More about Extraordinary Writer

1A_RLHead_1000410When I finished my apprenticeship, having spent five years in the central research laboratories of what was at that time one of the UK’s largest engineering companies as a Student Apprentice, Applied Physics, I realised that interesting as it had been I did not want to go into a laboratory every day.

I was determined to write.

Banging on every door in Fleet Street I was told that I would have to get some experience before I could be offered a job as a journalist. Then an editor of two north London local weeklies, a broadsheet and a tabloid, offered to let me work in the editorial team, unpaid but with lunch in the pub each day! I learned to type first (on an ancient Underwood) and was then sent out on every type of story, from court reporting to accidents and personal interest news, at first accompanying an experienced reporter and subsequently alone.

Full-time journalist

After three months I knocked on all the doors down Fleet Street once again and the editorial director of Benn Brothers offered me a job, the start of ten years as a full time journalist, working on weekly news journals, PullQuote1first one which covered the chemical/petrochemical industry and subsequently the two leading engineering journals of the time. I was lucky enough to work under two of the best technical/trade editors around – Mike Hide on Chemical Age and Fred Roberts on Engineering. During this time I also wrote on specialist topics for national newspapers, BBC radio and the former UK Central Office of Information.

My first business

When on Engineering I set up, with a graphic designer, my first ‘business’  – to write and design part works, to explain in an interesting way for the layman how things work, eg colour tv which had just been introduced in the UK – from a room over an Italian restaurant opposite Ronnie Scott’s in Soho’s Frith Street. Top jazz for free most days of the week in summer.

Communications consultancy

After ten years, becoming disillusioned with the way the Press was going (see Nick Davies’s Flat Earth News), I took a year off to travel in a newly-acquired Land Rover, doing some freelance writing and teaching English in Spain and north Africa. On my return to the UK I joined up with a PR man I had dealt with as a journalist and went into communications and PR consultancy, building an extensive client list – mostly overseas – over the next 11 years. Then one of my UK clients offered me the job of marketing director for a new company he was going into as MD. I set up a sales and marketing department and learned a lot about how companies and large groups (and the Ministry of Defence, a major customer) operated. One highlight was arranging an ‘opening’ with 500 guests including the Minister of Defence flown in by army helicopter. Another was a trip to Shanghai and meeting wonderful Chinese people on the street who had never seen a Westerner before (and chatting with students who spoke near perfect English despite never having met a native English speaker).

However, corporate life didn’t suit me and after two years I returned to freelancing.

Managing editor and teacher

Six years later I went to Romania for six months as a volunteer on a humanitarian project. That extended into eleven and a half years, during which time I managed several projects, taught English from primary school to university levels (and learned Romanian), installed donated ‘obsolete’ computers in schools all over Romania and taught teachers and pupils to use them, usually by doing email-based projects with schools in other countries, and did some freelance writing. I often lived in school hostels but from time to time a Western charity paid rent for a flat. My one paid – very little – employment during this time was two years as managing editor of a street paper, similar to The Big Issue in the UK, employing both Romanian journalists and social workers. I also wrote for the paper in Romanian and English.

Writing SEO content, blogging and creating/editing newsletters

Since returning to the UK in 2004 I have done a little freelance writing but mostly worked for not-for-profit organisations in a communications role. During this time I have gained over 8 years experience of creating websites, writing website (SEO) content, writing blog posts and maintaining websites with different Content Management Systems. However, I have used a computer daily for work since 1984 (first Apple then Windows PCs). I’ve personally used Macs exclusively since 2008 but usually used Windows PCs at my employer (sometimes on my Mac via remote desktop).

I retired as an ’employee’ in October 2014 but continue to freelance, especially writing.


Out of work interests

Photography

Photography has been a hobby since making prints on ‘gaslight paper’ with my grandmother, from about seven years old. My real interest now is photography on film, especially black and white film, using classic cameras (Olympus, Contax and Voigtlander being favourites). However, I use digital cameras for work (mainly ‘photo-journalism’ for newsletters and blogs), and sometimes use my legacy lenses on these.

Walking

I was brought up and now live in Yorkshire. Need I say more?

Cooking

The Belgian father of a fellow teenage apprentice introduced me to ‘fine food’; cooking it later became a hobby. Classic French and Italian are my favourites when in the kitchen. I leave the Romanian cooking (great food!) to my Romanian wife. I’m not a great baker but make most of our bread and like to decorate cakes from time to time.

Blogging

I blog as a hobby too, creating and maintaining an ‘alternative’ website for the village in which I live, another blog giving one tyke’s view on almost anything, and one about photography on classic cameras and film or legacy lenses on digital cameras.

Chamber and orchestral music, opera, Michael Jackson and professionalism

‘Classical’ music was always on the steam radio or wind-up gramophone at my grandmother’s unless I was torturing the piano in the ‘front room’. I was taken to my first opera at seven, Carmen performed by the Carl Rosa company, and was completely hooked. Not long after that I was introduced to Wagner, first the Flying Dutchman and then The Ring. However, top of my listening list are the Beethoven string quartets followed by almost anything he wrote. Bach and Schubert push their way in together with the English composers, Delius, Elgar and Vaughan Williams, and now John Rutter.

I’d like to get back into choral singing. I did sing for a while with the Harrogate Choral Society, the greatest experience being singing Britten’s War Requiem in Ripon cathedral.

Admiring professionalism in anything, I really enjoy watching Michael Jackson and was lucky enough to see him once live! But for sheer beauty the dancing of Margot Fonteyn, which I was fortunate to see several times, has never been surpassed. Other superbly professional crafters I enjoy watching today are Charlotte (Lottie) Leeming and Tanya Arnold (and I’m not a sports fan) on BBC Look North.

Classic cars

TeslaI run a 1972 VW Bay camper, and a 1975 classic mini, as transport not collectors’ pieces. The only modern cars which might tempt me would be an Aston Martin, a Morgan or maybe an electric Tesla Model S.

CV?

A more formal ‘CV’ can be seen by looking me up on LinkedIn.

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