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0-17 where, when and who started it all

I was born on 30th December 1968 in Barnet, North London. The two people I can hold fully responsible for my existence are my Dad (Jim)  and Mum (Jean) Kentish.

Sadly, my Dad passed away in 1998.  When I started writing this, I read something that was written about my Dad when he died. It kind of sums up both of my parents, who were incredibly loving and totally selfless. If I can grow up to be a tenth of the people they were, I’d be well chuffed.

Mum & Dad

Rev Margaret Partridge who  led the service described my Dad:

“ a selfless individual, who with his wife had helped care for nearly 200 foster children during their 40-year marriage.”

“When Jean was awarded her MBE, she told the Queen half of it belonged to Jim,” she said. “He was at heart a fun-loving person — this spirit of fun remained with Jim throughout his illness. He lived the last few months as fully as possible with great courage and determination.”

Hertsmere Borough Council’s chief executive Philip Copland said:

“His approach to the role of councillor was one of diplomacy and true determination. He was totally selfless, putting the needs of others first and argued often most persuasively on their behalf. He was a true gentleman, he was also someone who enriched the community with his own special personality and character.”

Hertsmere council leader Councillor Bryan Stanley, also paid tribute to his Labour colleague and friend of 30 years.

“He wanted to make life better for as many as possible — that’s why he was a councillor. He devoted his life to help other people, that’s why Jean and Jim fostered so many fortunate children,”

 Being Born

I can’t quite remember what happened, but this is kind of how I ended up. I used to think that the world really was black and white.  Although being born in Barnet General Hospital wasn’t the most memorable of events, I grew up in Borehamwood, North London, forever wondering why some things in Borehamwood (like the film studios) were called Elstree this or that. To this day, I can’t help but think it was because the budget for letters didn’t extend to the longer Borehamwood.

At the time I had two older brothers, a few foster children, a tortoise and a liking for playing and eating mud. Later, two of the foster children my parents looked after became sisters. My Mum and Dad couldn’t let these two little ones go, so adopted them. It was always a sense of amusement because Christine and Natasha are both black, my parents are both white, so my Uncle John always joked about the milkman.

Brothers and Sisters

Here we go – the full motley crew!

How proud I was of that T-Shirt! How much I loved my new sisters too! At the time, growing up in a household of loads of kids was great. You got to play with loads of toys, shared everything, and never ever felt jealous of them. The difficult part of growing up with foster children is learning about some of the horrible things that often had happened to them. Worst still, from time to time you got to meet the people (often sadly their parents) who had done those things. Natasha (bottom right) broke my heart. She ping-ponged in and out of care until one day, she returned from her parents who had thrown her down the stairs, and that was it, my Mum wanted to keep her! I think I remember my Dad saying to my Mum “Make this your last one!”.

So there you have it. Me, born into a loving family of a Mum and Dad loved and respected one another, who devoted their lives to serving others, and now at forty something still wondering how on earth Mum and Dad had as much compassion, calmness and love for all those they helped. Along the way, I’ve been blessed in meeting so many children who’s lives have been transformed by the dedicated love of my Mum and Dad.

So what’s with Gerbils?

When I think about some of the every day things of my childhood that aren’t related to people, I think of gerbils. Mongolian gerbils to be precise. I used to have them, breed them, sell them and laugh at when you clapped your hands they would bounce up. As a teenager on FM CB Radio (one four for a copy, good buddy and all that) I was known as Gerbil. Part of it was simply because I kept them, the other part of it was because I was quite skinny!

Funny isn’t it? You don’t often think of something so small as this as a big part of your life! It was quite touching though, that in 2011 I drove an ambulance to Mongolia and along the way saw some of this little things in the Gobi desert. There was a curious comfort in seeing these animals in their home territory, and not needing cleaning out!