“I want to be a journalist, sir.” It was an easy answer to give, having known it since primary school.
It was in the summer of 1970 when I was in the Lower Sixth and Mr Richmond-Coggan, in his role as careers advisor, had just asked me: “What do you plan to do when you leave school?” Being in possession of my end of year exam results, he asked incredulously “So why are you studying maths?” I already knew that my pure and applied maths results were less than dismal; in fact, at 6% and 3%, the were disastrous. My answer was that the reason I had returned for the Lower VI was to gain two further O-levels; the A-levels were of no interest to me.
Whether he was infuriated or not, he managed to keep from me but I remember that he advised me to start looking for a job and not to bother about the UpperVI. By the time the summer holidays began, I had made applications but had received no responses and so I had no idea whether or not Cray Valley had seen the last of me. A job interview did materialise for 29th July at which the editor said he had no vacancies at that time but he would keep my details on file.
The following Monday, 3rd August, I started a five-week summer job with the Inland Revenue and, getting home that night found my mother bursting with news. Mr King, the editor, had phoned and asked me to call him the next day. To cut a long story short, I started work at the newspaper the following Monday, the 10th, and former classmate David Tapsell gladly took over my holiday job.
My career, from there, went from newspaper journalist to local government press officer, through various and increasingly senior public relations roles before returning to newspaper journalism in a senior reporting position before being promoted to editor status. Throughout my newspaper career, I have undertaken a variety of tasks. These included: general news reporting, court reports, theatre column and reviews, country music column, political correspondent, sports news, features, Features Editor, Sub-Editor and Rural Affairs Editor. It was in that last role, while living and working in North Wales, that I was named Welsh Farming Journalist of the Year.
My health story is not so happy with problems with walking and balancing finally being diagnosed as Multiple Sclerosis in the Spring of 2002 when I was 49. At the time, the consultant neurologist said that by going over my medical history he had been able to find MS symptoms back as far as my early 20s. Everything was falling into place in my mind. He said that as it had taken the illness so long to develop, he saw no reason why it should develop any faster in the future. Well it has developed further and, I think, faster but it has been 14 years since then and so I really cannot complain. I am still able to walk a little, around the house and out to the car, with the help of a stick. However, walking more than about 15 yards is impossible, as is standing for more than two or three minutes, so I need to use a wheelchair in those situations.
Now living in Spain, it seems that the warmer climate and readily available vitamin D from the sunshine may be having a beneficial effect. I will have to wait to see if that is really is happening. MS is a chronic illness for which there is, as yet, no cure. But I refuse to worry, refuse to give in. Life is for living, it’s just that my wife Lisa and I have to share ours with an unwanted and uninvited guest. But, hey, that’s life. My life is positive and happy, how’s yours?