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Although born in England, my father’s job took the family to Australia in the early 1960’s, where we experienced wall-to-wall sunshine for the first time ever. Two years later, his project to supervise the construction of the Silvan dam in Victoria was completed and we returned to England just in time for legendary the winter of ’63.
After several weeks of shovelling snow away from the front door, my father had had enough of the weather in England and announced ( somewhat spontaneously) …`bugger this weather for a joke, we’re going back to Oz.’
Whilst for most people this opportunity might have seen in a positive light, I personally am genetically predisposed to thrive in arctic conditions. And having already experienced the ferocious heat of the antipodes for two years, my heart sank like the Titanic.....my lily-white skin responded by shrivelling in anticipation of growing up under the sky’s of eternal sunshine.
Alas, my protestations fell on deaf ears, and thus it was, that, as `£10 poms’ the family shipped itself back to the former penal colony on Australia’s `Assisted Passage program’.
And there, in Melbourne, I grew up.
Despite ( what was for me ) vile weather, I would have to admit that in hindsight, Australia proved to be the land of extraordinary opportunity, and I rapidly adapted to life amidst the snakes and spiders. Indeed, I still have fond memories of getting up before dawn during the Christmas holidays to go snake chasing. You see, at dawn, Tiger snakes, Copperheads and Taipans are cold and sluggish, but as the early morning sun warms the arid scrubland, the hunter invariably becomes the hunted, and one learns very quickly when discretion is the better part of valour and it is time to beat a hasty retreat and return home for an early breakfast.
Still, neither the creepy-crawlies, nor the unrelenting heat constituted my principal objection to life down-under, it was the flies……So many of the damned things that even the Australians have evolved a strange mannerism they refer to as the `Great Australian Salute’… a series of flapping gesticulations executed perpetually around ones face, intended to shoo the blighters away.…..It never worked; Australian flies are genetically incapable of taking the hint.
In my teens I discovered that sunshine did serve one delightful purpose; it was conducive to girls wearing skimpy bikinis, and that fact alone somehow made the sunburn worth while. Mind you, being the lone, skinny, lobster-boy in competition with tribes of athletic, bronzed Anzacs did have its limitations when trying to attract the opposite sex….
Even now, my skin and that great fusion reactor in the sky share an awkward relationship.
After completing my studies in Mechanical Engineering, I left Australia having concluded that I was unlikely to ever cope with the heat, and that any career based in audio engineering was unlikely to blossom in the commercially embryonic market of the antipodes.
After a brief period working in a metrology lab based just outside Cambridge ( that’s measurements, not weather ) I formed my own business, Helius Designs, designing and manufacturing exotic analogue audio equipment.
Helius proved very successful growing to be the second largest manufacturer of tonearms in the world. Unfortunately for me, the advent of CD in the late 1980’s heralded the demise of the 12” vinyl LP disk and Helius became another victim of the (regressive) digital revolution. However, there’s nothing like the threat of poverty to inspire rapid adaption to `revised personal circumstances’ and I diversified the business into computer controlled astronomical telescopes. This proved successful and shortly afterwards the product range expanded to include deep-space electronic imaging cameras.
Though great fun to design, big telescopes occupy a very small corner of what is already a niche market; and not a hugely profitable one at that, so when I was approached by the National breast screening program in the mid 1990’s to develop mammographic scanning optics I jumped at the opportunity. These projects concluded with me winning 3 government technology awards and holding international patents in laser optics.
Unfortunately, into everyone’s life a little rain must fall, and for me, the late 90’s were replete with personal difficulties culminating in divorce. Suffice it to say, I eventually bowed to relentless pressure from a faithful band of hi-fi enthusiasts who insisted I revive my audio company. It seems that `analogue is the new digital’ and the 12” vinyl disk has made (much deserved ) enthusiastic comeback.
Though the current recession has not yet affected the ethereal world of exotic audio, I cannot see the boom lasting more than another ten years; and, as I’m told it’ll take that long to establish a career in writing, I’m starting now with the expectation of becoming acquainted with the unfamiliar concept of `a difficult ride’.
I can only guess at the odds stacked against me in this literary enterprise.... However, in my favour, I have never taken on any project that rates as `less than impossible’.... after all, someone’s got to win.