2001:Rupert Brooke, Monet and PC 4328

Saturday 20th January 2001

One of the easier away trips today. We picked up the car from having its MOT and left at 11. We took our time getting to the Pink and Lily for 12 opening time. Sat in the Rupert Brooke room and had one of those grim puff pastry pies with mashed potato. The pub doesn’t do chips! The beer was good but overall the pub was a bit disappointing given its reputation. We were at the ground for 2 and parked up on their massive car park. We lost 1-0 and the game was a bit dull (2 out of 5). Worst of all was that Jamie Cureton scored for them. We were home to the Albert for 7.30 and we ordered a take away from the Chinese at Stantonbury before we walked home.

Fiona compiled her favourite top ten Rovers players. My top ten is obviously different because we only included players we have watched. Favourite doesn’t necessarily mean the best.


Fiona Rovers XI 4-4-2

 Brian Parkin

Trevor Challis Andy Tillson Steve Yates David Pritchard

Ian Holloway Vitalis Astajevs Justin Skinner Tony Pounder

Marcus Stewart Nathan Ellington


Billy Clark Gary Penrice John Taylor

My Rovers XI 4-4-2

 Nigel Martin

Ian Alexander Stuart Taylor Gary Mabbutt Vaughan Jones

Harold Jarman David Williams Wayne Jones Kenny Stephens

Alan Warboys Marcus Stewart


Steve Yates Ian Holloway Bruce Bannister

2001 was a year when we decided that we no longer needed a large house in Milton Keynes and we could follow the jobs to wherever and whenever. I had already gone to teach in Luton and Fiona was to apply for and get a job in St Albans. At first the move brought with it some complicated transport decisions. We started running two cars separately and on football days I would drive her to work and pick her up en route to the evening game. Then we did a commuter train split. I would drop her off at Harlington Station to get the train on to St Albans and walk the final half mile to work The problem with this was the pick-up in the dark, and frankly miserable, car park at the station on the way home when my time of leaving school was so unpredictable, Eventually there was only one sensible solution and that was to move to St Albans. It may have been sensible but ultimately it was a pretty bad decision to uproot and move to what was an alien and totally contrasting life style in that dreadful commuter town.

The summer holiday was at home and a return to Paris in August. One of the days we tried to recreate the Monet picnic on the Seine. Right location, different time of year, but this was the result.


Monet’s version




Our reconstruction


The Pink and Lily was one of many country pubs that we dropped in to on the way to or from the south of the county. It was a classic “one for your mother in law” pub because it had a good location, interesting history and a good garden. It was definitely not my type of pub, then or now. It had an unwelcome aroma of cooking food as you walked over the threshold. This was usually, no doubt well cooked, fish. We would end up in the garden because most tables would have reservations for Jessica and Oliver types to take their late lunch and talk loudly about the quality of their morning hack. The beers would be standard real ales, often something from Marston’s or the all too available Courage Directors (The Doom Bar of the 90s). It was later to become more of a regular pub for me as our local Bird in Hand Cribbage team would play there at least once a year, the game being given the privilege of free run of the back room. The Rupert Brooke connection is all very interesting and the pub did it well but most pubs in this part of the Chilterns has celebrity punters. I can’t see the Bird in Hand having a Jamiroquai room anytime soon or the Plough in nearby Cadsden having a Cameron child friendly play room.

The Reading experience was all very new and different. We had good experiences when it first opened with a 6-0 thrashing of the Royals being high on the list of memorable games. The old Elm Park ground had very different thoughts to recall. In 1994 we had a long drawn out conversation with the Police Complaints authority over a charge by the Met Police down the terrace that was totally out of control and dangerous.


This was our reply from the Superintendant Hanks Next up the command chain was a Chief Superintendent Howlett – Bolton. A quick look at his profile on the internet reveals his classic appointment as the Assistant Grand Master of Berkshire Freemasons. No real surprise then that we were fobbed off by this one then. PC 4328 has no doubt had a long career following orders with his camera and aggressive manner.

Overzealous policing of football matches is thankfully less common nowadays but there is still plenty of examples of visiting police units drawn from outside  the local area justifying their expenses claims by going native. In this case the result was a “no case to answer” apology and support for the valiant chaps in riot gear and their camera and baton wielding thugs. These events have, over the years eroded my initially unshakeable belief that the Police were basically good guys. Now I have an innate mistrust of their motives and tactics when Football matches are in their charge. I go to games armed with my list of questions for every policeman who might decide to give me a hard time.

The basic kit is:-

  1. Name and number of policeman I am talking with.
  2. Name of commanding officer of the day and his / her location at the time of conversation.
  3. Basis for conversation.
  4. Agreed notes of conversation to be made. Ask for permission for another to make notes.
  5. Agree whether photos are being taken. Offer copies to police for evidence should they be needed.
  6. If head camera being used ask for reference to gain access at a later date.
  7. Take notes / photos.

The compilation of top ten favourite teams are ones of nuance. Only last week we were doing something similar for Rovers best wingers this top 10 popped out

  • Harold Jarman
  • Muzzy Carayol
  • Kenny Stephens
  • Colin Dobson
  • Phil Purnell
  • Micky Barrett
  • Ray Graydon
  • Stewart Barrowclough
  • Mark Walters
  • Josh Low

My Best Rovers XI as of 7. 1 2017 (4-3-3) was:-

Nigel Martin

Phil Roberts Stuart Taylor Gary Mabbutt Vaughan Jones

Vitalis Astafjevs Frankie Prince David Williams

Nathan Ellington Rickie Lambert Marcus Stewart


Steve Yates Wayne Jones Bruce Bannister

 I might do the team again tomorrow and come up with a totally different eleven. This one was dependent on playing in a 4-3-3 system so Frankie Prince had to play to allow for David Williams and Vitalis to do their thing. Drop Frankie and play 4-4-2 and in comes Wayne Jones and a luxury wide player like Harold for Nathan Ellington.


1996       Carlisle H 1-1

2001       Reading A 0-1

2007       Chester H 0-0

1999: A couple of top tens and some real responsibility

Saturday 2nd January 1999

Diary Entry

FA Cup weekend. So often this is a not so unexpected day off for us Cup under-performers. An away game at Rotherham will never be described as glamorous but at least it is an easy drive up the M1 from MK and we were home by 8. It is always a good day at Rotherham. The staff there are friendly and helpful and the fans don’t get too bothered about away fans in their pubs. We went to the Moulders Rest and then to their sports club at the ground. The upstairs room was pretty busy with mostly Gasheads. We mere due to meet with Chris Stickler but he appeared to be late coming up from Birmingham.


1998: American holidays, walking and avoidance tactics

Monday 21st December 1998


It is the first day of our Christmas holidays and what do we do? Book up an MOT and service for the Primera for 8 o’clock. So it was a walk home from Stacey Bushes for me as Fiona had the deserved lie in.  Back by nine with bacon rolls from the bakers shop at Heelands. What was she doing when I got back? First day of the holiday and she is marking. Apparently she couldn’t sleep in, so decided to get some out of the way. So much for romantic gestures of breakfast in bed then. As she had started she wanted a clear run of a few hours or so. I might as well go in the Micra and get some Christmas shopping done. Bottles for family, Fiona stuff bought but not written here just in case. Fi has sorted out presents for MIL and her side of family. All done within two hours and back when phone call comes through with results of MOT. All ok, just service costs and two new tyres. Fiona dropped me off and I drove it back for 3.

We have a few days before we head off to Tunbridge Wells. Nipped down to Albert at 6 for an hour or so with Ray and Andy. University Challenge at 8.30. Finished writing out cards for people we forgot and for posting tomorrow.


1997: Top Tens, three a side and taking up smoking


Friday 12th December 1997

Everything was very rushed today and not too good for our nerves. Fiona was on a Technology course at Westminster College in Oxford. It was something to do with teaching kids to lay bricks and do the Maths of as building site. I quite like  the roll of Fridays in Wendover House. Once the boys had gone home I was free to get away earlier than normal and as usual, pick up Fiona at Peartree roundabout. I had to miss the Friday night three a side session but no doubt they will have coped without me filling their space. Because we were so early we could get a pint in the Full Moon. We had enough time to compile a few lists as is appropriate at this time of the year. Pub of the year went to the Burton Bridge in Burton on Trent. Hotel of the year went to the Henbury Lodge in Bristol.

The match.

Wheels coming off this season? After the disaster of Wigan  we needed a good performance. We left feeling like we had played really well but were stuffed 4-0. Four nil at home on a Friday night. Man of the match tonight, No one. It was a long and fairly quiet drive home. Back by 12, Coffee and Brandy before bed.


1987: A Birthday, Bletchley Rugby and Denbigh

Friday 18th September 1987

Diary entry

Cream cakes for team. Duty in main playground. Sort out first assignment assessments for “A” level group. Fiona to pick me up at 4.30. Bus to Stony Stratford for 6. Crawl: Vaults bar, Bull, Fox and Hounds, Crown, White Horse, Bekash for curry, taxi home. Joined by Roger S and Tim in Vaults on return. Up early tomorrow for visit to MIL this weekend. No Rugby or cricket so R.T.W. and a bit of stately home or beach visiting.

A Friday night and my 29th birthday. What to do? We decided after school without a plan that a beer and later curry in Stony Stratford would fit the bill of not getting blind drunk but having a celebration with friends who might happen to be around. The drinking crowd in the Vaults usually included fellow teachers, in this case Roger Siewert and Tim Hawkins. Eileen Brackenbury came in later as did Tim Gulliver from Leon. Alex dropped in for a short while but left to do Kate duties in Northampton. Later in the year I would be his best man but for now he was still in the “impress the girlfriend” stage of getting to know her.


1986: Popacatapetl, pupils and possible promotion

Monday 1st September 1986

We were up early this morning for a walk before we went into school. I hate these days just before term starts. The walk is pretty quiet because we are both thinking of things that still needed to be done. We looped around from Bradwell through Bancroft and back down to home via Linford Wood. Fiona dropped me off at school and I intended to make my way home by bus but cadged a lift from Alex.

I managed to start writing the policy document on working with gifted students. Bruce wants to have something that stretches those who might be able to achieve higher grades at “A” level. The problem we’ll have is in identifying those pupils and trying to get intervention / support early in their school life. By no imagination is Leon a school with a long and cherished academic tradition. I think we will have to introduce some tutoring beyond the normal for students in the sixth form and extension activities throughout the school My enthusiasm for this is tainted because I have absolutely no intention of being here beyond next year. I still haven’t any class lists for next term and I will be peripatetic again. At the last count my timetable has twelve different rooms. Even the registration room is temporary, using the lecture theatre while a room is sorted. P.E. has now gone from my timetable and Maths has become a new and novel addition.

I collected a couple of adverts from the Times Ed. Wrote for details of Head of Department jobs in Cirencester, Oxford and Aylesbury. The school is also after an assistant Head of Sixth Form. Will apply, if only for the practice.

Fiona came home in a much happier mood. Her school is brand new and the head, Peter Murtagh, is a bit of a control freak. The journey to work is so much easier than the trek to Aylesbury and she will have a lot more opportunity to do things her way. She has already started transposing music for a Christmas concert, something of a modern Christmas tale rather than traditional carols and shepherd nativity.

We went to the Countryman for a pint or three. Chinese takeaway rather than cook.

Some names are referenced in this diary entry. Alex is Alex Grant, one time lodger and then groom with this best man. Alex married Kate and left Leon to go to Aylesbury Grammar and we have long lost touch. Bruce was Bruce Abbott, Head at Leon and now sadly deceased. Leon and Stedders had rather come to a separation that would suit us both. I had applied and been rejected as Assistant Head of Sixth Form. The practice did give me some insight into the thinking of school promotion procedures. I resolved fairly soon that it is not worth applying internally unless the senior staff had suggested you should apply. Similarly the first question one should ask externally is whether the internal candidates had been similarly been given the nod to apply. When a Headteacher gives you a local county council circular with a job circled within it then it might be a good idea to ask some questions about that vacancy. Applying for internal jobs does no harm and just raises your profile with the Head as someone who should be given some sort of responsibility, if only as a C.V. filling activity. I had an interview later in the year at the Cirencester School. Reflecting after the failure to get the job I think I had a lucky escape in this one. The excuse I was given was that the department needed a Head who had more expertise in Computers within Geography teaching. In 1986 this was limited to using very poor computer packages and applying data bases to record information. This was a classic fobbing off of an external candidate with a statement that reflected the interests of the successful internal one.

Much of Fiona’s spare time was spent working on school music. She developed a specialism within her school that led to school productions at least three times a year. I had to listen to endless versions of the songs on the recorder, guitar and later piano. I learned the words to school plays. Did you know that Popacatapetl is a big volcano, far away in Mexico? Popocatapetl old, Popoacatapetl goes bang, sizzle sizzle bang, so you won’t forget that…

leon school sixth c 1986

The Sixth form photo of 1986

A sixth form of 100 or so pupils was really unsustainable and soon had to be supported by student courses being shared between all the Bletchley schools. At this time there was an anxiety that the students would not come back in the numbers to have an “A” level group. It was good feather in the cap to get a viable group beyond 6 students. At Leon this involved recruiting adults like Denise Robson to study Geography and in doing so add something special to the mix.

Rs Tim Gulliver and Jane Freeman

Three Staff sixth form teachers

Stedders in scruffy teacher mode. No patches on the jacket elbows but this was my attempt to move beyond the young novice into showing capability to take responsibility. Next door is Tim Gulliver who was well on the way to teaching stardom. He became a senior teacher in Sussex and a Head in Kidderminster. I remember his friendship in offering his house as a lunchtime refuge when we were effectively barred from the school site during the strikes of the previous year. Jane has recently come back into contact. As a History colleague we spent some time doing some advanced stuff that was useful throughout our careers. You too should look her up as her teaching has taken her to Guyana and back, setting up her own school and now writing about a life that has been beyond that of the average young Historian. My memories of her include the whole school visits to Biblings in the Forest of Dean where, for a week, we would offer a cross curricular field course under canvas to whole year groups as a team building pastoral experience. That was truly innovative and ground breaking at the time.

laraine and Lorraine (Ficken and Williams)

Sue Cooper

marlon morgan

Some members of Pine 1981 who made it to the sixth form. They didn’t know how proud they made me feel at the time.

Top; Laraine Ficken and Paula Williams

Middle; Sue Cooper

Bottom: Marlon Morgan

They had various different tutors as they went through their school carers but they were all part of that first ever registration that started:- Bramham (Suzanne), Chatfield (Alison), Cox (Philip)………….

james follows

debbie jessiman

Tony McMurray

Some Geographers

Top: James Follows

Middle: Debbie Jessiman

Bottom: Tony McMurray

I have no idea what James or Debbie are up to nowadays but Tony is a facebook friend. We all paid close attention to his athletic prowess at the time. He was jumping around in sand as a national champion at the time. More lately he has been climbing big mountains and talking about the experiences.  I claim absolutely no credit for either of these feats. I do promise to visit his tea room in Towcester sometime soon though.

I can remember many others on the picture but that isn’t the point of talking about it here. This represents a good aspect of life at Leon. These pupils achieved so much. We had children of teachers and folk from the Brickhills learning alongside Lakes Estate wide boys. We had some excellent teachers and students who were at times battling the system as much as the exams to get relatively outstanding success.

By the next year I had moved on to Denbigh School on the other side of Bletchley as Teacher In Charge of Geography.


1990       Open University A W 26 1c 1-0-6-0

2001       Shrewsbury H 0-0

2007       Nottingham Forest H 2-2

2009       Hereford A 0-0 2-4 pens

2010       Derbyshire

2011       Glamorgan

2012       Morecambe H 0-3

1984: Love of life, place and passing a personal test.

Saturday 18th August 1984

No cricket today because it is our last weekend before going back to work and Fiona has her Mum up for the weekend. My house is extra clean for the prospective M.I.L. (Mother – in  – Law) inspection and they duly arrived from Aylesbury after 12. The plan for the day was rough but involved a walk somewhere, some shopping and a good place to eat out.

The walk: MK is great for a long walk. Our route was from my house, through the new houses and downhill to Bradwell Abbey. Stop for a quick pint in the garden of the Prince Albert and on to the traditional photo at the concrete Cows.

concrete cows c 84

On the original Concrete Cows?

Then through the Abbey to Loughton Brook. Walk along the river to Lodge Lake and then uphill to the station. From there on to the shopping centre. They then did their team shopping. I had an hour or so in the Rose and Castle while they looked for little black tops in Monsoon and school shoes in John Lewis. They came back with food for the evening from Waitrose and a demand to use my cooker this evening. I just hoped it still worked, I know it will be clean enough as it has hardly ever been used. We walked out from the John Lewis, down to the Peace Pagoda and back round through Downs Barn to Linford Wood.

 peace pagode 83

 Peace pagoda C 1984

A walk through the woods and then back through the self-build estate to home by about 5. Home to sleep through the results of the Charity Shield (Everton 1, Liverpool 0)

 stedders asleep 83

 Asleep by 5.

We decided to sit in the back garden and I was grilled over a gin or tonic. I must have passed her test because they stayed quite late before Fiona took her Mum back to Aylesbury. For the record the ready-made cottage pie with new potatoes and green beans was easy enough. They are off to Waddesdon tomorrow and I will go and find some game to watch. I ought to get down to lesson panning but I have most of next week to do that.

People often ask why I am so determined to enthuse about Milton Keynes as a place to live. Days like this are one of the reasons why. It was a great place when I was in my free and single days. It was, and still is, perfect for someone who wants to walk long distances without the hassle of competition with traffic. I think you need to have lived here to really appreciate the subtleties of its planned environment. To have every house being within a few hundred yards of a significant open space is something to be envied in other cities. The mix of the very modern and adventurous, (i.e. in the home world housing scheme in Bradwell Common) with the ancient (toot and Abbey in Bradwell Village) is special and to be cherished. The two bedroom house I had was perfect for me to start on the housing ladder. The shopping centre was in itself a magnet for tourist shoppers across the country. It was a bit rough around the edges but what city wasn’t in the eighties. It was safe and forward looking rather than a reflection of a tired Thatcherite post-industrial landscape decline found in nearby towns.

 bradwell map 83 1

 The First half of the walk

The map was a genuine 1983 MK map. It was a sort of ritual to buy one every year and look at the changes as the city grew. The map was interesting for the annotations as to what was planned for the next development. On this map alone the following was happening along our route.

  • Bradwell Common was still being built – the Futuristic showcase estate at Homeworld had set a standard for self-building schemes. Next came the shops and new pub The Countryman) with the usual mix of rented and private housing. We lived with the laudable aim of the City having no East or West ends. And yes, to me, it was a new city.
  • The Bradwell Abbey site was to become the focal point for much of my local Geography teaching. The City Discovery Centre set up in the grounds of the abbey and Manor House and the resources of the planners were a gold mine for groups to study,
  • The lake at Loughton Lodge was in the process of being filled. Hence we appear to be walking through the middle of the lake.
  • The diggers were in and building the new estates at Great Holm and Loughton.
  • Rooksley had a site for Mini Grand Prix track labelled.
  • The national Badminton Centre had arrived at Loughton.

 bradwell map 83 2

 Continuing on this map:-

  • Only a third of the City Centre is built
  • The City Park led down to Willen Lake and the Peace Pagoda – MK has always had fantastic public art, sculptures and planned landmarks.
  • Linford Wood at this time was very rough and ready. It took some navigating and was yet to get the trails and guided / graded walkways of now sanitised times.

You will of course note the dates and reference to going back to work. School would have started again in the first week of September but as every teacher will know the last week of the holidays would be preoccupied with planning for the New Year. Exam results for the last year would be in and inquests would have begun. We were in the habit of writing off the last week and spending days in school setting up resources, printing, copying and generally trying to pre-empt the start of term. As the doting boyfriend this week would involve my introduction to middle school backing paper and display standards as Fiona demanded help and my height to assist in redressing the walls of her new classroom. I am convinced most women only ever wanted to know me because I could touch the ceiling of a house, reach into the darkest recesses of a cupboard or fill up and be given leeway when at a bar ordering drinks.

And finally a list:-

Ten things that Milton Keynies have to do that residents of other cities probably don’t.

  1. Buy a street map at least once a year.
  2. Plant a tree in the garden. If a new resident I was given a voucher to plant one by the development Corporation
  3. Drive along a new road that has just opened, (ticking them off mentally)
  4. Explain the difference, in Mk terms, between a boulevard and an avenue
  5. Tell non-locals how H and V works.( Horizontal and Vertical should really be easy but they are already confused by roundabouts poor souls)
  6. Sit in a park and listen to a concert at the Bowl. Better still play cricket in Bletchley when it is on. Fielding to Gary Glitter takes some beating.
  7. Go to a brand new school.
  8. Sit on the Concrete Cows.
  9. Paddle in the fountain at Queens Court. (Does it still exist?)
  10. Explain that Wimbledon F.C. wanted to move to Mk and have plenty of questions to answer as well.


1989       Blenheim

1990       USA Boston

1991       USA Malibu Santa Monica

1992       USA Houma

1995       USA Golf

1997       RTW Lamberhurst

1998       Leyton Orient H 1-2

1999       RTW

2001       Scunthorpe A 2-1

2003       RTW

2007       Crewe H 1-1

2009       Hartlepool A 2-1

2012       Oxford H 0-2