Personal History


This is a brief personal history, concentrating on facts. Periods covered are:

  • pre-school years
  • primary school years
  • secondary school years
  • university years
  • Essex years
  • A year in The Hague
  • Hampshire years

Pre-School Years 1953-1957

I was born in 1953 to Roger and Beryl West in Harrow-on-the Hill. My sister Barbara was born in 1955. However, my parents marriage was in trouble, and they separated.

Primary School Years 1957-1964

I started at infant school in Harrow. However, my parents separation meant that I spent time with a number of relatives, and consequently a number of schools in quick succession. Eventually, in about 1958, my father was awarded custody, found a house and a housekeeper in Twickenham, and we settled down again. Barbara and I started at St Mary's Primary School. I was a Cub Scout, eventually becoming a Sixer.

After a few years my parents divorce came through and my father married Janet. In 1962, my brother Jonathan was born.

Secondary School Years 1964-1971

In 1964 we moved to Hampton Hill, just as I was changing school from primary to secondary school. I attended Hampton Grammar School. Academically I was very middle of the road, doing as little work as I could reasonably get away with, there were other things to do. I played rugby (hooker) for my year team, and represented the school in both athletics (200m) and cross country. During this period I was also confirmed.

I was taught both the piano and and violin, getting as far as grade 3 piano, before my teacher declared me a lost cause. I eventually got to grade 6 on the violin.

In 1967 we moved house to Purley, Surrey, and my sister Joanna was born. I lived there until leaving for university going to Purley Grammar School. Academically I collected some 10 "O" and 4 "A" levels. Science and mathematics is where my talents lay.

I still played rugby for the school team, but now it was on the wing or at full back rather than at hooker, a bit of a change. Eventually, I played cricket for the school, becoming the captain of the school 2nd XI in the lower 6th. I was captain of the 2nd bridge team, a game learnt during lunch time in the lower 6th. Finally, I became a prefect.

Outside school my social life revolved around the youth club of the local church (St Swithun's) called the Sunday Nighters. Here I made some very good friends, whose memory I still treasure, even though I see only a few of them now. There were plenty of activities, in particular table tennis, darts and ten pin bowling, so that now I can demonstrate a suitably misspent youth.

University Years 1971-1978

In 1971 I went to Leeds University to study Chemical Engineering over 4 years. Almost immediately this gave me my first taste of computing through a preliminary course in FORTRAN programming. An advantage of doing a four year course was the opportunity to do some extra courses, in my case a course in philosophy. In my final year it was back to computers, using a simple simulator as part of my final year design project. In my final year research project I did some work looking at the effect of an ionising flame (Bunsen burner) on the way a spray made droplets. The effect was to make the droplet size more even, which is important for agricultural applications. Some time in the mid 90's I saw this idea presented on Tomorrow's World. I was so gobsmacked I failed to record it. I still haven't seen it on a farm though.

After all this I ended up with an upper second, sufficient to allow me to do a PhD. The title of this was "The mathematical modelling of the anionic polymerisation of dienes in a continuous stirred tank reactor", or more intelligibly the computer simulation of a part of the process for making car tyre rubber. The main part of this was in developing a program for the numerical integration of stiff ordinary differential equations. However, it was to take me some 18 months after starting work to complete my thesis and defend it.

Diversions in the department included captaining the Engineering Society basketball team in the university league, and playing canasta with the other PhD students at lunch time.

For the first 18 months at university I was in Devonshire Hall, a more traditional hall of residence. This gave me the opportunity to complete my education in skills that indicate a miss-spent youth, in particular table football, and to a lesser extent snooker. I also learnt croquet and squash.

Socially my life revolved primarily around the Anglican Chaplaincy. This is where I deepened my understanding of Christianity, made many good and lasting friends, found house mates, took some first steps in ecumenism in the Anglican and Methodist Society, provided music for dances (barn dancing and disco) was a student church officer, and met my wife to be, Lydia. Lydia was a medical student, and it was wishing to be able to stay in Leeds whilst she completed her medical degree and house jobs that motivated me to do a PhD. We married in 1976 (the year of the drought) after her final exams, which enabled us to move into hospital married accommodation.

The Essex Years 1978-1988

At the end of my first degree I applied for a number of jobs on the milk round, and was offered a job by Shell. When I found I was able to do a PhD they held the offer until I had completed my 3 years of study for that. So in October 1978 we headed south to Essex, where there was a Shell refinery (Shell Haven) and one of the best teaching practices in the country for Lydia who was by now doing her GP training.

We started out in married accommodation at Basildon Hospital, but quite quickly moved to a house in Langdon Hills. Here we joined St Mary's Church, Langdon Hills and took up bell ringing. It was whilst living here that Naomi was born in 1983. In 1986 we moved to Thorpe Bay in time for David to be born, and Naomi to start school.

Meantime my working life with Shell had started, mostly at Shell Haven, but latterly at Shell Mex House.

A Year in The Hague 1989

In 1988 I was offered a job in The Hague starting at the beginning of 1989. I spent 3 months commuting at weekends, and at Easter Lydia and the children came out too. Whilst the job was interesting, it didn't work out for the rest of the family, so at the end of the year we returned to the UK. We did have a couple of good holidays though, the first to Australia, seeing Melbourne and Sydney, the second to the Canadian Rockies.

The Hampshire Years 1990 to the present

When we moved back to the UK at the beginning of 1990, my job was in London, this time at Shell Centre, so Lydia chose to live in Hampshire near Southampton, which had a teaching hospital. Initially we rented houses, first in North Baddersley, near Romsey, and then in Bursledon, near Hamble.

Finally, in 1991 we bought a house in Whiteley, Fareham, a new development where we were amongst the first half dozen or so inhabitants. We have watched Whiteley grow from a few houses to a few thousand houses, a school, and a shopping centre. Whilst I commuted up to London, Lydia has been working locally as a GP locum, and Naomi and David went to school for the most part in Portsmouth: to Portsmouth High School and Portsmouth Grammar School respectively. Both have followed this by going to Imperial College, London for their degrees.

Initially we attended St Peter's Church in Titchfield, but as numbers grew we established first a housegroup that met once a month, and later, in 1995 helped to establish a church that first met in our house, and later has met in the local hotel, a community house, the local school, and currently the community centre. We are now working on building a church of our own.

Whilst here we have also taken up sailing. Naomi started it when she joined Sea Scouts, and the rest of us have followed in her footsteps. The Titchfield Sea Scouts are affiliated to Hill Head Sailing Club. We started in 1995 with a Mirror, to which we added a Topper and a Laser a couple of years later. We then sold the Mirror for a Wayfarer, and at the beginning of 2000 sold the Topper for a Buzz. I retired from Shell in June 2008, and this gave me the time to make buying a yacht worthwhile. I bought a Dragonfly 920 trimaran, Wandering Glider which we enjoy at every opportunity.

We also had a dog, Gemma, a West Highland Terrier who does a nice line in cute poses, who sadly died in 2013.