I was born on 13th March 1971 in Kingston Hospital, Surrey, second child of Adrian and Sally Fordham and younger brother of Alison. Home was 18 Mount Road, New Malden, and although I started at the age of four going to Corpus Christi School (in the same road) we moved a few months later in July 1975 to South Lincolnshire.
The Old Plough Inn (it had shut as an inn some years previous) in Quadring Fen was to be the home of my childhood. The house was large and Mum and Dad spent a lot of time renovating and refurbishing it, we had a couple of acres attached to the property, which was used by a local farmer, and the summers were like prolonged play-time.
The nearest school was Gosberton Clough and Risegate County Primary School and was a pure delight. The old head Mr Cowles retired soon after Alison and I started there and Mr. Brookes the new head was an inspiration and has remained a family friend ever since. The old Victorian school building took just under 100 pupils, we had an outdoor swimming pool, there was no school perimeter fence at that stage, we made a tulip display for the 100th Anniversary of the school and put simply it was a great - lively and fun.
Lincolnshire still preserves the 11-plus, I passed and so went to Spalding Grammar School for Boys in Town - Alison was at Spalding High School and we both got a lift to the nearest bus pick-up four miles away for the eight miles into Town and back each day. That school left a real imprint upon me and I still bore close friends with stories of Mr. Ryde the History Teacher, Jimmy Calcutt the Maths Teacher and of course the delights of learning Greek (not very well) at 8am each morning with Mr. Millington.
Never the academic I enjoyed school rather than worked at it. I struggled to revise for ‘O’ levels, failing Chemistry in spectacular style, but scraped into the Sixth Form. A brief flirtation with leaving school then and starting work as a trainee Legal Executive was thank-fully ditched and I stayed on to study for ‘A’ levels. These proved to be a struggle also and I scraped through with English and History and a GCSE in Ancient Greek. I don’t know what it was about school - although I loved going and being part of it the application to study just didn’t flow...
My 10 points at ‘A’ level, the first year of the new points, were insufficient to get into University that year but after some work and effort (largely directed by my sister Alison) I persuaded the University of Nottingham to give me an unconditional offer if I took a year out between school and university.
Whilst at Spalding Grammar School I had continued my playing chess for Lincolnshire (first started when I was 9 encouraged by Mr. Brookes) and took up playing Hockey (I ended up as captain of the 2nd X1, due more to my organisation skills rather than playing ability). I also pursued my interest in Ancient History but was unable to sit the ‘A’ level as the relevant teacher had left the year before I reached sixth form; however in 1988 I applied for and won the Gainsborough Travel Scholarship and undertook to travel round the coast of East Anglia and the south coast and also of Belgium and France studying the Roman Saxon Shore Forts.
It was this travel scholarship as well as my collecting ancient coins that was one of the clinching factors in persuading the University of Nottingham to accept me onto their Ancient History course in 1990.
The year off between school and university provided me with time to drift and explore - I had long been interested in history and so developed a number of projects; a campaign to save Spalding Railway Station from demolition (we were successful), leading anti-Poll Tax petitions, writing and publishing a history of my local Catholic Church (The Immaculate Conception and St. Norbert, Spalding) and compiling a detailed family history of my four grandparents (this project has grown and grown since!).
An incidental, that has directed much of my life subsequently, was joining the Liberal Party on 24th May 1988 and voting for merger of the Liberal Party and the Social Democrats. I was signed up by Terry Jeffs of Maple Grove, Spalding, still have the original membership slip and paid £2.50 at the time - I think I borrowed the money off of my Mum!
The University of Nottingham was great - in Ancaster Hall I threw myself into student life. Within four weeks I stood for election as First Year Rep (I stood as ‘Eddie’ Fordham!), and won, that was followed by standing as a university delegate to NUS National Conference, subsequently Union Council as Ancaster Guild Rep, NUS Secretary on the Union Executive and culminating in Union President 1993-1994.
President of the biggest 'democratic' student union in the country is undoubtedly one of the most rewarding things I have done. It was not turbulent times but there was a lot going on - the university had brought in modularisation, the Conservative Government was bringing in legislation to outlaw student unions as they existed, applications to the university were soaring and student numbers virtually doubling in the course of four years and we had a new Chancellor in Sir (now Lord) Ron Dearing.
I look back on that year with considerable pride - we achieved a lot with the university authorities, bridged the gap between the student union and the Hall JCRs, saw off the Tory Government threat (mainly by working with local Nottinghamshire MP Ken Clarke, the Chancellor of the Exchequer) and I made real life time friends.
Incidental to this was of course my course - a 2:1 BA (Hons) Ancient History - somewhat sacrificed by the involvement in student politics. My principle academic energies were directed into my dissertation on the Roman Emperor Trajan Decius (249-251 AD) - this is the topic to which I would dearly love to return under the tutorship of Professor John Drinkwater but I can’t afford the Mphil or PhD fees.