I was born at the beginning of WW2 at Teddington (Tide-Ending-Town) on the River Thames in what would now be called Greater London. My memories are mostly of fooling around on the river on home-made rafts (I couldn’t swim but we never capsized) or excavating intricate labyrinths of underground tunnels with other local boys. These tunnels were periodically demolished by our parents, who considered them dangerous. There was also an equally dangerous gravel pit somewhere that occupied much of our time.
My mother had studied art design before her marriage. My father was, like Bernard Shaw, a Wagner addict. As far back as I can remember I always went to sleep with a Wagner opera playing in my bedroom. Siegfried became my first hero. Even before tzat music rocked me to sleep. My father’s closest friend was a French concert pianist. Jean-Jacques would come to the house during a bombardment and play for hours. As the piano was considered the safest place after the broom cupboard under the stairs, I was usually put to sleep under the piano.
At school I failed to shine academically, being far more interested in other activities – the school choir, the school orchestra (cello), the school drama club. The only subjects I enjoyed were English, French, Geography and Music. I would have enjoyed History but the teacher, “Beefy Budden,” was probably the most boring teacher ever allowed to practise!
Not long after leaving school, I was accepted at the Toynbee Hall Drama School, a sort of poor boy’s overflow from RADA (we had the same teachers) and was also given some minor roles at the Watford Rep Theatre, which closed later and was turned into to a Bingo Hall!
Then in 1961 I went on holiday to visit my old music teacher who was then working in a private Swiss school at Villars. I naturally met the founder and headmaster who said he could use me to teach drama and be a junior housemaster. I never returned to the UK and have been teaching, writing and travelling ever since.
My travels have taken me round the world – I have driven to India and back, climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro twice – spent eighteen summers sailing among the Greek islands, hiked part of the Appalachian Trail and the Grand Canyon in the US, stood on the Cape of Good Hope and North Cape in Lapland, walked on the Great Wall of China.
I still maintain my love of the theatre as artistic director and actor with the Comédie Nestlé in Vevey. I have acted such roles as Professor Higgins in MY FAIR LADY, Fagin in OLIVER, Captain von Trapp in THE SOUND OF MUSIC and at least thirty other leading roles at the Vevey Theatre and two Franco-Swiss film productions.(as a bilingual actor).
The big failure in my life has been three marriages, all very international – American, Vietnamese, Ukrainian – but all ending in divorce. I guess at heart I’m what they call a confirmed bachelor. In reality I’m just too independent. I need my freedom in order to concentrate on my work and I’ve yet to find a partner who is able or prepared to share the long mountain hikes I still do every weekend (seven or eight hours a day) or the hazardous summer expeditions I take by camping-bus (twice across the Sahara) and the risks they involve (in prison in Iraq and Syria, but that’s another story).
It’s October 28 and has been snowing all day. The temperature outside is -6°and I’m listening to Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. Life is good!
I hope you have enjoyed reading a little about me and that you will enjoy future blog posts which will reflect my love of books, music, travelling and the outdoors.