1. Almost went wrong from the start
If you’ve ever met me, you may have noticed that I cock my head at you while listening. This (perhaps) isn’t because you are such a brilliant conversationalist, but because I am completely deaf in my right ear – a result of my mum having had German measles (Rubella) when she was pregnant. It could have been worse of course – I could have been born completely deaf, blind, stupid or even ugly. Pretty lucky really.
2. Worst job ever
Many people have done many unpleasant jobs but this one takes some beating… In 1983, I worked for Bamford’s fat factory on the Isle of Dogs in London. Once a year, the huge tanks in which the fat is stored have to be cleaned. A large porthole is opened and in climb two very stupid employees… It was very dark, horribly hot, there were pipes of steam all around for you to bump your head on – and about 30 cm of hot oil on the bottom. There was the overwhelming stench of rancid oil which made it difficult to breathe. All of this for just two pounds an hour…
3. Longest journey ever
In 1984, I cycled around Scandinavia, through Denmark, over the beautiful Jotenheimen mountains in Southern Norway, up through Sweden to North Cape. The return journey took me through Finland where I panned (unsuccessfully) for gold , back into Sweden, through the beautiful rolling hills of Southern Sweden and back into the land of the pastry – Denmark, finally returning to England from Esbjerg on the West coast of Denmark – 8000 km in just 8 weeks.
4. Best experience ever
Well, there are a lot of contenders for this one! But one memorable one was one winter in Sheffield in Northern England. It was about midnight when I set off with my brother-in-law, and another friend. There was snow on the ground at that time and there was also a very dense fog so it was not possible to see more than about ten metres. Armed with three large plastic bags, we sat at the top of a very long and bumpy slope. All in our twenties or thirties, we screamed like small children all the way down…. Magical.
5. Most humbling experience ever
While in Egypt, we were invited to a Halloween party. One friend was a talented artist so painted a large skeleton on a piece of black cloth. Late for the party, and the paint still wet, the cloth was hung out of the window. It was not until later that we found out that the man in the flat below was lying on his death bed – surrounded by his nearest and dearest. We can only hang our heads in shame thinking of his reaction when he saw the skeleton, blowing gently in the breeze outside his window.
6. Favourite food.
I am an enthusiastic cook and my chestnut and parsnip soup has to be tasted to be believed. I was vegetarian for four years and I still enjoy cooking without meat. If you want to try out some of my recipes…
7. Favourite drink.
I spent two years in Egypt and was spoilt by freshly-squeezed orange juice. I now won’t drink the rubbish they sell in Supermarkets. But even better than the orange juice was the chilled mango juice. Delicious!
8. Favourite writer
Another tough one. The best book I have ever read is ‘The Wrong Boy’ by Willy Russell but Willy Russell has only written one book so the winner of my favourite writer goes to… George Orwell. I can’t help getting pulled into his novels and willing the characters to Do The Right Thing. Runners up include Stephen Fry, John O’Farrell, Anne Tyler, Tim Moore, Roald Dahl, Robertson Davies and Margaret Atwood….
9. Favourite Hobby
Has to be juggling. I started at the tender age of 17, self taught, juggling with walnuts writing paper. I peaked in 1986, coming an amazing third in the European Juggling Association Five Ball juggling competition but still juggle for about an hour every week.
10. Most admired person.
Only one candidate. Anyone who can be in prison for twenty seven years then come out and say, ‘hey, let’s be friends…’ must be a saint.