The early years

Mick Wosika

local_img2I was born in Whitby, which is a small fishing village on the north east coast of Yorkshire which is in the UK. For you who don’t know anything about Whitby then this might interest you. The author Abraham “Bram” Stoker got his inspiration to create Dracula from Whitby, along with Captain James Cook who studied and sailed from here too.

Abraham “Bram” Stoker

Abraham “Bram” Stoker (8 November 1847 – 20 April 1912) was an Irish novelist and short story writer, best known today for his 1897 Gothic novel Dracula. This is where Bram Stoker got inspiration to create the fictional character. The amount of tv programs, films and books related to Dracula are endless with most been created in the USA. Not a lot of people know that!

Captain James Cook

James Cook was born in the village of Marton iYorkshire, now a suburb of Middlesbrough. He was baptised in the local church of St. Cuthbert, where his name can be seen in the church register. Cook was the second of eight children of James Cook, a Scottish farm labourer from Ednam near Kelso, and his locally born wife, Grace Pace, from Thornaby-on-Tees. In 1736, his family moved to Airey Holme farm at Great Ayton, where his father’s employer, Thomas Skottowe, paid for him to attend the local school. In 1741, after five years schooling, he began work for his father, who had by now been promoted to farm manager. For leisure, he would climb a nearby hill, Roseberry Topping, enjoying the opportunity for solitude. Cooks’ Cottage, his parents’ last home, which he is likely to have visited, is now in Melbourne, having been moved from England and reassembled, brick by brick, in 1934 In 1745, when he was 16, Cook moved 20 miles (32 km) to the fishing village of Staithes, to be apprenticed as a shop boy to grocer and haberdasher William Sanderson. Historians have speculated that this is where Cook first felt the lure of the sea while gazing out of the shop window. After 18 months, not proving suitable for shop work, Cook traveled to the nearby port town of Whitby to be introduced to friends of Sanderson’s, John and Henry Walker. The Walkers were prominent local ship-owners and Quakers, and were in the coal trade. Their house is now the Captain Cook Memorial Museum

Lived in Whitby for 2 years and then traveled to Cockermounth in Cumbria with my fathers work. I vaguely remembered where we stayed, but I do remember the owner of the house who Yodeled me to sleep. Amazing just what one can remember when so young!

Anyway due to my fathers work we moved to a small village in West Yorkshire, namely Ravensthorpe just outside the town of Dewsbury, famous for a few things and good things too; but was infamous for the Yorkshire Ripper when eventually arrested. A town right in the heart of the textile industry. Today those times have changed dramatically with hardly any evidence of that industry, but the evidance there is, such as warehouses, that is if they haven’t  already burnt down over the years, are a reminder of the textile industry that was once, and today are still used by local businesses. A large proportion of the warehouses along the river calder, which was the main river in the area for Textiles, have been re-developed by local construction companies and turned into appartments etc which has helped revive the whole area.

The river calder before the turn of the 19th century was a haven for salmon, but the advent of the textile industry, the building of weirs to support the canal systems to allow transportation of goods, along with pollution from the textile and chemical industries put an end to that. Now some 200 years later the river is teaming with fish and the salmon are making a come back, and the evidence of this is the re-building of weirs to incorporate fish passes. Otters, water voles, king fishers and birds of prey are in abundance and therefore a massive success story for the river, and so much so that we bought an Old Blacksmiths which sits on the river Calder itself in Mirfield.  A place steeped in history and with links to some famous people such as Brian Robinson, the first British cyclist to win a stage of the Tour-de-France, Sir Patrick Stewart the Actor who was born here, and links back to the Bronte Sisters and Henry VIII.

I enjoyed my time in Ravensthorpe and lived there until I left school and joined the British Army. I joined as a Junior Leader in Bramcote Barracks, Nuneaton. Spent a year and a half in training and loved every minute of it. I eventually joined my Regiment in Hohne, Germany part way through Northern Ireland training. That was a bit of an eye opener along with the four month tour of Belfast. I saw and was part of some hairy stuff whilst on tour there but the least said about that the better.

Spent some good times and saw some interesting places although I hated the four year posting in Hohne, just down the road from Belsen, which used to be a concentration camp during the 2nd World War. What an eerie place that was, especially when I first went for a run through the woodlands and came across the mass graves. It really brought it home to me just how many thousands lost their lives for no reason at all.

Places of interest that I visited whilst serving in the Britsh Army, Germany, Austria, Denmark sailing, Belfast (4 month tour), Canada, UK recruiting team in East Anglia which was the highlight of my 6 years. It’s right what they say about uniforms, with the women or young ladies as they were back then chasing us. Had some great times in that recruiting team and something that will be with me for the rest of my life!

After spending 6 years in the forces and reaching the rank of Sergeant I decided it was time for a change and try my luck in civilian life. It took me sometime to fit in and I don’t mind saying, it was a difficult struggle coming out of the Royal Artillery with no trade as such, well nothing that would serve me purpose in civilian life. Not much of a call for Gunnery skills in those days, and nowadays for that matter!

Took several years to adjust and eventually found some training that would hopefully give me a skill and help me crack it in the big wide world. That was a computer programming course run by Manpower Services and took three months to complete. After the course ended a lot of the students did not get jobs, even though we were allowed to use the training company after the course ended to approach companies. I was one of the lucky ones, but it may have had something to do with the several hundred letters sent out. Perseverance and it only takes the one!

Philip Morris Engineering Services was my first job on the Old Kent Road, London, which you all will have heard of if you’ve played Monopoly. That was my first real job and that’s when I really started to train as a computer programmer. Nothing like the course but exciting but also extremely difficult at the same time. Whilst I was there the company allowed me to stay in an hotel in Blackheath (which we all know as the start of London Marathon) for up to three months whilst I found my feet. Had a great time at the hotel and guess what I left it till the very last day of the three months before I got my arse in gear and found a place to stay, and that place was in Greenwich just down the road from Blackheath. I spent a year and a half at Philp Morris and decided that I needed to move nearer home and my son and quite frankly London was not for me, but things were a little cheaper in those days. Now you need a fortune to live down there, just ask my brother.

Yorkshire here I come and back to Leeds and several jobs later decided to try it as a freelance software developer. The money was great and had some great contracts. Places like Vejle, Denmark the home of Stimorol (where the contract actually was), Stockholm, SwedenBasel, Switzerland and Heidelburg , Germany, spring to mind and met some great people. It’s not for everyone working abroad but I thoroughly enjoyed it and learned so much more about myself, but more importantly I loved the different cultures. My last contract abroad was in Basel, Switzerland from Jan 2006 until May 2008. What a place Switzerland is and had some great times over there and was extremely sad to leave when the contract came to an end.

to be continued…

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