When I was four years old, my mum took me and my brother to Jamaica to join my dad who had been transferred from London to work in Kingston Town as a foreman scaffolder on a twelve-month contract. There began my love affair with island life, sea, sand and surf. A few years later, when we came back to the UK we moved to Middlesbrough in northeast England, my dad’s home town. We went from living like royalty, on a sun-drenched island, surrounded by palm trees, clear blue seas, and golden beaches, to living in impoverished conditions in a cold, colorless northern town, with steelworks and two chemical plants polluting the air with noxious gasses. I made a promise to myself then that I was going to get out of that town and get back to Jamaica or some other island or country where there were happy smiling faces, blue seas, parrots, beaches and sunshine as soon as I possibly could. The day I left school for the last time, was the day the school broke up for the Easter holidays. The headmaster had decided that the few pupils who were not staying on to do their CSE or GCSE exams and who were leaving school for good on that day, should leave at lunchtime. There were only six of us and we were escorted from the school grounds by one of the teachers. When we were approaching the school gates I heard a voice from behind yelling “You lot will never amount to anything, you’ll all end up as drunks, unemployed or in prison” I recognised the voice straight away, it was Mr. Bagley, my science teacher, who had bullied, tormented and beaten me at every opportunity over the past four years. That just made me more determined to get away from England and start a new life in the tropics. His words have stayed with me to this day, and they have given me the strength to prove him wrong. I have had to cheat, lie and live by my wits to achieve my goals but since that day I have never looked back. I have worked as a chef on cruise ships, five star hotels and restaurants around the world, been to the Antarctic, lived in ten different countries, own four investment properties and a share portfolio, had my own successful advertising business, own a beautiful house on the Gold Coast in Australia, own a boat in Boracay in the Philippines, wrote and had a book published on how to retire in Thailand, and I now live on the beautiful island of Koh Samui in the Gulf of Thailand.
My life’s been fantastic Mr. Bagley. How about yours?
Targeted Age Group:: adult
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I originally wrote this book after my marriage broke up in 2017. Colleen and I had been together since we were sixteen, over fifty years, and when it all fell apart it was hard for me to come to terms with living alone and trying to start my life over. We still loved each other we just couldn’t live together. I wrote it as a kind of therapy, a way to try to make sense of my life and to try to work out where it all went wrong. I also wrote it for my children and grandchildren so that they could perhaps understand me and my life a little better now that I was no longer going to be around them and in their lives as much. With the inception of the internet and with the massive changes in the way young people now live their lives through social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp, many of today’s generation are glued to their mobile phones, taking selfies and looking for the next new thing and most of them don’t realise the struggles and sacrifices that their parents and grandparents made to get them to this point in their lives. This book was my way of helping my family to understand what it was like when their mum and dad were growing up without us having many of the advantages that they take for granted today. The book was only supposed to be for my family to read and was never intended for publication. When my first book was published, “The Retire in Thailand Handbook, The First Six Months”, my publisher asked if I had any other books that I had written that I may consider suitable for publication and I told them about the autobiography I had written for my family. When they asked me to send them a copy, I phoned Colleen to see if she had any objections and as usual she has always done she supported me 100% and told me to go for it. I sent a copy to the publisher and thought no more about it as I didn’t think that an autobiography by an ordinary person like me would be of interest to them or their customers, so I was pleasantly surprised when they got back to me and told me that they loved the book and wanted to publish it. I believe that everyone has a story inside of them to tell; many people think that they have led an uneventful life, but it’s only when you sit down and think back on your life and put pen to paper that you realise that even though you may not be a famous actor, sports star, or musician your life story is just as important as theirs and probably more so in many cases and deserves to be told even if it’s only for yourself and your family.
I hope that you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it and that it might inspire you to put “your life story” in writing.
Growing up, one of my first ever memories was walking down Cunards MV Parthia’s accommodations alleyways ringing the gong to summon the ship's passengers to dinner; I would have been about four years old. Ricky the cabin steward had befriended my brother John, who was two years older than me, and everywhere that John went I wasn’t far behind him. My mum, brother and I were sailing out of Liverpool en route to Jamaica via New York. My father also John (Johnny to my mother) had gone ahead of us a few months before, to start work as a foreman scaffolder for Higgs and Hill, a London based building company, who had been awarded the contract to build a Jamaican government building in Kingston Town. It was to be at least a twelve-month contract and my father insisted that he would not take the job unless his wife and family were able to join him there. The seed was sewn the day we landed in Jamaica and there began my love affair with travel and seeing the world, a love affair that would last another sixty-three years and is still going strong to this very day.
My memories of Jamaica are still strong even after all of these years. It was such a contrast to grey old England after the war years. Sunny blue skies, golden beaches, palm trees, steel bands, calypso music and happy smiling faces everywhere you went, it truly was paradise. This was long before tourists invaded the island, and years before Rastafari, rude boys, ganja and lawlessness changed Jamaica to the crime-ridden country that it is today. White children were hardly ever seen so my brother and I were fussed over everywhere we went and were treated like royalty, which was great for my parents but embarrassing for us kids.
After returning from Jamaica, while growing up, my main ambition in life, apart from playing as a goalkeeper for Middlesbrough and England, was to travel and see the world. The problem was my parents were not rich in fact they were poor. Despite having a well-paid job with Higgs and Hill and later on the docks in Middlesbrough, my dad liked to drink and gamble on the horses, so when he got paid that’s where most of his wages went. I am not knocking him; in the 1950s in the northeast of England, where he was from, this was par for the course for a lot of working-class men. They worked hard but they played hard as well, and rightly or wrongly it was a man’s world back in those days. At school, I was not academically minded. I was clever enough, but given the choice of studying and doing homework or playing football…well football came first every time. Because both of my parents had very little education growing up in the early 1900s, they did not push me in that direction either and I was happy to drift through life having as much fun as possible.
When I finally walked out of Brackenhoe Technical School in Middlesbrough for the very last time in April of 1966, I had no qualifications and very little education after four wasted years in the British high school system. I knew then that if I wanted to make something of my life and achieve my ambition of traveling the world and to be successful, not poor like my parents, I would have to do it by hard work, determination, using my initiative and gaining any skills that I could pick up along the way and any other means necessary legal or not to reach my goals. From that day onwards my life was a constant battle with employers, authorities and government departments to achieve my ambition to travel work and live in some of the most beautiful countries around the world and make something of my life.
Fifty odd years later I have held managerial positions in Australia, Papua New Guinea, and the Falkland Islands. Worked as a chef on Caribbean cruise ships, European ferries, offshore oil rigs, Australian customs patrol vessels, five-star hotels in Australia, the UK, and Bermuda and sailed to the Antarctic. I have owned and operated a charter boat in the Philippines, had a successful real estate advertising business in Australia and wrote and published a book on retirement in Thailand. There are not many countries in the world that I have not visited and I have lived in and still own homes in Australia, the USA, and Thailand where I am now retired. This book will show that despite being told by teachers that I would not amount to anything, how through determination, hard work, a lot of luck and a little bit of lying and cheating I was able to travel the world and make a great life for myself and my future family without going to university or even college and with very little education. If I can do it anyone can.
Don't let anyone think they are better than you are just because they have money or a university education. Yes, it's easier to go through life if you have those attributes, but it’s not compulsory or essential. It just means you have to work harder and smarter and be a little bit streetwise if you want to achieve your goals. Sometimes you need to throw caution to the wind to pursue your dreams. Money isn’t everything, living your life to the fullest is, as the saying goes, when you die, you can’t take the money with you. During the course of writing this book I have read about some very rich and famous people who have committed suicide even though it seemed that they had everything to live for and more money and fame that the average person can only dream about, including the famous chef Anthony Bourdain, Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington, designer Kate Spade, Sound Garden singer Chris Cornell, Musician Avicii, UK tv presenter Dale Winton, singer Scott Hutchison, and The Cranberries lead singer Dolores Oriordan.
Gerald Hogg, Koh Samui, Thailand, August 2018
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