I was born in Flixton, Manchester, England in September 1963 to Bill and Cynthia Royle. They had just returned from British Guyana where my brother Tim was born, and my father worked for Booker’s sugar. Swapping the swamps of South America for Manchester my father was working as an electrical engineer during the day, and studying by night. My mother was taking care of my brother, Tim, and I.
In 1966 our little family of four settled in Cape Town. My earliest memory is a revolving blue light in the cabin of the RMS Windsor Castle. The last passenger ocean liner built at Cammell Laird Birkenhead and the last survivor of the famous lavender hulled Union-Castle Mailships that plied the route from Southampton to South Africa.
The first house I remember was in the bush, with snakes, moles, and a pond full of tadpoles. It was a fine playground. Opposite was a stable for race horses. I once jumped from the paddock railing onto the back of one and stayed on. The startled horse took off, breaking the paddock fence and running for half a mile before a group of returning stable boys stopped it. This is widely accepted as the first time that I escaped death by sheer luck, it wasn’t the last.
In 1969, we were joined by Claire, to complete the little UN of our family. In 1973, on my tenth birthday we boarded an Alitalia flight for Nairobi and then Heathrow. This was a quick stop before we moved to Glen Rock, New Jersey. I remember very well the arrival at JFK and the two very new experiences I had upon arrival. The first was snow. Heaps of it. The second was TV. Channels full of it. In South Africa there wasn’t any TV back then. Instead once a week we had movie night. My father renting a projector and the rolls of film. Several families would come over for dinner and then there would be a kids movie and, later an adults movie. We weren’t allowed to watch Last Tango in Paris, but somehow we stayed under the radar and saw Bullit. All kids should get to see Steve McQueen in Bullit; the definition of cool. The upside of no TV was these movie nights and reading books.
For a kid born in England, who spoke passable Afrikaans, and a smattering of Zulu, pledging allegiance to the American flag with a hand on my heart was quite traumatic. I got over it, I think. We didn’t stay long in America, my father’s two hour commute each way across the George Washington bridge, the reason we returned to England.
I was a terrible teenager. Many fathers hope that their sons will follow in their footsteps; that thought terrifies me. I had a rebellious nature that grew and sprouted wings that flew me into every conceivable trouble a teenager could get into. James Frey had to make up his “bad boy” youth, he could have called me I’d have sold him my story, and all the facts would’ve checked out.
The wanderers lust hit my parents again and at age 16, the end of year we flew to Hong Kong. My father to take up his position as General Manager for Hong Kong United Dockyards and me to be returned to a school uniform and a Victorian approach to education at King George V school. I wasn’t quite done with rebellion yet, and those of my teachers who I bump into now and then as I traverse Asia, still regard me with a wary eye to this very day (and well they should :-)).
In 1982 my brother and I started a Company called Royle Yachts Ltd. At one time we were the most active yacht brokers in Hong Kong. Gun runners, drug smugglers, the Taiwanese Coastguard and the HK Police were our customers. A lot of yachtsmen too. Being in the boat business, as we called it, was fun but, like writing, it’s a feast and famine occupation.
One of the things about living in Hong Kong is that you are fatally imbued with an entrepreneurial spirit, there’s no choice in the matter, you just are. To even out the ups and downs of the boat business we started a food company, and an advertising business. Both of these did well, but it was in the advertising business that I turned to writing and discovered computers.
My family, father, mother, brother and sister all moved to Australia in the late eighties and Hong Kong had become a crowded routine for me so I set out in 1989 for Thailand. Arriving in June 1989 I started work in a small graphics company but my heart wasn’t in advertising. By this time I was more into computers and in 1990 started my first computer company.
The collapse of the Thai baht put that business to bed, but it did me a favor returning me to writing. I wrote articles for magazines to survive and finally took a job in England for a while. In 1997 I also met my wife to be, and although a short nine month stretch in England intervened in 1999, we got back together as soon as my feet touched Thai soil.
In 2002, we were blessed with a boy, Nicholas. Born on the same day and month of the year as his mother, and on the 23 of the ninth month of the year 2009, a daughter, Naomi. Born on the same day I was.
I never stopped writing throughout those years but I never put writing out for others to read.
Now I am.
Nonthaburi, Thailand 2010