My formative years were spent in the City of Bath, Somerset in the United Kingdom. I spent many evenings at the roller-skating rink watching pop-groups such as 'the Small Faces', 'the Yardbirds', 'the Trogs' and many more. Those were the sixties, the days of the Mods and Rockers, where the Rockers did nasty things with motorcycle chains to the scooter-riding Mods. One Mod needed fifty stitches around his head, and these were my elders!?
I emerged from college in Middlesbrough, Yorkshire, as a computer programmer working for the local council. Living in a one-up-one-down bedsit on a modest budget, I would spend the weekends walking the town, window shopping. The highlight of the year was the biannual fair, where I became friendly with the roustabouts. I spent most of my evenings at the Paratrooper, a canted wheel with hanging chairs and parachute covers that looked like umbrellas. After a few days, I was inside the fence surrounding the ride; it was very flattering as I was a bit skinny for a roustabout.
Two girls were trying to get my attention; one had jet-black hair to the middle of her back; she was as shy as I am. It was a couple of days before I put my hands around her waist and thought 'I am not letting this one get away'. A 'Rose' by name and a rose by nature. Rose had connections to the fair that even she did not know about. No one charged us for a ride. We rode the Waltzers until I was sick.
The Waltzers were popular in British and Irish fairs. It had a central control cabin with just enough room for a control desk and a single person; windows on all sides gave a clear view of the action. The main floor of the ride rotates around the control cabin. The floor consisted of many segments, supported by limbs beneath that ran on rails. The rail system made the floor rise and fall in an undulating wave. A hump on one side of the ride kicked the floor into the air. A car was mounted on each section of the floor segment. The base of the car was circular; it had a hard leather seat and back running the full length of a semi-circle; it was surprisingly comfortable. A kidney-shaped chrome bar, attached to the front of the car, was pushed down in front of the riders. The car was attached to the floor of the ride by a pivot at the edge of the circle. The offset weight of the riders caused the car to spin. Roustabouts would ride the floor, adding spin to the cars with devilish glee. They took great pleasure in spinning our chair as fast as they could, watching me go green in the process and scream like a little girl
Rose dragged me back for further punishment; the Waltzers was her favourite ride. When I tried to pay, it was always the same response 'No guv; this lady is Boss Morgan's great, great, great-granddaughter. No one will charge her for anything. Her family features are unmistakable. Treat her right because she comes from a long line of prize-fighters; hard men who fought with bare knuckles. You can assume that she has a vicious right hook.!
After twelve years in permanent employment, I lost my job through a disagreement with my boss; it was a point of principle. To leave your job, without another in place, is a rash decision when you have a wife and two children to look after. I apologised to Rose for my arrogance and promised to accept whatever came through the door, permanent employment, or a freelance contract.
I had loved my job in 'Systems Designers', one of the best software houses in the UK. They had sent me to British Telecom's Research Centre at Martlesham Heath near Ipswich. Travelling and expenses became the thorn of my existence; Manchester to Ipswich was a long trip, five hours at best. I began thinking about freelancing. The last negotiation with the boss about expenses was doomed to fail.
In June 1981, I entered the world of the computer contractor; my first contract was in Antwerp in Belgium. The early days in a new city are always the same, I exposed a dozen rolls of 35mm film recording my first impressions. It is such a shame that I did not document the photos. In those days, I would be lucky to get ten per cent good pictures. It seemed to be a waste of effort to document everything. My efforts improved with the advancement of auto-focus cameras. My problems had been caused by my eyes having astigmatism and myopia.
I brought my family over for the Summer holidays; we flew from Manchester to Brussels. Rose became unsettled by turbulence on the flight, but the children, Alan age 12, and Pauline age 10 lapped it up. I picked up a hire car and drove to Antwerp.
Antwerp was one of the cleanest cities that I had ever seen. I discovered later that road-sweepers started at 4am to clean the main streets for the tourists. The city was proud of its heritage and did its best to keep it that way. The annual Rubens Carnival was followed by a convoy of road-sweepers.
Peter Paul Rubens, Antwerp's beloved painter, is celebrated at the Rubens market festival, which takes place each year on August 15th. The festival features a street market in the 'Grote Markt' where the stallholders are dressed in period costumes; just a great show for a keen photographer like me.
The locals do not dine out before ten in the evening; the earlier hours were reserved for the tourists. Buskers and flower girls circulated around a dozen restaurants; a single rose cost a fortune with the man being shamed into buying for his lady. Back home, you could buy a dozen red roses for the same price. The flower girls went home at midnight while the buskers converged on a single brasserie in the Handschoenmarkt, where they had jamming sessions in folk, jazz and blues. It was the place to be, for the most part.
Rose, and I, were sat at the bar at two in the morning. I suspect Rose was not interested in the Jaz and had the appearance of being on her own. The next I knew, there was a man, flat on his back on the floor nursing a bloody nose. He was picked up by his friends, and they left with a large group in tow. The Patron was all over Rose with gratitude. A long line of free drinks stood in front of her. Tension had been building, with the Flemish locals on one side and a group of French-speaking Walloons on the other. It was a recipe for a fight involving fifty-plus normally pleasant citizens. There had been trouble in this bar recently, and the police had threatened closure if there was another incident; there were notices everywhere. The Frenchman had been groping all the women at the bar, and there had been several screams of dissent. The Flemish backed away not wanting further trouble and knowing they could lose their watering hole. Rose had put down the Frenchman without leaving her seat. Rose did not pay for another drink and was welcomed with open arms wherever we went.
We began to hunt for our favourite meals. Pauline loved Moules Meuniere, and I loved fillet steak. We were impressed by the 1900 club in the 'Grote Markt' where we were served fine cuisine on kitchen foil on a breadboard. Blue steak was a first for me; the blood in the fillet steak mixed with a great mushroom sauce.
At the end of the summer, I took the family back to Manchester. On the return flight, Brussels to Manchester, Rose was nervous. She stabilised herself by entertaining a child, who was hanging over the back of the seat. She enjoyed her trip and was completely unaware that we had crabbed into the landing in strong winds. We were welcomed home by a little drizzle that was typical of Manchester. I flew back to Brussels on the following Monday.
With the family back in Manchester, I had a lot of spare time available. My first attempt at creative writing was for all the wrong reasons. I was alone and writing to preserve my sanity. A writer needs the desire to write about a subject they believe in. I was writing about whatever came into my head. It was emotional rubbish, but it achieved its objective; sanity was preserved.
My fellow Brits in the office introduced me to the British-American Theatre Society, otherwise known as 'the BATS'. They met once per month, but there was always other visits for play rehearsals, scenery construction and socialising. My workmate Chris was the Stage Manager for the next production, and Dave was the Producer Manager. I offered my services as a photographer.
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Reincarnation is a subject that fascinates me. I am a lapsed Christian. I was educated by both Roman Catholic and Church of England faiths. I do not believe in all that is written in the Bible. There is too much vanity written in the laws. It is difficult to distinguish between priests and politicians.
Your host tells you he is a magician who uses 'real magic' in his stage illusions. Would you volunteer to be his assistant?
My first book “Merlin Parnassus” recounts the life of Merlin, who was blessed by Gaia; he was given long life and promised he would master Real Magic. He was the wizard at King Arthur’s court.
Zed is a prequel to Samantha's Journey.
My trilogy “Samantha’s Journey” postulates that magic spells, were defined like computer programs.
MySuggested reading list
Ryder Haggard: ‘She’, ‘King Solomons Mines’, and ‘Alan Quatermain’.
Dennis Wheatley: ‘the devil rides out’, ‘the Satanist’, and ‘they Used Dark Forces’.
Ursula K Le Guin: I loved the concept of Kemmer in ‘the Left Hand of Darkness’.Robert A Heinlein: ‘Stranger in a strange land’, ‘Time enough for love’ and ‘I will fear no evil’.
Tolkien: ‘the lord of the rings’.J K Rowling: ‘Harry Potter’.Charlaine Harris: ‘The Sookie-Stackhouse mysteries’,
E L James (50 Shades of Grey).