Robin John Howell. Born April 14th 1941 in Cheltenham England.

Robin Howell

I think my mother was sent off to Cheltenham to have me because the family thought it would be safer than our home in Belsize Park. This had originally been built almost bang on top of a huge complex of railway lines going north out of London from Euston, St Pancras and others which were being heavily bombed by the Germans. Before the war my father had been training to be an architect at the London Brixton School of Building, and had joined up as something pretty lowly in the Royal Engineers. He was in bomb disposal in London and subsequently in camouflage in France. Bomb disposal in London apparently involved a lot of time spent in sewers where unexploded bombs often seemed to finish up. When we were old enough he would tell us stories of bomb disposal and the enormous rats down sewers. There was a particularly ghoulish tale of unearthing a coffin in a cemetery excavated to get at a bomb. The coffin contained what they guessed was the partially mummified body of a young woman, crouching. I didn’t tell my kids that story until I thought they were old enough to cope with it. Of course they might never have been, and in any case he might have made it up.

After the war, he went to work for Finchley Borough Council, and continued his architectural course at night school. We went to live in Woodside Park in north London and I went to the same little primary school that he had been to and was taught by the same teachers. He was very proud of working for Basil Spence on the 1951 festival of Britain, but getting nowhere working for the borough council. In 1950 we emigrated to Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe and didn’t return to England until 1958. I might write about all of that another time.

Having returned to the UK I finished my formal education at Highgate School in north London, and went to Bristol University to be a vet in October 1961. I had a good time, failed some exams, and left to get a proper job and grow up. Pam and I got married in July 1963. Jonathan was born in March 1964 and by 1970 we had four children, a house, a mortgage and a dog.

By 1980 I had worked for Xerox Corporation, Granada, Mitsubishi, run management courses in Human Communications at Rolls Royce Technical College, set up my own remarkably unsuccessful microfilm company and in 1979 had been elected a Bristol City Councillor at the beginning of the reign of Thatcher. I might have to write about that some other time as well.

In 1983 Pam and I were divorced after twenty years of marriage, and Claire and I were married in December 1984. I set out on a new career of doing small works building repairs and sticking old buildings together which kept me happily out of trouble until I retired in 2006.

It was then that I was delighted to discover what interesting things people would let you do if you didn’t want any money for doing them.

I embarked on a series of projects some of which involved building things and others about going to places. And there are those consisting largely of me banging on about things I care about or things that I think could be done to make the world a better place. They are all probably somewhere on this website for your improvement, diversion or amusement.

Now 80, and therefore properly classed as ancient, I am somewhat surprised to still be here and apparently in fairly decent working order.

In conversation with Robin Howell
An amazing man called Robin