I was born in 1962 – the year the Rolling Stones played their first gig and, quite coincidentally, Tupua Tamasese Mea’ole and Malietoa Tanamafili II became joint heads of state of Western Samoa.
Most people in west Cornwall were born in Redruth hospital back then, and I was in no mood to buck the trend. I grew up in Truro where my parents (and grandfather before that) ran a pram and toy shop. My childhood was spent in and around Truro, Newquay, Perranporth and the Carrick Roads, skateboarding, surfing, fishing, doing a paper round before school and working on farms all summer. As far as my academic career was concerned, I established a solid foundation for the 'haven’t revised nearly enough to pass my A level history exam' anxiety dreams which still haunt me well into middle age. I wasn't too bad at art though.
By 1980 I was boring people in Cornwall rigid, droning on about how I couldn’t wait to leave, then, having left, boring people rigid droning on about how I couldn’t wait to get back. I spent four years at art college (Falmouth School of Art and Bath Academy of Art), wangled an honours degree, then took my life in my hands and moved to London in 1985. I was terrified, but managed to start working in publishing as a lowly paste-up artist.
Always a late developer, I had my gap year at 28 (travelling all over Canada – to date there’s only one Canadian Province I haven’t been to). I travelled a fair bit with work too (for some fairly strange reasons, looking back, including the world’s largest teddy bear collection in Los Angeles). Incredibly, I ascended to the lofty heights of Managing Art Editor, overseeing a large department, employing people, managing big budgets, all that. So London was good to me, as it turned out. I even found someone there who was willing to marry me.
But by the late nineties I’d become aware of a mounting loathing for the way computers were transforming my job. The missus and me rented out our flat in Tooting and spent two years abroad, camping pretty much the whole time. She worked as a midwife in Zimbabwe, I compiled a portfolio of wildlife images to contribute to Dorling Kindersley’s huge new animal encyclopedia. We drove 35,000 miles around southern and east Africa in a Nissan Sunny (don’t tell me you need a Range Rover because you drive down the odd lane). We carried on pitching a tent from Invercargill in New Zealand to Inuvik, deep inside the Arctic Cirle.
After coming dangerously close to emigrating to Canada, we finally returned to Cornwall, the place I’d been going on about the whole time, at the very beginning of the new millennium. It felt vaguely familiar, yet very different to the place in which I’d grown up. I started writing things down. I’d been scribbling all my life, but now it felt right to step things up a notch. A piece in The Times led to regular contributions to Cornwall Today, which became Backalong.
We now live with our twin boys and an assortment of hens and geese*, in an old miner’s cottage on the north coast, ten minutes’ walk from the coast path.
*the hens and geese do not live in the house.