So, when I was 19 I broke my mother's heart and contributed to my father's early death by leaving the comfort of Brummie suburbia and heading to Israel.
"But sweetheart, you're not Jewish" said my mother.
"They let anyone in these days, you know" said I
"But you'll get killed" said my father.
"How many people do you know who have got killed in Israel?" said I, dumbly, stupidly, foolishly.
Before going, I'd been to see the kibbutz office in London who'd told me that all of the kibbutzim were full and that I should not go to Israel expecting to find a place on one. Given that I landed at Ben Gurion with only £100 and no return flight, it was pretty essential that I found a place on a kibbutz (or a moshav, I wasn't choosy) as soon as I could.
The first few days in Tel Aviv are a blur. I remember the White House hostel, dance parties on the beach, smoking joints with soldiers, drinking cheap vodka and rarely getting back to my own bed. The kibbutz office in Tel Aviv, meanwhile, had told me to come back in a month's time. I told them they were taking away my dream and I'd have to go back to the UK. The lady at the office had phoned around and finally left me a message at the Hostel to get in touch with her. There was a place at a Kibbutz on the Jordanian border, at the top of the west bank, near the 'town' of Beit She'an - if I wanted it, it was mine.
I got on the bus, and headed north.
I worked on Kibbutz for a couple of months - dragging irrigation pipes from one end of a field to the other, picking dates, picking mangoes. Before they'd let me do the outside work though, I had to do two weeks in the plastic's factory that was on-site. It was dreary work, I spent my days cutting circles out of cardboard sheets. But the fumes from the plastics helped to numb the boredom somewhat...
I'd never had to do manual labour before, having lived a princely life at my parents house, and the work in the fields was back-breaking. It didn't help that it was usually done with a chronic hangover. Work always started at five am, to beat the heat of the day. It was over by lunchtime and I'd get to sit in the sun, drinking the cheapest vodka with my swedish room-mate.
When we worked in the fields, we always had to have a kibbutznik with us - because they were the only ones allowed guns. We couldn't go out to the fields without armed protection, as the fields were bounded on at least one side by the Jordanian border and the big fence and dirt track. Soldiers in Israeli watchtowers watched our every move, and boy did those soldiers laugh when, while driving the tractor, I accidentally ran over the kibbutznik assigned to us one day. They soon took me off tractor duty.
One day, I was in Jerusalem for some R&R and I - quite literally - bumped into someone I knew from back home. I didn't really know him, but we knew each other's faces from the Birmingham nightclub scene. He was working in a hotel in Jerusalem - a real cheap dive. I stayed with him for a couple of days and we hang out at clubs with guys home on leave from the army, still with their Uzi's around their shoulders. We drank and got stoned together, we rolled our way back home up Ben Yehuda street at four am feeling very exotic and very out of control.
He asked me if I'd go back to the kibbutz and get my stuff, come back to Jerusalem and stay with him. He'd find me a job while I was away.
I agreed and headed off. How my life was to change.