I was born in Stanmore, Middlesex in September 1947.
Yes, it's going to be one of those résumés, I hope
you're sitting comfortably. My parents were keen to get out of post-war
London so they left the basement flat in Willesden and moved out
to live in an ex-army camp at Dorchester near Oxford. We lived in
a Nissen hut and I began gathering memories of my achievements -
setting fire quite deliberately to an Indian headdress of mine for
no reason, pouring salt down my throat in the canteen at school
for a dare and getting sent home because of it. The family graduated
to a caravan and finally to a house in Garsington. We had moved
up in the world and in terms of acreage made the quantum leap with
the house. The total width of the garden was only forty feet or
so but there was half a mile of it! The final section before a (usually)
ploughed field was called "the jungle" and it was my job
to take the machete to it sometime during summer and make it passable.
Why I'll never know since no-one, not even me, wanted to examine
the field and if they did it could be seen far more easily from
the road that lay at the far side.
It was in Garsington that I first got interested in
music and my first faltering attempts at playing the piano. The
first record I ever bought was Humphrey Lyttleton's "Bad Penny
Blues". Even though my father staunchly believed then as now
that music as a creative popular medium ended with the breakup of
The Squadronaires in 1942 he grudgingly bought home some Bill Haley
(bearable) and some Goons (bizzare).
The mortgage couldn't be kept up on the house since
my father didn't earn that much money as a lorry driver and we moved
to cheaper quarters just about the time I changed school. We moved
to Twyford which people swear to me is in Berkshire or New Zealand
or just outside Pittsburgh PA, but every time I go through Winslow
to a village seven miles either way from Bicester and Buckingham
that's where my parents still live.
And so it was, gentle reader, that I entered the Royal
Latin School at Buckingham. Boy, did I waste my time there! Still,
it gave me a good grounding in time-wasting which has stood me in
good stead ever since as far as having a wonderful capacity for
idleness, for prevarication is concerned. It may have even been
the case that while there I learnt the art of pompous verbosity,
though this has never been proven. Of my scholastic achievements
I shall say nothing, which is what they were. I dyed my hair at
one stage, I always came last in the cross-country and loathed rugby
and cricket as well as French, Maths, Geography, Art, Woodwork
Music seemed to consist of remembering how many children J.S. Bach
had (answer - lots) but English was OK, thanks to the teacher we
Finally I was escorted to the gate and told to go
to training college. All too clearly, since I had failed to learn
anything at school, I would be an ideal teacher.
And so it was etc, that I went to Trent Park Training
College, now part of The North London Polytechnic, and serve them
right, too. I learnt the art of putting the world to rights whilst
holding a cup of coffee, I was the cornet player in a sort-of-jazz
band, I finally got into the business of tying together poetry and
music (and guess what? it was a song!), I dropped out.
The hippie days may have been over in Haight Ashbury
but in London they were still in full swing. I doped and dropped
and drank my way through London like there was no tomorrow. There
wasn't and with Thatcher in power there seems even less tomorrow
now but it doesn't matter any more than it did, so.
What DID I do? Quite honestly, as little as possible.
I worked in furniture stores, in warehouses full of valves, full
of cassette tapes, in hospitals as a porter, in an off-license.
I went to the Edinburgh Festival with a fringe show and did two
songs a night, I was involved in a theatre group which made more
and more of a hole in our organizer's pocket, I lived in increasingly
awful squats in Paddington, Hampstead, Clapham etcetera. I almost
became indistinguishable from the bricks in the walls I propped
myself up against while waiting for the construction site van that
never turned up, only it did one morning and we went out to Bracknell
and I hated the job so much I walked back to the station and caught
the train back to the squalor.
So finally I came to live in Milton Keynes. I stayed
with a mate who had the idea that we should be rock stars so I played
bass and he played lead and we got a drummer. It didn't last long,
but in the meantime I'd got a job of sorts with British Rail in
Wolverton and a house all of my own, with real curtains and a separate
bedroom, in Bradville M.K. I spent a year at the Rail, a year on
the dole, then wandered into the OU one day to meet a chap who needed
some bog-standard clerical assistance for a month. That was 1978
and I've been here ever since. During this time I've moved house
a few times and been married but not divorced, but really I've just
held down a job, that's all.
Yes, in the last ten years I've actually had a worthwhile,
developing job for the first time in my life. Sometimes I think
I'm just playing around, then what I'm doing gets very serious and
everybody's either in on it or been forced to get into it to keep
up. Well, the obvious example is computers, isn't it? There I was
pounding away on the Electron's keyboard at 3 in the morning trying
to sort out my Procedures and my For...Next loops and thinking "This
is great fun, pity we don't do this kind of thing at work"
when suddenly it's all Macintoshes and everyone's running round
asking "What's an icon?" and ole bright eyes here has
got the answer, sometimes.
It's difficult to know where it's all headed at the
moment. CoSy and the kind of system it represents is obviously important
to /distance/ education so maybe I'll hang around here until they
call time...it's been a nice evening, you've been a great audience,
I'd like to say thankyou on behalf of the band, and I'll try and
get a look at your resume sometime.