Early Years to Early Teens (1957 - 1971)
K J Bennett, or Kevin, was born in the dusty, smoky wastelands of Stalybridge in what was once Cheshire, but is now Greater Manchester, in 1957. Being insightful enough to foresee this future boundary change, he moved away from there to the idyllic environs of Cornwall before his third birthday.
In the lush green Cornish countryside, Kevin romped amongst the nettles and got up to all sorts of mischief whilst honing his magnificent physique (see picture). His father, who in a former life might well have been a Bedouin tribesman, took it upon himself to broaden his children’s horizons by regularly moving from short-term let to short-term let in the Southwest and other areas. During these meanderings, some siblings were temporarily misplaced.
At the age of seven, Kevin found himself resident in the wing of an aging mansion outside of Reading, Berkshire. With him was one of his two sisters, Glynis. The young pair (Glynis being three years senior) thought they had finally arrived at the lifestyle to which they wanted to become accustomed.
Meals were served by staff, in the wood-panelled dining room, on finest china with real silver cutlery, and long summer days were spent around the boating lake or wandering through the extensive grounds, riding horses and playing with a donkey called Zachary.
Ah well, so much for the luxury lifestyle. Kevin should have taken it as an omen when mild mannered Zachary mistook the middle finger of his right hand for a carrot and bit it so hard it broke: for shortly after that, Bennett Snr moved them from this plush paradise to a small caravan at the back of a farm near Streatley, Berkshire. Another move followed shortly: this time to a tithe bungalow that was supplied to the caretaker of a school in Tilehurst, just outside Reading. That caretaker was Kevin’s father. Next, on to the village of Mortimer, again near Reading, from which Kevin’s most lingering memory is watching Gilligan’s Island and Branded (which is nothing to do with being a notch on Russell Brand's bedpost) on an aged second hand TV set that worked only when the moon was in the ascendant (well, that might not be totally accurate, but you get the drift, I’m sure).
Then, back to Cornwall where The Family Bennett lived in, amongst other abodes, a shack made of wood and corrugated iron in the tiny hamlet of Lesnewth, which sits between Boscastle and Trebarwith in Cornwall, and a tiny caravan at Notter Bridge, near Saltash.
Notter content with life as caretaker on a caravan park (did anyone see that pun?), Bennett Snr moved the family to Macclesfield in Cheshire, where he became the caretaker of Victoria Park Flats, and then, shortly afterwards, un-became said caretaker. The less than four-year stay in Macclesfield involved four addresses and one more primary school for Kevin. In fact, Kevin has lost count of all the primary schools he attended during these years, but feels that the number twelve would be a reasonable estimate.
Readers who have managed to lose track at this stage must spare a thought or two for the other Bennett siblings, Jackie and Alan (respectively eleven and ten years Kevin’s elders). How they kept track of the nomadic Bennett Snr and their younger family members in a time before the Internet existed and most motorways were but a dream is a wonder, and can probably be attributed to Jackie’s organisational skills, which she obviously did not inherit from her father.
It is a sad fact that he was never at a primary school long enough to get a decent footing in education and he missed the deadline for the 11 Plus exam. Consequently, Kevin had to attend an examination centre in the summer holidays to sit the 11 Plus. Having missed many weeks of school and having no continuity in his schooling, he scraped a mark that put him in the top stream of a secondary school, but was below that required for a grammar school. Feeling rather settled in Macclesfield, notwithstanding the fact he endured four addresses in that town, Kevin attended Macclesfield Central School for Boys, a secondary modern with a catchment area similar to a low-grade sink estate.
Kevin was top of his class in many subjects: by the end of the third year he was predicted to get Grade 1 CSE in English, Maths, Chemistry and Physics, and grade 1 or 2 in Geography. Such was the nature of the place that Kevin also managed to hone his boxing, wrestling and dirty street fighting skills on a daily basis amidst the many unruly and downright dangerous break times. By year 3, Kevin had adopted a skinhead haircut, so at least only one band of thugs attacked him daily. He may well have progressed to further education had it not been for that fateful day when Bennett Snr announced another move. Back to Cornwall.
In one sense, Back to Cornwall was good: young Kevin was probably saved from numerous disfiguring injuries inflicted at the whim of the wild greasers who stalked the school grounds armed with weapons, thus his finely chiseled good-looks persist to this day (but with more protective padding). However, Kevin has often pondered whether or not he would have sacrificed an eye or an ear in the school-yard wars in order to have achieved a better education.
Kevin was placed into Callington Comprehensive School, Callington, Cornwall, which was mixed gender and a new world to him. The syllabus was like nothing he had experienced before and had obviously been drafted by drunken Venusians on drugs. Education became secondary to his self-consciousness (you try three years in a boys school and a sudden switch to mixed gender and see where your self esteem ends up!) and dreams of stardom in a rock band. And then there was the writing: how could he find time for an education?
Kevin left school three weeks before his fifteenth birthday without a single qualification to his name.