John is a proud Lancastrian who followed a pretty random design career that took him to live and work in New York, Singapore and Moscow. He now is happily at home in London. However, he still occasionally rafts on the Zambezi, sings in the Sydney Opera House, or does dog-sledding in the Arctic. One of his few remaining ambitions is to make a bucket list, but as he says, he’ll probably find that in ‘100 places to see before you die’, he’s well over half-way.
In his own words:
How did sharing your story impact your own life?
The honest answer is, first of all, it provided an audience. I like telling stories, and sharing experience. I ought to say ‘because it might help someone’ but that’s not entirely accurate. I’d tell anecdotes to a deaf dog if it would sit still and look as though it was listening… So, my first motive was to get a few things off my chest, and maybe justify aspects of my own behaviours to myself and others.
But what it then did, was to open a well of memories I’d thought closed for ever. Strange and small things popped in to my mind from my past, people and places I’d all but forgotten, and it was warming and sweet to be reminded of them. It also made me revisit shameful episodes in my past or childhood, but because they were outnumbered by the good memories, it made the bad or embarrassing ones seem less painful.
I’ve thought a lot about people who I’ve discarded along the way; former good friends and lovers, who for one reason or another failed to stay the course. Whilst I could always find a post-rationalisation for why we didn’t remain close, I could also see my own behaviour-patterns which might have made them leave. I don’t necessarily want to change them all, I actually like who I am now, but having the knowledge is a useful road map in case it happens again.
Is a book like this, still of relevance and value in the day and age of ‘gay liberation’?
I was 13 or 14 when homosexuality was decriminalised in England. About that time, I saw a copy of Angus Stewart’s remarkable novel of first gay love ‘Sandel’. I was too scared to be seen buying it or to take it home, so I went to the bookshop two or three times a week on the way home from school to read a few more pages until I’d finished it. It’s a beautifully written and tender love story, and it taught me that a book can touch you by describing something you wouldn’t even wish for or dream about, and confirming I was not going mad for thinking what I was thinking about, myself. If this book, ‘Love Me As I Am’, can capture the imagination of a teenager in the same way ‘Sandel’ did for me, I’d say it’s definitely relevant and of value.