In order to advance, you need to give a nod to the past…
I grew up in the town of Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, on the tip of the Furness peninsula. If you go past it, you end up in the Irish Sea on your way to Belfast via the Isle of Man. Shipbuilding was the goal of most aspiring school leavers, so I had to arm wrestle the careers officer in order to persuade him that all I wanted to do was cook. I dreamt of being a chef, of travelling the world and escaping the blaring yard horn that sounded each time the workers crept in and out of the yard. Running like ants, they would jump on their bikes and pedal like hell to escape and get home to their wives, sweethearts and families… or maybe just the pub.
Although I was looking to escape, don’t think I didn’t love Barrow – I did. I was charmed by its individuality, beaches, history, interesting people and intoxicated by the rich variation of people that lived there. Although I was born in Germany, I have always been proud to call myself a “Barrovian” – I just never really fitted in.
In 1976, when I was nine years old, we regularly went for long summer bike rides along the beautiful coast road to Ulverston. It was so hot that year that my friends and I would often knock on people’s doors for a glass of water where they would happily oblige. I remember stopping at a little farm and asking the farmer for some water – where of course he happily obliged. He was wizened, his hands looked like cauliflowers, and he smelled strongly of ripe horse chestnuts. He looked extremely worldly and wise. As I drank, he asked me casually “What do you want to do?’’ I didn’t understand the question. He said again “What do you want to do with your life?” I explained I didn’t know, and he leaned toward me and, almost whispering, said “Find something you enjoy doing and get someone to pay you to do it!” I remember his happy smiling face as he said it. I said thank you, and hopped back on my bike. As I rode off waving, he said it again. I thought about this for quite some time afterwards and am certain it has had a huge impact on my life.