Henry Price

Henry Price

Life Story of Henry Price

He grassed me up! My own father. He found out and grassed me up. I was the leader of a small local gang and he had found out. He marched me down to the local police station and turned me in. When he told them I was the gang leader they proceeded to turn their wrath on me with a fearful tongue lashing that left me quaking in my shoes. I wasn’t going to be doing that again in a hurry. No fear. From now on I was a reformed character. From now on I was going straight.

I was five years old.

That was over 50 years ago and has absolutely nothing to do with my story. I just thought you would like to hear about it.

I was the 3rd of 8 children. While some people would say we were poor, the one thing I was always fortunate in was that I knew that my mum and dad loved me. All the time I was growing up there was a feeling of safety and comfort in my home. My mum did part time jobs but was always around after school.

I was not a great scholar; I found it difficult, and still do, to remember all that is taught. I did, however, possess one gift. Speed. I was fast. From my second year at school until I left in the 6th form I was unbeaten over the 100 yard sprint. On occasion I also won the 200 yards relay and long jump; but not every year. My athletic prowess allowed me to play football for the school as well as cricket. As I also had 3 years as a prefect, being a reasonably popular person at the school.

My story really starts when I was 15. That’s when I went out with my first girlfriend. We dated for about a year but, as it is with most youngsters, I saw someone else I liked. Having disengaged myself from my first girlfriend I then pursued this other young lady only to be turned down flat. So I wasn’t that popular after all. Nothing happened on the dating front until one day that next summer.

As a prefect there were certain duties to be undertaken. One of these was to supervise one of the entrances to our new science block. While standing at the glass doors looking out, it happened. I fell in love! How do I know I was in love? How many girls had I been out with? What experiences could I describe to confirm what I felt? Not many. But, and this is true no matter what your age or situation in life, when it happens, it happens.

A girl walked across the playground. I was 16 and I had fallen in love. She was and is the only true love I have ever had in my entire life. I waited almost a year before I was able to tell her how I felt. Most of the time I just felt sick inside whenever she was near. I was so scared of telling her how I felt because I was afraid she would reject me. I longed to be near her; I yearned with my whole heart and soul to be hers. Have you ever been in love like that? Just to be near someone. To look at them. To want to say what was in your heart. It wasn’t lust; it wasn’t infatuation; it was just plain old-fashioned love.

I loved her so much that I couldn’t talk to her. I was too embarrassed. It was almost a year before I picked up the courage to ask her out. I was so nervous I felt ill. What would she say? Thank goodness, she uttered that marvellous word, “Yes.” We dated and I knew I was really in love. At 17 I had met the woman of my dreams. The woman who I hoped would be my wife. The woman I hoped to be with for the rest of my life.

I remember walking home one winter evening. As I passed some terraced houses I looked and saw the lights on and imagined the scenes in there. The husband coming home to his wife and family and I couldn’t wait for that to be me. Inside would be warmth, comfort and love. Just what every one needs. Just what I wanted.

She was beautiful. I loved her with all my heart. I remember on one occasion we were both ushers at an evening performance of a school play. I was about to walk up the aisle to show someone their seat when she came down the aisle and stood opposite me. We stopped to look at each other and our eyes locked. “Don’t do that” she said. I couldn’t help it. My heart was so full of love for her.

The words of a song capture the spirit of that moment. “Your eyes kissed mine, I saw the love in them shine. You brought me heaven right then when your eyes kissed mine.”

We went out for over a year and then she was gone. She left me. It was the most devastating thing that has ever happened in my life. When she left I cried. I cried and I cried and I cried. She left me and I died inside. There was no reason to carry on living. There was no point to anything. I had loved someone with my whole heart and she had gone.

“And now she is gone, like a dream that fades with the dawn. But the words stay locked in my heartstrings my love loves me...” “Would have been the shadow of your dog if it might have kept me by your side, if you go away. If you go away. If you go away…” How many songs captured my heartfelt loss! It was many, many years before I could sweep any of the hurt under the carpet. You know the one. The carpet that has all our little secrets hidden under it.

She left me and when she went my heart was shattered. It was no cupid’s arrow that had struck me but a full size harpoon. There was nothing left. My heart was in tiny fragments, scattered to the four winds.

Life took on a new meaning then. How I survived I do not know. I still continued on at school to take my exams, still ran and played soccer and so on.. But oh! What a struggle to hide my feelings each and every day. And then try not to sob too loudly at night for fear of being heard. I was ashamed to tell anyone what had happened. I was too embarrassed. Not that anyone could have done anything for me.

But get through it I did, somehow. I took my A level exams. And failed the whole lot. What a waste of time. I left school and immediately applied to work at National and Grindlay’s Bank in the city of London.. I worked there for about 5 years, beginning as a shipping clerk and being transferred to the computer department after about 2 years, first as a computer operator and then as a computer programmer.

It was there that I met a girl who liked me and we started dating. We went out for a while and even talked about getting married. The only trouble was that she smoked. It was a great bone of contention between us. I was a footballer for the bank, and also an athlete in the summer. As a sportsman, smoking was anathema to me.

There was also another reason I hated smoking. Once, while in the school choir, we went to the Marie Curie Hospital at Highgate. Having sung for the children and patients we were asked to go downstairs to sing to some other people. This was the cancer ward. It was in a basement with no windows. All the patients were lying down and none of them moved much, even when we sang. Some of them looked blue and others looked yellow, but they were all dying. Mostly due to smoking. It had a very sobering effect on me and I have never smoked anything in my life nor have I ever taken any sort of drug. Call it fear or self preservation if you want, but when I go I don’t want to look at myself and say “Fool”.

Needless to say we argued over her habit and as she refused to stop smoking I left her. Not very gallant maybe and perhaps I didn’t really love her (how could I after what happened?) but still, you have to make a stand now and again in life if you are to have principles.

After leaving the bank I worked for an electrical wholesalers in their computer department. I still continued to play football but this time it was for the Old Boys’ school team. I played for three seasons before the whole thing fell through. There was not enough support or commitment. Then I was dismissed from my job, mainly due to my other great passion in life. In fact it became my great passion because it filled the great gap in my life after my first love had gone and helped me, at times, to forget.

This was horse racing. I used to save up and take myself to the courses near London. Sandown was my favourite course. I went as often as I could afford it. Needless to say I had a bet nearly every day. Although trying to make money backing horses was fun it never became addictive. The whole thing was about trying to pick the winner for its own sake. Even if I didn’t feel it was right to gamble, at certain times I would still try to pick the winners. It was a great game.

The next chapter of my life began when I started working in a casino. After the dismissal from my last job I had been out of work all summer and I needed to pay the rent. As I scanned the papers I saw an advert for people to train as croupiers. To my mind playing games with someone else’s money was as close to heaven as I could get. (Or so I thought.) I spent several evenings training in a London casino and after some weeks I was granted a license.

So, in October 1972 I began what was for a long time the most enjoyable employment of my life. I began, as everybody else does, as a dealer. I learned to deal blackjack, roulette, punto-banco and dice.

In 1975 I applied to work in a casino in Iran. It was before the Shah was deposed by the clerics, otherwise I wouldn’t be telling you this story. I worked there for 3 ½ years until 1978. Before I left England for that job I had been seeing an Italian girl. She was in England to learn English and, poor girl, was introduced to me.

We dated and I even went to Italy to visit her and her family. While on one of the breaks from Iran we got married at the small church in her home village. She returned to Iran with me and worked in the casino as a waitress.

In 1978 we returned to England. I started to work again in the casino industry and she got a job as a waitress in another casino.

As I am telling the story as truthfully as I can I will not spare myself the next part. Our marriage did not work out. It was all due to my complete selfishness. I wasn’t getting what I thought I should be out of the marriage. I wanted to do my own thing and wanted her to just fall in line with everything. I wanted her to work so that we could do all that I wanted to do.

She really wanted to be a mother and housewife and I wasn’t ready for that. I behaved in a completely chauvinistic manner and just dumped her. I was totally selfish.

While working in one casino I met someone who became my close and dear friend. He approached me while I was on the dice table and asked me if I wanted to buy a racehorse. Whoa! Me, buy a racehorse? Fantastic! Our first venture into ownership was not very successful. The horse died before it saw a racecourse. Not to be daunted, however, we ventured to buy shares in another horse. We carried on owning horses over a period of about 10 years and had some marvellous times. The horses we owned always gave us a lot of fun as did the visits to our trainer’s yard down in Wiltshire. I also ventured into thoroughbred breeding in a very small way (it’s very expensive) and managed to breed a winner.

After I had split up from my wife I went to work for another casino. It was there that I met a girl who was also interested in horses and actually owned some herself. Naturally we got to talking and with one thing leading to another we were soon living together at her parents’ home.

It was with her that I had children. Sons to be exact. I had had a yearning for a son and I asked her if she would have mine. Having produced two sons we then got married. Although I was still working in London we moved to Shropshire. We planned to go into thoroughbred breeding and see if we could make a go of it. I had by this time stopped owning any racehorses as it was too expensive. As it takes a few years to know how things are going and what progeny is being produced I continued to commute, on a weekly basis, to London. Fortunately I was able to stay at my parents’ house during my shift work and return to Shropshire on my days off. I had taken a mortgage on the property we owned and with all the costs involved in raising children, paying bills and trying to run a business, money became a scarce commodity. We sold the house we were in and moved to a smaller property a few miles away. All this time I was commuting to and from London. It was over this latter period that my wife and I started to become estranged. There was no intimacy in the marriage and only constant arguments about money, or the lack of it.

A couple of years earlier we had bought a two week “time-share” in Portugal. In 1987 I went there with my sons and my in-laws for a holiday. On our return my wife informed me that she was leaving me and taking the children with her. I told her that she could leave and take all the horses with her but the boys stayed with me.

Although I know it hurt her she left.

Over the next two years I continued to work in London and had to carry on commuting. However, I was getting more and more disillusioned with the way that the casinos were becoming cynical in their handling of customers. I also felt bad about having my sons looked after by their grandparents. I decided to look for another job nearer home so that I could raise them.

I started to work for an insurance company. After about a year it was obvious to everyone but myself that this was not my forte. It was a disaster. I remortgaged the property we lived in to raise enough money to keep everything going.

I was getting toward a nervous breakdown and was near my limit of endurance when unexpectedly the next chapter in my life opened.

I met someone and was invited to a concert. Not just any concert but a Christian concert. It was to be held in town on Good Friday. As I had nothing better to do I decided to go. I arrived after it had already started and had to sit at the front as there weren’t any other seats available. The music was good although I wasn’t too sure of most of the lyrics. ( I had never been to church and there were lots of “Lord” and “Jesus” and so on.) At the end of the show I stood up to go and looked around me. I saw one girl weeping on her mother’s shoulder. Some had their hands raised shouting “Hallelujah” and other stuff. Some were in a huddle; praying I suppose. Exit stage left; quickly! These people were just plain barmy!

As it was Easter I didn’t go back to work until the Tuesday. On this occasion I decided to go to the local park to eat my lunch. I sat on a bench and was munching away when I heard a voice say “Go and ask some questions.” I looked around me expecting to see one of my fellow co-workers approaching but there was absolutely no-one there. I had to think about this. A voice from nowhere speaking to me. Very spooky.

However, I decided to obey the voice and go and ask some questions. The only way I can explain it is that at the time I was down. On my luck, in my emotions, financially; every which way. There couldn’t be any harm in it, could there?

I made arrangements to visit with the minister of the church who had held the concert. I first went to my friend’s address who was to introduce us. We left the house and opposite was an ancient church. Looking at it filled me with deep misgivings. I knew in my heart that the answer was not in one of those places. We walked around the corner and I thought we were going into the vestry.

However, we didn’t; we crossed the road to a house and my friend knocked on the door. A man in jeans and cowboy boots met us. I was introduced to the minister and invited in. My friend left and I was ushered inside. We talked about this and that and at the end he prayed. It didn’t mean anything to me but he did invite me to attend the Sunday meetings.

What possessed me to go to a meeting I don’t know. Perhaps I was looking for answers to life -  and to my life in particular. I remember once, at school, thinking about God. If He was real wouldn’t He be there 24/7 and not just for a few hours on a Sunday? Also, when I was 12, one of the boys in my year had died. I always wondered what happened to him. So perhaps I was wanting answers to these things as well.

I attended about 3 meetings before it happened. Each meeting was lively and the preacher was good but nothing was happening to me inside or out. Then on the next visit to the church my life changed.

At the end of the meeting the minister asked if anyone wanted to be ‘filled with the Holy Spirit.’ People got out of their seats and stood in a line to be prayed for. As I was nervous about being in the meetings I always sat at the back. So, when everyone stood in line, I was at the back. The first person was prayed for and immediately fell over. Then the next, and the next, and the next. There were bodies flying everywhere. The minister seemed to be speaking gibberish and I was getting closer to having my “go”. “I know what this is,” I said to myself,. “I’ve seen it on T.V. where people get into a mental frenzy and fall over.”

But I was still in line. All I can put that down to is that I am nothing if not English, and we English do like to stand in line for our turn. So it happened that I was last to be “prayed for”. The minister put his hand on my head and started gibbering again. “As soon as this is over,” I thought, “I am getting out of here and not coming back. These people are crazy!” I was looking straight at this guy, who had his eyes closed. I was thinking my thoughts, when he opened his eyes, looked at me and said “Don’t look at me, look at Jesus.” With this he closed his eyes and carried on praying. I looked at the bodies still on the floor and thought “Jesus. Now where would He be?” I remembered the teaching we had at school where hell was down there and Heaven was up there. I closed my eyes and in my mind’s eye looked upwards.

Then it happened. There just to my left was the unmistakeable image of Jesus. As soon as I recognised Him, whoosh, I felt as though something had entered my body. My knees buckled but I didn’t fall over. Probably because I was so resistant to what was happening. The praying stopped. The people got to their feet. The meeting ended. I sat down. “What was that?” I didn’t know quite what to think.

I went home. Over the next couple of days I had to put into perspective what had happened to me. To decide what it was that had been shown me. One evening I was in bed thinking over these things. I closed my eyes and tried to decide what, if anything, was real about that morning. As I sat there I had what can only be described as a vision.

In front of my face appeared what seemed to be a plate of beef on the bone. There were about three white ribs and meat between each one. As I looked at it, it began to move away from me. As it moved I could see that it was, in fact, the side of a body. As it moved further I could see that it was the side of Jesus as He hung on the cross. The vision moved away and I could see His dead body with His head to one side.

As I looked I realised that this is what Jesus did for me. He died to save me. It was an incredible moment that made my heart very heavy and made me feel very, very humble. Jesus, the Son of God, died for me. Unbelievably, as I looked on at this spectacle an amazing and heart-rending thing happened. As I looked at His broken body He slowly lifted His head and turned to look at me. His gaze held my eyes and I saw in them the same love that I had seen all those years ago. The look of love. Pure love. “Your eyes kissed mine. I saw the love in them shine. You brought me Heaven right then when your eyes kissed mine.” The words of that song hit me with a renewed force. My God, who died for me, did it because of love. For me!

Who was I to receive this precious gift? Didn’t you need to be a saint or regular churchgoer to receive this blessing? I was just a normal guy, not particularly bad or good. I had done some bad stuff in my time but I wasn’t that bad. I wasn’t that good either.

All I can say is that I was privileged to receive something that I never deserved. Something I didn’t even know existed. But God came down and changed my life, for the better, for Him; because He wanted to.

I can’t say that everyone whom I know as a Christian has had the same experience as me but one thing is certain. We all became “born again” when we met Him and were changed for the better and forever.

I have walked with the Lord for a good number of years now and many things have happened in my life to more than confirm to me that God is real and that He is with me. I am in a relationship with Him through His Son, Jesus Christ. I have discovered that God is here 24/7 and that He loves us all equally;  and that He wants all of us to know Him in a personal and intimate way. I also know that there is a place for me in Heaven when I shrug off this mortal coil and I can’t wait to get there. I will be with my Lord and my God, forever!