It was only a summer job when I was at university; just a couple of months work and the pay was awful. I suppose I was just young, I didn’t take it seriously… I think if I’m honest, I thought it was beneath me… I was an academic after all… I thought I could do it with my eyes closed. Anyway, one day the boss came over and told me that if I didn’t improve he would have no choice but to sack me . I think I was so embarrassed that I began to take it seriously and everything turned out OK. I spent the money I’d earned on a holiday in Greece.
I suppose it was a bit of a silly thing to do really. I put it on my CV that I spoke fluent French. Rather stretching the truth, to say the least. I could just about order a coffee if I had to.  Well, I didn’t think much about it, doubted I’d ever have to prove it, but one day the boss called me over and said he had an important new client with a French wife who didn’t speak a word of English, and would I show her around the city for the day while her husband was in a company meeting. There was nothing I could do about it. I couldn’t just tell him the truth. So I spent the day with her. Luckily she didn’t let me get a word in edgeways and I just smiled and nodded at appropriate moments. The next day I was sure my boss would ask to see me and that would be it; I’d be history. But he never did – I don’t think the wife even noticed I hardly spoke a word.
It was a work placement really, but I’d still consider it my first job. I mean, I worked the same hours as everybody else, mucked in with everybody else. I’d never really thought about the work they did before, but that time really opened my eyes. By the time the placement ended and I had to leave, I’d made up my mind.  There was no way I was going into a boring 9 to 5 office job just for the money. I was going to spend my life helping people. And that’s why I became a paramedic. 
Some friends and I went to France to spend the summer picking fruit, just moving from place to place wherever the work was. I suppose we had an over-romantic idea about the whole thing. We had no idea just how back breaking the work would be. The amount of different things we picked – strawberries, grapes, apples, raspberries, pears – it didn’t matter what it was – at the end of the day you could hardly move. Anyway we had to cut the whole thing short and come back to Scotland. I got a twig caught in my eye while we were picking pears and the pain was unbearable, there was no way I could carry on working after that. 
A dogsbody, that’s the word! I suppose you have to expect it at that age and in your first job, but at the time it really got to me. I don’t know if I expected to be doing more important things or what, but I’d come home boiling with rage thinking ‘that’s it! Tomorrow I quit!’ ‘Cup of tea, Darren, fill up the photocopier with paper, Darren, clean the shelves, Darren.’  It was non-stop and I’d never know from one day to the next what I’d be spending my day doing.
When I was 8 years old my family followed the ancient family tradition and packed me off to a moderately expensive public school in Cambria . I hated almost every day that I spent there. My very first term was a disaster and I found it very difficult to settle in.
Life in a boarding school can be almost impossible, especially if you aren’t that happy at home, which I wasn’t at the time. I did miss a nice home-cooked meal though; the food at the school was dreadful. Apart from having to follow all the rules and time-honoured customs, you were never left alone, even for a minute – you were always with another boy at all times. I have always enjoyed my own company and a bit of solitude, so day-to-day life at school was very hard for me, although the other boys didn’t seem to mind it. 
In the first term there I developed a nasty cough. The school nurse said it was nothing and gave me some pills to take. However, a short time afterwards, playing rugby in a snowstorm, I suddenly felt I couldn’t breathe properly and was taken to hospital with a nasty dose of bronchitis and pneumonia. As soon as I arrived at the hospital they put me into a small room with another boy who was also very ill. He eventually died and I’m told, so did I nearly.My main memory of my time in hospital was that the nurses on duty in the evening used to get together in my room and play scrabble and chat. That they were keeping me awake with the light on and their talk didn’t seem to worry them in the slightest. 
When I had recovered I was sent home for a few weeks to convalesce and so missed almost all the school term. When I eventually returned to school, I was sent to bed early because of my illness… and so finally I got to have a brief period to myself every day.  Later in the term I was allowed to go to the school library alone which was another great improvement.
The day I left school the headmaster came up to me to say goodbye and asked if it was a sad day for me. I told him that in fact it was the happiest day of my life. He said that he was sure that I would come to think of my time at the school in a completely different light . I told him that I was sure I would not. Although of course over the last thirty years I have had dreadfully unhappy days in my life, I found that my conclusions then – that there was nothing that could ever be so bad as my time in boarding school – were indeed proved to be quite correct.