London - A whole new world
"The truth is rarely pure, and never simple"
(Oscar Wilde: The Importance of being Ernest)
Moving to London from my previously protected world was a major step for me. I went purely for the career opportunities, but it was to have an even bigger impact on my life, from the very first night.
I explained earlier that I "was not attracted to women, at least not in the way my mates 'appeared' to be". This had troubled me for many years, and once led to my considering suicide. I knew I wasn't a 'queer' or 'homosexual', because all my experience growing up in Wales had led me to firmly believe that to be so, one would have 'feminine' traits. After all, the only 'queers' I knew of were those appearing on television - Larry 'Shut that door' Grayson, Danny La Rue and Mr. 'I'm Free!' Humphries. I knew I wasn't like that, so couldn't be 'one of them'.
However, I thought I had a problem. My mates were getting 'turned-on' by 'big breasts' on page three and nude calenders. I was not. But I did have 'stomach churning' feelings for one or two of the lads I'd known though, but didn't know why.
The day I moved to London, I moved all my things into a bedsit in the hospital where I was to be working and living over the next few years. As I settled myself in, I retuned my portable television to London channel frequencies. I tuned in ITV, to London Weekend Television, to be presented at the opening of a programme called 'Gay Life', a moment of realisation that was to change my life, for the better, forever. Here, on my screen, were ordinary men and women, doing ordinary jobs, leading ordinary lives. What set them apart from anything or anyone I'd ever previously experienced outside my own feelings was that the people they were sexually attracted to happened to be of the same sex. I wasn't the only one. The story of my evolution of 'coming out' could fill an entire book, so I won't.
So, I began my career with St. Thomas' Hospital. It was intersting work, and I made many friends quickly. And they were friends from backgrounds and cultures outside of my previous field of experience. I also met other gay men and women. We shared our experiences. For a short I went through both 'political' and 'promiscuous' periods before settling down again into a 'normal' lifestyle.
At St. Thomas' I found the Phipps Respiratory Unit, one of the few remaining centres in Europe for home ventilator users. Over the first few months at the hospital, I became increasing interested in the work of the technicians: Frank Kelly, John Clifton and Mick Atkinson. In 1981, Frank retired. Despite a considerable salary reduction, I applied for the resulting vacant post and was accepted.
I can honestly say that it was the most enjoyable and satisfying jobs I can imagine. I had the privelige to meet and work with some outstanding people. One day, I will write more, maybe a bookful on my time there.
In June 1983, I met Simon. He was, and still is charming, witty, intelligent and sexy. We began meeting regularly, and a few months later realised that we had become a 'couple' and that probably and hopefully, our lives would be intertwined forever. I'm glad to say, over 30 years later, they still are.