I met Peter Street In the late 1980’s. He had written a book of poems and I thought he would make an interesting guest for my then BBC Radio Manchester programme. I remember Peter coming into the studio, I was struck by his openness, his almost childlike candour and his tangible wonder at being in front of a microphone, live on air… he did himself proud.
Peter became something of a regular on the programme, he would talk about the now late, Ted Hughes, Poet Laureate of whom I knew little apart from the name. Peter soon rectified this!
Peter was obviously a ‘local lad’ to Greater Manchester, proud of his roots, steadfast in his craft, holder of a wicked sense of humour behind twinkling eyes. He was of indeterminate age, a bit of a Peter Pan, and we became friends. He spoke of his ‘rock’, his wife Sandra but little else about his background. This didn’t matter to me as I was more interested in having a poet on the programme!
It was evident that Peter was a welcome contributor to the programme, much liked by the listeners, and I decided to have a word with a colleague, working in different department to me, about the possibility of Peter becoming a ‘Poet in Residence.’ As far as I knew, this had never happened on a BBC local radio station, and I was all for innovation.
I am sure my colleague worked very hard for this to happen, because I was delighted to be told by her that she had secured six months funding for this to happen.
I suppose I can honestly say that the rest is history… Peter embraced and enhanced the role and was soon doing all sort of things for other parts of the BBC.
Media is adroit and fleeting and I moved on to other projects for my programme and Peter and I lost touch. I was thrilled when Peter contacted me again a few years ago and we met up for a coffee, it was a very long coffee break at the Lowry Theatre in Salford Quays as he relayed his travels, experiences and adventures. It was at that meeting that he told me about his recent autism diagnoses and how suddenly, his life in the 1950’s onwards made perfect sense to him and gave him peace.
I had never realised that Peter was on the autism spectrum, nor the fact he was an accomplished sportsman and was fascinated to hear more. He told me that one day he would write a book about those early memories, the light and the shade the heartbreak, bullying, pain and the smiles. I am over joyed that he has done so.
Goalkeeper, takes us as a willing companion on Peter’s journey from his birth in the fifties until around his middle years. As an uncanny coincidence, one of my best friends lives on the very road where Peter spent a great deal of his childhood, so when, in his book, Peter writes about looking out of his bedroom window, I can visualise exactly what his view would have been, but I cannot imagine how his emotional state would have been on some of the days he was at that window.
The book is certainly not ‘a poor me’ rendition of Peter’s life. Peter has a natural humour that shines through, his rendition of his adventures are countless. I am sure ‘Northerners’ who were born in the 50’s will smile at the memories of their own childhood, with ‘syrup of figs’, Dandelion and Burdock, ‘Finney Haddock’ and ‘donkey stoning the steps.’
We meet Peter’s mum, just before she gives birth to Peter, her fierce protective love and determination ensuring that a safe haven is found for them, in Bolton, in the most incongruous of circumstances.
We follow Peter as he grows up, never quite understanding that he is different from his peers. Although friendships were difficult to form, once formed Peter’s loyalty was steadfast.
We share the fascinating pathway of Peter’s relationship with his father and the secrecies and mysteries that surrounded the man, who seemed to know a whole host of famous names. The ‘man’s man’ that encourages his son to embrace ‘non boy subjects’ as well as traditional school subjects. Then there is the door in his father’s house that Peter must not enter… Then we share the day when Peter’s strict ‘father’ becomes Peter’s ‘dad.’
We hold our breath while Peter rides his bike, endures or enjoys his first kiss, and Peter’s initiation into the Hulton Scouts. I recall that in 2006 he even travelled with them to Iceland. Peter has an enduring respect for the Scout Movement and especially for the 20th Scout Group – “they saved me.”
Peter’s mum wanted him to be a Parish Priest but that was not to be .
Peter has held a myriad of jobs; however, his talents began to shine through as a goalkeeper. We read of Peter’s dream, to be a goalkeeper for Bolton Wanderers, will his epilepsy and undiagnosed Autism thwart his dream? Please read the book to find out.
Peter’s life to date has been a paradox, from his middle years he has travelled the world as a poet and visionary… but I guess, that will be food for another book one day!