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

My first site of a winter’s snow 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 of State (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 2012.

Whenever I think of my early "Tom Brown's School Days" period, the sound of his booming voice shooting across the playground still resonates in my skull. ‘In my office Raymond’ ‘Now’. His book 'Oversubscribed' is a fascinating account of his Headmastership of Highbury Grove School. Worth a read.

Naturally I supported Arsenal, but stopped after Arsène Wenger left. Now, I just follow Liverpool (under Jürgen 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, Paul Gascoigne, Alan Shearer and ‘Bites yer Legs’ Norman Hunter anytime. 

The one Manager I’ve always disliked was José 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 instead of pursuing an academic career, which was expected of me, I left home at the age of seventeen, in pursuit of adventure and accidentally ended up in Yorkshire. Had I stayed at home and carried on with my education, I would have probably ended up becoming a teacher of sorts, which I know, I would have hated and 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 getting 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. 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. 

I had ambitions of working in Africa, to help the poor and suffering. I therefore put myself through nursing school as a BTA (British Tuberculosis Association) student, but found the dedication and vocation required to stay in that job, not suited to my character. 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 worked for a Leeds based steel stockholder (Dunlop & Ranken) as a Sales Clerk, assigned to its invoicing section. I couldn’t tell the difference between a beam and a joist, but passed the interview because I could add up and learned quickly. 

My abiding memory of this first office job was being outnumbered by an all female staff and contrary to what anybody might think, I definitely felt intimidated and I dreaded going to work, sometimes wishing to go back to farming, where the open public scrutinies were more abstract. The women 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 advanced divisions within the company and 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 working in the steel industry, the Indians and later the Chinese were dumping cheap goods and metallurgically unsafe steel onto our shores.

The company was part of a larger engineering group of machine tools and heavy equipment manufacturer. 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 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.

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

I left Texas to go on to a more lucrative job, with a more savvy Canadian firm and with them, came my eventual involvement with many 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 worked on a World Bank Project in Ethiopia and where my own moral, religious, social and political ethics were compromised. 

I was dining at my local agent’s house, who also happened to be a high ranking Army Officer. This sort of after business, 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 US-AID food that was stolen and hoarded in the cellar and to make matters worse, my agent proudly and shockingly boasted of his ill-gotten acquisitions. 

The region was in the midst of the worst famine ever experienced. I always stayed at the Hilton in Addis Ababa and within a stone’s throw away, I had 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, never to return.

With the financial capital I had accumulated from my former jobs, I set up on my own, in the late 80’s and started a Hi-Fi retail business in the historic market town of Otley, specialising in British made high-end audiophile equipment.

Some of you may recognise these famous names (Meridian, Naim, Linn, Roksan, Rega, Arcam, Audiolab, Sudden, AE, Creek, QUAD, Heybrook, Mission, KEF, Epos, Castle Acoustics, B&W, Ruark, Cambridge Audio, NVA, Chord, etc) 

To this day I am an ardent fan of everything analogue, preferring vinyl to cd’s and turntables to digital mp3 players. My most pleasure, in that period, was to stage live gigs and promote Jazz and Blues artists from both the UK and America.

In my travels, I dined at some of the worlds best restaurants and developed a passion for fine foods. 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 in out in the various kitchens in the UK and France, I was fortunate to have worked with many well known Chefs. 

I eventually quit my freelance kitchen duties and 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 touring on my motorbike when my finances and the weather permits. 

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


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