My lowly position in the hierarchy of cultural luminaries and lack of celebrity status, dictates that this biography is in fact an autobiography. Not that I’m complaining, on the contrary, for within anonymity lies the seed of contentment. However; I will endeavour not to eulogise too much, or judge by inference those I’ve met along the way.
The Early Years
Life began on the 12th of July 1962, in St. Lukes hospital, Huddersfield: The second child, and only son, of Donald and Glenys. Donald was a humble lathe operator working for one of the town’s largest employers, David Brown Tractors of Meltham. A routine telephone call from the hospital to the works informed him of my arrival. The birth of my sister Julie, three years earlier, was a joy and the arrival of a son would make the family complete. Donald could groom his lad for sporting success, impart a lifetime of knowledge onto his young protégé and relish in his sons athleticism. Unfortunately, his aspirations could never be realised. Young Craig was not a, ‘normal’ lad. He was born with congenital feet deformities: I cannot imagine a crueller phone call.
My first birthday brought a gift that would change my life forever. Not a cuddly toy from mum and dad, or a silver plated trinket from friends or relatives. No, this life changing gift was a marvel of modern manufacturing. Produced by J. E. Hanger and Co. of London, a unique product that gave me what the Vespa had given the youth of the ’50s - freedom and independence. As you can see from the photo, my first shoe wasn’t quite as stylish as the Italian built scooter but from now on, Master Briggs would not be held back - he was on the move.
Over the next five years a series of surgical procedures, by my childhood hero Doctor Annan, changed the way I moved. Thankfully, early recollections are few but these infant experiences must surely have coloured my future life. In the 1960’s bedside NHS visits were restricted to one person for one hour per day. The anguish of a young mother listening to the tortured screams of her young son begging her to stay must have been horrific – it wasn’t much fun for me either.
When the time came, mum walked me to school like any other proud mother and Dad gave me his first and only piece of worldly advice. ‘If anyone hits you, hit em back’.
With one exception, my mind was always sharper than my boxing prowess. Kids can be cruel, particularly to those who stand out from the rest, but only once did I break down in tears and ask, ‘Why, why me?’ It’s a question I sometimes ask myself today, but for very different reasons. School life and education didn’t really do it for me; I found it difficult to concentrate on anything that didn’t interest me. However; there was one occasion when education received my full attention.
My peers and I were government guinea pigs for their radical new system of comprehensive education. We sat an 11+ exam just like generations before us but the prize for success was no longer educational segregation – high school or secondary school, such elitist institutions were abandoned in favour of a one school fits all system. It came as a great surprise to everyone, including me, when my exam result placed me into the top band of this new system, but not for long. By the end of the first year my lazy attitude saw me banished to the intermediate band and separated from all my friends. This just wouldn’t do. For the first three months of my second year I dedicated myself to reversing this deserved decision. In the term end exams my determination and single-mindedness put me top of the class in every single subject, all except PE of course. Realising their mistake I was quickly reunited with my friends. This was the first and last time I academically excelled.
I left comprehensive school with a mediocre haul of four O’ levels and drifted aimlessly into an A’ level course; it seemed
preferable to starting work. Aged seventeen I jumped at the chance to go on holiday with my best friend Mark and his parents to the Greek isle of Corfu. Back in the day that was quite an exotic holiday estination. The warm weather and relaxed lifestyle left quite an impression, so much so that late one night while sitting alone on a beach my dream of living a life abroad was born.
If my O’ level tally was disappointing, my A’ level results were pitiful: due in part to a perforated appendix suffered two months before my finals but if truth be known, I’d had my fill of education.
In May 1980 I left college and entered the employment market. Thatcher was busy dismantling British industry and unemployment was running at a post war record high. I signed on and spent the summer lounging around the house watching the Wimbledon finals on telly. Parental pressure to get off my backside and find work intensified over the summer. In September, during one of my many visits to the job centre a notice caught my eye, ‘Wanted trainee retail managers’. The idea of becoming a manager sounded quite appealing so I applied.
There were 560 applicants chasing 6 places. I pleaded my case and found myself one of the lucky half dozen. After a two week training course in the seaside town of Southport, I passed with honours achieving the rank of assistant manager. When asked where I would like to apply my new found retail skills, I chose London – the city paved with gold.
I left Huddersfield a naïve child and returned three and a half years later a wiser and more mature young man. A brief period of letting my hair down followed, catching up for lost time and lost youth. During these wild and hedonistic few months I won the greatest prize in life - love. After weeks of persistent pestering, the weekend barmaid at my local pub finally agreed to a date, a date that changed my life. Enter Melanie, the young and beautiful barmaid who became my wife, my best friend and my unwavering support.
My career in retail lasted six and a half years and saw me work for five companies. Each organisation expanded my experience and with it my knowledge but to realise my dream I knew that I would have to go it alone. Not long after turning 26 I felt the time was right and handed in my notice. I saw my future in leather jackets. Unfortunately, no one else shared my vision. I’d conducted my research and found suitable premises in Huddersfield’s town centre; I’d negotiated deals with suppliers
in London. I’d even employed the services of an accountant to produce a plausible business plan but all to no avail. Not one bank was prepared to take a punt on my idea and lend me the cash. My aspirations had fallen at the first hurdle.
The prospect of returning to the retail trade loomed large but having made the break I was determined to pursue a challenge of my own making. I reached a compromise, self-employment but under the umbrella of a large insurance company.
They called us financial consultants; I suppose it sounds better than desperate insurance salesmen. Life was hard and the insurance industry was ruthless. Trying to sell a product that nobody really wants, for a relentless monthly outlay and which the policy holder will never see the benefits, is not easy. Unlike most, I managed to survive and picked up some hard but valuable lessons along the way.
My, ‘Big Break’ came two years into my life as a death insurance salesman. Two of my clients had left their employment in the printing industry and started their own
printing business. At the end of their first full trading year they’d managed to make a staggering loss: a loss so great it eclipsed their total sales – quite a remarkable feat. They needed financial support and asked if I was interested. Against all professional advice I jumped at the chance, re-mortgaged the house and bought an equal share. Surprisingly, they managed to persuade another acquaintance to do the same.
Finally, I had found my true vocation in life. We were losing money hand over fist; the bank had taken a second charge on the houses of all four partners as security against a tiny overdraft and the funds raised by the new partners was instantly swallowed up in a black hole of debt. Could things get any worse? Not until the bank called in the overdraft. Whilst others worried about our impending doom, I applied myself to resolving the problem: the expression, ‘ducking and diving’ springs to mind. We weathered the storm but casualties were high. After 13 years of blood, sweat and holding back the tears, I ended up owning and running a modestly successful little business. Later that year a chance remark made to the company accountant led to discussions about a buyout, the opportunity to realise my dream finally presented itself.
Journey to a Dream
On the 6th of May 2002, with the car laden to capacity, we set off for Galicia in the northwest corner of Spain. The contrast between our lives in England and our new life here couldn’t have been greater. We had leapt into the unknown and in our wildest dreams could not have imagined the rewards. Our new life wasn’t without its challenges but we met them together and gradually settled in to our new surroundings.
This is not the end of my story; every day brings a new beginning. My height remains the same but I am growing every day.