Me

 

I was born on the last day of 1949 in the historic Welsh coal-mining valley of the Rhondda. I was the eldest of three, so a bit of a pioneer. I seem to have led the way for both my sister Julie, and brother Jeff (now a well-known beer-writer and author of the much-acclaimed The Penguin TV Companion), to attend university. When I went to Bedford College, University of London in 1968, I was the first in our immediate family to go on to pick up a degree (just, I almost dropped it!). After many conspicuous appearances in the union bar and and equally conspicuous absences from the lecture theatres – and skippering the College football team for two of my years – rather relieved, I collected my BA Honours in Geography and ran. This was in 1971. Just a few months later, when a subsequent PE teaching vocation lasted just five weeks at Carnegie College, Leeds, my time in academia came to an upbrupt and fairly ignominious end. On the rebound, I would spend, unplanned, much of my life afterwards in financial services (apart from a stint with Avon Cosmetics – ding! dong!), which I admit did little for me (or me for it, come to think of it). But something good did happen in 1971, too. I married my long-time girlfirend Caryl (her dad was my dad's best man, so we went back a bit), and in due course we would have two great daughters, Joanne and Katy.

 

I only really started writing (and setting a few crosswords) when I was invalided out of work for 18 months after ankle operations went wrong. It was originally a football injury – I'd been a schoolboy at Bristol Rovers and played a bit of part-time stuff with clubs like Farsley Celtic and Bangor City as I was posted around the country by the (then) Abbey National Building Society. I'd enjoyed my rugby and cricket as a schoolboy, too, but not too much golf. So I was never a player of golf as such, but it was to become a consuming passion for me, ironically when I couldn't play it, or other sport, any longer.

 

The Golf Majors odyssey began in the early 90s when, as I was recuperating from my ankle traumas, a Welshman turned me on seriously for first time to golf by winning the 1991 Masters. Ian Woosnam had the same unusual surname as my old sixth form Geography teacher; and a combination of curiosity, opportunity, and the boredom of being immobile, set me on a path I knew relatively little about – the game of golf and its wonderfully rich history. Before I got crocked I'd taken some lessons from Mike Gallagher, the pro at Farthingstone, Northants,  who told me rather proudly that he had qualified for two Opens; but in the mid 80s that meant very little to me. At that time my football and rugby days may have been over, but I was enjoying cricket again – at a club, Wolverton Town, where I eventually became chairman in 1997; and this involvement both on and off the field, and commuting to London each day, left very little time (or thought) for golf. But I've always been a keen follower of most sports, and if I was unaware of Mike Gallagher's claim to fame, I knew enough of golf to appreciate the exploits of Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and, already my favourite sportsman (in the truest sense of the word), Jack Nicklaus – if not too much of those that went before them. I had followed Woosie, like all sports-mad Welshmen eager to see a home-born world-beater, from his formative years on the European Tour to the top of the World Ranking. So when he sank that dramatic winning putt at Augusta in 1991, I was hooked. From that point on I just needed to know more about the significance of his achievement; I needed to unearth the background to the Masters, and why that was classed as a 'Major'. But the more I tried to put Woosnam's win into perspective, the more frustrated I became. Nowhere could I find a book which placed Arnold Palmer's concept of the four Majors of Golf as a collective. I tried in the UK and overseas, especially the US, but all I found were writings concentrating on the individual events. Eventually I decided to put them all together myself (I thought in a book, hopefully), through my own research, for my own satisfaction. If anyone then wanted to publish it, so be it. The voyage of discovery had begun. In order to help fund my research now that my commuting and financial services careers were effectively over, I began setting crosswords for various publications, and that soon developed into other puzzles like sudoku, wordsearches and codewords. The first edition of the Golf Majors series was published in 1997. Then in 1999 I set up a courier company to fit some driving into the mosaic of work that was beginning to form. 17 years on, the courier work is over, but I st happily juggle the golf writing and crossword setting, concentrating on one aspect or the other, dependent on constraints of time and income, and new or priority projects. The next book projects will be further annual edition of The Golf Majors; and, to return to another passion, cinema, I've already begun work on The Movie Awards Companion – driven, just like the golf books, with a desire to bring to the film-loving public an in-depth study of an area of the subject hitherto neglected.

 

Today Caryl and I still live happily together, having been in Milton Keynes since 1986. We celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary in August 2011, in what was a very happy year for us as a family. Both daughters are now married. Joanne, after spells at LSE and the Sorbonne, is a successful manager in Health sector (after marrying Anders) bringing up our first two grandchildren, Eva (now five) and Tom (three). Katy did her degree at Sheffield, and not to be outdone by her sister, she married sixth-form sweetheart Kenny, and they doubled the family grandchild count in one day...and what a day. Jackson and Billy Friday were born on a Friday − 11/11/11 − the Binary Twins. Since then Katy has gone on to eclipse her sister, her third son, Ray, being born on 10 October 2015.

 

Life, although pretty hectic, can sometimes be very satisfying. When not working I love my sport, usually on TV these days – the coverage is so good. Of course I'm not as mobile as I was and can't keep up with the galleries at golf events, but I've managed to attend the last 14 Opens, albeit perched on a grandstand seat. I still like my football and rugby, particulary the Six Nations, and aim to see both these sports live at least once in a season if I can (I'm in my third year as a season ticket holder with the MK Dons, no less!). But if I had time to devote to one sport as a spectator, as the cross-country aspect of golf rules that sport out as too arduous these days, it would be to spend at least a day watching a cricket Test Match, especially an Ashes Test (I managed to get in the opening day of the series against the Aussies in Cardiff in 2015, before heading off to the Old Course). The shorter forms of cricket leave me a little cold, but even draped across a sofa, the atmosphere of an evenly-fought Test always gets to me. Another other great love is music: I have around 2000 classical CDs alone. My muscial tastes are quite eclectic, all the same. I can happily tap away at the computer, perhaps devising a thorny, cunning cryptic crossword, while at the same time listening to a randomized selection on Media Player. In any one loop, the Beatles may pitch up next to Palestrina, Mozart to Simon and Garfunkel, Pergolesi to Leonard Cohen, even Wagner to Arthur Alexander. That I am able to blend my work with my hobbies makes me feel very fortunate.

 

And when time does allow for both of us to take a break, Caryl and I (members of the family, too) try to get away. We love driving around France, particularly, and have been returning to the Port Grimaud area of the South of France almost annually for 30 years. It is because of this I love French wine better than any other, especially the southern Burgundies – OK, Beaujolais!