When I was at secondary school I was bullied all the time, being the youngest of three boys I got all the hand me downs so I was rarely wearing the in 'thing'. I was also very small & quite good at maths which didn't help.
When I was about 13 I discovered that people liked to be entertained, I can't remember exactly how but I found that I had a talent for stupid little tricks & people liked to watch me do them. I could twiddle my pen through my fingers on both hands faster than anyone else, I could throw a coin & catch it on the end of my elbow & do various other novelty pieces.
After seeing a guy on the Ron Lucas Show I became very profficient at the art of finger ballet (one of the performers in the Ciromedia/Circuspace Showcase Show in Cardiff did a little bit of this in his act). This skill brought me my first taste of popularity since primary school, people used to try & copy me & I found a whole new branch of friends.
Outside of school I used to race radio control model cars at the Eastbourne Electric Car Club. One week one of the members called Stuart brought along some juggling balls & did a little juggling: cascade, reverse cascade, under the leg, columns, rainbow cross & two in one hand. It also turned out that there were two other jugglers in the group, Kevin (not the TWJC founder one) & Benny, who could do Mills Mess which at the time was the most amazing thing I'd ever seen. I got the chance to practise for five minutes or so for about two or three weeks, but I never really got anywhere.
This was in September 1993 & on Saturday the 11th, just under two weeks before my birthday I was out shopping with my parents & they bought me an early present. A set of More Balls Than Most thuds in the black presentation box.
I went home & practised, I juggled for four hours. It took me just under an hour to master the cascade & by the end of the evening I could do over the top, juggler's tennis, reverse cascade, under the leg & bounce it off my knees. For my actual birthday I got a fourth ball & a set of clubs. At Eastbourne Electric Car Club we got into ball passing & Benny even brought his unicycle down one night.
At school no one ever bullied me again.
One day I happened across a market stall selling juggling equipment being run by two guys in Tunbridge Wells. I bought a devilstick & the brilliant book Beyond the Cascade by George Gillson. I had a nice chat with the man who served me & he showed me some neat tricks. Little did I know that the other man who was serving someone else was TWJC founder Kevin Fletcher.
By Christmas I could do most of the tricks in the book, on Christmas day I got a fifth ball & by the time I returned to school in January I could juggle a five ball cascade & half showers in both directions.
Stuart moved away & then Kevin & Benny went away to university & I stopped juggling for almost six months. Then a young kid named Daniel Clark started to race at EECC. He was also a juggler, diaboloist & a very good unicyclist. He invited me to join him at Hastings Community Circus at the Old Scout Hall in Croft Road. There I first met professional entertainer Andy Dinsdale & was amazed by his five ball tricks & one & two diabolos. We played lots of games, I watched lots of really cool tricks & had a really great time.
The following Tuesday Dan & I went to Tunbridge Wells Juggling Club. I went in, picked up five balls & juggled a few tricks. I think Kevin has regretted it ever since. I was very impressed with the hall & all the people there. I learnt to throw a backcross with three clubs & nearer the end of the evening Dave Leech came up to me & asked if I knew any cool three ball tricks. In my naivete I actually thought he was asking if I could teach him some stuff. He taught me Parallel Schizophrenia (441) & in doing so convinced me to become a TWJC member.