The job with Marconi Radar, working as an electronics engineer, was fantastic. I spent two years living in Portsmouth, where I was working on a project to build fast patrol boats for the Egyptian Navy. There were 6 October Class boats (25m) and 6 Ramadan Class boats (45m), all incorporating surveillance and tracking radars made by Marconi. During this time, I also did a 3 month stint working in the Naval Dockyard in Alexandria in Egypt. Eventually that project was scaling down and for my next assignment I was sent to the Sultanate of Oman. I lived for a short time on the desert island of Masirah, out in the Arabian sea, and then for a year I was based in the desert, at an air force base called Thumrait which was very remote. My second year was spent up on the north coast, near Muscat. There were a lot more people up at Muscat and the social life was really great.
During this time, I earned very good money and so I was able to go on quite a few holidays and I also bought a small one-bedroom flat in Bournemouth in the UK. The other thing I had started doing was reading books. By now I had realised that knowledge is important and your education does not stop when you leave school.
Although I had strong intentions to return to my homeland of New Zealand, I kept extending my working holiday for an extra year and of course eventually I realised that I was probably never going to move back. No matter how much you plan things, life sometimes just doesn’t quite work out in the way you anticipate.
After five years I left Marconi and took a job as an ‘applications engineer’, based in the UK, working for a German company called Rohde and Schwarz. They made very high specification electronic test equipment, which was used in a wide number of applications involving radio frequency engineering. Training consisted of three months at Chessington in Surrey and we also had 2 weeks in Munich, Germany. As time went on, I began to realise that although the job was advertised as an ‘application engineer’, it was really a sales job. I finished my training by going on a one day sales course, after which, I was let out on the road. I had a company car and I drove all over the south of England visiting all sorts of interesting people, working on a wide variety of projects, many of which were top secret. I absolutely loved it and everything went very well.
In 1989 I married Sue and in the following year we bought our present house in Sutton Scotney, near Winchester. The other event that year was when I was flying back from the Channel Islands in a small single engine Piper Cherokee and the engine packed up. This was a very difficult moment, but I am happy to report that myself and my friend the pilot both survived. Sue and I were blessed in 1992 when our son Daniel arrived. He is now grown up and has a very good job as a mechanical design engineer building flood relief gates.
My next job was working for a small company, called Radio Frequency Investigation (RFI), which specialised in electromagnetic compatibility testing (EMC) and radio type approval testing. In addition to all the general sales and marketing work, this job also got me very involved in training courses, trade associations and standards committees. By now I was a chartered engineer and I started doing a lot of international travel, meeting customers, attending exhibitions and speaking at conferences. This was also when the cellular radio industry really took off and we found ourselves as key players, right in the middle of it all. I stayed with this job for 7 years.
It was during this time that I realised, I really needed to do more to improve my writing skills, so I went back to school and did an evening course for an A level in English Language. I also completed a diploma in accountancy and finance.
I then had a short interlude working for a New Zealand company, that wanted to set up a European Headquarters, as their aim was to expand into Europe. Unfortunately this company (MAS) was immediately taken over by an American company (DMC) and within about 12 months, we were all sacked. It sounds terrible but I did a lot of travelling and really enjoyed the whole experience.
After that, I spent 3 years with a small company on the Isle of Wight, which made very specialised high-power microwave amplifiers. These were used for passive intermodulation testing (PIM) in the communications industry, but they also had other applications, including nuclear accelerators, medical equipment and some special government applications (James Bond stuff). It was great working on the Isle of Wight and I would often travel over by hovercraft.
After that I decided to work on my own, initially as a consultant providing my services to a number of companies and this is where the idea came to me to start an internet company. The internet had begun in the early 1990s and very quickly I realised that this was going to change everything. The best way to learn more about it was to create my own website, so as I had an interest in my family history, I created a website about some of my ancestors (www.jjhc.info). This was a hobby website, so it did not make money, but you could say that the internet company that followed, was a very useful spin off.
The internet company is Local Surveyors Direct (www.localsurveyorsdirect.co.uk) which is a price comparison website for building surveys and a wide range of professional services relating to the property industry. This I started in 2005 and as I write the company is still going (in 2020).
With my family history hobby, I have over the years collected quite a lot of stuff relating to my ancestors and when my aunt Pat died in 2005 (Pat was my father’s sister) I negotiated with all the beneficiaries and I bought the bulk of the family relics, including various portraits of my illustrious forebears and numerous other relics, including the remains of my greatx4 grandfather’s library (James Caldwell 1759-1838).
The family library contains a large number of old diaries and letters and over the years I have had the pleasure to meet quite a few historians, who have been interested in various topics that overlap. I do read a lot of history books and biographies, and I find it fascinating learning about people’s lives. They all had ups and downs. Most of them learnt to swim with the tide, with varying levels of success.
The other thing that happened during this time, was that distant relatives started finding my website and getting in touch. I started meeting lots of 3rd cousins, 4th cousins and I have even met a 7th cousin. These have all been great people and quite a few have become very good friends.
Over the years I have had quite a few hobbies. I had a number of MGB sports cars in the 1980s and I learnt a lot about how cars worked and I also made quite a few good friends through the MG Owners Club. In Oman I did a lot of skin diving, water skiing and various other sports associated with the sea. I had a close encounter with a big shark which was quite terrifying. I also became quite well known for organising trips out into the desert and with various friends we climbed some of the mountains. A great pastime in Oman was the Hash House Harriers and I became a regular runner and kept myself fit. Much later, I joined the Winchester Rotary Club and I got involved in organising the annual Clarendon Marathon which starts in Salisbury and ends in Winchester, first Sunday in October (www.clarendon-marathon.co.uk).
Another experience was parachuting which I loved. I did three jumps but it was very weather dependant and after spending all day waiting on one occasion for the right weather, I gave up and didn’t do it again.
Sue and I also had a yacht for about 10 years which we shared with her parents. It had accommodation to sleep 6 people but it was an expensive hobby and we found it very difficult trying to get the time to use it, so I was quite pleased when we finally sold it.
I still like woodwork and I build pieces of furniture in my garage every now and then. I also have an allotment where I grow vegetables.
One thing I will note here is smoking and drinking. Smoking in the 1960s was a very common practice and the cigarette industry ran incredibly sophisticated marketing campaigns to convince people to carry on smoking. Even the films on TV at the time, often presented the hero with a cigarette in the corner of his or her mouth. Lots of people smoked, just because lots of other people smoked. Even though everybody realised that smoking was a waste of money, and was bad news for your health, a huge number of people still carried on lighting up.
In the 1970s a strong anti-smoking lobby emerged, and eventually forced the politicians to introduce legislation to stop the cigarette companies brain washing everyone. The anti-smoking lobby also managed to convince more and more people that smoking was becoming socially unacceptable. Consequently, smoking has steadily decreased during my lifetime which is good to see. I never actually took up smoking, so for me it was never a problem.
I am sure the drinks industry is going to gradually go in the same direction but it might take a bit longer. Most people drink alcohol and they see it as one of their little luxuries (as did the smokers back in the 1960s). I drank very little while I was at university. In my 20s I drank pretty much like most other people and we had some good parties. In my 30s, after the occasional party with a good drinking session, I started to find myself feeling a bit washed out. This steadily got worse and over time I found that I did not feel at all well, even if I only drank a few glasses, so I scaled my drinking down to just the odd glass and then eventually I stopped completely. I do miss some of those great parties but even if I still drank today, I am no longer in my 20s so those days are long gone.
I never drank coffee but I was a regular tea drinker but again I started to notice that I did not feel good so I scaled this down as well. Likewise with processed food, so I also stopped consuming anything out of a packet.
Around the age of 40 my health began to deteriorate further and I often felt tired. When I discussed this with my doctor he told me that it was probably the fact that I was getting older and so I would have to get used to it. He also said that maybe I had an allergy of some sort but as I did not believe in allergies, I dismissed this quite quickly.
By my early 50s my health was significantly deteriorating and eventually I realised that I had a dairy allergy. I cut dairy out of my diet and since then I have felt great. So great in fact, initially it was like living on a permanent high. I now eat natural food, I avoid dairy, I drink water and I exercise regularly. I have realised that just as we all have different faces and different voices, we also have different digestive systems and we all need to figure out how to tune our diet to get the best results from our bodies. I have found what works for me. If you have any problems with your health, I hope you can find what works best for you.
I continue to work full time. As long as I am lucky enough to have good health, I have no intention of ever retiring.
My life after 1980 could probably be another book but I hope the above postscript helps to fill in a few blanks.
James, JJ, Michael, Hilary, Dora. Napier, March 2019.