“I’ve always struggled with dyslexia. I still can’t read and write properly and I can’t add up very well either. I can’t even remember my own telephone number. When I was at school I just didn’t have a clue what they were on about. Especially in maths. I never learnt anything. I was a bit boisterous and I just got the cane all the time. The teacher would say you’re nothing but a waste of space and kick me out of class. I spent most of my childhood in the cloakroom. They didn’t know about dyslexia then. The just thought I was being difficult for the sake of it.
I got a job as a butcher boy when I left school. Then I got a job with a roofing firm and realised I could learn how to do it just by watching people. No one taught me, I just picked it up as I went along. Everything just snowballed after that until I got my own business with ten blokes working for me. I could build a house now on my own if I put my mind to it.
We had brand new vans; we had money in the bank; we were doing really well, but there was a big housing price crash in the early nineties and suddenly we couldn’t get work anywhere. Everything disappeared. I had to let all the men I had working for me go and then all my money dried up. I had my own house that I was renovating at the time but we soon lost that too. My wife and I fell out because of it all. It broke my heart leaving her, but we couldn’t go on. One day I just packed my suitcase with my clothes and my tools and walked away.
I lived with my sister for a while, and then I fixed someone’s bathroom up and they let me stay with them. I’d go around and do work just for somewhere to sleep and a tenner a day. I even stayed in a bookshop for a week. Then an old friend of mine said I could stay in his shed in return for doing work around his house. I built a bench and swings in his gardens, I decorated his house, I did the lot. I lived in that shed for two years until I could get my own flat. It wasn’t that bad. It could be good fun sometimes. I had long johns and a big leather coat. I appreciated nature more. I went on a few marches for Greenpeace after I saw a documentary once about their ship the Rainbow Warrior stopping Russians dumping toxic waste into the sea. I thought they were the bravest men in the world and started going on marches with them. Everyone started calling me Rainbow after that.”
Lawrence ‘Rainbow’, Chippenham.
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