I feel I have to keep apologising for my self-indulgence on this site. But if anyone starts following my websites maybe they will want to learn what in my life motivates me, and helps formulate my viewpoints? Or maybe they won't? Anyway on this page there is a miscellany of brief facts, achievements, tit-bits, odds and ends, things I've done and things I'm yet to do.
HERE'S A FEW LIFE FACTS, MY EDUCATION AND CAREER CHOICES
I was born in 1956 on the island of Trinidad in the West Indies. My father was working at an oil refinery, and we left when I was one year old. A pity in a way - a tropical island might have been a nice place to grow up.
My education in the 1960s and early 1970s was at Priestmead Junior School, Kenton, Middlesex and then at Downer Grammar School (later renamed Canon's High), in Edgeware, Middlesex, where I achieved 8 'O' levels, 1 GCSE, and 3 'A' levels in Biology, Chemistry and Geography.
I studied at the University College of Wales at Swansea between 1975 and 1978, and there I got myself a 2.2 Joint Honours BSc in Zoology and Botany. I should have done better than a 2.2 - I just didn't do enough work and I didn't revise enough, though regrettably that failure wasn't because I was having a wild and crazy fun time. It was just down to a juvenile lack of motivation. The consequence of the 2.2 was that I fell between two stools - under-qualified for research work or senior positions in my chosen would-be science vocations, but over-qualified for the most junior posts. It also didn't help with my career hunting that in my early 20s, I was almost incurably tongue-tied with shyness at interviews.
The science degree effectively came to nothing. Instead I worked first as a pest control operative (dreary and uninspiring) and then in the absence of any other career opportunities, I decided to open my own shop selling pet and garden supplies (not very profitable) in 1984.
For all kinds of reasons, some of which will be discussed on another page, the 1980s were a very bad time for me and by the end of the decade I began to feel desperately in need of a confidence boost. I knew I was good at logical reasoning tests, so in 1990 I took a Mensa intelligence test which I passed with a score of 161; that supposedly puts me in the top 1% of the population. I do know the limitations of IQ tests - they are about clarity of thinking. IQ is not about a broad knowledge base, or about practical abilities, or a good memory, or the ability to work under pressure, or maybe even common sense. Much less is it about the most genuinely commendable qualities such as moral standards, empathic feelings and selflessness. But passing the IQ test did do a whole lot for my self-confidence, and Mensa membership does look good on a CV!
Giving up my shop with some reluctance, I set my sights on getting another degree; I studied at Anglia Polytechnic University and Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge between 1993 and 1996, and there I achieved a 1st in Therapeutic Radiography - a vocational degree. In complete contrast to my previous effort at Swansea, I should have done worse - my 1st came about not because I had great scholarly or practical aptitude, but rather because I was quite good at writing the necessary structured course essays.
I began a career as a therapeutic radiographer treating cancer at Southend General Hospital in Essex. It was of course a worthwhile career, and for a while, it was also quite an enjoyable one, working as part of a friendly team with many heart-warming moments to remember. But after 20 years, I took the decision to quit in 2016 - a consequence among other things of gradually increasing stress, ever increasing computerisation and multiplying administrative duties. These were trends to which I could not adjust.
There was another reason for quitting. Ostensibly in 2016 at the age of 59, I was taking early retirement, though I have never really liked to describe it as such. 'Retirement' is much too final - it made me feel old at a time when I didn't want to feel old. And besides, I really wanted to continue 'working' after giving up my day job. I wanted to try to make money from something I really loved doing - internet writing. So by choice I would just call my decision to quit as a 'change of direction'.
And now indeed that is what I do. I write. I can't exactly call it a new career as yet because my earnings are pitifully small. However, I enjoy it. And I live in hope.
HERE'S A FEW OF MY HOBBIES AND INTERESTS - STUFF WHICH MAY WELL FIND ITS WAY INTO MY WEBPAGES
Photography. I've always been an enthusiastic amateur photographer - a snapper of every kind of subject under the sun - landscapes, flowers, wildlife, portraits, glamour, still life, architecture and more. Now however, my hobby is mostly limited to travel photography. Having the opportunity to display my photos to a wider audience, was one motivation for creating my own web pages. Many of my photographs can now be seen on my websites.
Poker. I play poker ... quite badly, but getting better. I don't lose money because I'm ultra-cautious. We're talking miniscule wagers and buy-ins here, many hours of play contributing to a net profit of just a few quid per week. It's currently a bit of a waste of time and a bit of an addiction, but it's a disciplined one. And I am improving - profits are increasing and becoming a useful addition to my health service pension.
Astronomy, natural history, human history and many other subjects. And most of all dinosaurs. My specialist subject if I had one would be dinosaurs. But I dabble - I don't specialise.
Growing Plants. Specifically weird and wonderful plants; currently I have more than 200 Cacti and Succulents, more than 30 Tillandsias ('air plants' which grow in soil-less environments), more than 20 Orchids, more than 20 Carnivorous Plants, various assorted tropical bulbs, ferns, and a large number of alpines.
Collecting Rocks and Minerals. More than 100 rocks, minerals and beautiful crystals.
Collecting Fossils. Not so many fossils as rocks and minerals, but wishing for many more.
Collecting Exotic Insects. Not today but in the past my home has also been home to fruit beetles, silk moths, grasshoppers and cockroaches as well as giant millipedes, scorpions and more than 20 species of stick insect. With my fiancee's permission, it may be that way again in the future when she comes to live with me.
Collecting Model Aircraft. More than 60 die-cast models, mostly Second World War, authentically portraying real aircraft and real pilots of the era.
HERE'S A FEW OF MY QUIRKS
My name (1). I was about 17 before I learned how to pronounce my name. 'Alun' is the Welsh spelling of the English 'Alan', but what I didn't know was that in Welsh it should be correctly pronounced 'Alyn' (Alin). My own father, who came from a non-Welsh speaking community in South Wales, hadn't known that, so neither did I. Nowadays I'll happily answer to 'Alun' or 'Alyn', but try not to say 'Alan' - Alan is much too English.
My name (2). As for my surname, 'Griffiths', I've never been able to pronounce that either, and never liked it much. It's that whole 'ff'-'th' thing. Can't get my tongue round it. For that reason I often use my middle name 'Rhys' (pronounced 'Reece') My domain name here is 'alunrhys.com'
My beliefs. Non-existent. I don't believe in anything supernatural, paranormal, religious or mythological. And I'm also not superstitious, though you wouldn't necessarily think so, because I have been known to follow a few rituals, doing things in particular ways and precise sequences, developing quirky habits along the way. This was not because I believed these rituals would make any real difference - it's simply that a certain routine in life brings comfort and reassurance. I think that's common to a lot of people.
My neuroses. So continuing the quirky habit theme, I confess to one particular little neurosis, manifested most forcefully when leaving my house unattended for for than a few hours. For peace of mind when leaving home for more than a few hours, I'll have to systematically go round all the rooms checking lights are switched off, windows and doors are locked, no taps are dripping, fridge doors are shut tight. Maybe you'll think that's normal? Well, what makes it neurotic is that I'll do it more than once. I'll re-check maybe two or three times. And sometimes I confess I'll even have to mentally reaffirm to myself 'that light is off - I don't have to check it any more!' in order to firmly implant into my own mind the conviction that I can now safely leave it alone. Sometimes it can take me 30 minutes or more to get out the front door. And when going away on holiday I'll maybe do a three-times check and recheck on my luggage before I leave, secure in the knowledge that nothing has been forgotten. I think that qualifies as neurotic!
My indecisiveness. I am indecisive in the extreme. You want an example? Should I publish all this personal stuff about my life or should I keep it private? Will it help people understand me better, or will it make people raise their eyebrows, shake their heads and turn away? Will anybody ever read it - a waste of my time and my web space? Well, I guess the fact that you are reading this means that the decision I finally made is clear and maybe worthwhile, but it took me ages before I first published anything, because I could see all the advantages and all the disadvantages. I can always see advantages and disadvantages. That has held me back in life - even when writing web pages. Have you suffered similarly?
My hoarding. I've kept old school books and I've kept pretty much every postcard and personal letter I've ever received. But that's not all - I have boxes full of everything from broken watches, and pens which have run dry, to old clothes which don't fit any more, and tacky souvenirs from long ago. As I look now at the shelf above my computer, I see I still have a Windows 95 instruction manual there - perhaps nine operating systems behind the times, and quite useless today. Some of this hoarding is because I hate discarding things which may conceivably one day be of value. Some of it however, is just down to a hopelessly sentimental attachment.
My database addiction. I LOVE compiling databases, lists and charts. I have databases detailing all the plants in my house and garden, when and where they were bought, where they are, when they flower and almost everything else about them that I can possibly think of recording. I have similar databases for my rocks and minerals too, and my model aircraft, and I have computer generated lists which cover everything in my life from favourite cities and scenic sights and long cherished experiences to favourite films, favourite music, favourite TV shows and so on.
HERE'S A FEW OF THE THINGS I'VE NEVER DONE
Sometimes willingly, and sometimes through circumstances beyond my control, these are a few of the things I'm glad I've missed out on, and a few other things which I truly regret never doing.
[Written in 2018 - see postscript] I've never owned a smart phone, nor a sat-nav, nor satellite TV, an XBox or Nintendo, nor a Game Boy nor any other gaming console other than one of those quaint Binatone tennis ping-pong beep-beep games which first arrived on the scene when personal computer technology was still in its infancy. At the time of writing I am seriously considering buying a smart phone, though not for regular access to the internet - I'll never fathom why anyone wants to stare at a tiny pocket sized screen when they can use a desktop or laptop. No - if I buy one, it'll only be because a smart phone allows access to just one or two useful apps like sat-nav, effectively killing more than one bird with one stone. Expect when I do buy one however, for it to be second-hand, or maybe a version several upgrades out of date.
I've never ever been to a pop concert, never been invited to one, and never particularly wanted to go. As for a music festival - really? seriously? Sodden muddy ground, inedible junk food, cold showers, long queues for dirty toilets, and music I don't like. Why on earth would I ever want to go?
I've never visited places I should have visited. Living in the south of England I've travelled extensively to North America, Central America, Asia and Africa and to many countries in Europe, but ... I've never been to Scotland, North Wales or to Ireland and I've only twice travelled north of Birmingham. It's easy to take for granted the places on your own doorstep - a state of affairs I must rectify soon.
I've never done drugs. I've just not moved in those circles. I once saw a friend rolling a joint - that was literally the closest I've ever come to that world. I've smoked maybe two packets of cigarettes in my life. No more, because it was only done out of curiosity, and there was no appeal for me so I stopped. I've also drunk nothing stronger than beer (which I didn't like).
I'd ever had a home of my own until the age of 46, never been married, never had children, and never had a proper girlfriend until the age of 50. I have made up for it since then though, and I got engaged in 2017.
I can say that I've never been accused of living a really exciting life. And yet .....
(2021 Postscript - I now have a sat-nav. I got fed up of relying on old out-of-date maps and signposts. I still don't have a smart phone.)
I’d Love to Hear Your Comments. Thanks, Alun