Where The Good Things Are

I Andrew Alan Matthews was born in 1968 at 12 Tatton close, Grange Estate Winsford, Cheshire England, The family moved to Whayala in Australia when I was 6 Months old as my dad got a job working on the ship yards.

I do not have much recollection of my childhood in Australia like most people of a young age, although there are a few snippets I do remember, such as, a line of Hairy caterpillars that my dad put into a circle which went around and around for ages. also during a locust invasion collecting Locusts in a jar to keep for later to play with.

On the way back home from Australia on board ship I remember collecting a toy car from Santa dressed up as a toy soldier made out of paper and I can still remember the smell of fresh baking bread wafting in from the kitchens, also colouring in a picture whilst during a storm at sea. We had to return back home to England because my Dad became ill and was given 6 months to live by the Australian doctors.

Once back in England we stayed at Grandma Dolly Matthews house in Garthorpe Road Northern Moor. We did not stay in Northern Moor for long and we moved to 222 Princess Road Moss Side Manchester.

My first recollection in Moss side was going to a School on Princess Road, I did not like it there and was being bullied so my mum and Dad moved me to Claremont Road Junior School. I met Mark Egerton at this School and met Ricardo Cowie there as well.

I first met Ricky when he gave me a bit of cheek and was bragging about what he had, Ricky said I punched him in the face for bragging. He says that taught him a valuable lesson in life of not to brag and says he respected me for.

I had lots of fun at Claremont Junior School getting up to lots of mischief with two friends, Alver lindo and Geoffrey finlayson who were Black and cocks of the school. I remember Lifting up girls skirts and getting up to mischief.

We used to collect football cards that had bubble gum inside and we would flick them up against the school playground wall to win money and cards. My favorite football player was Colin Bell and we always played football on the streets.

I was in trouble a few times at School, one time was when I looked after the school terrapins, I put them in the Pottery Kiln and put the food in the teacher’s desk. I nearly got the cane for that.

My dad said that he had to come into my school on one occasion because I had pushed three kids down the stairs putting one in hospital, I do not remember doing that but my dad stuck up for me and said that if three lads were pushed down the stairs they must have been trying to gang up on me and if so why weren’t they questioned.

There was a school trip I went on with Mark and we played football in the dark, when Mr Bernstein the head teacher saw us play and picked us for the football team. I remember waiting for the team coach only to find out I was not picked, But Mark was. I was gutted.

There was also a Sunday school I used to go to with my sister on Claremont Road and it was very darkly lit and spooky, I used to play with lots of toys and table football. Geoffrey Finlayson also took me to church in Wythenshawe and we watched a weird budget film where all the actors were black. I was the only white face in the congregation.

Ricky and I also went searching around the back alley ways collecting old push bikes that were left in the alleys and old derelict houses. we collected so many that they filled up my dads air raid shelter and Ricky’s air raid shelter. We began to make bikes from these parts and made around thirty bikes which we then sold in Nev's second hand shop which was located on the corner of Claremont Road and Cowesby Street. we made a lot of money.

Our last bike we made did not have enough parts, it was missing an inner tube for the front wheel, so we filled it with newspaper in a split in the tyre and painted the tyre black to disguise it, the peddles spindle was loose and the front handle bars did not fit well. We advertised it outside Nev's shop and a Chinese man took a test drive on it, he got on it peddled half way down the road, the spindle gave way, the handle bar began to swivel and he hit a ditch in the Road and the front wheel split in half sending him sprawling on the floor and grazing his face, he came chasing after us, never to catch or see us again.

We set up a puncture repair service. And Peter Egerton gave us his bike to repair, we fixed the puncture at 5p a patch, it was a measly amount to pay for just one puncture so we made a few more in the tyre, it ended up costing him a few quid. Peter also saw that we had a new set of wheels for his BMX and he wanted to buy them so we said we will fit them for a fiver. we took his bike back to Rickys yard and looked at his old wheels, they were perfectly good wheels so we cleaned all the rust off them and made them shiny and new using duraglit. we took the bike back an hour later and he was chuffed to bits and handed his fiver to us, he was non the wiser.

There was also a man called Keith. we called him keith the thief because he was the only one who conned us. we fixed his gears by taking them apart and cleaning them we charged him a fiver for this but he never paid us.

My friends and I used to hop on a bus to go to the Civic Centre in Wythenshawe where we bought records from the market. My sisters friends brother Mr Garside owned the stall, he lived on Princess Road and looked like giant haystacks the wrestler, he had thousands of records piled up in his house and he could get you any record you liked. My first record was walking on the moon by the police. I also loved The Jam and Madness was our favourite band.

Ricky, Mark, Michael and I used to go on long bike rides we would often cycle to Reddish Vale to get to see some green fields and fresh air. We would also ride to Tatton Park and back stopping off at Ashley and doing a bit of scrumping for apples in the local farms. On one occasion a farmer came out behind a tree with a shotgun and shouted "GET ORFF MY LAND" and shot the gun in the air. We were scared but had a laugh about it afterwards. On the way back home there was a steep hill 1 in 10 incline and we used to freewheel down it at speed. One time Ricky fell off at the bottom of the hill and spilled his sweets all over the Road he was nearly hit by a car as he was collecting them again.

Extracted from “A history of my life to date” by Andrew Alan Matthews, an artist who grew up at Moss Side, Manchester in the 70s. For the full story of Andrew, all his mischiefs and achievements, ups and downs, including a dark period of mental illness triggered by work-related stress and how he struggled and gradually regained his life, please click here.

You can also find Andrew’s art at his website: andrewalanmatthews.co.uk

Here is one example:

"Where The Good Things Are" by Andrew Alan Matthews

"Where The Good Things Are" by Andrew Alan Matthews