Doing the school run in the morning is a chance to catch up with everybody
“I was born in Old Coulsdon in Surrey in 1973. It was a great time to be born. We were always out in the streets, playing football in the park or out riding our bikes.
When I was five, my Father moved out of the family home and my Stepfather moved in. They were both inventors. My Stepfather was a physiotherapist and invented the first plastic shin guard. He had his practice in Sloane Square, so we used to hear all the tittle tattle about everything that was happening in London society.
In 1984 my Father bought Whiteleaf House, near Princes Risborough. It had 10 acres including the overgrown remains of a Victorian pleasure garden. Coming from South London suburbia to this country estate was like a dream. I instantly fell in love with the Chilterns and this whole area. I’d be there every other weekend and every holiday and built some firm friendships. We never thought my dad would have to worry about money again. But it all came crashing down in the recession of the 1990s, and my father moved to a B&B in Clapham. He was still a real entrepreneur though and set up more engineering businesses after that, it was a boom and bust lifestyle.
I graduated in 1995 with a degree in Physics from Exeter and my first job was as a programmer in Milton Keynes for a multi-media company. The proximity meant I could get easily get down to see my friends in the Chilterns again, which was great. After a succession of positions in London I got a job as a software engineer for a telecommunications company in Reading. I could immediately see that Watlington was half way between Reading and Whiteleaf – so I moved here in 2001.
I met Jo through friends. She was working in Sussex as a teacher at the time, so we split our weekends between here and her flat on the coast. She moved up to join me in 2002. When we first moved here our next-door neighbours were Lou and Andy who later took over the Chequers. We rarely step foot in any other pub!
We had our children Charlie and Ellie, and in between times we were married at St Leonards Church and a yet to be elected John Howell stepped in to play the organ at the last minute. We had our wedding reception at what was then the Memorial Club.
From 2002 I ran my own technical consultancy, and had an office in the Chiltern Business Centre opposite the Co-op for 3 years. It was doing well, but I was too late to batten down the hatches when the recession came along. I went from driving around in a brand new Porsche to a beaten up Vauxhall Cavalier! It felt a bit like I was living something of my Fathers history, but we made it through and the company is still around today, although I now work full time for Pitney Bowes Software in Henley on Thames.
I became interested in cryptology whilst doing a part time masters at Oxford Brookes. There is a cryptographic puzzle called Kryptos, which is mentioned in the Dan Brown books, and I soon became caught up in attempts to solve it. The code has never been completely broken in 30 years. Getting ever deeper into the puzzle has taken me on an incredible journey over the last ten years and I now have enough material to start taking some lectures on the road, so would love to do the first one locally.
Music is a big thing for me. Jo is from a family of musicians, and the children are growing up in that same tradition. I knock around on the piano, drums and guitar, but play by ear whereas Jo plays full orchestral pieces. You could easily take away our TV, but I’m not sure any of us could live without music.
In Watlington I was a youth football coach for 5 years and sports club chairman for 3 of those. I stood for the Parish Council in 2015 as I’ve always had an interest in politics and like the challenge of finding the balance in contentious issues. I was Vice Chair from 2015 – 2018, and then Chair from May 2018. I’ve met some great people on the council and it was an exciting time to be involved with so much happening on the Neighbourhood Plan. We’re about to go into a new epoch in Watlington’s history and it’s been great to have played a small part in bringing these changes about. Personally, I don’t want to see Watlington change at all, but I can see the practical need and I think the process we have been through has been the right one.
The school run in the morning is one of the things I love about living in Watlington. It gives you a chance to catch up with everybody even if it’s only to say a brief hello.
I love big events like the Beacon Festival as they are great for bringing the whole community together. There are so many different tribes and friendship groups in Watlington that it’s only when you plonk them all in the middle of a field that you finally see the essence of what Watlington is. I worked behind the bar there last year and I absolutely loved it – I’ve volunteered again this year and would encourage anyone to get involved – they always need help.”
For more information on volunteering at the Beacon Festival please see https://www.beaconfestival.net/volunteers
Watlington Folk is a documentary project by photographer Nicola Schafer. Watlington is blessed with pretty buildings and beautiful countryside, however it is the people who live here that truly make the place. This project aims to capture that through a series of portraits of the people who live here together with their “Watlington Story”. For more information, please contact Nicola through her website http://www.nicolaschafer.co.uk