I was born in West London, close enough to Heathrow Airport that my mother was convinced the chestnut tree in our garden was used as a marker by the planes. I inherited sport-madness from my father and a certain Celtic melancholy from my mother, when she wasn’t railing against pilots. My folks were born in India in the days of Empire and the tales they told of that mystical place were probably the first things to whet my appetite for the dark and mysterious.
After leaving school, where I showed my versatility in a production of Julius Caesar by playing the stretching roles of a cobbler, the fourth citizen and a soldier, I studied English and German at university, spending a year teaching English down near the Black Forest in Germany. The Cold War was still in full stalemate, so trips to East Berlin and Weimar were illuminating.
Even when I worked in Frankfurt at what was then the world’s biggest chemical company, it was fascinating to be there at a time when the huge 150 year old concern was starting to break apart. The original dyestuffs shed was still there at the centre of the plant, hidden away as the company grew outwards; pipework snaked around offices; two worlds side by side – till an explosion, which I witnessed one morning, killed an employee and hastened the end.