About Me.....

The HOME page sums up what I'm trying to do here on this website.  What follows is a list of personal stuff that formed the first post on my Around the World in 80 Expense Claims blog, from way back in September 2010.  It says more about me - as a person, what I like, dislike, my values, stuff like that - rather than what my aims are as a writer.  I've edited it to bring it up-to-date in terms of ages and stuff, but the bulk of it remains unchanged.

Yes - it's about me.

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I'm 64 now, but I don't feel it.

I share a birthday with Elton John

My dad was a gardener at Chiddingstone Castle in Kent before World War 2 and planted a load of water lilies in the lake that are still there to this day.  They are HUGE now.

He met my mum when she was "in service" there.  They got married and he promptly went off to fight the War in North Africa and Burma for 5 years.  He must have had two leaves though, because I have two sisters.

I was a late arrival.  My mum was 38 and my dad 37 - considered old to be having kids in the early 50s.  My sisters were both teenagers.  My mum was not impressed when she found out she was expecting me, and threatened some pretty drastic DIY surgery.  My mum and dad were great.

When I was 16 I cut off three fingertips in a 5 ton power press in a factory (day 4 of a summer holiday job).  They sowed them back on again in an early attempt at microsurgery and I was back playing in goal for my school team in 12 weeks.  Ouch.

I was christened Church of England, spent my teens considering joining the Baptists but ended up spending all my married life (both times) with lovely Roman Catholic ladies.  My kids are all Catholic, and my three eldest sons were altar boys.  Bloody good ones too.

I wrote a book once.  Semi-autobiographical, about sex and booze and football.  It's a cracking read but I never published.  That will change, though - see the page here on "The Match" for more details.

I supported Crystal Palace when I was a kid and still follow their results closely.  Also Gillingham (another Kent club, in the Football League and fairly close to where I lived in my childhood) and of course England.  But my loyalty now is to Ebbsfleet United, who play in the Vanarama National Leaugue South - the sixth tier of English football.  I even part owned it once, back in the bad old MyFC days - I will write something about that at some point soon.

I used to be a quite tasty goalkeeper when I was younger, but I never really took it seriously.  It was just fun.

I used to play cricket too.

For 13 years I worked for a computer software house and travelled the world.  It's the best job I ever had.  Now - in fact for the past three years - I run my own Company doing precisely the same thing but earning more.  It's great.

In that time I've probably averaged 3 flights a week and racked up getting on for a million miles flying time.  I shudder to think what my carbon footprint must be like.....  One day I really must dig out all the old diaries and figure out the exact mileage - one for my retirement.

Best place visited:  I love Amsterdam.  And Barcelona was great.  And Paris.  Oh, and Rome.  Athens.....  Damn it, I can't decide.

Worst?  Almaty in Kazakhstan was a dangerous shithole.  Not too impressed by Mexico City either.

The 2 best inventions ever are the condom and the iPod.

I've been living in Warsaw, Poland, since 2000.  Went there to do a two week piece of work and been there ever since.  One day I really must learn the language.

Poland is a great place. not at all how I and most people imagined it.  It has changed tremendously in the years I've been there, and mostly for the better.

I love music.  My mobile phone carries a Library of well over a hundred albums (I guess nearly 2000 songs) so far - everything from Beethoven to Springsteen, via The Doors, Van Morrison, Frank Sinatra and Leonard Bernstein.  It's cool and keeps me going on flights and trains with no entertainment system.

Give me a good book and my music and I'm happy, wherever I'm going, no matter the delay.

The only things I miss about England (apart from my family) are Match of the Day  on a Saturday evening and Question Time.

The best car I've ever driven was a 1989 Mazda RX-7 sports car.  It looked the bollocks and went like the clappers.  I also had a corporate entertainment day at Silverstone race track once, driving a variety of cars.  So cool.  Now I run a ten year old Toyota Avensis called Baska and three year old Volvo XC60 called Stig.  I love 'em both.  And a variety of hire cars when I'm back in England.

My worst car was probably an old Peugeot 107 that I bought for a hundred quid and drove into the ground.  Awful French rubbish.

Billy Connolly is possibly the funniest man on Earth, but not as good as he once was - but then he's getting on a bit.  Fine actor too.

Favourite book: Lord of the Rings.  Favourite film: can't make up my mind between Star Wars (the first one), True Grit (John Wayne original), Back to the Future (again the first one) or Top Gun.  So it's probably Dumbo.

I nearly drowned three times when I was a kid.  When I was about 2 I fell into a water tank on my dad's allotment, at about 6 my sister's then boyfriend decided to teach me to swim by carrying me out into the freezing cold English Channel at Pevensey and leaving me there, and at 10 in the school swimming pool I just sank.

This left me with a lifelong terror of getting out of my depth.  I only learned to swim at 25, in the Mediterranean at Palma Nova, Majorca.  I'm still a poor swimmer and the fear is still there - I don't believe it will ever get any better

In Malta about 12 years ago, I tried scuba diving but it completely freaked me out.  My wife Ania got her PADI Deep Water licence though.  I just watched and admired.

But I still love the sea - it fascinates and scares me in equal measure.  One day I will buy a place in the sun, by the sea, and read and write in peace and tranquility.

My favourite holiday destination is probably Crete - we went there 10 years ago and fell in love with the place.  Elafonisi remains the best beach I've ever been to, anywhere.  And the sea was warm and shallow.  Cabo de Gata near Almeria in the south of Spain is wonderful too.

Every city in the world seems to have at least one Irish pub.  Whenever I go somewhere new for work, I look for one.  That way I'm guaranteed decent food and beer all week and almost certainly English football on the telly.  Even Almaty had three - they kept me sane during nearly 8 difficult months there.  A free traveller's tip for you!

Global warming is a reality.  My first winter in Warsaw, we had a metre or more of snow from the middle of October through to the end of March, and temperatures often hit -20C (with a wind-chill on top of that).  But for the last seven or eight years we've not even had a white Christmas in Warsaw.  Al Gore (whatever happened to him?) was right.

I have three grown up sons  in England who I am immensely proud of.   I am now coming to terms with being a grandad, with twin infant grandaughters and one grandson, born a couple of weeks apart last month.  Great stuff!

In Poland I have an 11 year old son, Kuba, who is just gorgeous and clever and keeps me young.  My English family were kind of surprised when Ania and I had him.  I was 52 at the time.

We then had another baby - and my first daughter, Ala.  She is the most beautiful little angel in the world and I am terrified what she will be like when she is a teenager.  My kids were even more surprised.  So was I .......a daughter after 4 sons!  Magnificent.

Kuba and Ala will be bi-lingual - a huge advantage in 21st century Europe.  They're learning German at school too - it puts me to shame.

When it comes to languages, the English are lazy bastards.  We never bother to learn another language properly, unless we're paid to, because the rest of the world (particularly the business world) speaks English.  It's post colonial bullshit.

The first time I read Lord of the Rings was in the back of a Ford station wagon on a drive from Ottawa to Niagara Falls and back when I was 19.  I didn't finish it, but it captured my imagination completely.  Two years later I bought it on another trip to Ottawa, and I've now read it perhaps 15 times.  The original Canadian version (in three separate volumes) fell to bits so I bought a new one volume edition.  Sam Gamgee rocks.

Thomas the Tank Engine is pretty cool too.  A childhood favourite of mine, my boy John was a huge fan when he was a kid, as was Kuba.  I bought loads of VHS tapes, DVDs and story books, and they were played and read constantly.

The first girl's toy I ever bought was a little rag-doll at Athens airport in 2008, a couple of weeks after we found out Ania was expecting a girl.  She still sleeps with it.

The worst traffic I have ever experienced was in Beirut.  There was no public transport to speak of so everyone drove - badly.  There were few white lines, the traffic lights only ever showed flashing amber (although there were red and green lights that never worked) and apparently no road rules.  It was total madness.

On a holiday in Egypt, we travelled in taxis (well, mini buses really) that drove at high speed in pitch darkness without lights, the drivers safe in the belief that Allah would not let them come to harm.  Fuckin' idiots.

One day I will fulfil a lifelong ambition and go to Australia.  I want to see Ayers Rock at sunset and a Test match at the MCG.  There are more animals and insects that can kill you in Australia than anywhere else in the world (according to Bill Bryson's excellent book Down Under, anyway).

I once spent two months working in the Vatican.  The project room was right next door to the Pope's office but I never saw John Paul II......my biggest regret.  He was a wonderful man.

Our desks were 18th century antiques, there were Italian masterpieces hanging from the walls, and the domed ceiling was decorated by Michalangelo.  The most extraordinary office I have ever worked in.

I'm not sure whether to be buried  or cremated....probably cremated and my ashes scattered somewhere nice.  But I don't want anyone spending a fortune on it - just an old wooden box will do (it's only going to be burnt anyway).  And just wrap me in a sheet or something - why bother with the best suit and all that?  We come into the world naked, so what is the problem with leaving it the same way?   And I'm really really sorry if this point offends or upsets anyone.

Best concert I ever went to:  could be Springsteen at Earls Court or Billy Joel at Wembley Arena.  Or Eric Clapton on the beach at Gdynia.  Or The Who at Charlton Athletic way back in the early 70s.  Mind you, the Beach Boys, the Eagles and Elton John at the old Wembley stadium was pretty special.  And U2 at Chorzow stadion (2009) on The Edge's birthday - 50,000 Poles singing Happy Birthday and their own Sto Lat greeting was extraordinary.

The worst was Barclay James Harvest somewhere in London.  We had front row seats (it was all very civilized!) and I fell asleep.  I was neither drunk nor stoned......just bored.

Woody Allen once said: "Life's a bitch and then you die."  Very wise man, Woody Allen.  But overrated.

All in all, despite its ups and downs, I've had a good life so far.  And it's still good and actually getting better, thanks be to God.

Happy days!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Tel Aviv, September 2016