me on mersey ferry
potted biography

1964: Born in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

starting as I mean to go on by being reluctant to emerge and eventually needing to be induced

1969 - 1972: live in Hong Kong

at the same time as 'Enter the Dragon' was being filmed there, so when I watch the first scenes now am transported back in time by the music, the type of buses, even the appearance of the grass

1972: return to Cheltenham

England strangely grey, but have pleasant memories of a meringue I ate at the hotel we lived in first of all, and becoming friends with the son of a foreign waiter who surprised me by being happy to continue conversations while he was on the loo with me in the same room

1976 (year of the hot summer and plague of ladybirds): start at secondary school

and the start of my problems: I realise I am too old to play with toy cars, and am introduced to academic pressures: my skin begins its long rebellion

1981 - 1983: sixth form

overshadowed by illness and endless studying, but still leaves me with positive nostalgic feelings, possibly because of the camaderie and also the plays I acted in

1983 - 1986: move to manchester to study physics

dominated by my new-found involvement in evangelical christianity (of which all I'm prepared to say here is that its impact on my life has been both very good and very bad) and more studying

my love affair with Manchester begins

1986 -1988: further study and my first proper job

which is an almost unmitigated disaster, I become ill, hospitalised (Salford Skin Hospital), give up the job

but, at the same time something else begins...

1986 - 1994: youth work in inner-city manchester (ardwick/longsight)

which, together with the time I spend living in Ardwick (see 1995 below) has been the time of my life that made both the least sense and the most sense, and has probably affected me the most, but I can't do it justice here (sorry: you'll just have to imagine)

1988 - 1994: keep body and soul attached by...

driving vans for a courier firm and a food shop, then driving minibuses for airport parking companies (which I really enjoyed despite the long hours and awful shift patterns)

Oh, and all this time I'm living in a 'community house'

1994: year of change

I get made redundant, go on the dole, move out of the community house (and get rescued by one of the best of friends), give up the youth work, get diagnosed with depression, am introduced to prozac, and grow a beard

1995: more changes

I start as a volunteer at a citizens advice bureau, and move onto the Ardwick estate where I used to be a youth worker: queue more life changing experiences which again I'm not going to talk about.

however I can say that some remarkable people befriended me, including a dog called 'Bastard' who used to visit my flat and knock on the door

1996: a paid job!

as a part-time welfare benefits adviser at a citizens advice bureau in Radcliffe

1997: become a proper grown up at last

by getting a full-time professional job, in citizens advice bureau management in Salford

1999: the end of an era

I move off the Ardwick estate, become a home-owner in Levenshulme, and finally stop going to church

these earth shattering changes are heralded by the partial solar eclipse, which I view from the balcony of my council flat

2001: stop working at citizens advice bureaux...

and start work as a social security adviser at a law centre

2003: go to London, with a few other people, to try to persuade Tony Blair not to invade Iraq

sadly he didn't listen, but it all came out right in the end as a short, clinical, military strike found the WMD in the nick of time and enabled a well-planned and cleanly executed transition to democracy

oh, wait a moment...

2004: shave beard off

as the result of an extensive consultation process

2005: design my very first website!

2006: Manchester Lesbian and Gay Chorus (including me!) goes to sing at the Out Games in Montreal

and is excited to win the Bronze medal in the choral competion

2007: spend a week at the Glastonbury Festival working for a friend

unforgettable experience (but if I do forget still have mud on my suitcase to remind me)

2008: get to hear Leonard Cohen perform at Manchester Opera House

so I can now die happy, or at least die miserably but in a good way...

2009: Dip my toe into academia by lecturing on social security law at Manchester Metropolitan University.

and Manchester Lesbian and Gay Chorus wins Silver at the Out Games in Copenhagen (don't tell anyone that only three choirs were competing...)

2010: Float over the unique landscape of Cappadocia at dawn in a balloon

as part of a remarkable holiday in central Turkey. Teach again at MMU, which was good. After a valiant fight the Law Centre loses its contract to deliver specialist social welfare law, which was less good, and I return to Citizens Advice Bureau world as a result

2011: A year over-dominated by work and work-related stress

however a trip to Thailand proves surprisingly regenerative: I enjoy the company of my brother and his family, after a super week on a working holiday at TCDF-Ecologic gardening and sticking stones on walls, while immersed in the sights and (especially) sounds of a lush rainforesty environment

2012: Formally enter middle age... having a conservatory fitted and kitchen replaced!
...while continuing to sacrifice my life on the altar of my day job (which, to mix metaphors, is hurtling towards the end of government funding and possible unemployment (and new opportunities?)) ...
However I also launch a new blog, which I am determined to actually work on...
...and spend ten days in Egypt, driven frantic by desperate hawkers, and soothed by ancient but living monasteries.

Oh, and also lead a poetry day at church on the works of Rumi, the Sufi mystic (which appears to have been well received).

2013: Take a risk... taking voluntary redundancy from the Manchester Citizens Advice Bureaux Service, as the legal aid funding for social welfare law ends.

I spend some time feeling exhausted, burnt out, depressed, and a bit sorry for myself...

...but, with a view to moving into freelance work, set up a benefits information website, benefits owl, and a related blog.

As the freelance work is taking a while to work out (if indeed it ever does) I apply for, and get, a part-time job as a training supervisor at a Citizens Advice Bureau in Sefton, just north of Liverpool. Nice to be somewhere new, but have to get used to a longer commute.

Approach 2013 with some trepidation as a significant birthday approaches...