This is the part of the website where you learn a bit about me, what makes me tick and other such really interesting stuff. Alright, it's not that interesting, but you do get to find out more about mePaul F. Johnson
I was born at Broadgreen Hospital, Liverpool a bit after 9.30pm on April 13th 1971. Before I was born, apparently I liked to travel (my mum had been up to the clinic the morning I was born on the bus and she went into labour shortly after she arrived back home - so, off to the hospital she went!)
I was brought up in Netherley (which though full of wide open spaces, suffered greatly from the 1960's drive to stick up low cost flats for folks to live in. Like most ideas to help the housing shortage, it was utter rubbish and since has meant Liverpool will be paying for them until about the year 2030) the middle kid out of three (the other two being Lynn (big sis) and Jacqui (little sis)).
Netherley was really a lovely place (exclude the flats which seemed to attract firebugs). It had (and still does have) lots of fields, trees to climb and places to hide. It also has probably the finest primary school in Liverpool, Cross Farm.
First up, Cross Farm Infants and Juniors
Cross Farm infants was a bit dull, except in my final year there when I sang solo in the Christmas concert (it was the first verse of "Away in a manger"). Things really took off though in the juniors - why? Music.
I was (and still am) really good at playing musical instruments, be it recorder, guitar or violin, oh and I could sing. These were brought on greatly by Chris Martin (Mr. Martin to you) in my 3rd and 4th year. Chris was probably the most wonderful teacher anyone could have. He was fair, honest and kind, but at the same time, was ruthless in being fair. Best of all, he had a sense of humour. He was imaginative as well. Other than that, he played the guitar and erm, took cross country.
I know he left Cross Farm a good few years back to teach (I think) in Haydock. If anyone knows where he is, please let me know.
Next came New Heys Comprehensive....
After leaving Cross Farm, I was supposed to go to some dump called Netherley
Comp. Okay, maybe "dump" is a bit harsh, dumps have a use. There was
NO WAY under the sun I would go there, so there was an appeal and off to
New Heys I went.
Here I developed the second love of his life, science. Unfortunately, I wasn't very good at it. Infact, I was terrible! However, these were the lessons I enjoyed most (other than music).
Nothing very much happened at New Heys. I met plenty of folks (all of whom I have lost contact with, so Murray, Phil, Pat & Martin, if you're out there, tell me!) at school as well as on the bus home (the infamous MPTE 66 route went past the all girls convent school, St. Julies - this was great for me, loads of tasty totty at just the right time in my life).
Three girls from my time still stick with me (in my memory at least).
- Kate Fletcher.
Kate was the most fantastic looking girl at school. Brown eyes, dark hair and amazingly clever. In my first year (and every other year at school) I would summon up enough courage to ask her out and would always be told "no chance".
- Michelle Sharp.
Michelle was the sort of girl that you would happily, and without question saw off you nether regions to spend the night with. Charming, witty and fun to be around. I named my RiscPC after her. There is a simple reason for that - it was about the only way I would be able to fiddle around! The last I heard from her, she was working for Barclaycard in Kirkby, but wanted to be a model. Oddly, the only thing about Michelle that I was ever unsure of, was her surname. Was it Greer or Sharp?
- Jennifer Kerr.
Jenni was another of the St. Julies crowd (Michelle was the other). She was a bit of an oddball, but non-the-less had a certain something about her. I think it was a combination of long elegant legs and a razor sharp witt. No idea what she's doing now, but last I knew, she was living in Huyton.
All three of these have computers named after them. Not sure if that's in memory or some subconcious desires still there!
New Heys ended in a bit of a flop. I came out with 1 O level as basically, I couldn't be bothered to revise. Nothing beckoned. The choice of nothing or something waited, so I did something and went to Liverpool College to do a BTeC 1st Science. I never completed the course, instead, I went to work for William Martin cameras in Liverpool.
Snap snap, grin grin, say no more...
Now, the odd thing about working in a shop is that you're surrounded by one of two types of people. Either they are know it alls or anoraks. Know it alls are fine to get on with, as if you know at least something, they will usually impart some of their knowledge. Anoraks are a pain. Half of the time, they know nothing. The rest of the time it's you vs. them. In the camera area (like computers) you get more of these than any other. Unfortunately, I couldn't be bothered with them. I left there after about 4 months and went to work in a toy shop. That lasted for about 8 days.
There was a good reason for that, the bosses daughter. We'd flirt and he didn't like the idea of an employee and his daughter. In the end, I was sent packing ("you don't fit in" line).
Knowsley Community College - Part 1
Next up was Knowsley College to do a YTS in lab work. I'd decided that I was going to make a go of this and also do some night classes. 2 days out of 5 was lectures with the remaining 3 training. For that, I was paid about £28 (which went to £35 in the second year).
I also did 4 nights a week night school. In the space of one academic year, I did the entire BTeC 1st Science (a 2 year course) and 4 GCSEs and passed the lot with flying colours.
Bootle High School - Nice, but uneventful
From there, I went to Bootle High School as a science technician. Dull place. Nice folks though.
While I was there, I went on a walking holiday to the Irish Republic. It was wonderful until one day, in a little place called County Wicklow, I had the seven bells knocked out of me by a lout called Christy Corkish (if memory serves right). Pat and I were looking for somewhere to set up camp when we were jumped. Pat managed to scarper to get help. I ended up with a bust nose, broken teeth, fractured skull and fractured cheek bone. The physical scars healed - I thought the mental ones has as well...
The RAF - promised much, but....
I left Bootle High School (it was a 2 year contract and it didn't look like it was going to get renewed) and joined the RAF. It was fun. I met a lovely girl there called Tracey Boreham and we struck up an instant chemistry as we were (and still are) Goon fanatics. My term there was cut short when one night, while sleeping, I was jumped. After then, things went down hill - fast and my future there was cut short.
Next up, the RSPCA and a dog called Pooh
After my discharge, I started working at the RSPCA in Halewood. Here I got my first dog. A lovely German Shepard. He came in with the name Satan. That was changed by one of the managers to Saint. As I was looking after him, I changed it to Baldrick and started on my parents to let me have him. They did on one condition, I had to change his name. I did just that, and from then on, he was known as Percy (or Pooh).
Pooh was a great dog.
I'd started work at Knowsley Community College as the science tech at the Kirkby site. I made some seriously good friends there
Back to the college - onward and upward! (and off a ladder)
While at Knowsley, I started learning again and did my Access to Higher Ed in Chemistry then did my BTeC HNC Chemistry at Liverpool John Moores University. Just before I started my second year at JM, I fell from a ladder at the college. I'd just moved to Haydock and was planning my wedding. That seriously knackered things for me. My wedding day was fine (except that my dad did the pictures and didn't admit he needed glasses, so anything he took was out of focus - of course, it was down to my camera...). The night I remember blow all about. I had taken that many pain killers that from about half way through the ceremony I was stoned - and remained that way for the rest of the day.
Bye bye KCC, Hello Salford University
I finally left the college and moved to my dream job as the Physical Chemistry technician at Salford Uni.
Everything went great there. Okay, some of my co-workers (one in particular managed to log 30 odd complaints about me in about a week - my second week there!) were a bit odd, but most chemists are. There was plenty of work to start off with, then the numbers dropped off. From a second year of about 57 students when I started, the numbers dropped like a brick in the years past then. This was a crying shame as Salford's Chemistry department was once the largest in Europe. Unfortunately, due to many years of dumbing down in the education system in schools and colleges meant that no-one wanted to do Chemistry. It is currently the case that in the 2 years to GCSE, about 3 months of it is Chemistry with the lions share being Biology. 3 months is no were near enough time to get a student ready for A level. They hit it and suddenly the void of knowledge can be seen between GCSE and A level. The student just drops out. Net effect, far fewer students for Universities.
While at Salford, I finished my HNC and started on my BSc. I finished that shortly before my wife gave birth to our first child, Richard.
One of the things about student numbers dropping meant that I could learn something new - that something new was programming.
It started with programs written in WimpBASIC and moved onto C programs for RiscStation Ltd. From that, I moved onto C++. The free time afforded to me meant I could spend lots of time learning about programming. It was that or bordom. I did start to write more of my odd stories as well.
I did other things while at Chemistry, one of which was as the Acorn User CD editor
The dropping student numbers brought about the unthinkable, in 2002, Chemistry at Salford was given a 3 year tail off. We had to lose 1 technician for the others to survive. I moved on and into the School of Music, Media and Performance.
From Chemistry to Music, Media and Performance
It's a totally different job to Chemistry as I'm now (effectively) my own boss. I am in charge of the servers, school websites as well as being the first line repairer and maintainer of the departments computers.
It may not sound much, but the School is the largest at Salford Uni with around 1700 students and staff.
Time to teach
There is only so long you can stay a technician (or member of technical staff) as after a while, life just becomes dull. There is no challenge left and not much else to do. It is very easy to become demoralised. I decided in 2003 that the way forward was to take up teaching, and so took my PGCE at St. Helens College.
Part way through the course, it was discussed what the course would allow us to finally teach on. While it was not clear if it would allow school teaching, it would be good for anything over 16 - if FENTO and the TTA managed to get things done in time, it would possibly give Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). By the end of the course, they hadn't.
Teaching post 16 is an eye opener. For someone who has been through the full roll of education, it is made to look simple. Teaching is anything but simple - there is so much to understand : teaching methods, learning theory, dealing with problem students, motivation, lesson plans, schemes of work, marking - the list goes on and none of them are easy! Add into that pot planning and delivery and you can soon see why teaching is such that there is a shortage - okay, it seems that it's a 35 hour week but during my training, I was regularly hitting over 96 hours!
It was annoying that I could not teach in schools as that is where, in my whole working life, I was the happiest in.
To teach in the UK, you need something called Qualified Teacher Status. This gives you a DfES number which is the gateway to Mecca - well, into schools at least. There are a number of ways in, one is to take another PGCE (costly) or to take something called the Graduate Training Programme (GTP). The GTP is a great course - it can be completed in as little as 3 months or last 12 - during which time, you're employed as an unqualified teacher after which, you have the coveted DfES number and the status of "Newly Qualified Teacher".
Out of the school, into the college system (again!)
Well, the school didn't work out as well as it could have and after a while, I left. It was a sad day.
For a while, I did agency work for Protocol National and ended up at Southport College teaching IT. This started as a Protocol placement, but soon became a real job. Or so I thought.
The contract I was on was to cover long term sickness and reorganisation. Not a problem really, but come the June and with falling numbers, the IT section was closed. Everyone except for myself could re-apply for a position and despite having worked like a nut and delivered some very exacting and demanding courses in programming and expert systems, I was made redundant. But all was not lost folks!
Around the end of June, I was made aware that the curriculum leader for Science was taking the early bath, so I stepped in to do the job. Great. Good money, responsibility and some wonderful students. Only problem was that we had low numbers on one of the courses, so in my usual way, I recruited a good number of folks and the course ran. Only thing is (and I learned this to my cost) had the course not run, there would be no interview and the job would be mine.
The interview came and for reasons beyond me, I didn't get the post. I could stay on as the biology lecturer, but only until a replacement was found (the problem course was coming to haunt me again - the course was one run in conjunction with a partner university and they called the shots). Great. Not. They interviewed with me in the next room. Talk about not really caring!
Luckily, after not getting the post at the college, I applied for a similar post at Liverpool International College. Okay, I didn't get the post, but I was remembered by the head of the college who took me on in early 2008 to teach Chemistry and Biology.
Only thing is, something was coming on the horizon...
ACCU and C Vu
For quite a while, I had been reviewing C++ and C# books for the Association of C and C++ users as well as getting involved with the open source movement, in particular, with a C++ linux application, Scribus
Feb 2004 was a fun month. I took on the editorship of one of the two ACCU magazines, C Vu. Little did I realise how much work and pleasure it took and gave!
Editing a magazine is a gas, but is quite a thankless task and I really empathise with editors who go on about the lack of available material - it is very hard to obtain good and plentiful material from authors willing to submit on time.
Thankfully, that is not the case with C Vu - well, not usually...
Becki Johnson (nee Senior)
Becki started life out as my German teacher and to start with, I drove her nuts. As time went on, we grew closer together as friends, to such an extent that I would miss my Wednesday nights when classes weren't on. I finished my ABC level 3 course with her and started to look forward to my GCSE with her.
The summer of 2006 saw lots of changes for me. For a start, I quit my job at Salford so I could do my Graduate Training Programme at Westleigh High School. A massive drop in wages was required for this. It was a gamble which didn't pay off as in late October 2006, I had to leave the course due to personal reasons. However, Becki was very sympathetic and due to me having rebuilt her computer and fixed a pile of other faults, she offered to pay for my course at night school.
In November, I started doing work for Protocol National based at Southport College (this turned into a real job in December, albeit a temporary post) which did mean I was working 3 nights a week and I missed my classes. However, I was offered some catch up courses. Come the start of the 2007, I was asked to teach again on a Wednesday night. I talked it through and asked what could be done. To my surprise, Becki offered to teach me, in her own time, on a Thursday for which I'd cook dinner for her. In the event, this was not required as due to numbers, the course didn't run.
I started spending more time around at Becki's from the end of Jan until in Feb (mainly down to her having a part in her school play and I was helping her with her lines), I was accused of having an affair. Not true m'lud... Not even close. But it did destroy all the trust and make me think long and hard over what sort of quality of life I had.
My birthday was a disaster with just about everything ruined for me. The highlights though were Becki coming for dinner, me and her having a really fun game with Richard and then being asked if I could help with her school play. Everything else was a disaster. But hey, lots of things had been messed up, so what was one more?
Things in Haydock went from worse to worse and in the end, I had to go for the sake of my sanity and the quality of happiness my kids were enduring. I was due to go out in the afternoon to meet a friend in Liverpool and was told I had to take the kids (not unusual to be demanded of me). An argument ensued and the last words said were "and don't come back". I turned up on Becki's step (who had been in Germany the previous week, so I needed to say hi again) that afternoon. One thing lead to another and I'm still with her.
In October 2009, we were married at the Holiday Inn, Haydock
Richard James Johnson
Richard was born on 17th July 1998 at Whiston Hospital. I don't care what people
say, the birth of the first child changes everything!. For the week before
he was born, I spent upto 14 hours a day at Whiston Hospital with the ex. Okay,
you'd expect that. But I was also getting home, taking out the dogs morning and
night, eating and drinking. Home was somewhere to eat, drink and sleep. I spent
blow all time there.
He was a week early but by the time he and Bev left hospital, it was about a week later.
From a very early age, Richard has played on his dad's computers using software from The Really Good Software Company. However, the most fun thing was that until he was about 6 months old, if he heard the voice of Eccles (a character from the Goons), he thought it was daddy. Very handy if you wanted to pop out to get a coffee (say).
Rich is a very clever kid who loves reading, is really good with maths and absolutely loves Tux, the penguin. He now goes to a local Catholic school. Well, you can't win them all the time ;-)
One of the memorable things said during my PGCE was that every time the course was run, someone in the group ended up pregnant. Well, that sort of happened during my final year and the result, on Sunday 13th November, Ashleigh Elizabeth Johnson was born.
Now, it's been over seven years since Richard was born and while we were both prepared for the complete disruption that a new born brings, the culture shock it brought took us back a bit. No longer could I spend hours programming or the ex spend hours watching TV and other such trivial persuits, but everything stopped at the beck and call of this 9lb little girl. Sleepless nights (well, getting 4 hours at a push) returned, the constant listening out for a scream or wimper, hoping she would be okay when we put her down, the stream of bottles...
Bliss - I wouldn't change a thing about it.
Ashleigh is turning into a beautiful little girl who is into everything, laughs, giggles and is a constant source of amusement and jollity.
Original text : Me
Graphics : Paul & Becki
Dr Who serial codes : Ian M. Jobes
All material on this site is by me - no ripping it off!
Website hosted by DNSCON. Many thanks to them for providing the bandwidth and the server space.