Micro Autobiography ...... snippets of detail between big gaps in time.
In the beginningI was born in Scotland the child of a Royal Air Force (RAF) family, so we moved frequently and I really can't say I come from anywhere in particular.
My first detailed memories are from school at RAF Weeton especially when Stanley Baxter poked a straw through the cage of the class pet hamster so that he could drink the hamsters milk. As a child this would have been an insignificant event, but when I told my parents, it was met with such amazement that it became part of family folklore.
I have good memories of our time at RAF Laarbruch in Germany, especially very large house named Haus (House) Geedo which we shared with another family in the town of Weeze. On completing my first day at the new school at the RAF base I went home via RAF shuttle bus with a large label pinned to my coat saying "Bahnhof" (railway station), because from our house we could see the railway station. Aged six or seven I wasn't expected to make my own way it was just in case I got lost, nevertheless it shows a level of expected independence which would be unusual today (no mobiles in those days).
EducationMy father completed his first term as an RAF officer and found a job at Solihull Technical College (he would later sign up for another term). Solihull was where I completed my school education, joining Alderbrook School in the third year (known as Year 9 today). I was particularly interested in electronics and thanks to a grant from the Princes Trust I built my own computer This computer was based on one of the most advanced 8-bit processors at the time, the Motorola 6809 which I programmed in machine code. One particularly tedious part of building this "first" computer was writing the core operating program into memory. My solution involved building a manually memory programmer: setting a bank of 8 switches which represented a machine code instruction and another 11 switches to define the memory address allowed the memory chip to be programmed a byte at a time. Many thousands and thousands of switch settings were needed to complete the task and a bug or error could only be corrected by erasing the whole chip and starting again. Once I had the most basic code burned to memory and working I used it to write a more sophisticated operating system. This allowed me to use the computer itself to automate the memory burning process so the switches were no longer needed. Building the first computer is the hardest task because you really could do with a computer to build it with..
I followed the logical progression and went on to Solihull Sixth Form College, studying Engineering Science, Maths, Computing and Further Maths. With my particular interest in computers I should have followed this route, but despite it not being my first choice I went to Brunel University (West London) to study Production Engineering. This may go some way to explain how I ended up working at Omega Dynamics, rather than completing the forth year of my Honours Degree.
WorkOmega Dynamics was a small engineering company in North-West London; my job was in Quality Assurance department assisting the company in gaining quality standard BS5750-2 (ISO9002). Soon my job morphed into to designing & building custom electronic test equipment and writing specifications to help shop floor production. I built ever more sophisticated computer controlled equipment allowing the company to take on jobs which their competitors found too difficult. I was in my element, but suggest to anyone else - complete the degree first!
I worked in London for seven or so years; the job was great but the location was dire. Recall, my upbringing was in the open countryside of RAF bases. Having saved some money I decided it was time to move on, somewhere more rural; buy a house and maybe start my own business.
Dereham HomeA set of links with my past life now came into play:
I started looking for a house 'somewhere', this could have been the low-lands of Scotland where I put in an offer for a small property but that fell through. My father and step-mother mentioned a teacher whom they had met on a subsequent tour of duty at RAF Laarbruch, she had found a job at Toftwood Junior School in Dereham. They had the local newspaper with houses for sale and there were some options worth further investigation. This was in 1990 during the previous economic downturn and prices were attractive. After looking at a few places I found a leaflet at the back of the estate agent of a house which had been purchased by an oil company to allow the previous owner to relocate. It had been on the market for a significant time, the water tank in the loft had burst and there was a tree growing out of the rainwater downpipe ... perfect. The oil company just wanted rid of it so I got it for a bargain price.
I set about exploring my new home town and the surrounding area. I attended the Parish Church, Town Council meetings (which left a bad impression) and following conversation in Arthur's Wholefood shop joined my local Green Party. I was soon lurking in the background of a number of activities, including volunteering with Norfolk Wildlife Trust and other local environmental sympathetic activities. This was nothing new, I had become involved on an ad hoc basis with groups like BTCV previously, but now I had a bit more time.
It was a tough time to be starting a business, but with some Government backed training and a small start-up grant I was ready to give it a go. I earned a commission to build some test equipment for measuring and testing dot-matrix print heads and developed some of my own products. Slowly, business became more secure.
MarriageNow for some more links ... my 'matchmaking' stepmother introduced me to a work colleague at West Suffolk College, one thing led to another and Linda and I became a couple. Linda already had a son and then we had a son and daughter together. The children all grew up in Dereham.
New (old) homeAfter I just missed out on buying a small piece of land not too far from our house in Dereham, we talked about moving to a place with a bit more space. My wife wanted a bit more privacy and I had my eye on some 'eco' projects. While I was busy on the Nemesis electric car project Linda found our new home on the edge of a village a few miles away. A big mortgage allowed us to buy the new house before selling the old one; we moved 'a teaspoon at a time' over a year then sold the Dereham house to a friend. My friend kindly allowed me to continue using the purpose built workshop at the Dereham house while the children are still at school and I need to be there.
Just another little coincidence ... the Town of Watton, which is now within walking distance is twinned with the town of Weeze in Germany, where we lived at Haus Geedo mentioned before. That German house was a good place to live (aged 7) with its grape vines, cherry, apricot and apple trees and our own playground with a tree house, swing and old cart wheel roundabout, perhaps that is why our new house feels like it has so much potential.