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Paul Franklin

 

Paul Franklin

 

Paul Charles Franklin was born in Bromley Kent on the 1st of January, in a year he would much sooner keep to himself. Whenever he is asked how old he is, or what year he was born, he will quickly change the subject or reply “I was born very young!” He has never liked to be the centre of attention, and therefore grateful that his birthday falls on New Years Day when most people are thinking about their own celebrations. 


When Paul was born, his parents moved to “The Quarries” in Boughton Monchelsea, which is a picturesque village situated just outside Maidstone in Kent. His parents owned some land, and his father reared sheep as a hobby. Paul has two younger sisters who owned horses, ponies, goats, ducks, chickens and geese. He owned a black Labrador dog, and kept fantail doves who became so tame they fed from his hand. He also designed the dovecote, which his father helped him to build, and still stands in his parent’s garden to this day! 


Boughton Monchelsea has a mixture of modern and quaint old cottages, as well as oak beamed chocolate box properties. The whole area has an ancient Roman and Iron Age past, now set against a leafy backdrop of woodland, hazelnut coppices, cherry and apple orchards. Kentish farm oats houses, strawberry and raspberry fields, further reiterate the fact that this is indeed a quintessential "Darling Buds of May" type village! There is a network of narrow and sharply twisting footpaths, bridleways and characterfull Ragstone lined lanes. Infact it’s here where the Local Ragstone was quarried and then used to build The Houses of Parliament, as well as Westminster Abbey.


An internationally acclaimed artist called Graham Clarke also lives in Boughton Monchelsea, and is the village’s pride and joy. His pictures depict scenes of idyllic country life, and even from a very early age Paul has always greatly admired his work. Graham Clarke designed the unique stained-glass “Millennium Window” which is found in the outstandingly beautiful village church of St Peters. The church is definitely one of Paul’s most favourite places to visit! It has a Lychgate entrance, which is reputed to be one of the oldest in England. The southern facing churchyard has spectacular panoramic views over a Deer Park and right across the Weald. 



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As a child Paul spent most of his weekends with his Grandparents who lived in London. His Grandparents on his father’s side ran a bakery shop in Tower Bridge Road. Paul would help them make all the sweet and savoury produce, which were freshly baked on the premises. His Grandfather Franklin attended a Catholic boarding school, and was well educated. In his spare time he read a great deal and loved history, historical architecture, poetry, art and photography. He had a particular love of folklore tales, and as a gift he gave Paul a collection of stories by “The Brothers Grimm” as well as “Hans Christian Anderson.” Paul inherited all of his grandfather’s interests, but disliked school, and certainly does not consider himself to be academic.


Grandparents and Parents


The grandfather on his mother’s side sadly suffered from Cancer for many years, but he was an extremely positive, bubbly and tenacious individual, who always made people laugh. From an early age, his Nan and Grandad Reynolds took Paul out to visit all the different sights around London. They often travelled on the red London busses, and Paul always enjoyed riding on the top deck, as it offered the best view. He recalls his Grandfather taking him to see the Walt Disney films at the cinema. Like most other children, Paul was also entranced by the magical and truly delightful appeal of the classical animated Disney films, which upholds innocent yet valuable messages of morality. His all-time favourite film was Pinocchio.

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Paul and Dad


Eventually when both sets of grandparents retired, they moved to “The Garden of England” themselves. They settled in Canterbury and Maidstone, Paul therefore still continued to spend his weekends with them and took regular day trips out. Sadly both of Paul’s grandfathers passed away, the biggest shock however was when his Grandmother Franklin died, which had a profound effect on him. Paul found himself starting to write about his own experiences of growing up and village life entitled “Honey Mellowed Recollections.” It was simply a pleasant hobby, and therapeutic distraction for him. 


When Paul eventually left school he did a variety of diverse jobs. He was a Security Officer, Assistant Manager for a large restaurant and pub chain, Estate Agent, Kitchen Designer. He even trained and became a qualified Intermediate Instructor of Equitation for The British Horse Society. Paul enjoyed photography and travel, and toured from North to south China, and down into Hong Kong. He loves flying, and the feeling of freedom it offers. He will never forget an incredible hot air balloon ride he once had. He took a number of private flying lessons from his local Headcorn aerodrome, and was captivated by breathtaking bird’s eye views over the Kentish countryside. 


Whilst Paul was an Assistant Manager of a private golf club, he met Kelly Pearce. Kelly was Miss Maidstone in 1992, and she represented the County Town in France and Germany. Although it is a cliche, it was love at first sight. On the 4th May 1996 Paul proposed to Kelly in the middle of Hever Castle maze, and they were married a year later on the 2nd August 1997 in St Peter's Church. The couple started up their own balloon decorating company for weddings, birthdays and corporate functions. They eventually purchased a property in the village of Kingswood, close to the beautiful Leeds Castle.

Kelly and Paul Franklin


On the 26th July 2001 their son Nicholas Franklin was born, and like Paul, he was also christened at St Peter's Church, in Boughton Monchelsea. Kelly and Paul are typical devoted parents, who adored their little boy. Similar to many parents nowadays however, both Kelly and Paul work full time jobs. Kelly’s career means that she has to work every other weekend, so Paul takes on the parental role of looking after Nicholas by himself. He always ensured he takes Nicholas out to visit all the local interesting places, just as his Grandparents had done with him.


Paul joined his local Maidstone library, and would take great pleasure in reading stories to Nicholas at bedtime. He feels that to just take a few moments to read a book to a child is of the utmost importance. It is not only educational, but also offers quality time to bond, share thoughts, and reflect upon the days events. Indeed over the years Paul has read hundreds of different children’s picture books to Nicholas.

Nichilas sleeping


As Nicholas developed and began to attend Primary school, it was noted that he tended to not want to play with other children. Paul also felt that he was not able to communicate in a very eloquent way. Things came to a head however, when Nicholas grew increasingly tearful and unhappy as he found school life very difficult. His teacher said his behaviour was deteriorating, and she would regularly reduce his playtime as a punishment for him not paying attention in class. This rang alarm bells with Kelly and Paul, who immediately referred Nicholas to a pediatrician via the School Nurse. They moved Nicholas to Kingswood Primary School, where his teachers were thankfully more understanding, and fully supported him with his difficulties.

Paul Franklin and his son Nicholas


This was to be the start of an extremely complex and incredibly demoralising battle with the local authority’s "Special Educational Needs Department" to secure a Statement. A Statement is a formal document detailing a child's learning difficulty, and defines how they are to be assisted at school. Paul would sometimes have to get up as early as 3.00am in the mornings before he went to work, in order to write an endless string of letters and emails. Nicholas was diagnosed with a number of complex issues, including Asperger’s Syndrome which is a form of Autism. 5 Years and 6 A4 lever arch files later, he was eventually offered the Statement he required. 


Paul was absolutely appalled at the endless hurdles, and mind-bendingly arduous hoops the Special Educational Needs department makes parents jump through. Luckily however he received invaluable advice from other parents, and charities such as "The Father's Club" run by Mr John Franklin (not related,) and "The Kent Autistic Trust." The family also had guidance from their son's Teachers, and a dedicated team of NHS Specialist Speech and Language Therapists, Educational Psychologist, and Paediatric Professionals.


Paul was so exasperated by the whole process, he wanted to try and do what he could to help other less confident parents in similar situations. In order to reiterate his point and try and help raise awareness, Paul crammed all 6 of his files brimming with correspondence into a holiday suitcase. He then dragged them onto a train, through the London underground system, and into The House of Parliament's Portcullis House, Westminster, where he had organised a meeting with the MP for Maidstone and The Weald Helen Grant supported by John Franklin. Paul said, "Helen is a very thoughtful and caring person, and she was genuinely shocked by what some parents of disabled children have to go through." Helen Grant and Sir John Stanley MP attended a subsequent meeting with Head Teachers, another parent, as well as John and Paul Franklin at a unique specialist unit called The Tydeman Centre the Malling School. This is an exceptionally good model unit, which professionally supports autistic children attached to a mainstream school. The meeting went very well, and Helen Grant intends to kindly organise another meeting at Westminster in due course. Paul vehemently believes that even duing these times of recession and great austerity, our society should still focus on protecting children and all other vulnerable individuals!


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Mr John Franklin - Founder of The Fathers' Club Charity to whom the book has been dedicated.


During those difficult years, Paul would sometimes wake up early in the mornings, but rather than write letters he decided once again to start writing uplifting and positive things instead. He reminisced about the days out that he spent with Nicholas, as well as his own childhood memories of living in the Kentish countryside and spending time in London. Inspired by photographs he had taken of Nicholas and other family members, Paul wrote 5 short rhyming stories in 2008. They were only ever meant to be keepsakes for Nicholas to read and reflect on as he grows up. 


The 1st one was entitled “Come Ride a Steam Train,” as Nicholas adored visiting and riding on the Romney Hythe & Dymchurch miniature Steam Railway. Paul then wrote 4 other short stories called “Where Is Happiness Found?” “The Incredible Bubble Adventure,” “I Want Another Pet," and “It’s My Birthday Today” which all followed closely behind. He thought no more about the stories, until friends and family asked to hear them. They enjoyed them so much that they urged Paul to try and see if he could get the material published. Paul had absolutely no idea of how to go about doing this. He also realised that the most important thing for him would be to find an appropriate artist who could illustrate the text in a specific style. He confesses that he is very particular when it comes to art, and to find an illustrator whose work appealed to him was going to be extremely difficult! Regardless of this however, Paul had a clear vision in his mind as to what he wanted. He said, “Curiously my intuition repeatedly told me to just wait, I strongly felt that the right artist would somehow turn up?” He then took his writing, stored it away into the back of his wardrobe, and forgot about the whole thing.


In order to try and support their son’s primary school, Kelly and Paul would occasionally help them in various ways. On one such occasion, Kelly had volunteered her husband to help paint a large King Henry VIII mural entitled "Field of the Cloth of Gold" in the children’s play area of Leeds Castle. He teamed up with another parent who painted the background along with the school children, and Paul painted King Henry accordingly.

Henry VIII, mural at Leeds Castle


One day soon after completing the Leeds Castle Mural, Paul decided to take a little time out for himself and visited The New Romney Railway Station. Once parked, he was surprised to find that another mural had been painted onto one of the railway building walls. It had been beautifully executed and depicted a delightful scene of a steam train running through the picturesque countryside. It was so delicately done, and the imagery perfectly matched the feelings Paul had tried to convey, as well as the style he had envisaged for “Come Ride a Steam Train.” It was also coincidentally the very station where he had researched and wrote the story approximately 2 years earlier, whilst sitting in their coffee shop. Paul said, “It was one of those moments which I will never forget. I just stood there transfixed, as I could not believe what I was seeing. It was like a dream come true, and I knew I had definitely found the proverbial needle in a haystack!” 

Mural in New Romney by Elena and Maria Priesteley


Paul emailed the railway to ask them if they would kindly forward his details to the artist concerned. Thankfully he received a response from the artist herself Lady Elena Priestley. Elena lives in Folkestone, and a meeting was arranged. Elena and Paul agreed that they wanted to work together, and everything just seemed to fall into place. It is quite apparent that Elena has an incredible talent for illustrating the text in an extremely sensitive way. She not only included Paul’s experiences, but also cleverly interwove local scenes of Kent, East Sussex and London into the backgrounds. 


In 2011 Elena & Paul went into partnership, and formed the company Appletree & Dovecote Ltd. They are both extremely excited about their forthcoming projects. Paul felt very privileged as he had a meeting with Graham Clarke in his Boughton Monchelsea Studio, Graham was very encouraging and kindly gave Paul a great deal of valuable advice.

"Where is Happiness Found?" has now been printed, and the Romney Hythe & Dymchurch Railway has asked Paul and Elena to officially launch the book during their Children's Special Charity Event on Saturday 27th April 2013 from the New Romney Station. 

Paul & Elena will then be attending a Book Signing Day on Saturday 18th May 2013 at the Folkestone Art Society Spring Exhibition, at The Grand Hotel, The Lease, Folkestone, Kent, CT20 2XL 

Although the book is suitable for all primary school aged children, Paul's aspiration is to give hope to children and their families, and also continue to help promote autism awareness.

£1.00 from the proceeds for every book sold, will be donated to The Family Support Services of The Kent Autistic Trust.

 

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