I am a retired teacher of English and live in Falkirk with my wife Fiona. I have two married children and five grandchildren. Those are the bare facts and if that is all you need to know, then you can skip this section but for those of you who would like these details fleshed out, read on.

I was born in Banff, Scotland – the original and perhaps not the best. My father was a local “loon” as they say in those parts and as a little boy I was known as a “loonie” after the North Eastern habit of adding “ie” to form the diminutive. Although I am well stricken in years now, some people still use the term when referring to me, though I believe they spell it with a “y”. My mother came from North Shields in the North East of England, which makes me a hybrid and no doubt explains why the NE is my favourite part of the compass.

I narrowly avoided death at a tender age in the great storm of 1953, though my father’s encounter was closer. We were living in Crovie, near Gardenstown, on the Banffshire coast at the time. An account of this harrowing event is related in Confessions of a Banffshire Loon. In another near-death encounter at Crovie, the local constable’s Alsatian tried to dine out on me and the sight of my head disappearing down the brute’s throat caused my mother to miscarry. And so, at an early age, I was responsible for the loss of a sibling. Anyway, having survived these early disasters, we moved to Banff, we being my parents and my sister Marjorie who, for her part, survived any further plans I might have harboured to dispose of rival siblings.

I seem to have packed the most exciting years of my life into the first six years and so I’ll pass quickly over the next few years. My father was appointed headmaster or “dominie” at Ternemny Primary school, some twelve miles out of Keith. I suffered no ill effects from being the dominie’s son and had a happy time there in a school population of something in the region of 30 pupils. My class, being composed of baby boomers, was a large one, the largest in the entire school. There were seven of us. They were all girls apart from Harry, but he only came along later to usurp my position as most handsome boy in the class.

I began my secondary education at Keith Grammar School, which I hated because of the institutionalised bullying and pleaded with my father to take me away and send me to Fordyce Academy, not far from Portsoy. This necessitated cycling some five miles from Deskford, where we now lived, over a very steep hill and of course in all winters. And a Banffshire winter, if you have never experienced it, is nothing like the pathetic ones enjoyed by the rest of Scotland, apart from Aberdeenshire, where the snow comes blowing in directly from Siberia. Never being very good at getting up in the morning, I was frequently late, but a little oil from the bike chain smeared on my hands was usually enough to persuade my first period teacher that my chain had come off yet again. I don’t remember ever being punished for my lateness at any rate.

Fordyce Academy was another very small school and I enjoyed it very much. I think there is too much talk about how size matters these days, by which people mean the bigger the better. Unfortunately, the powers that be decided the Academy was too small to be viable and I was only there one year before they closed it and the entire pupil population transferred to Banff Academy apart from two girls who disliked me for some reason, (actually I think they disliked nearly everyone) and who ironically elected to go to the hated Keith Grammar. This required me to cycle only four miles to Cullen and along a much flatter route and where I hid my bike in the bushes before catching the school bus to Banff. This easier route did not improve my getting-up skills however and I quite often missed the bus but often arrived before it thanks to my regular lift with the Mother’s Pride van (there’s an irony for you) and when I was too late for that even, by one of the teachers. Sometimes it was necessary, however, to make a special effort to catch the bus so I could copy my homework.

I did not cover myself with academic glory at Banff Academy as you might have guessed. I did not like the history teacher and abandoned the study of Higher History to sit in English, which I loved, with my girlfriend in the year below whom I loved madly. Astonishing that I was allowed to do this and get off with it. And there were no parents’ evenings in those days so when the results came out with no History on it, I merely said I must have failed it very badly and that was the end of the matter. Fortunately, I did nevertheless secure enough Highers to get into Aberdeen University and I enrolled there for a new teaching degree after a spell in the Civil Service in the Ministry of Pensions as it was then. I had only joined the Civil Service as I couldn’t think of anything else to do and my heart wasn’t in it. And if I had been the laziest school pupil, I was a most assiduous student. Fear of failure and a desperate worry what I’d do with myself if that happened, resulted in my studying very hard and covering myself with all sorts of academic distinction. But after four years in academe, I had to give up the student life and enter the world of real work for the second time. It was easy to get a teaching job in the early Seventies. It was so badly paid that no one wanted to be a teacher. I was spoiled for choice. The Director for the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright asked me to direct him to the toilets, and finding my directions too tedious to follow, he bade me take him there and since he was in full flow (by which I mean his words) when we got there, it seemed rude not to follow him in, and whilst he relieved himself, he offered me not only a job, but a job for my fiancée who was graduating the following year, and, most important of all, a house. Although it was in the South West, I thought I might as well hang out down there and besides, the “Stewartry of Kirkcudbright" had a very appealing ring to it.

One year later, the year of the building strike, and on the day of the wedding, I received a letter telling me that we had been allocated a house “at present under construction”. When we came back from our honeymoon, that is to say, Fiona, me and my mother-in-law – yes she really did come on our honeymoon – the house was still under construction, or rather not, and we began married life in a caravan in the municipal site in Dalbeattie – a great attraction to the pupils.

Three years later, our daughter, Elaine, was born in Dumfries and shortly after that happy event we abandoned Bonnie Galloway and moved to unlovely Grangemouth where I took up a promoted post and where, many years later, I ended my career. In the meantime, our son was born in Falkirk and the following year, we all went to Missoula, Montana on a year’s teacher exchange. Unfortunately, Richard was born profoundly deaf and it seemed almost providential that there should be a unit for the hearing impaired at my school where they taught total communication. As a special dispensation, Richard was allowed to join that class and at 19th months, and still in nappies, or rather, I should say 'diapers', must have been the youngest pupil in the state of Montana, perhaps in the whole of the USA. An Innocent Abroad tells of the first part of our year there and is likely to turn out to be a trilogy before the tale is finally told.

That is the end of the story really. The rest is mainly all work and of little interest so I will spare you the details. Suffice it to say, I was given a get-out-of-jail card in the form of early retirement. I had always been a keen traveller and now I had more time and less money to indulge my passion – as well as to go travelling.

How I came to take up writing is another story but if you really want to find out, it is related in Travels Through Time in Italy. If you are interested in the books themselves, you can read brief excerpts by clicking on the titles on the left hand side of the page.