In the beginning …
‘I was born in Hong Kong. The reason why I was born there was because my father, who was in the Royal Navy, was based there. My family – mother, father and sister Sharon – returned to England when I was 7 months old I believe.
‘I was brought up in Chatham, Kent, for the first 18 years of my life, living in the Lordswood and Luton areas and attending local primary schools.
Education and growing up gay
‘I went to secondary school in Suffolk – a Royal Navy boarding school called The Royal Hospital School. I would say that the reason I went there was because I did not pass the ‘Kent test’ (a hangover from the 11-plus, retained by Kent County Council), and it was either go to ‘RHS’ or attend the local secondary modern school. I received a good education at the Royal Hospital School, but I was very unhappy there. I found the pseudo-military regime of the school oppressive and cruel and I believe the school reduced me from being a confident and happy, if somewhat precocious, child to someone who felt an inch high, a nothing.
‘A particular point to note about RHS is that, at the time I attended, the school waged a proactive campaign against boys thought to be gay. I am gay and I witnessed some terrible treatment of ‘queers’ at school, both by the school and the other boys. I believe my experience of this had a profoundly detrimental effect on my emotional and sexual development, which I still feel today.
‘I did my ‘A’ levels at Mid-Kent College of Higher and Further Education and went from there to Oxford Polytechnic (now Oxford Brookes University), where I studied Politics and Economics. I really started to ‘come back to me’ at Oxford Poly and regained a fair amount of confidence. In particular, I made loads of friends and started performing my songs live, mainly in student union bars and at events. My band, The Sell-Out, headlined a charity event for Helen House Hospice, which was probably the highlight of my music career at Oxford. It was at Oxford Poly that I was unintentionally pushed out of the closet and came out as gay, which I did to almost everyone I knew pretty quickly. The story of how I was unintentionally pushed out of the closet is fairly long, so I won’t tell it here, but it was undoubtedly one of the best things that happened to me. It was very difficult coming out with no preparation and it took me probably another 10 years before I was ok about being gay.
Post-graduation and moving to London
‘I kind of drifted after graduation, continuing to live in Oxford and doing a variety of jobs, including in Oxford City Council’s Housing Benefits department.
‘I moved to London in December 1989, to take up a post with the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. I was in my mid-20’s and enjoying going out almost exclusively on the gay scene and making gay friends. I think it’s fair to say I fully immersed myself in a gay identity.
‘In 1990, I think, I started living in Acton, West London, on the 8th floor of a tower block on the South Acton estate. I was to live there for 12 years and the flat I rented provided a firm base for me to enjoy my time as a youngish gay man in London.
‘In the mid to late 90’s, I used to play gigs in pubs in West London. By the end, it was a drag trying to persuade an ever-dwindling number of friends and work colleagues to journey to some venue on a wet weekday in November, so I stopped performing live sometime in the late 90’s. I played my first gig in ages in October 2006 and I quite fancy playing live again! Although my live ‘career’ ended, I have continued writing and recording tracks, which you hear on this website. I reckon I’ve got decades of writing and recording ahead of me. I do it all for my own pleasure, which is so much more leisurely and rewarding than when I wanted a record deal.
‘In 1993, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, having been unwell with pain in my stomach and, previous to that, in my colon, since I was about 17 years old. I underwent an unnecessary and traumatic operation for my Crohn’s Disease to be spotted and I was prescribed with steroids, ‘immunosuppressants,’ and Mezalazine (which I was later to be told by a doctor is basically a placebo) – none of which were any help whatsoever. Instead, the steroids caused me a lot of weight gain, a bloated appearance and made my mind feel kind of fuzzy! After the doctor told me Mezalazine was completely ineffective, in around 1995/96 I think, I stopped taking any medication. I have not had a relapse of full-on Crohn’s symptoms since 1994, but I did have a lot of discomfort in my stomach for maybe a decade after. The long and short of it is that I was very unwell with Crohn’s Disease in the 80’s and 90’s – quite a long period of time – but that for the last 20 years or more I have been increasingly well, to the extent that I kind of feel that I no longer have the disease, although I understand it is lifelong and incurable; I just don’t think about it anymore.
‘We’re roughly towards the end of the 1990’s now, which commences a period of 7 or 8 years when I went through a series of short relationships, ranging from a few weeks to less than 9 months in the case of the longest (and half of that time the person was living in Australia). This period has only recently ended and I still feel bruised by it all, but I think it all went roughly like this …
‘It wasn’t until my mid-30’s that I had my first relationship. Prior to that, I had either not wanted a relationship or been too lacking in confidence to try. My first boyfriend came along unexpectedly; I simply met Simon in a bar one evening and he came back to my flat and stayed (with my enthusiastic encouragement). Although that first relationship didn’t work out, I developed a taste for being with someone, so after a while I started meeting guys with a view to having a boyfriend.
‘From July 1998 to January 2006, I had six “boyfriends,” although some only lasted a few weeks. But each one was important to me at the time and most were unexpectedly ended by the other person.
‘Each relationship was unique, but I feel as if there is some overall reason, or reasons, why none of these relationships lasted very long. My sense is that I was getting better at being in a relationship as time went on and also better at responding to the end of a relationship (which has sometimes hurt me very badly – such as being dumped by email, on the phone and once by non-communication), so I think that my lack of experience has been an important factor.
‘For a long time, I was ambivalent about being in a relationship – that, for me, a relationship was often more hard work and trouble than it was worth and I was perfectly happy being single. But then Joe came along and we have been boyfriends since October 2008. I have now found absolutely the only person for me. I love Joe and want to share the rest of my life with him.’