As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a writer.
Okay, so the above's a slight word play on Henry Hill's immortal opening line from the film Goodfellas, but, for me, it's true.
As a child growing up in South-East London, I would read the Tiger and Scorcher comic, bask in the adventures of Skid Solo, Hotshot Hamish and Johnny Cougar then set-out to create my own characters and adventures. And if I wasn't writing, then my friends and I would spend endless hours chasing a football around the local streets and parks, enacting the latest FA Cup Final or World Cup tournament. And once we'd exhausted that scenario, we'd create our own teams, with imaginary players from imaginary locations. It was great fun.
Only one problem - there wasn't a subject at school called ‘imagination’, only the likes of History, Geography, English and Maths which, at that point in my young life, failed to inspire. And so when it came to exam time, well, my grades often failed to impress, and I'd once again find myself in the relegation zone of the school's academic charts.
Somewhat miffed at this regular occurrence, I decided to create a formula (football-related, of course, to maintain my interest) for remembering classroom facts and figures. For example, our third year (as it was known back then) History syllabus taught that 1497 was the year of the famous Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama's first voyage to India. And to stand any chance of remembering this under exam conditions, I imagined Portugal beating India 1,497-0 in a World Cup group match, with da Gama netting all the goals. Okay, so scoring every 0.06 seconds is a tad unlikely, but when enacted over and again in the local park, well, this fact and many others became unforgettable. And so, like Senhor da Gama's maiden voyage to India, 1982 was my first journey to the top of my school's academic charts. I don't know who was more surprised – my parents or my teacher, but for me it was a valuable life lesson: that with imagination, application and plenty of hard work, it's surprising what may actually be possible.
My parents worked hard, and we were fortunate to enjoy wonderful childhood family holidays in the South of France. This is where my love of the ocean and its inhabitants began. For me, diving through the azure surface was the doorway to another world, of shimmering colours upon mysterious reefs, of fish and crustaceans dancing amid swaying plant life. Each night I thanked the gods of snorkelling for creating such a joyous pastime, and as I grew older, scuba diving allowed even greater access. Being part of the 'Jaws' generation, my cautious fascination soon evolved into a love of sharks, particularly the Great White. And the word 'Great' seemed wholly fitting, like a crown or accolade bestowed upon a king or queen, in recognition of its all-conquering majesty. The more I learnt about these incredible animals, the thirstier I became for even more knowledge. I began working in the education departments of various public aquariums, and was soon giving a whole host of talks to the general public.
However, the more I learnt, the more concerned I became about the serious threats facing many oceanic inhabitants. Because of this, I began volunteering for marine conservation charities too, and, to this day, continue to visit schools and businesses to give talks (predominantly on sharks) about biology, ecology, and their importance to the health of our oceans. But most of all, I strive to create awareness of the very real possibility that, if we, as a whole, don't change our perceptions and practices, then many species will actually face extinction.
Asides from being sat in front of my computer, letting my imagination run riot, the ocean remains my favourite environment. I return to it whenever I can and regularly scuba dive. I’m now a PADI Divemaster, and, to maintain my ‘shark fix’, I visit South Africa whenever I can – the home of the 'flying' Great Whites.
Music and humour have always been welcome companions too. For most of my adult life I've sung in pub bands, and also enjoyed an intensive three years on the London stand-up comedy circuit. However, it wasn't until I enrolled in a creative writing course that I became reacquainted with my ideal platform for expression. And with the lessons I was now learning about structure, editing and pace, coupled with imagination, application, determination and plenty of hard work (plus, of course, the inspiration gained from a rather-successful Portuguese explorer) I finally began to turn my ideas and the above-mentioned influences into finished, presentable work.
You may still find me singing in a local pub, or doing the occasional stand-up gig. But right now, I am immensely proud that you can find both myself and Bristo Trabant in print, which I very much hope you'll enjoy.
© Ancon Hill Publishing