Formative Years

My childhood was spent up in Liverpool. I grew to dislike the limited horizons, the seeming permanent depression there, and the grimness. I did have long spells up there when my parents died, however, and found that I felt a lot better, but as a child I couldn’t wait to leave.

My primary school was in quite a bare-bones area. This was largely old-fashioned, 70s teaching, which probably benefitted me – I was always top of the year. Towards the end of primary, we had a Vietnamese boy join the school – from what I remember, he was a lovely kid and was very switched-on. All of a sudden, I was No. 2!

My academic reports, however, coupled with a spell in a church choir (those early experiences have turned me off religion ever since) were enough to get me a place at one of Liverpool’s foremost secondary schools. I look back on life, and this is the time that really made me – I think many schools aim their charges for getting a job, but here I was primed for university.

I sailed close to the wind, however. I dropped one ‘A’ level (Further Maths) because I didn’t think I was nuch good at it, and immediately before my exams changed the university course I was applying for. I’d wanted for years to go into law, yet my best academic subjects were easily Maths and Physics. I had an epiphany moment (“what on earth did you pick Law for?”, and changed to Physics instead. I got to university and was actually pretty good at Physics, although as it happened, my degree was enough to land my first job, and after that I changed direction.

My first job – and, looking back, probably the most interesting – was in science research. I had a degree but no real skills, and my opportunity came when we landed a contract to test out a spacecraft engine. The contract was sufficiently large that it warranted a suite of software, both to control the hardware and to analyse the results. I was at a loose end at the time, so was happy to learn this new skill – I was given totally free-rein and the experience decided me that software development was my future. It took a couple of years to get myself up-to-speed, but thereafter I was very strong. There then followed a succession of jobs (I was quite ambitious so I never stayed in one place for too long) until I’d racket up sufficient experience to go out on my own, to charge my time to people, and to call myself a consultant. I operated through my own company, which I started in 1996, and which I kept open until my stroke (I figured that it would be easier to start closing things down at that point), and used it actively until shortly after my parents’ deaths, when I stepped back to concentrate on probate.