Time to settle down and start a family, and as the demand for engineers had imploded at about the same rate as the housing market, we returned to good old Blighty and an uncertain future, but with a compensating baby girl. Coming home was a culture shock – I guess all returning expats will tell you this. I found myself over-qualified and over-expectant. Career change calling! What on earth could I do after almost ten years in my engineering comfort zone? I know – I’ll try selling! As a ‘professional’ man I rather looked down on selling – it wasn’t a profession, it was a job that mouthy, flashy, shallow people went in for, wasn’t it? Nothing could be further from the truth.

During a sales career spanning twenty-five years I met some of the most charming, intelligent and engaging people one could ever hope to meet – colleagues and customers alike. I’ve come across ex-doctors, lawyers, accountants, teachers, engineers – some disenchanted with their professions, some hungry for change. It was a challenging, if stressful life knowing that you’re the crucial cog without which no one gets paid. No two days were ever the same.

My fondest childhood memories: playing games with my friends in the traffic-free backstreets of a gritty, industrial town in Lancashire; swimming in the municipal pool; on a Saturday morning attending the ABC cinema as an ‘ABC Minor’; watching huge ships tramp silently up and down the Manchester Ship Canal, waving furiously to the sailors leaning over the railings. Then my parents upped sticks and moved to bucolic Chepstow, a charming market town straddling the River Wye. From my bedroom window I watched in awe as the twin support towers of the first Severn bridge rose like two massive rugby posts from the villages of Aust and Beachley. No doubt this sowed the seeds for my love of rugby and engineering!

All too soon there was another move on the cards, this time back ‘up north’ to rural Cheshire and my fourth school in as many years. My parents intended to stay – but not me. I was off to university in Yorkshire, a land much misunderstood and maligned by my Lancastrian forebears.

Four years later I was back in Cheshire, not through choice but because it was a great job offer. After obtaining my professional letters my wife and I moved again – to Papua New Guinea. Boy was it sticky! But the laid-back lifestyle and complete lack of one-upmanship more than made up for the climate. The colourful people we made friends with were marvellous. Now we had an appetite for travel – next stop Hong Kong! Four frantic years in a city that never sleeps were exhilarating but demanding. The energy put out by those all-night mahjong sessions would illuminate Blackpool for a week!