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Firstly, sorry for the delay in this next instalment!


Ok, so I ended the last blog with death, so I will start this one with the depressing stuff and hopefully move on to something more light-hearted.


As I mention last time, I spent a great deal of time with my Grandparent’s. They took care of me most Saturday nights while my parents would work in the restaurant. One of the last memories I have of them is watching a pirate copy of ET, I must have been 7 or 8 at the time and I remember crying inconsolably pretty much the whole way through! It was not long after when my Grandma passed away from a stroke. I remember it was a Sunday afternoon and my mum got a call from my Granddad, I remember going to their house and the undertaker being there. All the curtains were still drawn in the living room, it was a very sombre moment. A few day later my Granddad had a fall in the kitchen and had a nasty cut to his head and was taken to hospital by ambulance. I recall going to visit him in the ward at Chappel Allerton Hospital. He was very frail and had not been eating since loosing his wife. A few days later he passed away, I do not recall there was anything specific that caused his death, and everyone said he had died of a broken heart. I cannot imagine what this was like for my mum, losing bother parents within two weeks of each other, a very sad moment in time that is for sure.


It was around this time when my parents started looking for a new location for their next restaurant / nightclub venture. Now a little older I have many more memories from this particular location. The spot they chose was in the Grand Arcade and Lower Merrion Street. It was previously Blacks Camping store and it was massive. It was a kid’s playground heaven and an excellent spot for hide and seek. I helped with the building work, taking out rubbish to the tip, hammering in nails (badly) and painting walls. I recall standing of some wood in the skip with a nail sticking up that went straight in my foot, this required a hospital trip and a tetanus injection!


I absolutely loved this place; it was called Coconut Grove. Once the renovations were complete it looked amazing. There were 3 levels with a coffee shop in the arcade side of the building, a restaurant in the main ground floor area then upstairs was a function area with a balcony that overlooked the restaurant. That balcony became an iconic location for many clubbers a few years later but I will get to that another time. Then in the basement was Ricky’s nightclub, yet another place for me to practice my new moves. I had become obsessed with body popping and break dancing and having the whole dance floor to my self every day was fantastic. My dad had brought Steve Luigi over to the new club to be the DJ.


I had so many jobs in the restaurant, I worked in the coffee shop on a Saturday then on an evening I would either waitress or work in the kitchen on starters or pizzas. I had my own miniature uniforms depending on the job, even had a little chef’s jacket and hat. I feel unbelievably lucky to have all these experiences.


The restaurant was very successful, and my parents decided after almost 10 years of living at Marlborough Grange they would buy their own place. We moved into an apartment at Lakeview Court in Roundhay Park. These were quiet swanky apartments right on the edge of the park overlooking the lake at the bottom of the hill. It turned out the Jimmy Savile lived in the block and we would often see him as we were coming and going, and he would stop for a chat. I was petrified of him, this big, larger than life character with his gold chains and cigars. And it turned out I had good reason to be petrified of him, though thankfully not from any personal experiences! There were wire mesh storage cages under the apartments and I kept my BMX in ours. I could see in Jimmy’s cage and he had a huge portrait of himself in there, it was the creepiest thing and I would run past it when getting my bike.


My mum was now expecting child number 2! My days of being an only child were coming to an end and I was so excited about getting a baby brother or sister.


I had taken up dance classes, break dancing and body popping classes that is, at Step Up Studios on Street Lane. I would go every Saturday and wait in the entrance with all the girls getting ready for their jazz class in legwarmers and leotards then I’d walk through with the boys to the little studio at the back learning how to perfect the windmill, back spins, caterpillar etc. I have always been a tomboy, and nothing changes really as I go through life, you will see every job (well almost) I’ve had is in male dominated industries. After Dance class I would head to the restaurant to do a few hours in the café before heading to Tiffanies nightclub in the Merrion Centre for the Saturday afternoon under 18s disco. Here I would show off my new break dancing skills!


Around the same time, I began piano lessons. I had these in the function area of the restaurant, upstairs. My piano teacher loved coming there as it was the only lesson she had where the student had a grand piano.


My parents put on some amazing artists at Coconut Grove, mainly in the Jazz space. I was fortunate enough to see people like Acker Bilk and George Melly play but the best by far was Ronnie Scott. It was Sunday September 29 1985, I know exactly what the date was as it was the night my brother was born! We were all ready to go for the show and on the way to the restaurant my mum went into labour. They dropped my off at the restaurant and headed to the hospital. I sat and enjoyed a lovely meal (aged 10) while watching Ronnie Scott play and desperately awaiting news on the baby’s arrival. The show finished and there was still no news. I was sat on the little stage at the piano with Ronnie showing me how to play a tune, I will never forget that moment. I was still there with Ronnie when news of my baby brother’s arrival came. What an amazing night that was!


Top - me with Alan the doorman, I'm wearing my little waiters outfit and in the background is Sailor the restaurant Parrot!

Middle - my baby brother in a car I made for him from a cardboard box

Bottom - me with my dad and our Jeep

Last - me outside Coconut Grove




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Born 10th March 1975, the 1st child to my parents. Dad was a hairdresser, mum worked in a department store and we lived in a maisonette very close to Leeds city Centre on the Marlborough Grange council estate.


This estate was concrete playground heaven as a child. There were no roads to worry about and a great bunch of kids in every block. As a very young child I had my best friend Suzie living straight across the landing and we would play on the stairs and landings of the building all day long until we were old enough to roam the estate with the rest of the big kids! Like any child from that era we would head out early in the morning and come home as the sun went down.

As a big group we would play games of hide and seek that would last for hours, hiding in empty garages and bushes across the whole estate. My mum would make me wear these sandals from Mothercare which made a hideously loud slapping noise as I ran that would echo around the estate, not ideal when trying to remain incognito!


Just across from the estate was a large field which would host the annual bonfire, another favourite past time for the kids was collecting firewood in preparation Bonfire night, I received many ‘chumping’ related injuries https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/chumping

I would make a Guy Fawkes from newspaper scrunched into tights and push him around in my old pram collecting money for Fireworks!


My grandparent (mum’s side) live on the estate along with my uncle and his wife. I spent a great deal of time with my grandparents and have fond memories of their home, I even had my own bedroom there with the famous Athena Tennis poster hanging on the wall. I spent most Saturday afternoons with them watching great TV shows like Worzel Gummidge, The Hulk, Buck Rodgers and eating Baton Cake.

I went to Westfield Primary School on Burley road, along with just about every other kid on the estate. It was here where I first became friends with Melanie Brown (aka Mel B, Scary Spice). I feel like I enjoyed primary school but also know I went through a stage of not wanting to go, I can’t for the life of me remember why, but I must have been a pain in the arse for my parents as I distinctly remember having a few tantrums!


When I was 5 my parents decided they wanted to get into the Restaurant business, and they found the location for what would be the 1st of many restaurants. The location was in the ‘dark arches’ on Neville Street in the city, nestled in under Leeds Train Station.

A couple of years later they opened their 2nd restaurant but this time with a night club in the back, called Casablanca. I think this is where my love for music and night life really began! I worked as a waitress and even helped out in the kitchen making prawn cocktails; I was extremely fortunate that my parents let me get fully involved. My favourite past time was hanging out in the nightclub (not during opening hours obviously!). I had the whole dance floor to practice my moves with full length mirror along the wall. There was a small DJ booth off to the side and the DJ (Steve Luigi) would play my favourite tracks before the club opened. More on the restaurant and clubs later!


My home at Marlborough Grange was a 3-bedroom maisonette and the living room was very spacious and mainly a playroom, mostly for my dad and me! My dad was a drummer and had been in a band with Mark Knopfler, his drum kit lived in this room, he was also heavily in to martial arts and had a large Wing Chun dummy attached to the wall which made an excellent climbing frame. There was a stereo in the corner which my mum would use to play records and dance around the room, mainly Rod Stewart or the Rolling Stones pretty much on repeat.


I had a bright yellow bedroom and we called it the Yellow Submarine. My dad had made me a very large wooden toybox with a big lid on hinges, which also doubled as a great hiding spot. I lost count of how many times I trapped my fingers in there!


My best friend Suzie moved to a new house when I was around 6 or 7, I remember been really sad that I wouldn’t get to see her all the time, as an only child she was the closest I had to a sibling. I do recall my parents taking me to visit her at her new home, at the time it felt like she had move to the other end of the earth. We would walk up the hill to the park and visit the shop in the corner with some loose change and buy a bags full of penny sweets, isn’t it funny how you remember these little moments in life as clear as day, as if they were yesterday.


Not long after she had moved the most devastating thing happened. Susie was crossing the main road near her home at the pedestrian crossing when a truck driver ran the red light and she was killed. I cry every time I think about it, even now. It is just heartbreaking. I remember the day of her funeral, I was not allowed to go but a couple of the teachers from school went, my class had a supply teacher for the day and I remember wishing so much that I could have gone.


I’ll pick up from here next week!

 

DJ Journey

For those who are interested in my journey to be a DJ, I’ll be writing a piece each week from where it all started.


So, back in 2018, around June I thought I would download Virtual DJ on to an old laptop and have a mess around. I’m not 100% sure what had triggered this, I don’t think it was any single thing as I have had a passion for house music for many many years and often though about how cool it would be to learn how to DJ, but maybe I just thought the time was right!


I signed up to a DJ pool so that I could access music to play and simply began messing around. I was very quickly hooked and amazed at how simple this tool was to use. After a few weeks of messing around I decided to do a broadcast on virtual DJ to a few of my friends. Their feedback was overwhelming and I became obsessed…………..

 

Interesting Fact

1st record ever purchased (please don’t judge me) Superman by Black Lace, obviously with musical taste like this I have always been destined for big things!

https://youtu.be/7Le-mYN3dl0


 

Here are some photos from my childhood starting in the top left moving clockwise

1. Susie and me at my 6th birthday party

2. My grandparents, sitting out on the back step

3. My Mum and I enjoying the swing in Scarborough (we went every year for a holiday)

4. My parents and me at, you guessed it, Scarborough

5. Some of the Marlborough Grange gang (I absolutely loved that jacket!)


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Over the next few weeks I will be writing about my journey from where my life began in 1975, growing up on a Council Estate in Leeds, to now living in a Penthouse in Sydney. It's certainly been an interesting ride with plenty of ups and downs along the way!

You will get insight in to some of the interesting jobs I have done, some may surprise you, including a very brief role working on a chat line to a Detective specialising in abusive images on line (don't worry I will spare you the details of that one!).


In each week's blog I will also talk about how I went from playing DJ Hero on the Playstation to getting booked by one of the biggest Promoters in Australia just 8 months after learning to DJ for real! Hopefully my journey will help someone else realise their true passion.


I hope you will tune in each week to read about my journey and that you will find it interesting and inspiring!


So before I get started with the full blog I will leave you with this image of where it all began, my first home from 1975 till 1984. 41 Marlborough Grange, Leeds.



#speedqueendj #djspeedqueen #leeds #leedslife #sydney #sydneylife

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