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I came to England as a young boy and was brought up in Islington, North London. 

My first site of winter’s snow when I arrived at Dover was amazing.

I attended Highbury Grove School for Boys when Dr Rhodes Boyson was the Headmaster. He went on to become a Conservative Member of Parliament, Minister of State for Northern Ireland, Minister for the Disabled, Under Secretary Dept for Education and Science and was made a member of the Privy Council and knighted in 1987. I went to the Houses of Parliament a few times, just to say hello. He died in 2012. 

Whenever I think about my early ‘Tom Brown’s School Days’ the sound of his booming voice shooting across the playground still resonates in my skull. ‘In my office Raymond. Now!’ I knew I was in for a slippering. 

His book ‘Oversubscribed’ is a fascinating account of his Headmastership of Highbury Grove School and is worth a read. 

Naturally, I supported Arsenal, but stopped after Arsene Wenger left. Now, I just follow Liverpool (under Klopp), Manchester United (under Ole), Newcastle (under Rafael Benitez) and Leeds United.

I don’t have any favourite players, because those currently in the Premier League continue to disappoint with their diving antics. Shame on them. I admire their skills, but I do not respect them. Give me George Best, ‘Weepy’ Paul Gascoigne, Alan Shearer and ‘Bites yer Legs’ Norman Hunter anytime. 

The one football Coach I’ve always disliked was Jose Mourinho, even when he was with Chelsea. I did not care for his over-inflated ego, arrogance and poor player management skills. I was glad when he was sacked from Manchester United.

My father was a teacher and was relentless in the pursuit of academia. I didn’t care for it and left home at the age of seventeen, in search of adventure and accidentally ended up in Yorkshire. Had I carried on with my education, I would have probably ended up becoming a teacher too. I knew I would have hated that career choice and that it was not fitted to my temperament. 

I unwittingly fell in love with a farmer’s daughter and ended up working as a farmhand for a while. 

Looking after cattle and having to get up to the smell of cow shit at 04.00 hrs, seven days a week, to feed and water them, also working the land, digging for potatoes and rhubarb roots, to force grow them by candlelight wasn’t my thing either. My fingers and nails were always dirty and I couldn’t get rid of the smell of shite that seemed to permeate from under my skin. 

Growing up, I had ambitions of working in Africa to help the poor and suffering. I therefore decided to enrol in a two year British Tuberculosis Association nursing course, but found that the dedication and vocation required to stay in that job not suited to my recalcitrant character. 

Truth be told, I was more interested in the nurses, whom in ‘em good old days provided more fun than cleaning out bedpans. I dropped out. It’s ironic that years later, I ended up traveling to Africa in a commercial capacity.

My career proper started, when I was employed by a Leeds based steel stockholder as a Sales Clerk. 

How I got the job was truly ridiculous, but it was a dare to myself, born out of frustration. I needed to get out of farming. You can’t do it now, but I just turned up at the Personnel Office and asked for a job. 

I couldn’t tell the difference between a castellated beam, a universal beam and a rolled steel joist, but passed the interview because I could add up and showed an aptitude to learn quickly. I got the job and was assigned to its Q&I Department, checking the costings, before the final invoices were posted. 

My abiding memory of this first office assignment was being outnumbered by an all female staff and contrary to what anybody might think, I felt intimidated working so closely with so many gobby women. I often dreaded going to work, sometimes wishing to go back to farming, where the open public scrutinies were more abstract. 

The women I worked with were your typical brash and emancipated Yorkshire lasses and trust me when I say that their constant lewd remarks and sly innuendos were truly embarrassing.

I quickly got promoted to the more elite male dominated divisions within the company and I was eventually elevated to their prestigious special steels and merchandising department where I learned all there was to know about the trading requirements of imports and exports. 

So, I fully understand what Trump has done regarding his wrecking up of the unfair international tariffs. Even in my early years of working in the steel industry, when we had a proud British Steel manufacturing industry, the Indians and later on the Chinese were dumping cheap goods and metallurgically unsafe steel onto our shores.

The company I worked for was part of a larger British engineering group of machine tools and heavy equipment manufacturers. Within a year or so of pen pushing and telephone sales and on the recommendation of my Managing Director, I was transferred to their Head Offices in Shepherds Bush, London and appointed their youngest Overseas Sales Representative for West Africa.

Having successfully cut my teeth on the West African Coast for a few years and acquired the fine art of bribery and corruption, I was poached by a Texas based manufacturing company of vibratory compactors and became its Regional Sales Manager for Africa and Europe. I was stationed out of San Antonio and loved all things American, Texan, the Alamo, Davy Crockett and John Wayne. The cow girls rocked my boat. Yee Haw!

However, I discovered that my Texan friends were so insular and blinkered, that I eventually resigned from my post. I got tired of trying to enlighten them into the methodology of doing business in Africa and Europe. The money making opportunities came and went as quickly as I had created them, due to their stupidity and unbelievable arrogance. Many a contract was lost at the final negotiating table, when their obtuseness got in the way of striking a deal. 

I left Texas for a more lucrative job with a more savvy Canadian firm. I worked mainly on World Bank and IMF projects which took me deep into the impoverished regions of Africa and helped redefine my career. 

My personal epiphany happened when I project managed an agricultural contract in Ethiopia which compromised my moral, religious, social and political ethics. 

I was having supper at my agent’s house who was a high ranking Military Officer. This sort of, after business hours, social invitation when it happens is regarded a great privilege. 

What should have turned out to be a pleasant evening was spoiled when I was served confiscated US-AID food. To make matters worse, my agent guided me into his cellar, full of hoarded foodstuff and proudly boasted about his ill-gotten acquisitions. 

I always stayed at the plush Hilton Hotel in Addis Ababa when I visited Ethiopia. The region was in the midst of the worst famine ever experienced and that was well before Bob discovered Africa. Within a stone’s throw away from the hotel, I witnessed children, mothers, fathers dying of starvation.

I remembered my father once warning me about the dangers of getting sucked into a culture so violent and putrid, that it would corrupt my soul. He was right. I quit my lucrative job and left Africa, vowing never to return.

With my accumulated savings, I set up a business of my own as a Hi-Fi retailer in the historic market town of Otley and specialised in British manufactured and American high-end audiophile equipment. 

To this day I am an ardent fan of everything analogue, preferring vinyl to cds and turntables to digital mp3 players. 

I was heavily into music and my most pleasure during that period, was to stage live gigs and promote Jazz and Blues artists from both the UK and America. 

My favourite guest was Robert Lucas from Long Beach, California whom I gigged as a Solo Artist at the Korks Wine Bar in Otley. Some of you may know of him. He was the frontman of the legendary Canned Heat. 

His manager Skip Taylor said, quote ‘His unequalled fury and stage presence, together with his earth-shattering vocal delivery, gave him the ability to channel many of the blues masters through his words, songs and musical ability’. I heard him and I totally agree. He died in 2008 of a drug overdose. 

My drummer mate Rick Lacey, formerly of Arcam, Cambridge and his blues band from Lancashire backed him. Those were the good old days Rick mate.

Having eaten at some of worlds best restaurants in my travels, I developed a passion for fine foods and when I became bored with retail, I decided to retrain as a Chef in the 90’s.

My career as a Trainee Chef started at Leodis Brasserie in Leeds under the tutelage of Mike Preston, a Michelin Star Chef. When he left to seek fame and fortune in London, I too left, to go freelance. 

Over the many years, sweating out my salty balls in scores of kitchens across the UK and France, I was fortunate to have worked with many well known Chefs. I’m not being arrogant, but I know a thing or two about food.

I eventually quit my freelance kitchen duties and with my  girlfriend, whom I loved passionately, I managed a hotel in Leeds. When the business was sold, I finally retired as an Operations Manager and Chef in 2015. 

These days, I spend my time with my family, friends and enjoy traveling to distant places on my motorbike. 

My charity work is purely voluntary and based on individual needs rather than commercial gain.

I can be contacted at the following:

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