I was born in Winterbourne, a village outside Bristol in 1962. I went to Hambrook County Primary School and then the Ridings High School in Winterbourne. Sports were my big passion and I was amazingly fit. Judo on Tuesday, rugby practice on Wednesday, karate on Friday, cycling on Saturday (I used to cycle about 160km comfortably) then rugby match for Frampton on Sunday.
When I was 14 I spent a month in Biarritz, France on an exchange. I told the family that I would cycle back and see them again. Two years later, I did just that. Together with Steve Jones, Lawrence Pontin and David Ashworth, I cycled from Cherbourg in Normandy down to Biarritz. Incredibly we did this on heavy bikes and carrying all our equipment, tents, cooking stuff and clothes. Even more incredibly we took just seven days to get down to Biarritz and just six to get back. At the age of 18 I cycled from the Hook of Holland to Groningen and then down the Rhine to Switzerland and then up to Paris and across to Bayeux. That trip took me 5 weeks. At the age of 21 I did my longest tour to date: I took the ferry to Esbjerg in Denmark, then cycled up to Fredrikhavn and over to Laervik in Norway. I pedalled up to Oslo and then across to Sogndal and over the Jotenheimen to Trondheim. I then headed east to Ostersund and then north to Nordkapp. I cycled back through Finland and then took the ferry from Vaasa to Sundsvall and down the coast to Stockholm and then down to Copenhagen and finally across to Esbjerg. An unforgettable 8 weeks… I’ve been lucky enough to travel to some wonderful places in the world. My favourite is probably Peru, though I’ve found wonderful things in every country I’ve been to. I’ve very fortunate with the job that I have that I can travel, see some wonderful places and meet some delightful people.
The writing bug bites
I was an avid reader at school and loved writing stories. As with 99% of schoolchildren, my creativity was not encouraged and I didn’t write much until the age of 22 when, spending Christmas in Germany, I had an idea for a short story and wrote my first ‘proper’ short story: The Chair. Fuelled with enthusiasm, I wrote a second one, The Vegetarian, in early 1985 and then noticed that Roald Dahl had also written about a crooked antiques dealer and a vegetarian. I found his address in Who’s Who and wrote to him and was very happy to receive a reply. When I moved to Germany in 1987, I wanted to learn German but am not very good with grammar books so I started translating and telling jokes in German. It worked. My German is now pretty good but more importantly, it gave me an idea for a book. I wrote the English German Joke Book which was published by the second publisher I sent it to (and reprinted by dtv 20 years later). I then set off to the Frankfurt Bookfair armed with some dog-earred manuscripts and copies of my book. Wow, you need thick skin to be an author at Frankfurt. But steadily I got contracts for various versions of the joke book and The Norwegian version was actually a bestseller in Norway. I kept writing short stories and sent a collection to a publisher in Denmark. The editor wrote back saying she liked my style but was looking for readers for learners of English. I sat down and wrote Doctor Schnitzler’s Dog in 28 hours. Since then Alinea have published quite a few of my titles and they are still selling. With the advent of eBooks I saw the potential and started working on various projects, may of which can be seen in my range of eBooks now available. It is such a pleasure to be able to publish whatever you want and to get a far better share of the income. Traditional publishers have to pay printers, distributors, bookshops (and for crates of champagne to be drunk at Frankfurt) so can offer perhaps 6-10% royalty. With eBooks you can expect been 60-70% of the price of the book – and you can choose the price.
TEFL While doing my finals at Goldsmith’s College, I shared a house in Lee, South East London. My landlord (and neighbour) was a man called John Haycraft, the man who set up International House. This was my first encounter with TEFL. After teaching biology for a year in London I was keen to move to Germany to be with my then girlfriend. BUt what could I do to support myself? The answer was TEFL. I did an excellent training course at International House in Hastings in December 1986 and moved to Germany in January 1987. Since then I’ve worked in schools, universities, private language schools, then with VSO in Egypt for 2 years at a University. I’ve also lived and worked in the Czech Republic, Ireland and France. In Ireland I was looking for a regular teaching job but the DOS asked me if I had considered training. He offered to support me as I took my first steps and I soon became a regular trainer on the team for the RELSA programme in Ireland. Since then I have worked with groups of teachers in Ireland, England, Spain, Germany, Peru, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Turkey. I love working with teachers. I am passionate about teaching and throw myself my work. I’ve had very positive feedback from teachers from many parts of the world. If you’re interested in a visit to your school/training centre, drop me a line and I’ll send you details of the kinds of things I can do.
Well, I’m a writer, a teacher trainer, and photographer – you may have guessed that. I live in a small village in the Czech Republic, surrounded by rolling hills – and lots of forests full of mushrooms, deer and wild pigs. I spend a lot of my time writing books, both eBooks and pBooks. In 2011, I published my 50th pBook. Most of my books are for learners of English also an enthusiastic cook, cycletourist, hiker and gardener. I live a pretty simple existence – no car (though I have four bikes) buying bags of wheat from a local farmer to produce my own flour and with that my own bread. I buy about 60% of my food from the local shop and try wherever possible to buy from small, independent shops. I love kneading dough for my bread, then working for an hour on a new eBook, then going outside and planting some onion sets.