As I did on the home page, 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 motivates me. 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 - it would've been nice to grow up on a tropical island.
I was educated in the 1960s-70s 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 attended 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 fun time. It was just down to 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 junior posts. It also didn't help with my career hunting that I was almost incurably tongue-tied with shyness at interviews.
So that science degree effectively came to nothing. Instead I worked first as a pest control operative (a dreary and uninspiring job) and then in the absence of any other careers on the horizon, I decided to open my own pet and garden supplies shop (a not very profitable option) in 1984.
For all kinds of reasons the 1980s were a very bad time for me and I began to feel desperately in need of a confidence boost. I knew I was good at verbal 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 limited significance of IQ - it's about clarity of thinking. It 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 truly commendable qualities such as empathy or selflessness. But passing that test did do a whole lot for my self-confidence, and Mensa membership does look good on a CV!
Giving up my aforementioned shop work with some reluctance, I set my sights on another degree; I attended Anglia Polytechnic University in Cambridge between 1993 and 1996, where I achieved a 1st in Therapeutic Radiography. In contrast to the previous degree, I should have done worse than a 1st - I got a 1st not because I had great aptitude as a radiographer, but rather because I was good at writing structured course essays.
That degree led to a career as a therapeutic radiographer treating cancer at Southend General Hospital in Essex. It was a worthwhile career, and for a while, it was quite an enjoyable one, working as part of a friendly team with many heart-warming moments to remember. But after 20 years in 2016, I quit, as a consequence among other things of gradually increasing stress due to ever increasing administrative duties and computerisation; 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 saying so. 'Retirement' is much too final - it made me feel old at a time when I didn't want to feel old. And besides, I wanted to continue 'working' after giving up my proper job. I wanted to try to make money from something I really loved doing - internet writing. So by choice I just called it 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 - THE SORT OF STUFF THAT MAY WELL FIND ITS WAY INTO MY PAGES
Photography. I used to belong to a couple of photography clubs and I've always been an enthusiastic 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 ... badly. I don't lose money though, because I'm ultra-cautious. We're talking miniscule wagers and buy-ins here, many hours of play contributing to a net profit of less than £10 per month. It's a total waste of time and it's a bit of an addiction, but it's a disciplined one. And I'm still hoping to improve.
Astronomy, natural history, human history and many other subjects. And most of all dinosaurs. If ever I were to appear on the UK TV quiz Mastermind, my specialist subject would be dinosaurs.
Growing Plants. Specifically unusual plants; currently I have more than 200 Cacti and Succulents, more than 30 Tillandsias ('air plants' which live in soil-less environments), more than 20 Orchids, more than 20 Carnivorous Plants, various assorted tropical bulbs, ferns, and a large number of alpine plants.
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 (not guaranteed) it may be that way again in the future.
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 own 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 relatively non-Welsh speaking region of 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' - it's much too 'English'.
My name (2). As for my surname, 'Griffiths', I've never been able to pronounce that either, and never liked it. It's that whole 'ff'-'th' thing. For that reason I often use my middle name 'Rhys' (pronounced 'Reece') My domain name here is 'alunrhys.com'
My beliefs. Non-existent. I am a non-believer in anything supernatural, paranormal, religious or mythological. Of course I'm also not superstitious, though you wouldn't necessarily think so, because I have been known to follow a few 'rituals' of doing things in particular ways or precise sequences, developing a few quirky habits along the way. But this was not because I believed it would make any real difference - it's simply that developing a certain routine in life brings comfort and reassurance. And most of those rituals have happily now been conquered.
My neuroses. In relation to those quirky habits, I would not say I have an 'obsessive compulsive disorder' which would be a much too extreme description. However I am a little neurotic, manifested most forcefully when leaving my house unattended. 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, but 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 in my own mind the conviction that I can safely leave it alone. When going on holiday I'll maybe do a three-times check and recheck on my luggage before I leave, safe in the knowledge that nothing has been forgotten. I think that's 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 think I'm odd? Will anybody ever read it? Is it a waste of my time and my web space? Well, 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 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.
My hoarding tendencies. 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 old stuff - 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 at the shelf above my computer, I see I still have a Windows 95 instruction manual there - several operating systems behind the times, and utterly 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 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, when they flower and almost everything else about them that can possibly be recorded. I have similar databases for my rocks and minerals and model aircraft, and I have computer generated lists covering everything from favourite cities and scenic sights and life experiences to favourite films, favourite music, 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.
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 Binatone tennis ping-pong beep-beep-beep games which first arrived on the scene when personal computer technology was still in its infancy. At the time of writing (2018) I am seriously considering buying a smart phone, though not for regular access to the internet - I'll never fathom why anyone wants to peer at text on a tiny pocket sized screen when they can read it on a desktop or laptop. No - if I buy one, it'll only be because a smart phone allows access to one or two useful apps like sat-nav, so I can effectively kill 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!
Never ever been to a pop concert, never been invited to one, and never particularly wanted to go. As for a music festival - 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 go?
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.
Never done recreational 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 that was just 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).
Never 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.
After reading all the above, I can say that I've never been accused of living a really exciting life.
(2019 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