as told in his own words to YouCanToo.
My name is Jeff Grant. As for my age, put it this way - I can remember the Nazi blitz on London - vaguely. I was married twice, and have two children from each of those marriages. I've been for fourteen years now in a relationship with a lovely lady called Anita who has two boys of her own from a marriage in which the boys' father died over twenty years ago. The name 'Besonian' which I use on this forum comes -- I think -- from Shakespeare's 'Hamlet'. And if my memory serves me correctly -- which it may not -- there is a short exchange in that play between two soldiers. And one says to the other, "Under which king, besonian, speak or die!" I believe 'besonian' is antique Italian for 'rascal', 'rogue'. And why it always stuck in my mind, I've no idea. But it did.
I live in an area of South London called Crystal Palace. Those who follow English Premier League soccer might be aware of our local team who are in the top half of the Premier League table. London generally has a lot of open spaces - parks etc. - but Crystal Palace has more than most. The largest of these by far are the grounds of what was once the actual Crystal Palace - a vast Victorian building composed of eleven million panes of glass and which housed the world's first international and permanent trade fair. It famously burned down in November 1936 and created such an inferno that every fire appliance across London was called to try to put it out. But it burned to the ground leaving only a tiny fraction of the actual structure standing. The park now contains, among other things, the UK's National Sports Centre, a maze, an open-air concert area by a lake, and another lake surrounded by life-size statues of dinosaurs (!) created in the nineteenth century.
I've lived here now for over ten years. I was born in Leicester, a city of some 330,000 people situated about a hundred miles north of London. But since my early teens I've always lived either in London or in the area immediately around it. I went to school at a small town called Egham just outside London, very close to the island in the River Thames where Magna Carta was signed, and subsequently took a degree in English Language and Literature at St Edmund Hall in Oxford University.
The urban part of the Crystal Palace area is centred around three roads known as The Triangle. It has an intimate, 'villagey' atmosphere. If you live here you soon get to know all the shopkeepers, most of whom own their own small outlet. The area is home to one of the most plentiful and varied collections of restaurants in the capital - Indian, Chinese, Thai, Brazilian, Venezuelan, Portuguese, Sardinian, North African, Colombian etc., etc. It's but a five minute walk - through another small park - from my flat (apartment) to all this food!
My partner Anita has her own flat just a mile away from mine. We live and work separately during the week but spend every weekend together and often days in between. Between us we have six children -- hardly 'children' any more. In descending order of age - the eldest, my Jackie lives in central France with her partner and my three grandchildren; my next one - Mark - is a Unix/Linux expert (he's worked with Unix since the early nineties) running the IT department in a Norwegian shipping company; the next one down - Alastair - teaches English in Buenos Aires; next is Sam who lives about five miles away from me in London, studying music at the School of African and Oriental Studies; next is Anita's Joe who is living at the moment in Ukraine; and lastly the youngest, her Ben who works in North London writing computer code and has a Masters Degree in philosophy at Oxford.
Technically I'm retired - by which I mean that the job I did for thirty years I now no longer do. But I do another - I write. After leaving Oxford I worked first in advertising and then in the film industry. In advertising I was a producer of TV and cinema commercials in three big London agencies. I did that for six years until I was offered a trial as a director by one of the film companies I worked with. For a number of years thereafter I directed cinema and TV commercials and Public Information Films. One of the latter, more years after its birth than I care to remember, is still garnering comments on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XNPMYRlvySY - then click on 'The Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water) as the scariest Public Information Film to be transmitted on UK television - even tempting people on the net to make weird variations of it. From commercials I moved on to making longer films - mostly sponsored documentaries and corporate films for people such the Ford Motor Company, the Rank Organisation, the BBC, Central Television etc. Apart from South America, I worked on every continent -- and especially in the US.
But now, I write. And in fact, only a few weeks ago I published a novel - 'Albatross - the scent of honeysuckle' on Amazon. (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Albatross-scent-honeysuckle-Jeff-Grant/dp/0993332803/ref=sr_1_44?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1444485269&sr=1-44&keywords=albatross) And I'm already working on my next which has been gestating for about twenty years!
Neither Anita nor I have any pets. I love dogs and we'd both love a cat. But with both of us living in flats on the 6th floor of apartment blocks, it seems unfair to coop up an animal with no real hope - short of falling out a window - of ever getting a breath of fresh air. In addition to our London flats we have a house in central France only half an hour drive from La Souterraine, the town in which my daughter Jackie lives. We try and get out there for extended periods twice a year. We have a medium-size camper-van and these days always drive there. We get the cross-Channel ferry from Newhaven to Dieppe in northern France - a four hour crossing, the English Channel (or ‘La Manche' if you're French!) at that point being much wider than the famous Dover-Calais stretch. There's a unique freedom with a camper-van - you take your home with you wherever you go. On our drive down to our French house we stop where we fancy, make ourselves a meal, take a break and look around - the journey has become part of the holiday. The camper-van has also made possible many great holidays in various parts of the UK.
I do a lot of photography. I've done so since I was in my teens. I work exclusively now with a Nikon digital camera and lenses. Having spent all my working life using film, It took me a long time to be convinced that digital was as good and as versatile. I believe now that it is. But many feature films are still shot on celluloid, and indeed it may still have an edge in versatility. I've many thousands of photographs, and have in the back of my mind -- the only place where there's room for it -- an idea of having a local exhibition one day.
Another interest is bird-watching. In the UK it's a popular pastime for thousands. I'm not what they call 'a twitcher' - i.e. one who speeds off all over the country as soon as the news of some rare bird blown off-course by Atlantic gales is posted on social media, simply in order to see it and tick if off in his/her notebook. I'll sit in the garden in France for example, and simply watch the avian comings and goings - in one three week period last year I noted almost thirty different species either in our garden or overflying it.
I also play piano. If I could devote the necessary time to it, I'd be pretty good - though I say it myself. But writing's my first creative love -- I've been doing it since the age of seven! - so that's how the vast majority of my time is spent.
Linux - my first introduction to it was via my eldest son Mark, in the early 'nineties. He was working at a software company in London and was using this strange thing called 'Unix'. In his spare time he was tinkering with this other strange thing called 'Linux'. What he showed me intrigued me. I could see then its potential, but it seemed that until it was at least as easy to install as Windows -- and installing it was a bit of a nightmare - there was no way it was going to make any serious inroads into Microsoft's empire. We all know how different the situation is today.
Writing scripts for my work, I used the various versions of Windows as they came out. But it was not only the pain of dealing with constant malware, updates and having to search for drivers that bugged me, but what I saw as the often dodgy way Microsoft did its business. So I kept an eye on Linux through the years, trying various distros from time to time. None of them, for all sorts of reasons did it for me - they'd be difficult to install, or once installed things didn't quite work as they should or there'd be no driver for this or that. Until, that is, I burned to CD an ISO of PCLinuxOS and put that in the computer. Everything just worked! I was amazed and delighted. I played around with it for a long time, then set up a dual-boot situation with WinXP. Within six months I'd abandoned XP and was using PCLOS for all my work. And so it has stayed. I've never again had a need to use Windows. So my enduring thanks are due, especially to Tex - and to those other command line whizzkids who have helped me and so many others on the forum in times of trouble and confusion.
Finally - about four years ago I started a blog. For a long time I hadn't added to. But only last week I started it up again, one of the main reasons being to create some publicity for my book. If anybody among this illustrious band of PCLOS brothers and sisters is interested, here's the link -
Maybe see one or two of you there sometime.
PCLinuxOS Family Member Spotlight is an exclusive, monthly column by youcantoo, featuring PCLinuxOS forum members. This column will allow "the rest of us"" to get to know our forum family members better, and will give those featured an opportunity to share their PCLinuxOS story with the rest of the world.
If you would like to be featured in PCLinuxOS Family Member Spotlight, please send a private message to youcantoo, parnote or Meemaw in the PCLinuxOS forum expressing your interest.