MY LIFE AND TIMES: First of an occasional series of blogs by Bob Hopkin, now of Africa, March born and bred

Bob Hopkins (as a child, centre) with his mum and dad in March Bob Hopkins (as a child, centre) with his mum and dad in March

Story by: BOB HOPKIN
Thursday, April 17, 2014
1:09 PM

Greetings from the southern tip of Africa; from where I sit there is one mile south to the Indian Ocean and from there 4,000 miles of sea to the Antarctic.

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It is a distant and strange resting place for someone born in the old nursing home, more recently Shepperson House, 2 Regent Avenue, March.

My name is Bob (or Robert Anthony if you insist) the only son of Charlie and Gwen Hopkin of, latterly, 1 Regent Avenue.

My dad, that’s the handsome one on the left, began work as a bus driver, joined the Fire Brigade during WW II, when the German raids began to target the Whitemoor marshalling yards, and for the rest of his life became one of the most respected motor mechanics in town.

Also, as a keen photographer, he contributed countless pictures to the Cambs Times. My mum, she’s the good looking one on the right, was born to Sidney Banyard, an upholsterer from Huntingdon who moved to March to continue his trade and lived the rest of his life in a bungalow in Darthill Road.

The small one in the middle with the ‘Wing Nut’ ears is me – their only child, no surprise after all the trouble and grief I gave them!

The Hopkins and Banyards were conservative (that’s with a small C) families who rarely travelled far from the Fens and considered a trip to Hunstanton a special outing and a holiday in Cromer an adventure.

As for me, passing through the regular schooling process of North District Infants, Burrowmoor Road secondary and March Grammar (that’s the real one in Robin Goodfellows Lane not the fancy Neale Wade in the Causeway) it looked as though I would follow one of the traditional sources of local employment: farming, the railway or service industries.

After flunking my first ‘O’ levels, with just three passes (ouch!), I went round again and got another five and with those just respectable enough to look for a decent job. None of the three obvious choices appealed, so I ended up working at County Hall in the roads and bridges department as a trainee civil engineer.

After less than a year of surveying training, which included holding a surveyors stick, whilst up to my ankles in you know what in a pig sty, and setting fire to blueprints with an electric eraser after numerous pen and ink mistakes, I decided it was not for me. The time had come to escape my comfort zone, shake off the bonds with my ever supportive parents and leave March.

If the rest of my story: the fun and stress of the motor industry, relocations to Coventry, Paris and South Africa, re-inventing myself as a Corporate Soldier and a journalist later in life sound interesting to you, look out for my ongoing Blog in future issues of the Cambs.Times.

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