Read Essex Boy: My Story Online

Authors: Kirk Norcross

Tags: #Biography & Autobiography, #General

Essex Boy: My Story

BOOK: Essex Boy: My Story


To every person who is in, or has lived through, hard times: this is for you.


Life Now

This morning I woke up alone in my own bed.
That is to say, my king-size bed, in my three-bedroom house.
I looked at my digital Rolex to see the time, then got up and opened my
Louis Vuitton curtains to see the view out towards my dad Mick’s massive farmhouse, with its stables, dog kennels and giant fish pond with thousands of pounds’ worth of koi carp.

I wandered through to my bathroom and had a shower followed by a session in my private steam room, and sat there thinking how happy I was to be in a house like this.
Not many lads of twenty-four
could imagine living in the kind of luxury that I was lucky enough to be enjoying.

Then I thought of my mum in her little council flat, and reminded myself that I needed to call round later to see her.
She is the most important person in my life, and I needed to be sure that
everything was going well for her.
I’m now sitting in my office writing this, but later today I’m going to drive to the gym in my white Porsche Cayenne.
Until recently I’d have
been heading off to film a scene for ITV2 reality show
The Only Way Is Essex
Then later I might head down to Dad’s club, Sugar Hut, and put £1,000 behind the bar to enjoy a
few drinks with my mates.
Afterwards they will probably come back to mine to play pool in my games room, or watch a film in the cinema room.
Not a bad day, is it?!
And I still have to pinch myself
most days to believe this is my life!

I reckon that is what most people think I do every day.
Yes, I do live a pretty privileged life, and I don’t hide it – in fact, I am open about the fact that I enjoy it, and that is
the life you have seen me live on

I’m sure you think I’m a spoilt little rich kid who has been handed money by my dad since the day I was born, grown up with nannies and drivers, and then gone to private school
before being handed a job on a plate at Sugar Hut.

Well, the reality is very different.
You have to remember that what you have seen on
is only the present.
You cannot judge me on my past until you really know it.
The truth is,
until I was eleven years old and my dad was suddenly wealthy, my idea of a rich person was someone who could afford a school uniform that fitted them, who got a packet of crisps AND a chocolate bar
in their lunchbox, and who, if they were proper good all year, got a bike for Christmas.

Even after I realized that there was a whole other level of wealth out there, one where you could own a swimming pool, or fly out to Las Vegas for the weekend just for the hell of it, I never
got to experience it for myself until I was eighteen.
Instead my childhood was filled with poverty, homelessness and violent council estates.

The way I see it, there are two sides to Essex.
Most people these days know the flash life of Brentwood thanks to
, a place where everyone has money and a nice lifestyle.
don’t go assuming that the whole of Essex is like that.
Because a world away from Brentwood, across the dividing road of the A13, there is a very different county.
Places like Grays and
Tilbury are a huge contrast to the glitz and glamour of
Those towns are poor and run down, and most people live in council housing, struggling to get by.
They are tough areas to
grow up in, held together by the spirit of the people within those communities, who support one another through the hard lives they are living.

And surprising though it is to everyone who knows me today, this is the Essex that I have seen for most of my life, and has been the biggest influence on me growing up.
It is the other side of
Essex which has made me who I am today.


In the Very Beginning

The first thing I remember is sitting in the back of our family car in Asda car park with my older brother, Daniel, when I was only about two years old.
Mum and Dad were having
an argument outside.
They had just finished the food shopping and were loading it into the boot, but as we were watching them shifting the endless plastic bags out of the trolley, their voices
started getting louder and louder, and soon they were screaming at each other, both of them mad as anything.
Then my mum started crying, so Daniel and I, well, we were confused, so we started
crying too.
No kid ever wants to see his mum upset.
When she saw us she opened the door and threw a 24-pack of crisps in.

‘Go on, boys, get stuck in – have as many as you want!’
She tried to smile before closing the door again, obviously hoping to distract us and stop us seeing the argument.
didn’t work.
We left the crisps alone, and just carried on crying and watching Mum and Dad until they were too worn out to shout any more.
Eventually they climbed into the car in sulky
silence, and we drove home with no one saying a word.
I think that’s sad, that my very first memory is of my mum and dad rowing, but then I haven’t got many memories of them together at
all, so maybe it’s better than nothing.

My mum, who is called Julie, or Ju for short, and Dad, who was christened Michael but is always called Mick, met and married when they were young, too young to know what they were doing –
that’s what I reckon now, anyway.
They met on a blind date in September 1983 when Mum was seventeen, and Dad was twenty.
By then, Dad was a big burly guy with dark hair – although he
shaved it off a lot of the time – and Mum was a tiny skinny little thing, with this awful permed dark hair that she started dyeing blonde, and an obsession with shoulder pads.
It makes me
laugh when I see the pictures, but she promises me it was the fashion at the time.

My mum’s mate Maxine was going out with a guy who was mates with Dad, and they set them up.
On the second date Dad told her, ‘I promise you now, you are going to be the mum of my
Pretty full on, but it didn’t take long for that to come true.
Just four months later, at the start of 1984, Dad convinced Mum to stop taking the Pill, and within weeks she was
pregnant with Daniel.
Coming from a strict Catholic family, there was no way Dad was going to let the baby be born out of wedlock, so he told Mum they were getting married, then asked for her
dad’s permission.
From what she told me later, it seems her dad didn’t approve, but knowing she was pregnant he thought it was probably her best option.
He told her, ‘You’ve
made your bed, you can lie in it.’

Because she was still seventeen, Mum’s parents had to sign the forms to allow her to marry, so that the banns could be read out.
That is how young she was – she was considered by law
too young even to decide it by herself!

Then Mum turned eighteen on 4 May, Dad turned twenty-one on 11 May, and a day later, on 12 May 1984, they said their vows to each other in St Thomas of Canterbury Church in Grays, which is in
Thurrock, Essex.
Mum was Church of England, not Catholic, but she has always felt that all religions are pretty similar, so she was happy to go along with Dad’s religious beliefs.

Mum’s bump was still so tiny on her wedding day that it hardly showed under her white dress.
Both she and Dad were still very young, but I like to think they were actually in love at the
time, and that they were going into it really thinking they had a future together.
Since then, Mum has told me, ‘Kirk, I think it was more infatuation than true love on my part, but I was too
young to know the difference,’ which is a shame if she is right.

Daniel came along in November of that year, and in the beginning they were a happy little family.
But my parents were very different people really.
Dad was out working a lot of hours.
He has
always been a grafter, has Dad.
The minute he was allowed to leave school when he was fifteen he was out like a shot.
Nothing could have kept him there any longer – education wasn’t for
him – so he went and got a job.
By the time he was married he had decided one job wasn’t good enough, so he had two.
In the day he was working down at Tilbury Docks, getting stuck into
any manual work that was going, and also learning welding, which was considered a pretty skilled job.
That was him following in his dad’s footsteps.

Dad’s family are originally from Blackburn.
He was born there and lived there as a kid.
But his dad worked on the docks, and had started working in Tilbury, which is on the Thames, staying
down south during the week, and going back up north at the weekend.
Dad told Daniel and me that when he was five, his dad decided to move the whole family down to Grays in Essex.
Later, it had been
the obvious thing for my dad to join him working at the docks as soon as he was out of school.

When Dad had finished at the docks for the day, though, he didn’t go home to put his feet up – he didn’t know the meaning of relaxation!
Instead by night my dad worked as a
doorman at Hollywood in Romford – a pretty ordinary nightclub that held about 1,500 people, and was really popular at the time, although it is not there any more.
It wasn’t exactly the
best job in the mid-eighties, when there were a lot of drugs around, and things could get pretty rough.
But Dad looked the part – he was a 19-stone skinhead, a huge tough-looking guy who
could handle himself when he needed to.
Not that he was that kind of a doorman – he dressed smartly, and everyone who knew him then has told me he was always very polite, sorting arguments
out by talking whenever possible.
I think that’s why he still has a lot of friends from those days.

Meanwhile, Mum hadn’t been a fan of school either.
She wasn’t the cleverest at academic stuff, and as soon as she could get out, she did.
She started working as a carer for elderly
and disabled people.
Mum wasn’t too fussed about a career, though, so as soon as she married my dad she dropped all that, and focused on being a housewife and a mother.
She must have thought
she was going to be with my dad for ever, so she didn’t have a backup plan – she didn’t think she would need one.
She imagined Dad would always support her financially and

On 21 April 1988, when Daniel was three and a half years old, I was born.
Here’s a fact for you – I share a birthday with Queen Elizabeth II and, more importantly,
my Uncle Gary.
He is my mum’s younger brother, and it was his eighteenth birthday that day, but he was so keen to be an uncle he left his own party to go round to Mum’s house to tell
her, ‘Come on, Julie, get him out of there!
I want my nephew out as my eighteenth present, so we can share a birthday.’
So she did!

I was born in Orsett Hospital, which is still there although the maternity ward has been knocked down.
Mum was on her own throughout the birth, because Dad didn’t get the message in

I had a pretty complicated birth, as the umbilical cord got wrapped around my neck as I came out, so I couldn’t breathe and my brain was starved of oxygen.
By the time they had got me free
and breathing normally, all the blood vessels in my face had burst from me struggling for breath – I must have looked like a well ugly baby!

The other big thing that happened when I was born was that my mum rejected me.
She had wanted a girl so badly – she’d had a boy with Daniel and was determined she was going to have a
little baby girl next.
Even when the doctor told her she was expecting a boy, she didn’t believe it.
‘No, it ain’t, I know it’s a girl, I don’t care what you are
saying,’ she told him stubbornly.
She was so sure she went home and chose a girl’s name for me.
I was going to be called Emma Louise.
Now don’t get me wrong, I like that name
– if I ever have a daughter that’s what I’ll call her – but it wasn’t right for me .

Instead my dad decided I would be called Kirk John.
He liked the name, but Mum didn’t.
Apparently this is how the conversation went:

Dad: ‘Let’s call him Kirk.’

Mum: ‘Oh no, I don’t like that, it’s like a dog’s name.’

Dad: ‘Well, I like it, and so does me mum.
She’s a fan of Kirk Douglas.’

Mum: ‘No, it makes me think of Captain Kirk.’

Dad: ‘Well, I like it, and it’s my decision, so Kirk it is.
Oh, and John as his middle name, as that’s my middle name.’

Mum: ‘Well, it don’t matter anyway, ’cos I am having a girl!’

And that was it settled!
Dad definitely held the power.
He is a traditional man who thinks men and women have their roles in a relationship, and people shouldn’t try to change that.
man earns the money and makes the decisions, while the woman looks after the house and the children.

But anyway, when I came out a boy, my own mum hated me.
She had bad post-natal depression and wouldn’t touch me, kiss me, go near me, anything.
She could not stand me at all.
When they let
her out of the hospital a couple of nurses even had to come round and feed me and take care of me, as she couldn’t bring herself to do anything.
Her family all chipped in as well, taking
turns at looking after me.
After a couple of weeks the doctor told her, ‘This is getting bad.
You are going to have to start doing something with your baby,’ but Mum just shrugged.
of course was back at work – there was no way he could take the time off, as we needed the money.

The next day when the nurses came round they decided to let me cry, not deal with me, and see what Mum would do.
Apparently I was crying and crying, and wouldn’t stop, and the nurses just
sat looking out the window, inspecting their nails, doing anything but acknowledge me, until out of pure frustration Mum walked over to me, and everything changed.
As she tells it – and I
like this version!
– ‘The minute I saw you that day, that was it, it was unbelievable: I fell in love with you.
After that I wouldn’t let no one else near you, and told the
nurses, “Go on, you can go, I’ve got this.
He’s my baby, I’ll look after him.”’
And since then, I’ve got to give it to her, she really has.

My early months continued to be filled with drama.
When I was seven months old, Mum’s sisters Tina and Terry were round, when I fell off the sofa and banged my head and
had a fit.
Apparently I actually stopped breathing and died then and there, and as you can imagine, they were all going crazy, screaming hysterically, and called an ambulance.
The emergency
services operator gave instructions to Terry on how to give mouth to mouth, which she passed on to Tina, who followed them and saved my life.
Obviously I didn’t have a clue at the time what
was happening, but I am forever grateful to her for that one!

But that wasn’t the end of it.
From then on I kept having fits, caused by even the lightest touch on my head.
So Mum could brush my hair and I’d fit, or I’d shake my head and
it would happen, and it was really scary for my mum.
I was sent for tests, and it turned out that somehow my fall had caused my skull to be too close to my brain, so if I knocked my head, even
lightly, my brain worked by shutting down to protect itself, and fitting.
The only way doctors could think of to stop it from happening was to protect my skull until it had grown, so can you
believe I had to wear one of those stupid helmets that looked like the headgear that amateur boxers wear.
I wore it all the time until my skull developed and the fits stopped.
I looked like a
proper melt, but at least it got better.
I’m just gutted I don’t have a picture of the helmet to show you – clearly my parents weren’t too proud of me in it either!

At the time we were living at 12 Jesmond Road, in Blackshot, which is in Grays.
The area is not the best, but not the worst either.
It has little houses and tower blocks of
flats, private and council mixed in together, with loads of fields round about.
I can’t remember the house that well, but it was a small two-bedroom semi-detached bungalow, with my mum and
dad in one bedroom, and Daniel and me in the other.
I was in a cot first, and then we had bunk beds.
I have the impression that although there wasn’t a lot of space, it was all nice and
homely, and I guess just normal.
People would pop in all the time, opening our front door themselves, or coming through the side gate into our little back garden to say hello.

We had a dog, a lurcher called Oscar, and Dad used to take him hare coursing in the fields at the end of the road.
There was a lot of space near ours, and although I was too young to go with
Dad, sometimes Mum would walk me to the edge of the field where there was a stile you had to climb over to get into it.
It always seemed like a huge mountain to get over at the time.

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