even seemed possible – if nothing else that time in my life did provide a depth of thinking and material subject matter like no other.

My ultimate thought on this matter is “never trust a government! If they’re saying you should be doing one this, you won’t go far wrong if you go out and do the exact opposite!

I then concentrated on building and took various BTEC qualifications and even got through the bridging course of the HNC – but never followed it up because there were too many songs to be written 🙂 .


Writing still
We spent a couple of years living like that before we had a small deposit together to put down on a modest place of our own again (though by then I was in my late 40’s and feeling like I’d been put through the proverbial mangle).But I still kept writing although in all that time I was always disorganised and few of the songs still exist. Those that do many are just scribbles on bits of paper of oddments of ply offcuts or whatever. later, when I was 60, I parted from my wife and, as I took nothing from the family home except a few personal possessions, I once again started out from scratch. I live now on my own, retired and on a very small pension and with a rent and rates on a Council flat to pay (like a lot of others who haven’t checked if there’s any help available)?Strange how all of that work and effort I can end up with so little. But I have always written song lyrics and loved Country music – which has somehow always seen me through and still does! I’m still going to write that biggie one day – you’ll see 🙂 !

Writing on into the future
On the other hand not all was disaster. At 25 I married my wife Jenny and for all we live apart and go our own ways we still care for and look after things between us (she does most of my washing – I do most of her maintenance) in a civilised way and we still do family things together (like taking our much loved grandchildren out).We have three lovely children who have never been in any trouble and who all have held down jobs continuously since leaving school (eldest now 40) and all of whom have little ones of their own now that we love so much! That is the kind of wealth money CANNOT buy!So I consider (quite rightly don’t you think) myself in many ways a wealthy man! On top of that I further consider myself lucky for having my friend Kerry – who many of you will know, who is less than two thirds my age and, thereby, who keeps me young at heart! And who I love to spend a good lot of my time with too. She believes in my songs and in me and encourages and helps me in any way she can to do my music all of the time. She’s always loved Country Music since as a child, she would spend time with her nanny Marge who was always singing classics like Crazy, Stand By Your Man & Blanket On The Ground so she loves those in Country Music on our own scene and that I have been able to introduce her to some of them.

She is an asset for sure in my new higher level (now I’m retired for the most part from carpentry) bid to get moving with my songwriting – which is all I always wanted to do had life not kept sending me off in various other directions. She even co-wrote a couple of the songs on my album with me so check out tracks two and nine and see how she did?

It has cost a bunch more to set up Drifting Ploughboy Records and do this 1st CD – but maybe if it sells enough to finance another I’ll do more? This one is called “Some Thoughts I Have Had Vol., 1 (leaving everything open and set up for Vol., 2 should that become viable) and consists entirely of a varied choice from my own songs I have written over the years – plus the two Kerry helped out with.Maybe an old age of financial gloom will ensue because of me using my payout this way? But I have written so many songs I just felt I needed to give some of them a life – that may stretch beyond my own time on this earth.End of day this way my grand children can hold out my CD and say to their grand children; “this was MY grandad! He wrote and sung all of the songs on this CD”. I like that idea! What more could a man leave?

Anyway, whatever your dreams, I hope you too get to do what you’ve always wanted to do one day. We all at times have mountains of hardship or emotional stress to climb – and at other times sun kissed green meadows of happiness to lie on. This is my green meadow!  And I hope you like something from what I’ve done here while having a go at bringing my own dreams true! Lie with me a while and listen :-).

Frank

PS: Take care and keep enjoying your music – whatever kind you happen to like!