While it is assumed that most people reading my blog would tend to be people who know me, there is always the possibility that someone completely unknown may stumble across my web site and start reading. In which case, they would be forgiven for being a little confused as to who exactly I am. So, allow me to muddy the waters with some random information…
My name is Matthew. I was born on my birthday, the first son of my parents, Mum and Dad. Mum was in hospital at the time, which apparently was my fault. Two and half years later we moved from our flat in Exmouth to a little house in Torquay. A year after that, my brother Christopher came along, and when I was ten, Peter joined us as well. We all grew up happily, steadily increasing in age as each respective birthday came round.
Still reading? I admire your stamina! Ok, let’s cut to the chase and go into the stuff that’s actually interesting.
On one level, I am one of 3: I have two brothers. Or you could say I’m one of 5, if you count my parents as well. Or one of 9, if you count in my grandparents. Or one of 34 if you include all my uncles, aunties and cousins. Or one of 2 if you count my wife. Or one of 3 if you then add in our son. Or one of 4 if you count the gerbil. Then there are the in-laws to add in as well, and by now I’m running out of numbers. This is a little ridiculous, let’s start again…
I am a grandson, a son, a nephew, a cousin, a brother, a husband, a father, a son-in-law, a grandson-in-law, a nephew-in-law, and a next-door-neighbour. There, that’s the same relationships but without the numbers. Which is arguably easier to understand, and frustrates Accountants.
In case you hadn’t cottoned on to this, I’m reasonably fluent in speaking ‘computer’. I wouldn’t say I’m an expert, but I’ve been using them for many years and have had a considerable interest in them for quite some time.
I learnt to program in QBASIC when I was in year 7, learning from a friend to taught me how to create a text adventure game. I also started “fiddling” with computers, prying into the file systems, accidentally deleting Windows system files, adjusting settings to make it look better and run slower. At A-level I took Computing, which consisted mainly of programming in Pascal, which was similar in some ways to BASIC, but a little more advanced.
Following that I went to the University of Essex to study Computer Science, which was a three year course covering pretty much everything to do with computers, but nothing in as much detail as would allow you to actually make a career out of it. Sadly, my interest in programming (and indeed the computing world in general) waned significantly over those three years. However, following my degree I set up my own freelance web design business, and subsequently became a full-time web developer for a multinational pet food company, which is ironic because my degree never covered web development at all.
I was brought up in a Christian family, which is neither an excuse nor a justification. I gave my life to Christ when I was six, at a kids’ holiday club over the half term break before Easter. The week had been great fun, I’d learnt a lot, and on the Thursday the leader got up the front and said that if anyone wanted to follow God completely, they had to accept Jesus into their hearts. He then prayed a prayer, inviting anyone who wanted to to repeat that prayer in their hearts. That I did, and although I didn’t spontaneously burst into bouts of prophecy, I believe that’s when I became a Christian. Of course, everyone has doubts, and at the following year’s holiday club I prayed the prayer again, just to make sure!
At the age of 13 I was baptised (we went to a Baptist church, so it was a full-immersion jobby), which marked a significant public declaration of faith. Things trundled along quietly for the next few years, with relatively few challenges or difficulties.
Then I went to uni, and things got a little more difficult. For the first time in my life I had to make decisions about how to live my life. I had to choose a church, I had to tackle the issue of denominational differences, and I had people questioning my faith for the first time. Through this I actually became stronger in my faith, and got heavily involved in the Christian Union, and in my second year I was elected Vice President of the CU.
Following my graduation from the university, I stayed on another year, working in the Anglican Chaplaincy as a Chaplaincy Assistant. This too was a great experience, as I was challenged, stretched, and put into all sorts of situations I may not have found myself in otherwise. I can’t say I’m the best Christian the world has ever seen, and I still struggle to make enough time for God, but I can clearly see how God at work in my life , moulding me into the person I am today, and I am confident that the moulding isn’t anywhere near finished yet!
Since university I have been involved in various churches in Colchester, and now that we’ve moved to Somerset I’m getting involved in our new church here too. I’m a regular musician in the services that require me, I help run the youth music group, I’m on the PCC, I’m on the Outreach focus group, I lead the Music & Worship focus group, and I’m sure God has more in store for me if only I can find the time for it all.
There is something of a family tradition of music, some of which I’m sure must be genetic. Both my parents are musical (not professional, but good enough to be able to play the piano occasionally), and I seem to have inherited enough music genes to enable me to do most things I need to.
I first started to learn the piano when I was 5, and got to the dizzy heights of grade 4 before giving up and moving on to the cello in year 6. In year 9 I taught myself the bass guitar, taking up the offer from our Head of Music to join the school jazz band. I also started playing the piano again, this time for my own enjoyment rather than for grades. In year 11 I took up the clarinet, again self-taught, and in year 12 picked up the double bass (which has the same fingering as a bass guitar but feels more like a cello to play). I briefly had some piano lessons again, but once again stopped at grade 4 when it got too difficult. In year 13 I taught myself the tenor sax to fill in a space in the jazz band, and managed to attain grade 8 on the cello by the end of the year. In the following summer holidays I attempted to learn to play the organ (with minimal success, admittedly), and in my first year at university I taught myself to play the harmonica a little. I also started playing piano in the CU, at which point my ability seemed to rocket (I blame God for that). Then in my third year I taught myself the guitar. I also sing tenor, compose and arrange music in a variety of styles, and enjoy listening to jazz, rock, pop, classical, Christian, musicals, and soundtracks. So most genres, really!
To date I have two albums to my name, neither of which are available in all good music stores. One is an album recorded by Short Back And Sides, an award-winning barbership quartet I was a member of in my school days. The other is an album of worship songs written by me (mostly) and performed by Rooted, a band I led in Colchester for a few years.
Apparently I have had a fascination with Minis since I was old enough to talk. My uncle reportedly asked me when I was about 2 what my favourite car was, expecting me to say something typical like Ferrari, Porsche, Aston Martin… seems he was a little taken aback when I said I liked Minis!
The love affair started with my uncle’s yellow Mini estate, in which was had all sorts of adventures, driving around pretending to be firemen, with a flashing orange light on the dashboard and a stirrup pump in the boot. Then there was a long gap, until 1995 when I discovered the MiniWorld magazine, and I was hooked again.
Then, when I was 17, I began to learn to drive, which had long been my biggest ambition. I started in an Austin Montego estate, which was big and heavy and not exactly pleasant to drive. Then my Mum got a Mini, and driving was never the same again! She was a lovely little red Mini City, called Lulu, which we lovingly adorned with chrome wheel arches, chrome door handles, chrome windscreen wipers, chrome grille… you get the idea. She was a much loved part of the family, until the autumn of 2005 when she had an unfortunate argument with a Vauxhall Frontera, and was sadly written off. Thankfully no one was seriously hurt in the accident, apart from Lulu of course.
However, after graduation from university I bought my own Mini, a Kingfisher Blue Mini Sidewalk (Limited Edition) called Neddy. By the time Neddy was finally sold several years later there had been additions of 5-spoke Revolution alloys, RC-40 exhaust, K&N air filter, performance spark plugs, carbon-fibre effect dashboard, CD player, clear indicator lenses, crystal halogen headlamps, LED brake lights, and various other tweaks and mods here and there. I was a member of the Colchester Mini Club, and I went to lots of Mini events around the country!
And that’s about it. In a nutshell. Albeit a somewhat verbose and bloated nutshell.