I’ve always had a passion for animals, that love reinforced when, as a lad of nine, my family went to live in Nigeria, father to serve in the Queen’s Own Nigerian Regiment. What an exciting time for a youngster. The parrots, tortoises, chameleons and… snakes. When our adorable bush dog, Poucher, got savaged by a wild animal, and her life saved by the army doctor, I vowed then to become a vet.
I returned to the UK and attended Bournemouth Grammar. The wildlife of Dorset, though less exotic, was still a fascination. And such was my enthusiasm that I set up a school club called the RAM Society – Reptiles, Amphibians and Mammals. Most weekends saw me heading out with a party of youngsters to explore the New Forest on deer watching expeditions; or head over to the delights of the Purbeck coastline along the cliffs from Swanage.
I fulfilled my ambition to become a vet, qualifying from Bristol University in 1972 and secured my first job as assistant clinician at London Zoo where I was to grapple with wolves, leopards, capybaras and the odd python and puff adder. A move to Henley-on-Thames for a year enabled me to test my abilities in dealing with less exotic beasts though the occasional bad tempered puss was capable of out- scratching a lion. The call of the wild proved too much to ‘bear’ – not that I had treated one up to that point. And so, together with my wife-to-be, Maxeen, we set off a five month road trip across Africa in an ex-army truck with eleven companions. The latter when struck ill were administered to by Maxeen, she being a nurse; while my veterinary skills were put to the test in treating a lame camel and operating on a gored ostrich; my meat inspection capabilities were brought to the fore whenever we were offered dodgy carcasses for consumption. The wild pig riddled with oozing abscesses was a definite no-no for one evening meal.
On our return from Kenya, I joined a small animal veterinary hospital in West Sussex, the exploits there forming the basis of my first novel, ‘Pets in Prospect.’ There was a delightful, eccentric array of clients, including the Major with his feral cat ‘Leo’, the would-be-vet, Mildred Millichip, and the Stockwell sisters, whose pace of life was painfully slow on their farm up on the South Downs and who never had time for ‘vet in hurry’.
Later in my career, I became a consultant specializing in exotics with particular reference to primates; this saw me travelling to exotic climes once more. Philippines. Burma. Mauritius. Indonesia and China.
By now, my writing career, though still just a hobby, had enabled me to write a couple of booklets on kittens and puppies while providing ‘tales from the surgery’ for the magazine ‘My Weekly’ over fifteen years. I continued to dabble in feature writing with copy provided for a variety of other magazines.
On retiring from practice, I dithered for a couple of years before deciding I’d better sit down and write a novel, the outline of which had lain dormant in my files for ten years. Conceived in December 2005, ‘Pets in Prospect’ was born six weeks later in January 2006. The subsequent publicity for the book saw me give over 24 radio interviews and over 40 talks, including four Literary Festivals.
I was lucky to have the first novel republished by John Blake Publishing as Pets in a Pickle in May 2011, the sequel Pets on Parade followed in April 2012.
Talking about writing on BBC Radio Bristol, I was heard by an agent for cruise liner guest speakers. He suggested I might go down a storm on cruise ships and would I give it a try? I said ‘Yes.’ Since then, I have done many cruises where I talk about my life with animals, relating humorous tales of my encounters with them.
So life continues to remain buoyant.