Today I present the photos and story of my friend Nick from England. England is a place I have been drawn to since I was a child and in 1996 I did finally make it there, specifically to London for a week in the winter. I have always been fascinated with the history, the castles, the accent :), Brit Pop music etc. I would very much like to go back again in the near future to see more of the countryside, get to know some locals and of course photograph the heck out of it!
Nick, as you will read has led a very interesting and full life and he says there was quite a bit that he left out!Nicks photo shoot took place in downtown St. Petersburg on a very warm day near the boats as sailing is one of his favorite past times. And now in his own words…..
A major contrast for me, between the UK and the USA, is that I grew up surrounded by history dating back to ancient times. I was born in Abingdon (home of MG cars), near Oxford, England and grew up just South in Newbury http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newbury,_Berkshire
on the intersection of two old Roman roads, in the village of Speen, an old Roman encampment (Spinae).
Speen was the site of Second Battle of Newbury in the Civil War, 1644. See link http://www.speen.gov.uk/vds/village.htm
In England there are so many old ruins and buildings that are many hundreds, even thousands of years old. My younger sister was married in Speen church that dates back to Saxon times and is still used today. As a child I played on and around Donnington Castle built in 1389 and Stonehenge; no fences or guards back then. It just sat on the side of the road as it had done for thousands of years. Newbury is built on a site that was first settled in the Mesolithic period (pre 12,500 BC). It has two open markets each week, granted by rare Royal Charter. When I was a child there was also a cattle market which I used to ride my bicycle to see all the animals – it was safe back then for me to do so.
I went to primary school (ages 5 to 11) in Speenhamland famous for Speenhamland System of 1795 and highwaymen. See link http://www.historyhome.co.uk/peel/poorlaw/speen.htm
My secondary school (ages 11 to 18) was founded in 1466, St Bartholomew’s School for Boys. We wore school uniform with cap (boaters in summer), tie and blazer. I was the last boy to wear short pants at age 13. A public school in England is anything but public, being very expensive and private, and St Bart’s had been a public until the 1950’s when the local authority gradually transitioned it to a state school but retained established traditions. St Bart’s had a Cadet Corps of Army, Royal Air Force and Royal Navy and ultimately, as the senior cadet in the Royal Navy, the senior service, I became the Senior Cadet of the Corps. I was the first (and maybe only) one ever to have completed the Royal Marines Corps, Commando cadet, green beret, training. I was two months shy of my sixteenth birthday.
After 10 yrs in London I met and married a US girl who was bartending at a local pub in Europe to find herself. She found me instead. We moved to Chicago in 1986 so she could return to University of Chicago. We separated shortly after but I decided to stay and begin a new life. I have achieved and learned so much that cannot be quantified in objective terms, as a direct result of the opportunities that the USA has to offer. This not only includes my education or professional life, but importantly my personal evolution and in ways I believe would have been impossible for me had I remained in England. Not least of which is that I have been sober since Friday 13th of March, 1987. This truly is the land of opportunity (and second chances) unlike anywhere else in the world that I have seen. It is hard for people who grow up here to appreciate how precious this is, or what it is like in other countries, even in Europe let alone the Third World.
I have always been an athlete and represented St Bart’s in every sport they had. I played soccer until I discovered rugby at age 8 yrs and played until at 29 I moved to the USA; playing for my schools, colleges and three clubs. I was even given the opportunity to play professional Rugby League but declined because of the strict non-professional policy then in force for my sport of Rugby Union. I played blind-side flanker in school (Nick the Neck) until a serious car accident at 17. Then at college and club levels I played “hooker” in the front of the scrum; its own little war within a war. I loved it and still do. I competed in the US Triathlon National Championships in Las Vegas, rowed competitively in UK and US. I love running, racquetball, yoga, martial arts (boxing, Tae Kwon Do, Shotokan, Tai Chi & others). I swam and played water polo competitively. I especially love sailing and raced in England and France before I came to the USA. I now have a number of sailboats, powerboats, fishing boats, windsurfer and a couple of older motor-homes. I plan on spending some time on the water and going to see the parks and natural beauty in Florida and US beyond.
I delivered evening newspapers at age 10 then became a baker from age 13 to 18. I have always loved to work with my hands and have restored/remodeled cars and houses in England and the US and was even a race-mechanic for friends who raced cares in UK. I have degrees from English colleges in Business and Accountancy and an accounting degree from De Paul University in Chicago. As an accountant I was a Chief Financial Officer in my mid-twenties and an investigative/auditor (now called forensic accounting) and have done criminal investigation and litigation support. The most satisfying accounting work though, has been management accounting helping businesses understand their own cost and profit structures to maximize use of resources particularly in manufacturing and construction industries.
I have been massaging since I was a teenager and finally took the plunge to do so professionally in 1999 and have now been a professional massage therapist with my own practice ever since. I have developed my own modality of “intuitive, heart-centered bodywork”. The philosophy behind it is founded on the belief that “innate in every organism is the capacity to heal itself”. The very energy that created us will help us heal and we can help others to experience it and to heal. Few people have ever experienced their own life force but it is within the capacity of all of us to do so – if we are willing to allow it. I am founding a teaching institute and developing a series of training programs to teach my method to other therapists and physicians. To the best of my knowledge I am the only person who works the way I do and I want to spend the rest of my life practicing and teaching what I have discovered.
I have studied many different forms of healing from all over the world over the past 30 years from sport & clinical massage to many of the more esoteric forms of healing. I have studied with some very strange and wonderful people from China, India, Israel, New Zealand, Greece, Korea, Eastern Europe and parts of Africa as well as other countries along the way. They all have helped me develop a gift that is innate in me. I want to pass this on to as many people as I can for as long as I am able. My life has been so blessed with adversity and joy that I am so grateful to have had the experiences that have brought me to this point in my life.
I grew up in a highly political family and the dining room was a debating chamber, if you had an opinion you had better be able to defend it because you would get jumped on to support your position, even as a small child. My parents believed vehemently in social justice and my father advocated a United Europe before most people in UK knew what it was.All of these ideas, religion, economics, politics, and philosophy were all fair game for the dinner table debating society.
The USA is still a very young nation with a wonderful naivety and enthusiastic idealism. However it seems that often that which it espouses publicly is not necessarily what it practices privately. The USA is constantly growing and reinventing itself like no other nation can. It is the first nation others turn to for help and the USA is rarely slow or meager in its giving. I fear its citizens do not yet fully understand the tribal nature of the conflicts in which the USA gets involved and truly believe that other peoples will play by the same rules that the USA sees as just. They do not because blood is thicker than water and fear is the most powerful enemy of all. Love will ultimately prevail – eventually!
When I first came to the USA it was much more of a culture shock than I expected or had experienced in other countries in Europe. I believe that this was in part because of the expectations created by a “common language” that in many respects is not so common after all. Many of these differences have been very amusing such as people listening to the way I was speaking rather than to anything I was saying. There have also been a few instances where I have been cruelly misheard.
All my family still live in England and travel extensively. My brother is married to a Chinese Malaysian woman and has two children. My older sister has two children from a marriage to a Moroccan man. My younger sister married and an Englishman, also with two children. In the end, as a first generation immigrant, my fondness for the gentility of the country of my birth grows stronger. I miss being able to communicate with common childhood reference points that are not shared with those raised in the USA. I miss the British sense of humor and silliness about anything that may have a “naughty” innuendo or is just plain funny as life often is. After 24 years in another land I realize I will always be an Englishman and never truly belong here, though this is where I choose to stay. But I also understand that I can never truly go home because I am now so different and the place I left no longer exists. We have both changed and I don’t think I can ever successfully go back to live in England. . This was an interesting realization, one that I had not anticipated at all. France, on the other hand, now that is a different story.
In all of this I find myself in the land of opportunity – a place where dreams can come true – where we can all fly or fall to earth according to own willingness to stretch our wings and take a leap of faith. I do wish at times that there were more of safety net to encourage those who want to learn to fly. The greater the risk however, the greater the reward, and a safety net would reduce the risk so one could never truly risk it all.
Thank you Nick for sharing your story with us!
To see larger version of these photos and a few more go to: