Born in London, I have been married and divorced twice, but have been blessed with three lovely children who amaze and delight.
I was brought up mostly by my grandparents in Sussex, with Pooh Sticks and Shetland ponies and lots of garden cricket in close proximity to the Bluebell Railway. An idyllic, fun, old-fashioned, country childhood, although with a non-standard parenting structure which I have to admit, I didn’t even notice as odd.
Cricket, dogs and ponies were the major concerns of my early years. My first puppy was a beagle who we called “Toggles.” Aged 8, I ran away from prep school so as not to miss her first litter. A great Shetland pony called “Hector” showed me that you could spend just as much time on the ground as on a pony’s back and still have fun.
Subsequently a broken-down 10 year old chestnut gelding, Ebro, who a vet said was “on his last legs, and that unsteadily”, gave me six years of wonderful days riding at full tilt across the Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire countryside. A mad cocker spaniel, Atticus, subsequently become a slightly eccentric but very close friend.
Cricket has been a constant. From hours of daily batting practice in the garden as a 6 year old, to years of press-ganging friends to let me play in all sorts of teams, to falling asleep listening to TMS under the sheets, to decreasingly successful attempts these days to bowl my own eldest son out.
After a comic failure to arrive in time for the Winchester “Election” exam, I went to Lancing and thence to Cambridge (History at Caius) which was more fun than anyone could conceivably have suggested. I spent too much time on politics, about which I became moderately serious, trying to organise the “wet” resistance to Thatcherism (which didn’t work out so brilliantly!)
After no significant career direction emerged at Cambridge I was lured into the world of management consultancy by McKinsey where I had an amusing time helping Archie Norman keep Woolworths on the straight and narrow. Rejecting their blandishments to attend business school I developed a specialism of advising start-up businesses with interesting periods advising Pitcher & Piano, Boden, Serenade, cubic egg, Hedgerow and others, interspersed with slightly less fascinating but more remunerative periods of advising global multi-nationals, as one does and a brief and disastrous period attempting to shepherd a family of Russian billionaires into normal capitalism.
I was a devourer of books from the get-go and became a PG Wodehouse superfan and a devotee of Anthony Trollope, Anthony Powell, Robert Graves, Evelyn Waugh and Lawrence Durrell. I was an equally enthusiastic reader of CS Forester, Kingsley Amis and Patrick O’Brian. I became totally obsessed with JRR Tolkien for about five years from 8 to 13 and, at one stage, rather worryingly, I had memorised 10 chapters of The Lord of the Rings from ‘The Council of Elrond’ to “Farewell to Lórien.’ Quite the party piece in the days before the internet.
While Paddy Fermor, Bruce Chatwin, Eric Newby and Colin Thubron held me enthralled by their travels, my own favourite destinations have been Guatemala & Central America, India & Pakistan, the Caribbean and Nevis in particular where I lived for a year, Southern Africa and Botswana specifically and, of course, Provence & the South of France.
I have been a dedicated and enthusiastic (if not entirely safe) skier of the Matterhorn’s lower slopes since I first visited in the 1970s and I have kept on returning despite the ever-glitzier and pricier milieu. Although slightly safer on water, I have gradually become an only occasional fair-weather sailor since first learning to sail in the freezing waters of Poole Harbour while at prep school.
Greatest achievement? Undoubtedly, three amazing children who are a constant source of amazement and delight.
They make sense out of chaos and separate joy from doubt, simply by being lovely.
Three more different children it would be hard to imagine.
Always an instinctive optimist, I continue to believe that everything will be OK in the end. Our inevitable disasters seem to set us back less far than before. So as our rate of progress accelerates the significance of our inevitable setbacks declines. Learning from all-too-frequent mistakes must be the key and ought to make us value our successes, even small ones, more highly.
JK Rowling says, through Sirius Black, “If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.” (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, 2000.) Give it a go.