I left parenthood quite late when compared with many of my friends, and UK society as a whole. This was partly an unintentional result of my continuing independence through to my mid-thirties, but after settling down with my co-parent we had both resolved to prepare the ground ahead of bringing a child into the world. By the time my daughter was born I was closing out my third decade and had a well established understanding of what love was. I loved my family, my friends, my pastimes and the environment all very differently but those feelings were bound together within this concept of love, which hadn't altered much in my mind for many years. But that changed within a few minutes of the birth of my daughter. The entire concept as I understood it was blown open and became so much broader. My mind undertook some kind of factory reset between the moment I first saw her, through her being weighed and then placed upon her mother, but I knew as she rested and calmed there that I would dedicate the rest of my life to her safety, happiness and success.
Even if she looked a bit like Kim Jong Un.
Being her father is the greatest privilege of my life.
Since I was a child, I have loved and been fascinated by the natural world.
As a young adult, during some down-time in Fujairah in 2003, I went snorkelling with my Sergeant, John Watson in a nearby bay we had reached by boat. After a while in the company of fish, I was surface-swimming back to said boat when my Sergeant yelled out to me: "Cam! There's a shark in here with us!" I ducked my masked head back under the water and watched mesmerised as a beautiful juvenile Black Tip Reef Shark cruised by me.
In those short seconds, I became captivated for life.
Not long later, a larger group of us took a boat to 'Shark Island' where we had been told we were likely to see a larger group of sharks. As we prepared to enter the water, my rugged Scottish mate Craig Dainty suggested in a not-entirely-confident-but-had-a-reputation-to-maintain manner:
"Stick together in case we get eaten!"
We weren't eaten. Black Tip Reef Sharks are shy and docile around humans. We did see a group though, of around 5 - 10, one of which was significantly larger than the juvenile John and I had seen previously. I'll never forget John sheepishly retiring back to the boat after it had swum past him, his head bobbing up and down with the waves as he sought refuge. "That one's a bit big for me!" he said, earning himself the moniker: John 'You're Gonna' Need A Bigger Boat' Watson.
I realised that I wanted to spend more time with sharks, and the other fascinating wildlife underwater. I learned to dive in Cyprus in 2008 and became a PADI Dive Master in Egypt, that same year.
I've since met perhaps 1000 sharks, though in 2023 it's been several years since the last. I've swum with Tiger, Bull, Scalloped Hammerhead and Blacktip Sharks in the Indian Ocean. I've met a Whale Shark, a Tiger Shark, Galapagos Sharks and Whitetip Reef Sharks in the Pacific Ocean.
I've yet to meet one I did not like.
The image above was taken in North Uist, c. 2011, where I joined an expedition with the Shark Conservation Society, searching for Great White Sharks in British waters. Unsuccessfully, unfortunately. I have also joined and led other expeditions to the Red Sea, Mediterranean Sea and to the Pacific.
Sharks are charismatic, elegant and beautiful creatures. They must be protected, so that our children can experience a world with them.
There are those politicians who have very little in common with you and I, who try to fake a love of football to appear as though they are as you and me. There was PM David Cameron who professed a love of Aston Villa, then West Ham, as he struggled to recall which team he supposedly supported. Priti Patel and various other Conservatives too, who donned England shirts for photo opportunities as England so nearly achieved World Cup and European glory.
At the time of writing, I am but an aspiring politician, but a fully-fledged lover of the beautiful game.
As a child I did not really understand why my classmates loved football so much. When other children asked me which team I supported, I told them Manchester United... because they tended to win everything. I began to like it a little more as the years rolled on. I remember proudly completing my 1994 Premier League sticker album. Norwich City was the first team I completed... Liverpool was the last, and then only after tearing a sticker out of my mate's brother's album to finish it. He was a good sport, whoever he was. My father took my brother and I to watch Swindon Town vs Blackburn Rovers in the FA (?) Cup, in 1995 (?), which was the first game I watched live. I can't say I was entirely captivated at that point. I did develop a soft spot for Swindon Town in the years which followed though, and journeyed to the County Ground quite regularly to watch games for free as an under-16 with my friends. In the late 90's my dad got me a job working some of the bars at the old Wembley Stadium, and I managed to catch Spurs winning the Worthington Cup against Leicester City and England trouncing Luxembourg 6-0. That Michael Owen goal in particular lives long in the memory.
After joining the RAF in 2000, I adopted Plymouth Argyle as my club. During training, my course socialised by playing football against other courses, as well as instructors, and I had needed a football shirt to wear. Though I had led a nomadic life, Plymouth was my spiritual home, so I pitched up at Home Park whilst on leave and left with a beautiful white shirt with green pinstripes, bearing the (relatively) famous Mayflower crest.
I banged in some absolute screamers in that shirt, which I miss dearly.
Between 2000 - 2004 I started driving from RAF Brize Norton to Plymouth quite frequently to watch Argyle, and generally took friends with me for company. One of them was a Spurs supporter, who convinced me to return the favour and watch Spurs with him on occasion. Those were dark days. I remember struggling to keep my eyes open throughout a 0-0 draw with Middlesboro at White Hart Lane and a lifeless 3-0 drugging at Goodison Park. We did meet a nice lady who drove us from Liverpool Train Station to the stadium though, and I enjoyed her CD of punk covers. As time went by I became more and more attached to Spurs though, and I've considered them my first club for many years now. Some of the highlights include a game at the San Siro which saw us 4-0 down and reduced to 10 players after 30 minutes, only for Gareth Bale to score a hat-trick in the 2nd half, a win against Dortmund at Wembley and my first game at Tottenham Hotspur stadium, in which
new signing Steven Bergwijn scored to sink champions Manchester City.
The football is pretty good these days.
One of my proudest 'dad' moments has been putting my daughter into her brand new Spurs away shirt, which matches my own. For a lover of the beautiful game, it is a legitimate rite of passage.
Finally, football fandom generally necessitates rivalries, which I love to engage in for as long as they stay grown up. As a Spurs fan, I couldn't put my feelings better than the way I once read:
"I dislike Arsenal because I'm Tottenham. I dislike Chelsea because I'm human".
I bought a bass guitar for my 18th birthday. It was an Aria Pro II which I had been coveting for months or years in a music shop in Witney.
By this time, music had already played a significant role in my adolescence. My mother had always loved music and I can still recall waking up to Kenny G or Sade being played from the kitchen, Hall & Oates, Simply Red or Genesis being played whenever I was driven anywhere. My mother used to attend Simply Red conventions in London with a group of friends who would converge from around the country - in hindsight she admitted, to occasionally escape her home life.
But as a child, I wanted a little more energy about my music. I cannot recall how I discovered Michael Jackson, but our mothers took me and my friend Miles Duncan to watch him at Wembley in 1992. That was my first live concert, which was a good start.
If I skip over the brief flirtation with 2 Unlimited, I discovered Bon Jovi at around 10 years old and began to tread the pathway toward Rock. Through a friend with ties to much cooler groups at school, I discovered Korn and through them, bands such as System of a Down, Fear Factory and Machine Head. I remember heading into London to Brixton to watch Fear Factory and then Machine Head back in 1999. My friends and I had had to take several coaches and trains to get there from West Oxfordshire. They were great experiences though. I recall Gary Numan joining Fear Factory on stage for a cover of 'Cars', and the outstanding One Minute Silence supporting Machine Head. I had been flashing the drummer various hand signals throughout their set, each gleefully returned between drum strikes. For that matter, I remember holding up the bass player too, after he had dived from the stage.
I think music was my earliest exposure to politics.
By the time I had been posted to Cyprus in 2005, I had become fairly competent playing my bass guitar, and some friends and I decided to form a band. Johnny Snelling and I had already known each other vaguely for a few years by the time I learned he could play the drums. We had another friend, Gaz McKeating who could sing. All we were missing then, was some actual talent. We discovered our guitarists at an Open Mic Night we hosted at RAF Akrotiri. Mark Wilson and Wes Carlisle signed up and we all got together to name the band and offer songs to a setlist. We played a practice show as 'Replay' in front of friends and family at a small bar in Episkopi, before playing an inaugural show at the Woodstock Pub, which was my regular haunt on my days off. The place was packed out with our friends, and friends of friends as we blasted out various Arctic Monkeys, Muse and Kings of Leon tracks amongst other Indie and Rock music. Mark always stole the show as we closed with Foo Fighters' Baker Street. After that, The Woodstock came to feel like 'playing at home' whenever we played there. The two young gents who ran the place, Tony and Savvas, absolutely loved us for the numbers we brought in. I remember once heading to the packed bar to grab a Coke, and Tony told me to go behind and pour myself whatever I wanted.
There is an annual rugby tournament held at RAF Akrotiri called the Rugby 10's, which is typically closed with a large festival on the final day. The organisers tend to draw tribute acts from the UK to perform on a large stage to close the tournament... which we headlined in 2007. That was our 2nd show of many, and to play to a few thousand people was an unforgettable experience. We played another major festival, Nikstock (at Ayios Nikolaos) that year, as well as our final show at a local school in Episkopi.
Not long after I returned to the UK at RAF Benson, I bought a Squire Stratocaster and began to (try to) learn lead guitar. I never became particularly good at it, though I did play lead and sing for a band Midnight Sun (I swear I never liked the name) in the Falkland Islands. I played in 3 bands throughout 4 months over there, before effectively retiring from live music by 2013. I have since sold the Strat', but have retained a gorgeous Ibanez bass guitar.
These days my musical taste has diversified. I love some of the music of Ludovico Einaudi (I am sure that 'Experience' is the greatest song ever recorded), and sometimes some relaxing jazz over dinner. When I am driving, or training at the gym, it has to be rock and hip-hop.
"Travel is fatal to prejudice", said Mark Twain. I would not dare to claim half the wit of the man, but I do share this experience.
I did not travel overseas much as a child. There was one trip to a caravan park in France and another to a hotel in Limassol, Cyprus, but thereafter my parents were either too busy divorcing, or shoring up their post-divorce lives. There were various trips within the UK, but no more overseas.
Joining the RAF proved a defining moment for me. Within 18 months of joining I was Exercising in Thumrait, Oman. I remember lending our Omani bus driver my earphones now and then, and probably introducing him to heavy metal and punk music.
It was from a communal TV tent in the desert that I watched the world change forever on 11 Sep 01.
In the 2 months which followed I became completely immersed in the US mobilisation which occurred before my eyes. Whilst the smoke still rose at Ground Zero, Americans arrived in their thousands. I shared in their anguish and the resolve which burned behind it - a privilege I would not have experienced had I been at home in the UK.
I deployed several times across the Middle East throughout my early adulthood: to Umm Qasr, Shai'bah and Balad in Iraq and to Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates, with flash stops in Qatar and Bahrain. I recall befriending a couple of locally employed civilians in Shai'bah, where I'd struggled to integrate myself with the Royal Signals Regt I had been attached to. Muvtatha and Qusay were my closest friends for 3 months and we conversed openly about where we had come from, the Iraq War and our (in some cases dashed) hopes for the future. I played pool with them almost every day in the communal bar, and only on the final day of my tour did one of them beat me.
Had I never spent this time with these Iraqis, I might have become more wary of Muslims,
particularly following the London Bombings on 7 Jul 05. Several weeks spent diving in the Red Sea from various parts of Egypt between 2008 - 2010 allowed me further opportunities to bridge cultural divides. In particular, a genuinely immersive 3 weeks diving from an eco-village in Marsa Alam, living as my hosts did without a tourist trap in sight.
There were 2 experiences in Japan which have left a lasting impression. I had travelled alone, spontaneously to Japan in 2008 and spent 3 weeks living in hostels across the country. I had wanted to visit Hiroshima owing to its tragic history and spent an afternoon Memorial Park. The park is undoubtedly moving at any time of year, but the Genbaku Dome framed against the autumnal leaves (as in the image above) set a particularly sombre tone. I remember fighting back tears as I passed children laying paper cranes at the foot of the Childrens' Memorial, but I finally broke down whilst reading the inscription upon the Peace Cairn, offered by British youths in 1972.
The second recollection is infinitely lighter and represents one of my life's greatest successes. I had left a hostel in Kyoto with a group of friends comprised: a Canadian, a Turk and a Frenchman. We had resolved to go out for the evening and eventually, happened upon the Namco Tower, where we played a game of Mario Kart. Long story short, I red-shelled the Frenchman as he was about to cross the finish line, and won the race for Great Britain. All delegates were entirely gracious in the result.
Wherever you go in the world, you will meet those who succumb to fear and ignorance, and those whose courage and experience dispel those base instincts.