Robert Hazel

My name's Robert Hazel and I live in Wednesbury. I've lived in Wednesbury all my life and still on the same estate so I'm very much a Wednesbury lad. I am A Black Country boy, very proud of it. And on my fiftieth birthday to prove that, I had a Black Country flag tattooed just to show my allegiance.

I'd always wanted a Led Zeppelin tattoo ever since I was about thirteen and my mum says "Oh, you can't have a tattoo". So when I was fifty I decided that it was make or break, I'm gonna have my tattoo, so I got my Led Zeppelin tattoo all designed, went into the tattoo parlour and says "I'll have a Black Country flag." Which meant, next year, the following year I went back I got a Led Zeppelin and I have one every year and I've just booked my one for this April, which is an angel.

Although this photo was taken in 1970 it does look like one from the Great Depression or something from the 1920s. It’s at the back of my Nan's house and that's an outside loo that we're standing outside that really dates it. It was in Wednesbury, Kent Road in Wednesbury.

It's still there and it's funny when you drive past 'cause it's not really changed outwardly, and you're thinking, I'd love to go and have a nose! I'd love to knock that door to say, "Oh, my Nan lived here and I love to go and have a nose" because some of the chalk stuff that's on that wall is still there and I was responsible for that in 1974 when I put "Slade Rules Okay" and I still see that from the street.

I'm the blonde haired one at the back looking like the Milky Bar Kid. I don't know why we're all bobbing our tongues out so obviously the photographer who was probably my auntie Teresa. On the right, that's Adie Costin and his little brother Laurence, and Adie Costin was my best mate at school, so growing up through primary school he was my best mucker.

It's lovely 'cause it just seems so long ago, and the fact that it's black and white, and also me nan, she had about nine or ten children, I think nine children, and there was never really much money in the household really. So it just looks like a picture a past childhood really, it's such a lovely memory. And Adie Costin, I saw him at the garage the other week, not so long back, and I hadn't seen him for about twenty years and it was just lovely to see him and when I saw that I thought, "I've got to put that picture in 'cause it's fabulous.”

I have no bad memories. Me dad was quite strict, me mum had a very wicked sense of humour, although my cousins Andrew and Paul, who unfortunately didn't have any grandparents because they'd both passed away, looked at my mum and dad as their grandparents. And our Paul, who's now a comedy promoter and a stand-up comedian, was always in trouble with me mum. So the only time I saw me mum lose her temper was usually my cousin Paul, who was often banned from the house for at least two days at a time for just playing up really.

And that's my nan's house, and that's the front door. My nan's house in Kent Road was a meeting point for all the family. All her daughters and her sons used to go around nearly every day. And of course, with the grandkids when they came along, it was like a magnet 'cause me nan always had something on the stove, which is why we're all of a portly nature! 'Cause you could go in at any time, "do you want a bacon and egg sandwich?" "Go on then. I'll have one." And of course, without this bacon and egg sandwich, used to come with all sorts of things with it so you may have chips with it. And this was from like seven am 'til twelve o'clock at night, she always had something on the stove. Her name was Jo Nightingale and unfortunately passed away in the 70s.

It's me, that is, and I think that's probably Rhyl, Rhyl or Blackpool. Summer holidays, we always used to go on day trips everywhere.

Well I think Midlanders have always levitated towards Rhyl 'cause I think it was the closest seaside to here. Next to Western, it was probably the closest and also we did have about four coach companies at the time: Global; Masons; Airflow. And Global used to be at the bottom of our street so we always went on a succession of day trips. Usually just me, me brother and me parents but sometimes me nan'd go, sometimes me aunties'd go. And it was always a lovely day out, really.

Oh, I love going out, I love a trip out.

So these two photos, well it's Butlin’s holiday camp and they do look like prison chalets. And the thing I remember about that holiday is - and it was on for a week, and the person at the back was Neil Hughes, who was my brother's best friend at Wodensborough School, so we'd gone along with him - and we'd all been watching Rich Man, Poor Man on the TV and it was the concluding episode and we'd all raced back to watch it in the said chalet, and half-way through the fifty pence in the meter had gone!

So that's Maureen, my mum, on the right. There's Kieran Hazel, on the left, and the Neil Hughes at the back, who was a childhood friend of me brother’s.

The photo on the left, in the photo booth, that's me and my brother. And I still love a photo booth. I must admit even now if there is one and there's anybody willing, I love a photo booth picture. And I have got another one that I should've brought in with a couple of the people on here, and they're from the 80s and they've got dodgy facial here and big sideburns - the classics! But there's something honest about a photo booth in the same way - although these days with selfies you put it through filters and whatever - but the photo booth doesn't lie, it's either a good one or it's the most horrendous picture you can see!

This is definitely around 1974. It's given away by the fact that my brother's got a kung-fu cap on - because I'm a massive Bruce Lee fan and that was the year I think it was Way of the Dragon came out - and me and me brother had matching caps and matching kung-fu coats.

Me brother's totally different to me because he's very - I'm not saying I'm not private but he's quite private and he's quite shy and he's quite quiet although, given the circumstances, he can be just as silly as me. But we've got a really good relationship and it's lovely because family is important and you know they're always there if you have a problem.

The school photo on the right would've been taken, again, early 70s at Tameside Primary School. I'd like to think if I was having me picture taken again now I'd probably comb my hair - but it's a very wayward looking fringe! Up 'til I was probably about ten and then I dunno what happened but I slightly went dark. But I had really jet white hair, only repeated in the late 80s when I bleached my hair for about two years but those pictures are banned as well, because they're on a need to know basis!

This is a photo of me and my mum. So we must've been going out for a family meal somewhere. And it's funny because the rest of the family always love to look at that picture and say, "Oh, which one are you, Ronnie or Reggie?" They love to make a comment that I look like on of the Cray twins in that picture! So that was my mum, and as I said we was obviously going out, but why I had a dicky bow on I have no idea.

Me mum's Maureen. Maureen Hazel née Nightingale. I's funny looking at these pictures as well, because me mum's been dead now fourteen years and I was talking to somebody about it the other week and their mum was just passed away and I said, the worst thing about losing your mum is that word drops from your vocabulary. 'Cause you don't say it really, 'cause you have nobody to say it to. And it's weird because I've only got good memories of me mum, and me dad bless him, so it's lovely to see these pictures again.

And me mum was very the firebrand of the family - we used to call her Fibber McGee because, like myself, she likes to tell a tall-tale. And I think I keep the family line going by continuing that really, 'cause she had a wicked sense of humour. Me dad was quite dry but again, a bit like me brother, in different company could be really funny but me and me mum are definitely cut from the same piece of cloth.

She was from Wednesbury, as I said, she was born in Wednesbury, in Churchill and then lived most of her life in Kent Road, which is the place on a lot of the photographs.

This one is me and one of me oldest friends who I still see. That’s Andrew, that's probably about 1988. And Andrew still comes for tea on a Wednesday.

He's forty-seven. So he was probably about sixteen, seventeen and we have been friends for well over thirty years now.

That was, I think that was taken over Barr Beacon somewhere or in Merrions Wood.

I wanted to include Andrew because he's probably the closest, bestest mate anyone could have really. It's lovely, we've shared such a lot, and he was really good when me parents passed - well we've gone through all sorts of things together, but there's one constant really.

It's such a nice picture, 'cause again it's a nice time, that was. And like I said we'd go walking on a Sunday, there's me, him and few others go on holiday for at least a week every year. oh yeah, yeah. There's a really good card that says, "you'll always be my friend 'cause you know too much" and I think that's probably applicable. There's a person I haven't brought - and I regret it now - because the other one is Jan and Jan son's Nate is autistic and he's the one I do a lot of charity work for really. And Jan's the other one we've got such - and I think I met her probably about the same time - and bizarrely enough she was a mutual friend and again Jan is the other one that I'd rely on. If you ever wanted anybody - if you was ever gonna declare civil war - Andrew and Jan are the two that you'd want at either side of you really. But she's got some equally dodgy photos as well!

So in the picture going from right to left: that's my auntie Barbara, again Wednesbury born and bred, still lives in Wednesbury; and next to her is my auntie Kay, now Kay and Barbara if I go a week, and I've been in Wednesbury a few times, if I haven't seen one of them, something's up because they're the two I tend to see everywhere if I go in Morrisons or go in Poundland one of those is usually up the town.

In the middle is a very special lady, and that's my auntie Jan and we only got to know from 2004 onwards because she was put up for adoption when she was born because me nan was very poorly at the time and wasn't expected to live, and because there was eight other siblings it was the doctor's advice that she went up. And the only person to have seen auntie Jan was my mum and that was for a couple of minutes. So the only two saw Jan when she was a newborn babe was me mum and me nan, she was given up for adoption and then 2004 we'd had a message - and it's one of these things where you can't really believe it - somebody had gone on holiday to Australia, gone somewhere, and seen this post, "do you know of this family, in Wednesbury" it's a bit like Cilla Black's Surprise Surprise and again, you could write a story about it. "Do you know this family, I'm trying to trace my ancestors, they come from Wednesbury, the Friar Park area do you know -" the person who saw it was somebody who lives in my street, came back, said to my mum, "do you know anything of somebody who lives in Australia?" Emailed them and found it was a long-lost sister which she hadn't seen for forty odd years.

This one at the airport - well there’s Barbara, that's my auntie Lyn, who is just as - can I use a Black Country word - 'yampy' as me and me mum so the three of us, definitely never allowed out in threes; and me mum; and me auntie Kay. So me auntie Kay we always used to call Mrs Bouquet 'cause we always thought she was the posh one. B

As a surprise for me mum's sixty-fifth birthday, and we were gonna do a proper Cilla Black Surprise Surprise and just wheel her out on me mum's party and we was thinking that could lead to all sorts of things and me mum having a proper meltdown. But I think God intervened and there was something - she had to come a week early - so we had to tell me mum. And it was priceless, I always remember sitting at home, sitting there, and me mum answering the phone and she came back and says, "you'll never guess who's coming to birthday party." And it were just, the look on her face.

So then we all went to Birmingham airport to meet her, and there was loads of the family went, and we were all worried that we wouldn't know what she looked like, and she came through the passenger lounge and she was the absolute spitting image of me nan. And me mum said, "do you think we'll recognize her?" And I says, "yes, she's just over there." She's just like me nan.

When she came and stood next to me mum, and now as she's getting older, she looks like me mum as well. 'Cause she came over a few years ago when me mum passed away she came a couple of years later and I said to me dad, I says, "brace yourself" 'cause when we opened the door it was just like me mum stepping through the door. And I said, "brace yourself" 'cause I'd seen her coming down the path and it was uncanny really, but it's a lovely tale. A really lovely tale.

That's my dad Leslie on the left, Leslie Hazel. And the fact I'm named after Bobby Charlton - my dad was a Man United supporter - and it was always joked that I could've been named Nobby or Paddy after Nobby Styles or Paddy Crerand so Bobby Charlton weren't so bad.

My dad could be strict and he could be quite aloof in some ways where if you upset him he wouldn't speak to you for days. Never me particularly 'cause I can't keep quiet and it used to drive me crackers.  But he was quite sensitive and I think that's where me brother gets it from really. My dad was the most caring, kind, gentle person that I've probably ever met.

And I know you always say your parents are the best but to me they were because they were lovely and they always went out to work, they supported anything that we wanted to do.

Me mum worked as a shop assistant and then she was a butcher, which is why I love butchery shops and I think it's her because she worked in the corner shop, she had her own butchers little bit and I used to go help on a Saturday afternoon. So I'd scrub the block and in the days before health and safety I'd use the bacon slicer which, when you think about it now, you're thinking that's the most dangerous thing ever invented!

And me dad was a spring maker and he worked at West Bromwich Spring and latterly as a furnace-man at FA Slides. He always provided for the family so we could go away. And there was never that much money really in the house but we always had a fantastic time - and you knew they were always there for you.

Now that picture, well you shouldn't have favourite uncles and whatever, but that's Mary on the left who was my dad's oldest sister, and her husband Jack, who passed away five years ago this summer. And when me dad was poorly - he was diagnosed with mesothelioma which is the asbestos thing - and it was during his time at FA Slides where he obviously contracted  it- a lot like a lot of workers in this area - where it stays in your body. Anybody who's worked in the industry, worked with asbestos, you get the spores in your body and a lot of the time it doesn't come out 'til your thirties, forties and sometimes it's triggered by stress. But when I was talking to me dad about it he used to say when they was working in the furnaces of course asbestos was the great new invention of the time so the hot casting would come out, they'd put asbestos sacks over it and they'd sit on it for hours at a time while it cooled down! So, it was that. So when he was poorly and we were caring for him at home, I'd reduced my work hours, me brother had and the ones who filled in the gap was Mary and Jack.

She's eighty-six now, Jack's passed away. It is a lovely, lovely picture.

That's definitely the 80s and that's a wedding and I can't remember whose wedding it was. It may have been my uncle Steve's. And that's all his sisters so, you've got me mum on the right; you've got me auntie Barb; Kay, the posh one; and me auntie Teresa who's on the right as well.

And that's why you know it's the 80s 'cause the glasses - and me mum's got this set of pearls on which are pure 80s as well. But as you can notice the posh one, Kay, is looking very stylish, looking like she's just come out of - or posher than the others you would say.

The loss of me parents was real pivotal point in my life really. I worked at Central Library and I'd worked there for fourteen years and I was looking for a change. I were thinking of going into teaching, this was a few years before, of course it all happened with me mum who died suddenly, and then me dad we cared for for a few months and then I didn't really want to work at Central anymore. And funny enough I was looking around and a job came up at Tipton. We've always had family in Tipton and I thought I'm gonna go to Tipton 'cause it's a complete change and it was the world's best decision.

Then when I was fifty somebody had asked me to do something for charity and we'd got a football team together for a community match at the carnival. And then Jan had her first child and she had Nate late in life and when he was born he was diagnosed with autism so then I started raising money for charity for him. And since then I've done all sorts of madcap things. And if somebody had of told me three years ago that I'd be playing football, I'd be doing boxing training, all sorts, that I'd sit in a box in Tesco, that I'd do a sky-dive - well, it’s so different. I embrace life now.

And I was talking to somebody last week, again parents not very well, and they always seem to be making plans for when they've died. I'm thinking, well, you need to cherish your parents while you've got them and also you need to live in the present. You can make plans but you just don't know around the corner. Whether somebody says do you want to go and jump out of a plane or do you want to sit in a box or do you want to have a go at the world's biggest bread pudding... if you can go for it because that's what your memories are and that's what keeps you going, really.

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