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Biography - Andrew Green


early years

andrew green

I was born and grew up in Coventry, in the West Midlands.   Andrew Green - aged 10 My family had moved there from London, a few years prior to that, when my late father, Ted Green, a car designer with the (then) Rootes Group, was relocated by his company to this epicentre of the UK car industry.   my father in 1966

Dad's career had gone from strength to strength, with a number of successful designs already under his belt - the old, rally-winning, Sunbeam Talbot; the Commer van (used for many years by The Post Office) and the up-market Humber Hawk and Humber Super Snipe - the latter a favourite of Government ministers and the like.   He had risen to Deputy Chief Stylist (designer) and, oddly enough, the name of his immediate boss was Ted White.

I gained a Governors' Scholarship to King Henry VIII grammar school, arguably the best school in the city (although alumni of its rival, Bablake, might well take issue with me on this).   Probably the most famous ex-pupil was the late poet, Philip Larkin (best know for his poem, This be the Verse - "They f**k you up, your Mum and Dad. They may not mean to, but they do ...").  

Chris Hall, a fellow Governors' Scholar, settled in the US and is now a Maine State Senator.   Other friends I remember are John Palmer, John Weitzel, Joe Brown, Matt Bennett, Steve Blackford and Martin Stevens.   Not forgetting Lester Brough (tragically killed in a motorbike accident) and his brother Harvey, who formed the group Harvey and the Wallbangers and has been working extensively as a a composer and arranger since then.

I also knew Jerry Dammers , the leader of the post-punk ska revival band, The Specials - except at that time he was called Jeremy and was active in the youth club at Coventry Cathedral, where his father was a Canon.

Andrew Green - typical surly 18-year old I did well at school, following my brother, Stephen, into the sciences, with 'A' levels in Pure Mathematics, Applied Mathematics and Physics.

And I had a great time as a teenager - there seemed to be house parties nearly every week, loosely overseen by my friends' laid back parents - loads of girls to hang around with (from the 2 girls' grammar schools in the city), publicans prepared to turn a blind eye to what must have been obviously underage kids and a soundtrack monopolised by Roxy Music and David Bowie.

As for those girls - special mention must go to Sara and Liz Aitken - whose parents' house was about 40 minutes late night walk home (memories!) and my first love, Julie (what was her surname?)

university

andrew green

clockwise from left - Sue Duggan, Francis Wheen, Gareth Jones, Dave Peart, Andrew Green Failing to gain entry to Oxford University (frankly, I was out of my depth in both the entrance exam and the debacle of an interview), I went to Royal Holloway College, at the University of London.   Holloway had been my choice, mainly because it used to be a female college, so the proportions of girls to boys were, er, attractive.  

Student grants (topped up by parental contributions) and the delicious freedom away from home, made the whole student thing a wonderful, carefree (except at exam time) experience.   Francis Wheen looking very dapper at Royal Holloway College in 1976

Most of the students at Holloway lived on the, fairly small, campus and I stayed in the main building - Founder's Hall, for all 3 years.   This created a closeness and continuity and also meant that the Union Bar was very convenient.

I wonder what has happened to Dave Peart, Sue Duggan, (I think, still running the Modern English Centre, in Pescara, Italy) and all my other friends there, with whom I shared so many days and nights of drunken semi-debauchery?   [footnote - I recently learned (July 2010) that Sue died that month...]

However, one friend whose subsequent career we can trace is Francis Wheen - the author & Guardian columnist - who was, even then, known as a genuine leftie, with his famous campaign against buying Chilean apples and onions.  

Without too much trouble, I gained an Upper 2nd honours degree in Maths & Computer Science, leaving in that baking hot summer of 1976.  

punk

andrew green

In 1977, Less than a year after our Students Union had voted to ban the Sex Pistols from performing at the college (I can't recall exactly what we didn't like about them), I was taken by a friend to my first punk gig - The Stranglers at The Roundhouse, in Camden Town, London - a brilliant circular music venue in a converted railway shed.  

I was still wearing flares - a giant sartorial error which I only made that one time - but was completely hooked by the music.  

The Clash - cover of their first album Punk summed up all those pissed-off is-this-all-there-is feelings of a 21-year old who had slipped easily from good school to good university to good job.   Sure I was a part-time punk with a job, but then so were most of the late-teens/early-twenties polite middle-class kids I met at those gigs.

I saw all the great punk & post-punk bands at least once - including the mighty Clash; the Jam; Siouxsie & the Banshees; the Gang of Four; Penetration (who I followed religiously as they gigged around London); the Specials; Madness; Blondie; Elvis Costello; the Pretenders; Boomtown Rats; Stiff Little Fingers (I think Good Charlotte just might have ripped off both the music and Jake Burns' amazing vocals); Sham 69; the seriously underrated Mo-dettes; the Slits; the Raincoats; X-Ray Spex; the Damned; UK Subs - but not, you notice, the Pistols (one of the few regrets of my life)

Andrew Green - part-time punk, age 23 And I went to all those open air Rock Against Racism/Anti Nazi League events - this was a genuine movement for political and social change ... and it didn't ("never trust a hippy") involve any misguided peace and love stuff.   We wanted to demolish the established order and start again (yes, I know I had a job).

But as the early 80's wore on, I found myself increasingly going to gigs and leaving half way through as those anarchic performers transmuted into people who could play their instruments and thought they were 'musicians' and 'artists'.

But I was left with a still-strong political viewpoint: anarchism - now a constructive (no, that's not a contradiction in terms) anarchism, melded to a quasi-cynical distrust of just about anyone who has that drive to set themselves up in power over others.

work

andrew green

In the late 70s (despite the feeling from the punk movement that there was no future for any of us), a good degree led easily to a good job.   My 14 year career in the computer industry started when I joined Gestetner Ltd as a graduate trainee programmer, working my way up to Project Leader.  

After around 4 years in manufacturing, I moved to Orion Bank, a merchant bank in the City of London.   In the late 70s/early 80s, this was the place to be if you had a brain and were willing to work hard (well, in my case, reasonably hard).   Meritocratic in the extreme, it mattered little how you behaved (or how long your lunch breaks were), as long as you delivered the goods.  

I have fond memories of my time there and the people I worked with (and for) - particularly Jim Willment, Peter Voss, Steve Kirby (another ex-punk) and Mike Wilson.   I mainly specialised in trading systems and spent the last 3 or 4 years working with Mike, designing and building computer systems for financial traders - and I loved my first company car, a silver Golf Gti & 3 brilliant 'business' trips to the US.

campaigning

andrew green

Friends of the Earth In the late 80s, I became involved in animal rights and environmental campaigning, taking charge of Croydon Friends of the Earth from Barbara Kearns and turning it into one of the largest FoE groups in the country.   I ran the group for several years - alongside a coterie of equally committed friends, especially: Paul DeSylva (who went on to work for FoE head office), Phil Cook, Alex Bienfait (now vicar of St Andrew's, Whitstable, Kent), Bill Prouse, Lesley Sweet and my then girlfiend, June Porée.

March for a Nuclear Free Britain I loved the campaigning, working long into the night planning campaign stunts and writing press releases.   It seems like I was even classified as a dangerous subversive by the authorities - mysterious clicks on the phone line and my friend John Palmer, who worked for the Ministry of Defence, abrubtly severing contact with me (as he moved up the career ladder and was vetted for his links with unsuitable people).


Greenpeace But this work led, somewhat inevitably, to a mounting dissatisfaction with the ethics of the City, leading to my departure in 1988.   I took a job with Ealing Council, naively imagining that this would be socially more valuable.   In the event, the grinding bureaucracy and simple tedium of local government led to me resigning after 6 months.   Bizarrely, they persuaded me to stay on part-time - so I became a 2-days-a-week manager.   This doesn't work.   After another six months, (during which I mainly occupied myself with writing campaigning letters), I left the job (this was now late 1989) for good.

At last I was free.

By this time I had embraced a wide range of 'alternative' viewpoints: I'd become a vegetarian, anarchist, organic food enthusiast (also setting up, with Paul, Organics at Home, a reasonably successful organic food delivery service) and was opposed to just about everything the establishment represented ("What are you rebelling against, Johnny?" - "Whaddya got?").

Nuclear Power No Thanks You Too Can Help Save the Rainforest (geddit?) Meat is Murder Boycott Nescafé Stolen Pets are Used in Laboratories

And I'd already decided that, when I had children (which would, naturally, necessitate meeting just the right alternative, but sexy, woman), they would have to be home educated.

But it was that very campaigning which caused me to move away from campaign work (handing the reins of Croydon FoE to Paul).   There was too much of a "we're right, you're wrong" dynamic to it; too much effort expended in trying to frighten people into changing their way of life: cfc's will give you cancer; global warming will flood your home.

And, notably, the creation of dangers where none existed - a (now, I feel) mistaken campaign to alert the public to the dangers of nuclear waste being transported by rail past the backstreets of Croydon - when the reality was that this was a secondary route which was used rarely, if ever.

I had begun to feel that change must begin with changing ourselves, rather than lecturing others about the changes which they must make.  I know that vast moves have been made over the last decade or two, regarding the general public's awareness of environmental issues, but feel suspicious of yet another movement which involves an intellectual middle-class elite lecturing the working classes on just how badly they are behaving.

alternative health

andrew green

After I left work, I had been spending time at an alternative healing centre in Norfolk (Suryodaya) and became increasingly interested in nutrition and alternative medicine Andrew Green cooking at Suryodaya - I also picked up a lot about mass catering, cooking for healing and therapy workshops there.   I learnt an enormous amount from Dr Shyam Singha (who owned Suryodaya) and Chrissy Butler (who ran it).  

This led to to me training in Reflexology, Aromatherapy, Massage, Reiki and Herbal Medicine (under Jill Davies) and building a modestly successful alternative health practice in London.

I loved the freedom of being self-employed, after 14 years of 9-5 commuting and have been self-employed or freelance ever since.   In any case, in the early years of my career, I had been a difficult employee - suffering fools (particularly foolish bosses) very badly.  

Andrew Green - looking cool at Cortijo Romero Involvement in the personal therapy/New Age movement led to a fair amount of self-analysis and attending weekend courses - at Monkton Wyld Court (in Dorset), Cortijo Romero (in Spain) and elsewhere.   We all have positive mountains of 'stuff' to deal with but, fortunately, I never fell into the deep, depressive despond that can afflict people who learn to identify everything that's going on for them but never manage to change any of it.

And, as the years have gone by, I do begin to wonder just how much of those deep-seated psychological patterns we really can change. However, I still continue to work - mainly using NLP - on moving myself to a position where I can be happy with how I behave, and trying - often with great difficulty - to avoid reacting to 'adverse' situations in the all-too-familiar ways that I have become comfortable with.

mary-clare

andrew green

Mary-Clare just before our wedding When I met my wife, Mary-Clare Buckle (at a Friends of the Earth conference - where else?), at the end of 1990, I had been living on my own for over a year, having split up with my previous long-term girlfriend.   We had both joined Natural Friends, but never would have answered each other's adverts - she would have dismissed me as a bearded folkie (I said that I had 2 cats and enjoyed folk music) and I would have written her off as an airhead ("bubbly blond ... likes parties and dancing")!

But, after a few false starts, when we both thought that we weren't really interested in each other, we finally got it together at a Christmas party and she moved in with me the day after.   We spent most of our time hanging around in cafes and going clubbing and had fallen madly in love with each other.  I'd had a great time campaigning with my Croydon friends, but now felt the need for a bit of hedonism.

I had never met any artists before and she would never have countenanced going out with someone with a background in computing, but our differences in outlook and approach to just about everything have, over our years together, proved a truly enriching experience.

I had decided, with my previous girlfriend, that I did not want to get married.   It turned out, in fact, that it was just that I didn't want to marry her.   A month or so after Mary-Clare & I got together, she went off on a planned three-month trip to South America.   Tearful farewells were followed by long weeks of lovesick brooding - but she managed to change her flights and come home to me after only 6 weeks.  

We decided that we wanted to get married, so we put a request in Kindred Spirit, a New Age magazine, asking for help or advice in how we could create our own ceremony.   Replies ranged from sensible through weird to dodgily off-the-wall, but a late-night cycle ride to the Unitarian Church (to read the signboard outside stating their views), up the road from us in Croydon, confirmed that this was to be the choice for us.

Mary-Clare swimming in Ithaka, Greece We wrote our own marriage ceremony (something which Unitarians are happy to encourage - but special thanks to Steve Dick, the Croydon Minister at that time, now London & South-East Provincial Assembly Minister), she designed and created her dress and we made each other's rings.  

Our honeymoon was in the Peloponese, still a largely unvisited area of mainland Greece - where, telling people that we were on our "minos tou melitos" produced the desired special treatment from hoteliers and restauranteurs.

As two environmentalists together, we decided that we would like to live in or, preferably, set up our own spiritual/green community.   Months of work and many meetings led to our nascent community group of around 30 people eventually splitting.   Strong personalities (not least our own) had clashed too often and the idea of having to work to form close relationships with so many different people proved far too difficult.   We did get a small television feature about us, but now that's all we seem to have to show for all that effort.

Meanwhile, we had both been working on Mary-Clare's jewellery design business (she has a degree in three-dimensional design and silversmithing), which we expanded into a retail outlet and regular shops in the West End of London, organised in order to provide a showcase for both our own work and that of other artists and designer/makers.

Having been channelled into the sciences at the age of 14, I enjoyed being able to uncover my creative talents (including photography - click here to see some of my photographs of Abbotsbury) and work with her - providing some help with the design, but mainly doing a lot of the making.

I also started writing - mainly concentrating on a wide-ranging survey of green issues (after the time when the market had become saturated with such books) and an unpublishable book about creating ceremonies for marriage, baby naming and other life milestones (suffused throughout with opionated rants about how everyone else was doing it wrong - except me).

family life

andrew green

Mary-Clare with Arran; Andrew with Fingal Our twin sons - Arran & Fingal were born in February 1994.

We had done a lot of pre-conception health preparation (largely based on the fantastic work which Foresight does in helping childless couples conceive - although this hadn't been a problem for us).

So when Mary-Clare didn't get pregnant the first month, I sprang into action with fertility herbs for both of us and daily (!) reflexology on her.   I reckon this was probably why we had twins, since they don't run in either family - but, whatever the reason, we had two lovely babies instead of just the one.

We wrote our own naming/baptism ceremony for the boys - again held at the Croydon Unitarian Church and took them, when 7 months old, on a month-long backpacking trip to Morocco (where Mary-Clare's sister, Juliet, lives with her Moroccan husband, Driss, and their 2 children).

Mary-Clare & Fingal - in Marrakesh Having gone straight from school to University and then into a job, I'd never done the 'gap year' travelling thing.   My holidays had been fortnight trips to Greece, Italy and Portugal, so this was my first experience of anywhere exotic - and I loved the sheer difference of the place.

We were involved, before our children were even conceived, in the 'natural' parenting movement - particularly the ideas of Jean Liedloff, in her ground-breaking book, The Continuum Concept. (also see the Natural Nurturing Network).   So we must have made an interesting sight - rucksacks on our backs and a baby each in a carrier on the front.

And people's reaction to twins was diametrically opposed to the 'double trouble' attitude of the British.   We were repeatedly told how blessed we were and how Mary-Clare had brought luck on the whole world by giving birth to twins - and 2 boys, they enthused.

abbotsbury

andrew green

the view from our bedroom window Shortly after that, in January 1995, we moved to live by the sea in the picturesque village of Abbotsbury, in West Dorset (southern England).

Abbotsbury holds an unusually high proportion of artists and craftspeople and we set up a small studio-gallery behind our house - which attracts both a large number of summer tourists and an increasing local clientele.

Initially, we concentrated still on selling our own jewellery, but now mainly use it as a gallery space for Mary-Clare's art (and, occasionally, my photographs), with a fair amount of high quality jewellery bought in from friends and a couple of good UK silver jewellery manufacturers.

She had gradually moved away from jewellery and towards art - finding her medium in textiles, specifically felted wool.   No, not felt hats and slippers - take a look at her website, www.1-art-1.com.  

I transplanted my organic food home delivery service to Dorset and worked on this for a couple of - largely non-profitmaking - years, before handing it over to a friend.   It was later to form the basis for the organic food co-op arm of the West Dorset Food and Land Trust.

the quiet years

andrew green

our garden I had been an armchair vegetable gardener with a small garden for more than 10 years, but I now found myself with a very large garden and lots of time.   Over about three years, I moved from carrots, tomatoes and beans to full self-sufficiency - subsequently scaled down slightly by getting rid of potatoes (far too much tedious, heavy work) and onions and garlic (white rot).

Mary-Clare breastfed the boys until they were 4 (it's true!), whilst I worked in the garden and wrote articles (moving gradually towards mainstream - publishable - subject matter).

The gallery made us a small income and we had occasional stalls at large festivals - mainly at WOMAD, which has to be the quintessential alternative 30 and 40-something family festival.

No television; no newspapers; The Archers on Radio 4.   What was happening in the world outside?   Well ... I didn't really know, or care.

But, ever since the trip to Morocco, I had been itching to go to India.   Mary-Clare had already been there in the 80's and the country had always fascinated me.

India - Varanasi I devoured any books I could find about the country - fiction & non-fiction; subscribed to the Asian Age; listened to music from the sub-continent and planned our trip   An 8 week visit expanded to 3 months and then pushing four and, after circumstances conspired against us going in 1997, we finally left Heathrow in November 1998.

It was a gruelling, but exciting and amazing experience.   Going just after college with a couple of friends is one thing, but doing India, on the cheap, with two 4-year olds is not for the faint-hearted.

Arran & Fingal caught measles and I managed to pick up hepatitis - but Ayurvedic medicine in India and a long course of herbs when we got back has actually served to make my digestion better than it was before.

And I did vow that I would never, ever go back there (but we did return - see below).

hedonism revisited

andrew green

When our boys were young, we either took them with us everywhere, or simply didn't go out - living life as a close family unit was the most important thing for us.

Andrew & Mary-Clare at Slinky October 2005 But, sometime towards the end of 1999, we decided that it was time to find some babysitters and start engaging with the world outside West Dorset again.

Andrew & Mary-Clare at Slinky April 2005 After many years listening only to 'World' music, it was understandably hard for us to get back into pop and the, to us, completely new genre of dance music.

But, the first time I heard a trance tune (I think it was Silence, by Delirium), I was hooked (just like in those old punk days) and then we discovered Slinky, at the old Opera House (now the O2) in Bournemouth - the best club in the south of England.

Andrew & Mary-Clare at Slinky January 2006 Because it's one of the top half-dozen clubs in Britain, Slinky attracts 'serious' clubbers who've gone there to see a particular DJ or hear a certain genre (and there are many, many, many sub-genres of dance music).   As a result, the average age there (not least of the DJs themselves) is fairly high - so we're not surrounded by teenage 'lager boys' and tanked-up girls out for hen parties.

Andrew & Mary-Clare with loads of our friends at Slinky, 23rd September 2005 And it's just so wonderful having fun - listening to the irreverent froth of Radio 1 all day, reading Private Eye, watching TV (after a 6-year break) and going out clubbing as often as we can - chatting with new friends and getting lost in the music again: "The only way to stay young is to avoid old people" (James Watson). 

When I was terribly green, ascetic, New Agey and serious, I'd set myself in opposition to the prevailing establishment world view.   But, living around West Dorset, the homogeneous view one is supposed to have is based on that same green(ish), left-leaning set of axioms. 'Where's my bloody dinner, you poser?' - from a Biff cartoon

Maybe I can only feel comfortable if I take a contrary view to the 'establishment' - so the current received opinion of the established left-liberal concensus is what I find myself opposed to?

So, no, perhaps I wasn't against the Iraq war, don't go on anti-Safeway demonstrations and can't bear sitting round smoky wood fires at solstice celebrations - but I don't know anyone else who's self-sufficient in organic vegetables, had never sent their children to school (except for the current 5 month blip, when we thought it would be a good idea for them to try out school, so they know what it's like) and takes complete responsibility for their family's health (we're not even registered with a doctor).

Hmmm ...

present day

andrew green

left to right: Andrew, Fingal, Mary-Clare & Arran in 2001 We still live in Abbotsbury, with that fantastic view of the sea every day when I wake up.

I spend quite a lot of my time, these days, working on promoting Mary-Clare's art ... plus growing vegetables, helping to run our small jewellery and art studio-gallery and doing as much as I can to help Arran & Fingal find just what direction they want to move towards.

All those years working in computing, coupled with an eye for detail and form enabled me to master computer image manipulation, writing copy for press releases and marketing presentations and, not least, designing, creating and maintaining websites, including those set up for Mary-Clare's business - www.1-art-1.com (main site) and www.maryclarebuckle.com (for galleries).



My own projects revolve mainly around website design (www.andrewgreenassociates.com) and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).

Mary-Clare, Arran and Fingal outside our coconut palm huts on the beach in Goa We returned to India in 2001 for a month, but this was a quite different trip - taxis and flights between hotels with swimming pools: just a relaxing few weeks, making notes on my laptop and lazing around.  And then 3 later trips in late 2004, late 2007 and early 2010 - again for a month - even less taxing and visiting only Bombay (Mumbai) and Goa. And, as a change from India, we spent a month in Thailand in early 2006, a few weeks in Turkey in late 2006 and drove to beautiful Italy to spend 3 weeks there in Autumn 2009.

And that's about it.

This has been a strange project - I found myself remembering people I had worked with and whose company I enjoyed and felt moved to set it all down (maybe something to do with my father dying earlier this year?).   But I had never imagined the fortnight's work that this would became - rooting through photograph albums and my memories.

Hope you enjoyed reading about me ... and if you come across this and would like to get back in touch, just drop me an email.

... to be continued and expanded when I have time: late 2006 and 2007 to 2010 were eventful and challenging for us all!

All the best



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