BACKGROUND (work in progress)
Born in Hillingdon Hospital, Middlesex, UK, 1951
Identical twin, 20 minutes apart
My sister, brother and I grew up in the post-war era. We had ration books until 1956. Most everyone was recovering from the war, physically, mentally, and financially *. There were bomb sites everywhere, and still plenty of air-raid shelters. Our house was under an aircraft route to RAF Northolt, so we often had WW2 bombers and other types of aeroplane coming over the house quite low. Many of the children's comics were related to war.
The winters were much colder than now. The winter of 1963/64 was the coldest, with snow/ice on the ground for three months. Our house had pitiful insulation, so there was ice on the inside of the windows in the mornings. We had a coal fire (and then coke) in the two downstairs rooms for a while, but often only one electric bar heater in the mornings. My brother and I shivered in front of it every morning. We often cuddled the dog because she was warmer ! My mother warmed us with porridge before we set off for school, in short trousers can you believe. We polished our shoes every morning. We had to take good care of our shoes because we had only one pair for everything. There were smogs in those days (usually in early winter), mostly because of the coal fires. The mid-1950's Clean Air Act banned coal in the cities so everyone had to switch to coke. Later we had a North Sea Gas connection and gasfires in the downstairs rooms. My mother loved them, and so did the dog.
I remember that there were few cars, milk was delivered by horse and cart or by electric milk float, bread was also delivered daily. From the age of 7 we walked two miles to school by ourselves. My mother shopped daily because we did not have a refrigerator. There were no supermarkets, just the corner grocery shop for sundries (ham, cheese, jams, pickles, etc) and specialist shops such as the butcher, greengrocer, chemist, hardware, and so on. My brother or I would often accompany my mother to carry the shopping bags.
We eventually got a refrigerator and a rental tv. Black and white of course. The first tv was an enormous box with a tiny screen. There were not so many programmes and only two channels, and we 'turned over' to the other channel with a large switch. The tv was still B&W when I left home (the first time I sat and watched a colour tv was on visiting my mother at the age of 24 in 1975 after two years in Australia). But we listened to the radio a lot, and as early teenagers insisted on listening to Top of the Pops on Saturday at 5pm for an hour, much to my father's disdain, as he usually wanted to watch wrestling or boxing on the tv. As the radio and tv were in the same room, and neither were exactly portable, the power of three teenage children was too much for my poor father.
My brother and I wandered a lot through the local dairy farm fields. We used to look for slow worms, newts and bird's nests. If we found a nest we would keep coming back to watch the babies grow up, until finally finding the nest empty. I made a bird nesting box and put it in the back garden. High up of course. We were great tree climbers and climbed every elm along one field near the newsagent owner's house. There are no elms there any more of course; all chopped down because of Dutch elm disease. Finally we got bicycles on our 12th birthday. My father bought two bicycle kits, which meant they came in pieces right down to the last ball bearing. It took no time at all to put them together, and we always knew how to repair them ! The bicycle gave us both an incredible sense of freedom and we 'cycled in all directions of the compass for many miles as often as possible. Later we needed them to attend the Air Training Corps in Ruislip, which we joined at the earliest possible age of 14. At the age of 68 I still ride a bicycle every day; well, in Japan it is par for the course !
I spent enormous amounts of time in the local library. I mostly read books on facts (mostly science and engineering) rather than fiction, though I did read novels. I remember poring over the giant atlas many times in the reading section. Once I had been so fascinated with a book that I had read there that I walked home thinking about it so much that I walked straight in a lampost. Still have the scar on my forehead.
* [My father joined the army medical corps but was almost immediately captured in north Africa and spent over 3 years in various POW camps. He was injured during his repatriation from Italy (shrapnel from a Stuka bomb) and on recovering in hospital met my mother, who worked as a nurse. He was still in uniform when they married in 1945, on her 20th birthday.]
Looking back on my whole school education, the quality of the teaching was quite poor. Our Primary School teacher Mr Taylor (who I found out later had suffered and eventually died of malaria) and headmistress (Miss Long) were heavy on corporal punishment but light on teaching. I was caned or slippered many times for reasons I could not fathom. My brother and I were perhaps targetted because we were twins and undoubtedly "troublemakers". My brother and I nevertheless passed the 11 plus and enter the grammar section of our local comprehensive (a new system at the time), but there each class was packed with 40+ students per class.
In secondary school the quality of the teaching was very mixed, but later new graduates came to teach and they were much better. Our first form teacher Ms Gilette left after one year to become a missionary in Samoa (no comment!), to be replaced by an absolutely marvellous man called Mr Winkle, who had just left Rhodesia, and who was also our English teacher. One new graduate was a teacher of geography (first name Jane, surname forgotten) who introduced the new topic of geology, and she inspired me to take up those topics for my first degree in Western Australia. Before Jane arrived geography was taught by Mr Sainsbury, who managed to make such an interesting topic as dull as possible. Interestingly though he taught us a great deal about the USA, rather than the UK or even Europe. I guess it was in the national curriculum.
During my first year at Secondary I was given "notice to quit" the school by the headmaster (Mr Watson) because I did poorly at Drama class, despite being top of the class in English, mathematics, and high in most other academic subjects. I could not understand this at all. The music teacher (Mr Trant) was only interested in gaining recruits for his all-girl choir, so I learnt no music (but got caned several times). We also had compulsory religion (of course Christianity) which I could not fathom at all because the teacher (Mr Tripp) kept insisting that the death of JC was our fault, some 2000 years later. It was the cane if we disagreed with him. Despite my great temptation to tell Mr Tripp that his logic did not match mine, I did not get caned in that class, although he undoubtedly enjoyed caning me on other occasions, once in front of my sister's class.
My brother and I did well in the technical drawing class, but the teacher (name forgotten) was a sadist and enjoyed knuckling boys who he deemed were not trying hard enough. He gave six of the best to my brother for talking, or drawing a nut wrong, or something else immensely petty. Despite that I enjoyed graphic drawing work and with one other did the A level course. That "one other" later became a Wing Commander in the RAF.
I also enjoyed mathematics because we had a crazy teacher (Mr Shepherd) from the north who we all liked, and I completed GCE O level a year early. Mr Shepherd had a strong northerly accent and called everyone "sunshine" and if we got something wrong he would say "tough". He made us laugh a lot. But the A level mathematics was taught by the headmaster, who decided that the best way to teach the course was double speed, and I fell by the wayside. There was compulsory chemistry and physics at school, but the teachers were really awful and I learnt nothing. Unfortunately biology was only taught at A level and it was anyway considered to be a "girls' subject". Besides, as I had not been allowed to take chemistry and physics O levels I would not have been able to get entry to A level biology. Hence perhaps my fascination with biology later that led to a PhD in genetics and a career in plant cell biology !
The biggest downside to school was physical bullying. My brother and I were targetted by a large group of younger boys and were bashed or threatened on numerous occasions. I guess because we were "different". Difficult to say why really. For some strange reason we never told our parents, not even years later as adults.
The biggest shock I got during my school years was the sudden demand by my father for me to leave home; I had just turned 16. He told me this on the pathway outside the house, presumably so that my mother could not hear. I negotiated with him that I wanted to do GCE A levels, and I promised I would leave home as soon as I could after that, to which he agreed. I left home the day after my 19th birthday, after I had worked and saved for a few months. I never told my mother. But I knew that my father had a mental disease (bipolar), and not long after he was admitted to a mental hospital. Somewhat later he was retired early from his work (he was 55) but by then I had arrived in Australia.
Perhaps one sad aspect to my school education was the complete lack of interest by my parents. They never asked about school work, homework, or anything else, and certainly we never spoke about further education. I think that is why I liked the Air Training Corps so much (see below), because the retired officers involved were highly motivated and interested in transferring their knowledge and skills. On reflection I see my parents attitude as part of a class culture ... we were working class and there was "no point in trying to be different". Both my parents left school at 14. I think they were quite bright and interesting, to be honest, especially my father, but nevertheless they did not see much point in education. I don't blame them for it because I was nevertheless able to find my own way. I also regret my attitude to school, as I could have done far better if I had made any kind of effort. It is a tough time being a teenager ! I understood later that the more dedicated and interesting teachers had made a huge impression on me, and because of that I did much better in those subjects. I have tried to be a dedicated teacher myself; it is indeed hard work.
Interestingly, after my gaining my first class honours in botany at UWA, I was offered a scholarship for post-graduate studies at the University of Cambridge (Plant Breeding Institute) but eventually turned it down to go to the ANU in Canberra. Perhaps what put me off the most about returning to Britain was the signature at the bottom of the Cambridge letter of offer, Sir [Joe Bloggs]. I was thus reminded of the pompous class society of Britain, and I certainly did not want to call anyone sir !!
Twist of Fate
About 20 years ago my brother investigated our family history. It turns out that our great aunt died without issue, and she had a title that was inheritable. The next-in-line to this title is my brother or me, but as I am the presumed oldest, it comes to me. The title is currently held in the Queen's Chancery. It apparently costs quite a bit to retrieve it. As I am rather anti-royal and quite disinterested in titles and the false superiority that they assume, I am not consumed by it. Nevertheless, as a knighthood cannot be inherited, I assume it is something more superior, such as Baron. My great uncle, who was apparently greatly grieved by the loss of his wife, emigrated to South Africa, which is why we have relatives who live on the veldt. Why none of them are not the inheritable descendent is not yet clear to me, though it could be that the descendents are all female, and given the male dominated system, I am eligible before them. Perhaps our great aunt was his second wife and he had children from a previous marriage? Or perhaps there were no children with my aunt and he later remarried, which is why we have relatives there. It is all a mystery. I should ask my brother to investigate !
Well, as a result, for many years in my laboratory I had the nickname "My Lord", given to me by my colleague in microbiology, himself descended from pirates !!
Air Training Corps
My brother and I joined the ATC at the age of 14, along with one other friend from school (we are still friends and he has visited Japan several times).
I received numerous certificates from the Air Training Corps for engine studies (petrol, diesel, jet), bombs/missiles/explosives, flying training (incl. simulation at RAF Northolt), radio, navigation, meteorology, shooting (up to 600 yards with Lee Enfield .303; 25 yards with a BSA Martini .22), mountaineering, canoeing, trekking, and all those things adventurous boys did in those days. Mind you, the noise of the Lee Enfield screwed up the hearing in my right ear (no ear protectors in those days). I can probably still shoot a hole in a target, but I confess that I am hopeless at tying knots. I can still take apart and re-assemble a petrol engine, providing it is the type that has an SU carburettor or two, distributor, contact breakers, etc. Thus my burning ambition to own a classic car !
Joining the ATC was the best thing I did as a young teenager, but it distracted me from my school studies because it was far more interesting than the mostly dull stuff at school. The best part of the ATC was making friends with boys of similar interest. The volunteer officers were very kind and spent a lot of their spare time with us. Without the ATC I would have had a far less interesting childhood. They gave me free flying lessons, and I managed to get my gliding licence at the age of 15. The only boring bit was having to march up and down sometimes. I didn't mind wearing the uniform and we didn't have to wear it on Sundays. I had a keen ambition to enter the air force as a pilot, but it didn't work out.
About going to Australia
The best thing I did in my life was to leave pompous, class-ridden British society for Australia in February 1974, at the tender age of 23.
I spent my last £145 on a jet-ship trip, flying to Singapore and then a Russian ship to Fremantle, surviving on borrowed money from a girl I met on the ship !
We became good friends ... and having just graduated in mathematics from a UK university, she encouraged me to enter university in Perth, which I did a year later.
Actually, on arrival in Fremantle, being a British citizen, I was offered a one year visa, or if I took a 30 day visa and had an X-ray (to detect possible TB), I could get permanent residence (PR). I fortunately made one of the better decisions in my life, and took the PR pathway (and fortunately no TB). So I was delighted to find that when applying for university I was thus eligible for the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme (TEAS) and got support for 4 years. I was also lucky in that St. George's College of residence accepted me, and it was very convenient for access to the university's facilities and lectures.
Finding that I not only enjoyed study but was reasonably good at it, I ended up being an undergraduate for 6 years completing two bachelor degrees, the latter with a first class, and then a PhD. The PhD was not so enjoyable, but that is another story, as are the various post-docs and fellowships afterwards. If I could do it all again I would definitely not go into academia ... though there are excellent people, academia does seem to have a disproportionately large number of wankers. But then it is likely that someone from commerce or industry would tell me the same !
Newspaper round (daily)(1964-1966), Hardware store (Saturdays and weekdays after school)(1965-1966), Greengrocers (Saturdays)(1967), Cafeteria assistant (Saturdays)(1966-1967). Summer jobs at various factories, including my father's factory Kenilworth Co. Ltd (famous for its brand, Hermetite) in West Drayton (1966-1968). I also earned pocket money drawing business graphs for my father.
During these jobs I found that people (employers) could be very hard-hearted. But our newspaper round employer, who also ran the newsagency, was a very kind and decent person who treated us fairly and equally, though perhaps I did not realise it at the time. I wish he was still alive so I could thank him for giving me some incentive to believe in humanity. I think that he was kind to the young people he employed because he did not have any children; we were literally his kids !
PRIMARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION
Hayes Park Infants and then Junior School, 1955-62
Mellow Lane Comprehensive School, 1962-1969
Royal Society of Arts Certificate in Mathematics (1965)
GCSE in English Language, Mathematics (1967)
Ordinary level GCE in Economics, English Language, Geography, Geology, Mathematics, Technical Drawing (1967)
Advanced level GCE in Geography, Technical Drawing (1969) and Economics (1970)
During my secondary school education I was also educated in the Air Training Corps, 1965-1967 (see at bottom)
EMPLOYMENT HISTORY BEFORE TERTIARY EDUCATION
Graphic artist, UK, 1969-1971
Lithographer, UK, 1971-1973
Printer, hospital worker, WA Gas Board trench digger, & bank teller (Commercial Bank of Australia), Australia, 1974
B.A. : Geography and Geology (Earth Science), University of Western Australia, 1975-1977 [3 year Commonwealth TEAS scholarship]
B.Sc. : (Hons First Class): Botany, University of Western Australia, 1978-1980 [1 year with Commonwealth TEAS scholarship]
Dissertation on the ecophysiology of Eucalyptus
Ph.D. : Genetics Department, Research School of Biological Sciences, Australian National University, 1982-1985 [3 yr ANU scholarship]
Thesis work on the Rhizobium/legume symbiotic pathway using transposon-induced mutants of Rhizobium
ACADEMIC POSITIONS (most recent first)
International Christian University, 2019, as Part-Time Lecturer in Biology
International Christian University, 2016-, Professor Emeritus
Kyorin University Medical School, 2018, as Part-Time Lecturer in Cell Biology (first year medical students)
International Christian University, 2011-2013, as Chair, Life Science Department
International Christian University, 2005-2009, as Chair, Graduate School of Natural Sciences
International Christian University, Biology Department, 1999-present, as Professor
International Christian University, Biology Department, 1993-1999, as Associate Professor
Australian National University, Research School of Biological Sciences, 1991-93, as Rockefeller Foundation Fellow
Ohio State University, Biotechnology Centre and Department of Botany, USA, 1990-91, as Research Fellow
University of Tsukuba, Institute of Biological Sciences, Japan, 1987-1990, as Foreign Professor
John Innes Institute, UK, 1985-87, as Higher Scientific Officer
University of Western Australia, Electron Microscopy Centre, 1981-82, as Research Assistant
VISITING RESEARCH FELLOWSHIPS
Australian National University, Sept 1997 - March 1998, as Visiting Research Fellow
University of Canterbury, New Zealand, June 2002 - January 2003, as Erskine Research Fellow
Cell biology, microtubule dynamics, gravity sensing
CELL BIOLOGY. Textbook: Molecular Biology of the Cell, Alberts et al.
CYTOSKELETON. Textbook: Molecular Biology of the Cell, Alberts et al.
PLANT STRUCTURE & DEVELOPMENT
ADVANCED COURSES IN SYMBIOSIS, SIGNALLING, CONFOCAL & ELECTRON MICROSCOPY
FOUNDATION IN BIOLOGY. Textbook: Biology, Campbell and Reece
GENERAL EDUCATION COURSES: topics include the Biosphere, the Nitrogen Cycle, Plant Life
World's most widespread family?:
Identical twin brother, lives in Toronto, since 1974. He has two children and two grandchildren.
Older sister, lives in rural France (near Cognac). She has two children.
Eldest daughter (+ husband and daughter) lives in England. BA (Brunel) in business and works in Marketing.
Second daughter (+ husband and 2 daughters) has degree in Spanish and a Master's degree in Nursing Science (both from University of Melbourne). Now in Sydney working as a State Registered Nurse and Midwife.
Son graduated in Mathematics and Computer Science at Rice University in Texas, and in Medicine at the University of Miami Medical School, Florida. He is currently in a residency program as Dr. of Physiatry at University of Houston Hospital (since July 2018).
And I am in Japan enjoying culture, excellent food and a life of hobby farming and serious shed building.
Residences (I have moved house about 30 times …)
UK until 1973. Lived in Hayes End, Ealing, Rickmansworth, Slough, Dorney Reach, and Windsor.
Australia 1974-1982 Perth. Lived in East Perth, Shenton Park, Subiaco, Nedlands, Crawley, Nedlands again, Claremont, Subiaco again, Nedlands again (2 places).
Australia 1982-1985 Canberra. Lived in Civic and O'Connor.
UK 1985-1987. Lived in Colney and Bawburgh, both in Norfolk.
Japan 1987-1990. Lived in Matsushiro, Tsukuba.
USA 1990-1991 Lived in Grandview Heights, Columbus.
Australia 1991-1993. Lived in Hughes and O'Connor, suburbs of Canberra.
Japan 1993-present. Lived in the suburb of Koganei and three houses on my university campus in Mitaka.
Was in the last house on campus for 19 years, perhaps the longest I have lived in any house.
Currently living in the Tokyo suburb of Chofu (since August 2015).
Residences during research leave periods:
Australia 1997/98 for nine months, lived in O'Connor, a suburb of Canberra.
New Zealand 2002/3 for 8 months, lived in Upper Riccarton and Avonhead, suburbs of Christchurch.
Country house in Nagano Prefecture, purchased March 2012. LINK !
House in Chofu near to my old university, purchased May 2015.
British (and thus EU citizen)(but maybe not for long since Brexit!)
Naturalized as an Australian in 1978
As an Australian I also have a right for permanent residence of New Zealand, since 1978
Permanent resident of Japan since 2004
DIY (I like making sheds, furniture, boxes), music, photography, cooking, growing vegetables, bbq, travel, making websites!
I have owned around 24 cars and 3 motorbikes (a rather scary ex-police Suzuki, a Honda, and a vintage BSA). Only two cars were new. The nicest was a 1967 Mercedes 220S, the most uncomfortable was a 1972 Renault 4, the most dangerous was a 1954 BMW Isetta 3 wheeled bubble car, the best bargain was a 1972 Volvo Wagon, the cutest was a 1986 Citroen 2CV that we bought new, the absolute worst was a 1978 Volvo saloon that fell to bits, the smelliest was a 1978 Toyota Station Wagon, the most unreliable a 1980 Subaru 4WD Wagon, the cheapest and largest a 1977 Buick Station Wagon (in the USA), and the one with the best cornering a 1970 Mini. Altogether I've had one Merc, two Volvos, two Minis, one BMW Isetta 3 wheeler, two Renault 4's, a Buick station wagon (in the USA), a Toyota wagon, 2 Austin A35's, a Reliant 3 wheeler, an Austin Cambridge, a Hillman Minx, a Ford Falcon, a Mazda Familia, 2 Subarus, a beautiful Citroen 2CV, and a Nissan Prairie. While away on sabbatical leave in Canberra for eight months I bought a slime green 18 yr old Mazda 626 which blew its head gasket in front of a police car, and they watched me chug along past them with huge clouds of steam behind, I guess bemused at the thought that I wasn't going to get very far (fortunately as far as the local service station).
Bought a new Honda AWD CRV, in 1996, which was still going strong at 24 (and only 145,000km), but have now given it up for a much younger Subaru Forester, 8 years old but only 11,500km on the clock ... quite a bargain as it also comes with a 3 year guarantee from Subaru. The CRV had been amazingly reliable (the key to which is regular maintenance) but the suspension got very noisy and then there was the rust underneath from the salted mountain roads in winter. My brother in Toronto had the same model which also did very well (traded in at 165,000km). Hoping the Forester will do us well and I will keep up its maintenance too.
In March 2017 bought a year 2000 Mkii Mazda roadster in unmodified and excellent condition, with only 29,000km on the clock by one lady owner. My only regret has been that I did not buy a sports car earlier, as I have enjoyed every drive immensely. I keep it at my country house in Fujimi and whizz around the country lanes at low speed but with considerable g-force at each corner.
Gliding licence received July 1966, after 3 solo flights in a Kirby Cadet MK3 glider at RAF Swanton Morley, Norfolk, UK
UK Driving licence, three-wheeled car, received January 19th 1967
UK Driving licence, four-wheeled car, received July 1969
Taxi licence, Australia, received January 1977
Driving licences held for the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Japan
Trained for steering ticket while working on a cargo ship between Perth, Australia and Malaga, Spain (1978)
Duke of Edinburgh Award, Bronze (1966)
1st Dan, Kyudo (Japanese archery)(1989)(trained at University of Tsukuba Kyudo Dojo)
2nd Dan, Kyudo (1997)(trained at the Mitaka City Kyudo Dojo)
AWARD FOR BRAVERY
In early October 2009 I received an award for bravery from the Musashino Fire Department, Tokyo.
While at an upstairs cafe a few days earlier, an explosion occurred at the downstairs bakery, and on hearing the screams of a man, I investigated and found a young man on the floor bleeding very badly from a neck injury. I applied compression to the wound with a small towel. The ambulance arrived 40 minutes later, and he was taken to the hospital just in the nick of time (another two or three minutes and it would have been too late). After a 6 hour operation, his life was saved.
I was given the award because I had ignored the possibility of another explosion and my compression of the wound definitely slowed his bleeding enough that he could survive.
Quite honestly I thought he would die in my arms, so I was very glad of course to hear later that he had survived. Soon after the incident and award giving, I left for France for three weeks. On my return, the young man telephoned me; he had just left hospital. Hearing his voice was the greatest reward I can think of.
After the explosion, everyone in the bakery had run out, leaving the poor young man alone to his fate ! Pretty awful really. Well, on seeing him I yelled for someone to call an ambulance, and then went to help him. He was already lying in a pool of blood, that got very large as time progressed. I could literally see it getting bigger and bigger. When he complained about feeling cold, I knew his core temperature must be lowering due to loss of blood, and I got very worried.
Fortunately I was not alone with him, as a passing nurse had heard the explosion and had come inside. She encouraged me to keep the compression, and organised a pathway for the stretcher. It helped a lot that she was there.
He had been repairing a refrigerator unit with brazing tools and the copper pipe exploded. A piece flew through his neck, fortunately missing his artery by about 5mm, as he told me later.
After the ambulance arrived I was relieved of my duty, to find that my arm was locked up from the 40 minutes of constant pressure. I also started to shake, from shock I guess, but it soon passed.
The nurse also received the same award, but I never met her again because her award ceremony was later than mine.