December 26, 2006

5 Things You Don't Know About Me

I've been tagged twice on this meme by John C. and Chris S., both of whom have incredibly interesting lives I'm going to have trouble matching, I fear. Funnily enough, though, Chris and I seem to be part clones of each other, as you will discover. Here goes... Five Things You Don't Know About Me:

IntelcorpsOne: Like Chris, I attempted to join the ranks of Officer in the Army (the British one, mind). I spent a year getting incredibly fit, running 10k every morning and spending two hours every other day lifting ridiculous weights. The Adjutant General's Corps and Intelligence Corps both offered to sponsor my Commission. The AGC Brigadier let me know that he believed I was destined to be a teacher with them, while the Intelligence Corps were desperate for me to give up this Officer lark, just become a soldier and learn lots of languages with them (I got the top pass in my group's linguist test).

While at the Royal Commissioning Board, the Officer entry exams, I managed to slip down about 20 feet of rope and rip the skin off my hands. Unlike Chris, I failed the test. Later that week I was instead, like Chris, offered a job as rank and file with Intelligence Corps - all this about six weeks before 9/11. As it happened, though, I had met this girl in France and decided that I would live out my dream of residing in Montmartre for a year to see how things went. Seven years later she's my wife. And I'm still alive. The right decision, there, I think.

Two: Ever since my accident at the RCB I have no fingerprints on my left hand. I have considered a career as a one-handed thief but, until things get really tight, this remains a secondary career option.

Apk4 Three: Like Chris, I play drums but, unlike Chris, I live in a one-bedroomed flat in Leith so setting up the kit (Premier APK, pictured, with Paiste and Zildjian cyms) and having a regular practice is as likely as... getting a two-bedroomed flat in Leith ;-) I was drummer for three years with Edinburgh University Jazz Orchestra, was co-founder of The Big Noise, a Blues Brother/Commitments stylee big band. I still play drums once a year at the Edinburgh Festival to about 400 paying members of the public a night.

Four: I went to Dunoon Grammar School, which is second only to Eton for the number of politicians and cabinet members who have gone through its corridors. The most prominent is perhaps John Smith who, had he not died from a heart attack and been replaced by Tony Blair as leader of the Labour Party, would have almost certainly have provided our country with a very different Prime Minister to the one we have today. Brian Wilson (former Foreign/Energy/Transport Minister, not Beach Boy) went there, too, and George Robertson presented me with my sixth year prizes - he then went on to become the Secretary-General of NATO. Their signatures are part of the graffiti in the 'D' Corridor roof access hatch, which, probably, I shouldn't have known about as a pupil. Hey, who needs Health and Safety? I hope someone thinks of rescuing the wall before it all gets demolished for this.

My old school was also home to both the seventh Doctor Who and the baddie in all the Charlie Chaplin films. The founder of the school magazine was my big bro who is now Head of Editorial Dev at The Guardian.

None of this has much to do with me except to show why I think wee places in the backwaters of the West of Scotland can 'think local, act global'.

87456102_619dc2d208 Five: I set up my first business aged six, buying sweets at the "Sweet Spot", Hillfoot Street and reselling them at double the price 300 metres away in the lane at Royal Crescent. I made a lot of money for a six year old. My first proper job was teaching the teachers in my school how to use their new Apple Macs. I made up a paper course on basic, intermediate and advanced Mac use and PageMaker and sold it, too, as the support material for the face-to-face. I was 12. Sixteen years on I'm still doing the same thing.

It's been fun reliving elements of my past for the meme. Now it's my turn to gain revenge on the blogosphere and get five of those on my aggregator to spill the beans:

  1. Neil McIntosh (you think you know your brother, but...)
  2. Dave Weinberger (he seems to have nothing to do while the rest of us take a break for Christmas ;-) In return for doing it I might actually remember to send him those links I promised
  3. Shel Israel (he seemed to have little to hide on his trip to Scotland, but that can't be absolutely true...)
  4. Graham Holliday (I know what this man eats every day but would love to get to know him even better)
  5. Tara Hunt (what does a gal who lives her life online have to hide - loads, I'm sure ;-)

I hope these guys bite the bait. It'll be more interesting than me, for sure.


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OK, I'll bite, but I do not think anything I have to say about myself will be half as interesting as what you've got up there :)

Funny, I thought there was something of the army about you when we met. It's in your walk :) Don't take that the wrong way, it's a compliment, honest.

Oh and btw, I think Tara Hunt already memed cette meme

Ewan, I've already done my five, but here's a bonus: In the 1970s, I wrote something like 300 songs, most of which I performed into a reel-to-reel tape recorder, none of which anyone ever heard, and all of which fully merited their obscurity.

Hi Ewan,

Very long time no talk. I love the idea of this meme. It allows us to get to know one another a bit better. If you're looking for a fifth to pass the meme onto, I'd be happy to write. By the way, when you get a chance check out my new Living Textbook, thanks for the name, at

Andrew Pass

I had a fairly conventional education, attending a local primary school in Maidstone, Kent, passed the eleven-plus and went to Maidstone Grammar School, where I obtained seven O-levels and three A-levels. I studied German and French at Queen Mary College, London University and then did a PGCE course at Goldsmiths’ College. I went back to Queen Mary College to study for a PhD. My topic was the Language of Mediaeval German Heraldry and the Tournament

I never really wanted to become a teacher. My ambition was to join the diplomatic corps, where I was sure that I would be able to use my existing knowledge of languages and have the opportunity to learn new languages. I passed the entrance examination for what was then known as the Administrative Grade of the Civil Service, sailed through the two days of tests at the Civil Service Commission and reached the final interview. Bad news: it was obvious that they had researched my family background on my father’s side and discovered that my grandfather, Samuel Davies (Sam "Pont"), who was a coalminer in Maerdy, Rhondda Valley, was the right-hand man of the militant South Wales miners' leader Arthur Horner around the time of the General Strike of 1926. Arthur Horner was so left of centre that he was under constant surveillance by the security services. My heart sank when the head of the interview panel, a Welshman, referred to Maerdy as “Little Moscow”. Another plan scuppered!

My maternal great-grandfather, David Davies, gained an entry in the 1976 edition of the Guinness Book of Records as being the "most durable coal miner", working underground for 73 years from 1849 to 1922 (aged 7 to 80). His portrait hangs in an art gallery in Moscow. It was painted by a visiting artist from the Soviet Union.

I can just about claim to be a distant relation of Richard Burton. Richard Burton's first wife was the actress Sybil Burton (née Williams), with whom I share an aunt, the wife of my father's brother. Arthur Lewis, who was Sybil’s uncle and whom I also called "uncle", was leader of the Black and White Minstrel Show at the Victoria Palace theatre in the 1960s. We often used to meet for a pint in the pub opposite the stage door. It is said that Sybil named her New York discotheque "Arthur" after Arthur Lewis, her favourite uncle. Sybil's elder daughter, Kate Burton, keeps in touch with her South Wales roots.

I've always been a greyhound fan, and an owner of retired racing greyhounds for over 20 years. Greyhounds make lovely pets. I do occasional voluntary work for Wimbledon Greyhound Welfare, checking out potential retired greyhound owners – e.g. ensuring that they are aware that the dog they will be adopting will probably want to kill any cats in the neighbourhood and that their gardens should therefore be surrounded by a six-foot fence.

I like all kinds of music: jazz, classical and rock. I listen a lot to traditional jazz, Mozart and Pink Floyd.

I used to scuba dive, mainly in Dorset and Devon, but I also dived on the Great Barrier Reef in 1998. Nowadays I play golf (handicap 18) whenever I can and I go skiing in Austria once or twice every year. I keep fit by walking my greyhound and swimming at the local Holiday Inn pool.

Fascinating stuff on the coalmining part of the family. I, too, had family come back to haunt me in my application for a job for almost the same kind of reasons ;-)

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About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is the founder of NoTosh, the no-nonsense company that makes accessible the creative process required to innovate: to find meaningful problems and solve them.

Ewan wrote How To Come Up With Great Ideas and Actually Make Them Happen, a manual that does what is says for education leaders, innovators and people who want to be both.

What does Ewan do?

Module Masterclass

School leaders and innovators struggle to make the most of educators' and students' potential. My team at NoTosh cut the time and cost of making significant change in physical spaces, digital and curricular innovation programmes. We work long term to help make that change last, even as educators come and go.

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