Martin Sibley was the first friend I ever had and probably the first black person I had ever seen.

I was fascinated by his tight, curly hair and loved stroking it, which on hindsight would probably be judged racist these days.

The fact is, I simply had never seen hair like it before. It was much more interesting than my boring straight hair.

My Dad used to call him curly, which definitely was racist.

He lived in the children’s home a few doors down from where I lived, a newly built council estate in South Ockendon, Essex.

His Dad was part of the Windrush generation and became a bus driver, which Martin was very proud of.

I have no idea why Martin ended up in a children’s home.

My Dad owned an old Austin 10 car, with a soft top roof. It had a starting handle and running boards. Top speed was 50 mph. I can still smell the leather seats.

We used to take Martin for rides around the estate in it with the roof down.

The sun was always shining.

I spent a lot of time in the children’s home playing with Martin Sibley and more importantly, watching television.

We didn’t have a television at home.

Aunt Flo ran the home. She looked very stern and wouldn’t put up with any nonsense from anybody.

Underneath it all, she had a heart of gold.

I cried when she said she was retiring.

Not having any pop records of my own, they were frowned upon in our house, I used to sit on the dresser with Martin and listen to his records on the wind up gramophone.

Cliff Richard’s Summer Holiday and Telstar were my favourites.

Me, Dad, Mrs Bone and St. Mary.

My Dad used to attend St Mary’s church in Stifford, a quaint village on the edge of our housing estate.

There was a large area in front of the church that was completely overgrown.

Dad decided to do something about it.

With the help of Mrs Bone, a fellow congregation member who knew about plants, they set about creating a beautiful garden.

I spent many happy hours with my Dad, collecting stones, raking, digging, planting and fetching cans of water as we landscaped the garden.

The garden no longer exists. The space was given over to accommodate more graves.

Dad is now buried in one of those graves.

When I was growing up, my favourite TV shows were Bonanza, Raw Hide and Man from Uncle.

Consequently, 90% of childhood play was gun based, shooting Red Indians or Russian Spies.

I was always the hero.

The other 10% was playing football, inspired by England’s glorious World Cup win of 66.

I always scored the winning goal.