An accidental life-form that popped into existence in Grimsby one late afternoon during nineteen-sixty. Mother screamed, the midwives in attendance set up a chorus of wailing that later inspired Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”, the family doctor defended himself with a chair and edged forward to make his best guess. The early years of my life were spent with a dummy up my ar*se and a nappy on my head. It was an easy mistake.
Confusion must have reigned, because Mother somehow left the maternity hospital without me and the family moved to Hong Kong. I was duly packed into a stout, straw-lined crate, labelled “Any way up. Not fragile. Loading hooks permissible.” and forwarded by surface mail. I conclude from this that I was a much-loved baby (even surface mail from Grimsby to Hong Kong is not cheap, someone put money into my travels). Life in Hong Kong coincided with the colony’s worst ever cholera epidemic, most violent typhoon (Typhoon Wanda) and worst drought to date (three hours of mains water every fourth day, I believe). So began my career as a jinx.
Spent the latter part of the nineteen-sixties on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides (top left-hand corner of Scotland). Forgot how to speak Cantonese, learned how to read and write in English, almost had to sing in Gaelic.
Moved again, lived then in a family friend’s public zoo in Norfolk (England) for the best part of a year while parents were “between houses”, waiting for one to be built. Since also lost temporarily in the gap between Scottish Education department and English Education department took the opportunity to bunk off any and all school for the entire season, spending my days instead among the gibbons, howler monkeys, bears, penguins and wolves. Splendid times.
Studied a spot of maths, phsyics and operational research systems analysis with yonder “The Open University” (in the days before they became just another fee-sucking organisation). Staggered into Her Majesty’s Civil Service where I was neither popular nor successful, being neither civil nor entirely committed to the notion of “service”. Expelled hence and then took to bothering a few corporations instead. Enjoyed the tail-end of the mainframe computer days when the work was fun and we still used huge open-reel tapes for some things, loathed the latter days of the industry under the deep, cold, damp shadow of inventions such as “Human Resources” and teeny-weeny tiny-whiny gangs of “managers” with titchy-witchy brains and even smaller gonads.
Became entirely fed up to the teeth, sick to the ti*ts of the whole business and contrived to go very gently utterly bankrupt in the decade known as the two-thousand noughties. Simple County Court process, car and valuables driven away by auctioneer chaps (who very kindly quite literally wore those brown “warehouse” coats for authenticity). Promptly discovered that for an (at the time) single white male there is no safety net whatsoever, fell headlong past each and every criterion for any and all assistance. Spent some several years at the kind indulgence of relatives, living in a hedgrow at the bottom of their garden.
By dint of passing years and a change in pensions legislation suddenly discovered myself eligible to draw reduced private pensions “early”, thought about it for almost half a second. Paid more in taxes on the pensions than H.M. Government had grudgingly given me in preceding years to prevent actual starvation – so thanks for nothing, literally.
Bought a magnificent 57′ narrowboat and now spend my days speeding up and down England’s canal system at an average of 2.75mph, writing fiction – and soon, writing boaty fact – and also dodging the “canal rozzers”. The canals have not been exempted from the attentions of the metropolitan poncing classes.
Currently working on a spot of (somewhat cynical) speculative fiction, a book about my first two years of living afloat in a 6′ 10″ wide, 57′ long boat, and a book or two far, far off my usual beaten track.