A familiar pattern emerges when discussing the various aspects of Leslie’s life as presented in his autobiography. That pattern being that as with Leslie’s home life, his hobbies and personal pursuits are secondary to the main focus of his writing, his employment.
Leslie paints a picture of himself as a regular working class boy in his youth, although there is little specific mention of hobbies. Sunday school plays a big part in his childhood, and was responsible not just for his morals, but also much of the fun he had.
“Life for me as a child was good. I joined St Paul’s Sunday School and went on the ‘Treat’ – swings, roundabouts, slides, games, pop and cakes – and to keep us on the straight and narrow a few religious tracts. What more could a child ask for?” (p.34)
Leslie does make a note of the various entertainments on offer when he was growing up, but frustratingly he offers little insight into his experience with them, or whether he partook at all.
Leslie’s main ‘hobby’ is something which connects to his military employment. Leslie’s involvement with the Sea Cadets began at a young age and continued until long after he had left the armed forces, and is the only consistent pursuit he has outside of paid work. I believe his attachment to the sea began with walks with his father.
“Sometimes we would walk home from Nin’s through the docks so Dad could show me the ships and he would tell me tales of far off places. I would listen in wide eyed wonderment….. I always looked forward particularly to a visit to Wallasey Dock, where if i was lucky there might be one of the grain carrying sail ships” (p.29)
Leslie joined the Sea Cadets aged 13 and never looked back, his only consistent hobby throughout his life also lasted for 18 years, until his work commitments forced him to leave the Corps. I believe Leslie’s involvement with the Sea Cadets was largely responsible for making him into the man presented in his autobiography, and that his career in the armed forces and later the police force were both a result of the foundations laid by the Cadets. Leslie himself says “The Corps had given me so much that i could never hope to repay” (p.228)
An unfortunate result of Leslie’s dedication to work and the Sea Cadets is that there is little mention of other hobbies which he partakes in in his autobiography. His attachment to the regimented life of the forces goes as far as him taking his family on a weekend away with the Cadets on a training mission !
“Easter gave me the chance to combine a family camping holiday in North Wales with an adventure training session for six of the senior cadets.” (p.202)
His family are not as impressed with this as Leslie seemed to be, and stormy weather puts a stop to the ‘holiday’.
“‘Take me home, please take me home’ pleaded Hazel. I rapidly sensed that she was not enjoying her holiday. By the look on the kids faces they shared her feelings” (p.204)
While some may be puzzled and ask how a man can dedicate so much time to his work and being a major part of the Sea Cadets, Leslie seemed to thrive on hard graft. Unfortunately Leslie sheds little light on his cultural pursuits, and that is perhaps the most unfulfilled aspect of his autobiography. Again this may be looked at as a result of his intended audience. After all, Leslie would hardly expect his descendants to be overly interested in his favourite book or his opinion on other cultural activities.