Origins & early years
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The details of schools I attended and where I lived will not mean much except to those of you (if any) who know or knew Swindon, so I suggest the rest of you (if any) skip this bit unless you really enjoy being bored.
I was born in Kingshill Maternity Home (photo on left - click on the thumbnail for a larger image), opposite the Victoria Hospital, and not in the hospital as I had thought. My thanks to the visitor to this page who drew my attention to the error.
My parents were living in Tydeman Street, a side road off Cricklade Road, in the Gorse Hill area, but I was still a baby when they moved temporarily to High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, and then back to Swindon, this time to an old terraced house in Dixon Street. This house I do remember (it is still there today). By modern standards it was rather primitive; for example, there was no electricity available, all lighting and cooking being done by gas. Having a bath meant moving the dining table to one side to make room for the old tin bath to be brought in and laboriously filled from a kettle. We moved from there at Christmas 1938.
This move took us to a brand new house, purchased by way of a building society mortgage, from the building company by which my father was then employed as a carpenter. The house was in Campden Road, in the area now known as Old Walcot or West Walcot, but then the very newest edge-of-town estate, with fields at the end of the road and glorious views of the Marlborough Downs, including Liddington Hill (see photo left) with its iron age fort visible from the bedroom windows even at that distance of several miles. I lived there until I left for university in 1954, and my parents remained until they died in 1976. Few if any of our neighbours from the early years are still in residence today. If any of our friends and neighbours of that time should happen to read this page, please get in touch.
At the tender age of 4 I started full-time education (there were no part-time nursery schools or play groups then) at Clarence Street infants school, about which I remember very little.
After one year there I was transferred to the newly built Drove Road School, which was designed to be two adjacent schools, one for infants up to age 6 or 7, which included me.
The second, larger, building, equally new, was intended for older children but was in fact occupied by the military until after World War 2, when it was used for girls aged 11 to 16.
At age 6 I transferred to junior school level, the larger building of Clarence Street School, which my father had attended before me. I remember that for the first years there, until the war was approaching its end, we had regular practice at putting on our horrible gas masks. The average class size was about 45 pupils, which must have presented considerable problems for the staff. This photo (74,906 bytes) shows the class I was in, posed in the school playground, taken, I think, in the spring of 1947. I can still remember the names of at least two thirds of the 39 faces shown, and one (at least) who is missing. The headmaster, Mr. Southby (on the right of the picture), was a teacher there when my father attended as a pupil - and he left school in 1922.
At age 11 we had to take the dreaded "11 plus" exam, the result of which determined which style of school we would attend for the next 5 or more years. If I remember correctly, in our area the exam consisted of several parts, these being an IQ test, a mental arithmetic test, a written arithmetic test, an English grammar test and an English essay. The content and the weight awarded to the various parts varied according to the local authority responsible for education in the area (in our case, Wiltshire County Council).
I was fortunate enough to pass the test, and went on to Headlands Grammar School, which, until it was demolished recently, still existed as a comprehensive school. At that time the recent building was only a distant planner's dream. The school was divided between two sites, one in Euclid Street and the other the former "College" in Victoria Road, which, in much expanded form, it has become again since Headlands left it on completion of the new school in 1952, at which time I entered its sixth form to study for GCE "A" levels in maths, physics and chemistry, passing the former with ease and the other two with more difficulty. A panoramic photo of all staff and pupils, taken May 1954, can be seen here (181,815 bytes). I hope individual faces are large enough to be recognised; if you want to see a larger version let me know, but be warned - it's over half a megabyte. No prizes for picking me out - but I bet you won't find it easy!
If any staff or former pupils at any of those schools, particularly any who knew me, would like to make contact I would be delighted to hear from them. However, I should perhaps warn you that I am certainly not the shy retiring character you knew then, although I cannot guarantee that I am not still as bad mannered as I undoubtedly was. Another ex-pupil of Headlands School who would like to contact her contemporaries there (and her form teacher Mr. Bryant) has a small entry on another of my pages.
Photos of some Swindon schools, including Clarence Street, Euclid Street, The College and Headlands, can be seen on my Swindon Schools page.
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I took up physics initially with fond dreams, which I had developed many years earlier, of spending my life doing research in some esoteric subject such as astrophysics, nuclear particle physics or something equally fundamental to our understanding of how the universe functions.
However, practical considerations led in a different direction, and meant that instead in 1957 I moved temporarily to Luton, Bedfordshire, and somehow haven't managed to get away again yet.
Luton is another industrial town, about the same size as Swindon now but growing more slowly. It is located in the south of Bedfordshire, about 30 miles north of London. The part where I live is on top of the Chilterns, a range of chalk hills, capped here with a slightly acid clay.
The move to Luton was in order to join what was then a part of the English Electric Company Limited. I remained with the company, through numerous changes of name (by the time I left it had become a part of British Aerospace) and ownership, until 1990. During that time I spent two years as an engineering graduate apprentice, another six as a systems engineer (during which time the Luton site was closed and I was moved to Stevenage), 14 years in the Management Services department (the first 6 months as a programmer, two years operational research and the remainder in charge of various computer system design projects), and the remainder of the time (having passed the appropriate professional exams) in the Accounts department, ending with two years as head of the Financial Systems Department at the nearby and by this time semi-integrated site at Hatfield. This is all gone into in much more detail, with reasons for the somewhat surprising changes of profession, on my employment page.
When in 1990 an edict from on high declared that the Hatfield site was to close I was moved back to Stevenage, but the said edict also ruled that employees with more than some minimum period of service and over a given age (I forget just what it was) could take early retirement on very generous terms. The offer was too good to refuse, so from 1st September 1990 I was a relatively free agent. The next section describes where that leaves me now.
My wife's middle name is Ella, so it is not difficult to see where we obtained our business name Jimella Accounting & Computer Services.
In practice we found that many of the jobs in the early days were in the field of preparing accounts and handling the tax affairs of small businesses, which left me with a slight problem. My studies for the accountancy qualification (as a management accountant) had included only the basic elements of taxation, but most of my clients assumed that because I was an accountant I was therefore a tax expert. Being a reasonably conscientious individual, I realised I had to improve my knowledge, and so began a period of spending each Wednesday afternoon at Stevenage college (about 12 miles away) studying for the intermediate level of the Chartered Institute of Taxation, leading to the addition of ATT to my name a few months later.
However, after 20 years of this I am now retired (and finding I seem to have less and less spare time, not more as I had hoped - read on to see why.
It should not be assumed, therefore, that because I mention a subject of interest to me here, or include membership of an organisation of some kind, that I spend great periods of time pursuing the activity concerned. A simple glance at the length of the list will show the impossibility of that.
I have developed a theoretical interest in investing for profit, experimenting by running a paper portfolio of stocks and shares so as to try out various theories without risking the real cash, which of course is not available anyway. You can (or will be able to) read about my ideas on this subject on my investment page- a free financial advice sheet! (but unfortunately with only a little content as yet - see previous paragraph).
Politics is another area in which I take a keen interest, was once fairly active, and am now (as and when time permits) attempting to write a somewhat academic style book (It has already taken several years on and off, and will take quite a few more). Some of the ideas for the latter are/will be discussed on my politics page. The history of my period of political activity, if anyone should be interested, is a bit lengthy for this page so you can find it by clicking here. I spent a number of years as a non-member of any party, but then joined the Green Party as a non-active member (except for being webmaster for Luton and Bedfordshire Green Party).
Although I am no longer active in politics, I do subscribe to a number of organisations with a political slant or for openly political campaigning. These include:
Amnesty International, Friends of the Earth, Charter 88 (a UK group devoted to constitutional reform), Liberty (UK civil liberties campaigners), Noise Abatement Society, Institute for Fiscal Studies, Demos (a political research organisation or "think tank") and Dignity in Dying.
When I get some spare time I like to spend some of it visiting nature reserves and other places of natural history interest, and also keep a lookout for whatever wildlife may be about wherever I happen to be. I am a member of a number of wildlife and related organisations, and these and other aspects of wildlife, primarily from a UK viewpoint, are/will be discussed in more detail on my wildlife page.
Again very subject to time constraints, I like to do a bit of gardening, though you might not realise it by looking at our garden, especially the larger (but not large), rear garden with its "vegetable" bed. You can read more about it, and gardening in general, on my gardening page.
I try to keep myself physically fit, at least in theory! I have a bicycle, the same one I bought back in 1952 and used to go to school on, and used it regularly for both local journeys and touring holidays until 1986, when I eventually succumbed to the need for a car. I don't think it has been used since, but it might happen. It came out in 1972 after about 8 years neglect, so it could happen again. Jogging is the main exercise I get when I can, but I seem to have developed a knack for sustaining injuries during other activities which then put a temporary stop to training. This subject I find interesting in theory as well as in practice, so you can read more about it on my athletics page.
I began following up first my own and then my wife's family history just after my parents died in 1976, an activity which goes in little spurts of activity, interrupted by long breaks, so progress is slow. You can read about both my progress and some thoughts about the activity, with some useful links, on my genealogy page.
I have an old Minolta SLR camera (pre-autofocus days) and take (even) lower quality digital stills with a more modern digital video camera, and like to take photos occasionally of the family and other subjects related to the activities mentioned above, as well as the usual attempts at scenic views while on holiday, which, like so many amateurs, I manage to end up filled mostly with sky! You will find a few of them scattered around this site, but I promise nothing large is incorporated in the text pages (my modem isn't too fast either, so I know the problem). I usually keep a note of technical stuff like exposures, apertures, lighting used, etc. (in the hope that one day I shall do some comparisons and learn something), so if anyone is interested in any particular photo, please email me. Many of the pictures relating to family history places and people are collected together, with the techie stuff, in a photo gallery.
There are a few other organisations, not directly related to any of my hobbies, etc., of which I am a totally inactive member. These include the Cyclists Touring Club and the Ramblers Association purely to support (financially) their campaigning activities, British Aerospace (Stevenage) Sports & Social Club (who made me a life member at the end of my stint of 8 years as their treasurer) and Mensa in the hope that I may find time to join one or more of their special interest groups to further one or more of my other interests mentioned above.
In May 1959, on a visit to Nottingham, I met a young lady (I have to put it politely, she might read this) named Ruth Shaw, also visiting the city from her home 20 miles away in Newark, Nottinghamshire. A spark was struck which led to our engagement that September and marriage the following March. Ruth was born and grew up in Newark, worked for a time at the Nottingham head office of Boots (a large pharmeceuticals company which also runs a national retail chain of chemists/pharmacies). Then she moved nearer home to work as a bank clerk in a village near Newark called Southwell. Southwell is famous for three things - its racecourse, the fact that it is the home of the original Bramley apple tree, and its imposing minster (I can never remember the difference between a minster and a cathedral - I do remember reading a leaflet in the building which "explained" it in a way that left me convinced that by its own definition it was actually a cathedral! - I must have misunderstood something as usual). Ruth for many years taught infants at Broadmead Independent School (a local private school), but finally retired in 2005. She now does a lot of voluntary work, mainly for Age Concern but also occasionally for the Friends of Luton & Dunstable Hospital and other charities.
In July 1965 our lives were changed drastically by the arrival of daughter number one - Jane. She caused us few headaches as a child. An early reader (fluent when she started school at four), she could be put on one side with a book or two and this would keep her quiet and out of the way for hours! She eventually took her degree in computer science at Cambridge University (New Hall), and for a time worked for CSC, to whom her (and my) former employers, British Aerospace, have handed over their entire computer operation. She then worked for some years in the IT department at Unipath Ltd. in Bedford as database and network adminstrator and web site designer before moving to a somewhat similar job at Access Academy Ltd in Hertfordshire. She married another British Aerospace employee, David Williams, in January 1988, and they live in Biggleswade, Bedfordshire. I have to be careful what I say about them here because I know they will read this.
In April 1968 our lives were further disrupted by the arrival on the scene of daughter number two - Helen. As a child Helen had in common with Jane the love of reading, and the same early start in doing so, but in most respects was (and still is) a totally different character, always (then, not now!) in trouble of some kind. Although she, too, spent a fair amount of time reading, otherwise she was either having accidents, being ill, misbehaving (admittedly in minor ways) or asleep - and not often the latter!
Helen eventually went to a college at Ripon, North Yorkshire (now called York St John College), which is an integral part of Leeds University, where she gained a good honours degree in French and Language Studies. At Easter 1996 she married an ambulance man, Barry Coleman, and they live in a beautifully situated, very old but well maintained stone-built house within the Exmoor national park, just outside Lynton in north Devon.
If you would like to see a photo of us, this 99,131 byte image shows us at Helen & Barry's wedding in April 1996.
As yet we have no grand-children, but a declared intention by all four of the people responsible that there will continue to be none.
Ruth is an only child, and her parents both died during the 1990s. She has some cousins and other more distant relatives living in Mansfield Woodhouse and Ollerton, Nottinghamshire and in Reepham, Norfolk.
My parents both died in 1976. I have a brother, Ralph (18 months younger than me), widowed and living in Haydon Wick, which has been absorbed into Swindon since I lived there, and a sister, Kathy (10 years younger than me), widowed and living at Leuchars, near St. Andrews, in east Scotland.
Ralph has no children, but Kathy has two. My niece Tina lives in Trowbridge, Wiltshire with her partner Kevin. My nephew Glyn lives with his wife Sharon and their children in Warminster, also in Wiltshire.
I had numerous aunts and uncles, but as far as I know the only surviving one is my mother's youngest sister, who lives in Wroughton, Wiltshire.
I have long lost contact with most (but not all) of my first cousins, and know nothing of their whereabouts or welfare, although family history research has brought contact with some much more distant relatives.
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