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"St John’s gave me so much love, kindness and joy"

Can you guess which one is Nigel?

Nigel Grimes attended St John's 1966 to 1973

Nigel Grimes today

I attended St John’s school from 1966 to 1973 and loved my days there. I was born and lived at 38 Portland Road (it was demolished in 1975 to build some homes for the elderly…maybe I will move backone day!) with Mum, Dad, brother Neil a year younger and my two sisters Susan (born ‘69 and Lorraine born ’71) along with my nan, uncle and cousin. We had a number of generations attend the school including my Mum and her 9 siblings surnamed Malins, plus a number of cousins and my youngest sister’s 3 children attended too in the 90s and 2000’s.

I liked all my teachers and for most of my years we had Mr Ralph as Headmaster who I found very supportive particularly in the sporting area where I had lots of success representing the school and borough across athletics, football and cricket. My football memories include a hat-trick in a 3-0 win against St Paul’s at Athelstan Rec when I was 10 and heading a ball against the crossbar when playing at Kingsnympton school and having a sore head for 2 days after (the footballs were very heavy in those days!). Interestingly I gave up playing football aged 32 years due to having headaches for 2-3 days after playing a match. Considering recent research, I am so pleased I did as so far, I have not suffered any effects of heading the ball. During my time at St John’s, I also was invited to have trials for Chelsea at their training ground in Mitcham, but sadly did not make the cut. I returned to playing football in my late 40s and I am blessed to be able to play football regularly (I rarely head the ball though!) even though I am nearing my 60th birthday.

I was fortunate to be able to participate in the centenary celebration of 1971 and I am featured in a school football team photo when I was 9 years old. I remember the main celebration taking place over a week in the summer where we dressed up and explored life in Victorian times. The week finished off with our annual Summer Fete which, alongside our School Sports Day on the Fairfield and the Borough Athletics at Motspur Park, were the highlights of my year. I remember exchanging a pen-pal type letter with a gentleman who attended St John’s early in the twentieth century who lived in Australia. I read his letter out at one of the morning assemblies during centenary week and he described life at school during his time…I think the lovely Mrs Weir in the office probably filed it away for safe keeping?

I left St John’s in 1973 and chose Rivermead Boy’s Secondary school as I had a number of cousins who also attended. I also had a great time at Rivermead, but sadly my Nan died in 1974 and we as a family had to move out of her house to a council flat in New Malden. As a result, I lost contact with most of my St John’s friends as they mainly went to Hollyfield and Tiffins schools.

I left Rivermead in 1978 after securing my O level GCSEs. My plan had been to take my A Levels and my sports teachers were going to help me secure a place at Borough Road College or perhaps Loughborough as I was keen to be a PE and Biology teacher. However, due to my Dad being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and my Mum needing to reduce her working hours to help with his care as well as my two younger sisters and the poor prospects for Teaching jobs at that time, I decided to go and earn some much-needed money and applied to Banks, Civil Service and the Post Office. The Post Office responded quickly and so I began as a Postal Officer on 23 August 1978 and began work on the Post Office counter in Chessington. I was relatively ambitious and became frustrated at local level as promotions were only available in seniority order (i.e. you had to wait for retirements or resignations to work your way up even if you performed well). I therefore applied and got a job in September 1983 at Postal Headquarters in the City of London in the Marketing Department. It was for me a brave step as I loved working locally and had a comfortable job that I could do easily and allowed me to represent Kingston Post Office in football and cricket matches on a local and national level.

Unfortunately, a few months after moving to London my Mum fell ill with Cancer and died aged 44 years within a few weeks of being diagnosed. The hardest two days of my life was being told by the doctor that my Mum’s illness was terminal and then having to go home and tell my Dad and my younger siblings and then tell my Mum the next day.

I spent 12 years in all at various parts of the Post Office and again made many friends who are still friends today including my wife Jackie (who was a new graduate employee from Scotland) whom I first dated in January 1985. Highlights beyond my wife and friends include flying on Concorde (my second flight ever!), learning about marketing and advertising and gaining high-level qualifications in Marketing via night school for four years.

In 1990 I then joined an advertising agency in Twickenham and again made several friends who I still see regularly. Unfortunately, over the next three years I suffered a couple of redundancies but was fortunate to find new jobs and pay the mortgage, having bought a house in Woking as we could not afford any properties in Kingston at the time.

We moved back into Kingston in 1992 so we could move closer to visit and support my Dad who by now was residing in the Royal Hospital and Home in Putney. It was great to be back in my hometown daily and be available to see my Dad before his death in 1997.

In 2001, my wife and I adopted two lovely sisters who were then aged 1 and 3 and I am so proud of them both as they have overcome early life trauma and some additional special needs and health challenges. My eldest does lots of work for Achieving for Children in Kingston and my youngest works as a nanny for a 20-month-old girl.

After the agency side of the world, I held several relatively senior Marketing roles at BT, Centrica, The Royal Bank of Scotland and BA as well as setting up small specialist marketing and data consultancies and working for myself.

Even though, I still obtain income from my marketing skills, in the last 12 months I have launched two new well-being businesses to assist adults and children with reducing their anxiety levels, increasing their concentration levels, improving their mental and physical health using several breathing and other mind and body-based techniques. These new and expanding businesses have enabled me to combine my life-experiences with many years of training in breathing and mind and body techniques. I also run a free online community meditation session once a week that I set up in March 2020 to help people cope with the Covid-19 lockdown challenges.

I really love life and feel a deep sense of gratitude for my life. There is no doubt that my early life years at St John’s gave me so much love, kindness and joy alongside an excellent grounding in strong values and these have really helped me and I hope generally positively impacted my family, friends, colleagues and everyone who has encountered this particular St John’s pupil.

Nigel Grimes

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