How do you set about summarising fifty-odd years of life? I have had a bit of practice, starting with the notorious 6th form magazine which included attempts to write one-line plot descriptions of several great works of literature. Then, in one of my books I attempted to sum up 1,700 years of theological dispute in a paragraph, so what the heck. As the SAS (Special Air Services) say, “Who dares falls on his ass.”
Well, in 1967, I managed to get into St. Catherine’s College, Oxford to read English Language and Literature. It was a wonderful college and I had a great time at Oxford. However, although I enjoyed the course, I never really settled to Eng. Lit. After my dad died in my second year, it all seemed a bit pointless so I took a year off to get my head straight. However, when I got back, I never completed the third year. I drifted a bit, ending up in Cambridge where I became a bus conductor, which I enjoyed immensely, and got married, which I did not. It never really worked but did result in a beautiful daughter who is now in her mid-forties, still beautiful (not genetics), a bit wacky (genetics?) and doing an excellent job for a charity in Cambridge.
After a drunken discussion with a mate in a pub one night, I then got a job as a GPO (General Post Office) telephonist in Cambridge Exchange which, oddly for such a non-exciting event, changed my life. It was in the Exchange that I met a wonderful woman called Sybil whom I married in 1977. The general opinion amongst my colleagues (most of them were quite jealous) was that it would never last. Well, I think we proved them wrong as we were coming up to our fortieth anniversary when she died. As a bonus, Sybil brought with her three children, two of whom lived with us and one with his dad. As a result, I am now a grandfather (honorary) of seven grandchildren and a great-grandfather of four.
BT (as it soon became) was actually quite good for me as I was able to move into the management structure and they sent me to university with all expenses paid and on full salary! I went to the University of Surrey in Guildford where I read Economics, Statistics and Sociology. Was this guy doing Econometrics and Statistical Analysis the same one who ‘Mob’ O’Brien dragged kicking and screaming through Maths ‘O’ Level to achieve a magnificent Grade E? The crazy thing was that being a bit older and having got used to regular work, I treated it like a job, studied hard and ended up with a 1st! All of which was, of course, totally wasted at BT except that I got a promotion. It did, however, have repercussions later.
So, the next fourteen years were pretty normal. BT is a bit like the army as you have to move about to get better jobs so, after Surrey, we spent time in Middlesbrough, Lincoln and Deepcar (near Sheffield). I quite enjoyed the work and it was pretty well paid but not particularly exciting. In 1993, our son and his girlfriend went on holiday in Crete and came back raving about a place called Elounda. We decided to give it a go so spent a couple of weeks relaxing and visiting some of Crete. Sitting overlooking the harbour one evening we decided that this would be a good place to live, so we did. No, of course it was not that straightforward. BT had trained me well in project management so had given me the tools to escape their clutches. Not only that, they were prepared to give me the money too as the first of many redundancy packages was on offer.
We came back to Elounda the following April and sorted out a job and somewhere to live. I found that the only qualification to teach English in one of the many private language schools was a degree – any degree. So BT had also given me the means to get a job in Crete! God bless ’em. The saga of our move out here would take far too long to tell but some of the stories are quite funny. And that is about it really. We spent a wonderful twenty-two years here enjoying a relaxed lifestyle and decent weather. When I compare teaching kids English and helping them pass their exams with spending months preparing for a new computer system and then finding it cancelled/unworkable/completely different from spec (my last few years at BT), I cannot believe how useful my job was! I am now retired and Sybil/Eleni (see soon) died two years back but I still intend to stay here. It is not paradise but it sure beats purgatory.
For various reasons, we were baptised into the Orthodox Church sixteen years ago. From being a not very devout Baptist for some of my teens, I became a not very devout Anglican some years later and am now a not very devout Orthodox. So, since we were baptized in a Greek church, I am now officially Christophoros – no big problem – and Sybil became Eleni – no problem either since she never really liked her name. Another by-product of our ‘conversion’ was that I became very interested in the history and culture of the Orthodox Church. We found that many tourists we met were full of questions about this slightly exotic religion and, since there did not seem to be anything that answered these questions in a readable way, I wrote one. It is called ‘A Glimpse of Heaven’ and. if your tastes veer in that direction, it is available on Amazon (I need the royalties!). It is also translated into German as ‘Das Tor zum Himmel’ but that is another story. I went on from there to have a book of Orthodox Saints published in English and Greek, followed by a couple more which I self-published. I have now completed my most ambitious work to date, a history of Crete. I am still looking for a publisher so any OCs in the publishing business?
Well, that is about it. As I said, I am enjoying life on the whole. I am in reasonable health (partly with the help of medication, I must admit.) The bodywork is getting a bit rusty in places but the engine is still functioning well. My New Year’s Resolution is to stop going to doctors as all they seem to do is make me give up things. C’est la vie.