Monday, February 27, 2006

About me...

I was born into a middle-class family and lived with my grandparents as my father died tragically before I was born.
My mother was a Theatre Sister at the time working at Guy’s Hospital in London. I incurred an intestinal blockage shortly after I was born and spent my first few weeks in an oxygen tent!
When I was only eighteen months old, I was rushed into hospital with a perforated appendix. Peritonitis set in and I was very lucky to survive at such an early age. It was peritonitis, incidentally, that killed my father.
My mother took me north to her parents who, with the assistance of a couple of nannies, raised me from childhood. She later went to the Admiralty as war broke out and was stationed in Shotley near Felixstowe. I remember that travel was severely restricted during the war but as my mother was serving with the Royal Navy in a senior capacity, I was allowed to visit at school holiday times. It was there that I started my love of boats and boating and I was taught to sail in a 14ft dinghy at the age of ten.
My mother always came home whenever she could and never once missed a Christmas with us. I was very lucky having a caring family around me. More of my mother later.
I attended the local school until I was eleven years old and then won a scholarship to a leading grammar school in the city and I stayed there until I left for university.
School days were both good and bad. I was pretty good at most subjects but was inclined to be rather lazy. End of term reports usually contained remarks like “Could do better” or “Intelligent but idle!” However, I managed to stay out of trouble most of the time apart from the odd beating for poor results in Maths and Physics! I was never any good at football but I managed to get into the First Eleven cricket team in my House at grammar school.
I was fortunate enough to have a flair for languages and at the age of 15, my French master arranged for me to spend a month in southern France during the summer holidays. He knew I would benefit from this experience and while other boys were being sent to popular places, I was stuck in the middle of the Camargue where nobody spoke a single word of English. My French master told me “No flesh-pots in Paris for you, lad. You’re going to learn French the hard way!” He was right, I did! With nobody to speak English, I had to make myself understood and I quickly learnt more French in that month than I had done in the previous year! The following year, I went back again and it stood me in good stead as I sailed through my A levels with a top-grade result! Later, I was in the army, so I didn’t see a lot of my family from the age of around seventeen until I was demobbed.
I remember being the first among my friends to own a motor-bike and at 20, while in the army, I had my first car; it was an old Morgan three-wheeler. At 22, I bought the pride and joy of my life, a 1938 Alvis 3.5 litre coach-built car. If I had kept it until now, it would have fetched a fortune!

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