Sometimes I ask myself why I’ve started my own website. I’m not selling anything, neither have I got anything particularly interesting to share with others. Perhaps it’s all to do with egoism. Perhaps I want to try to be interesting. Perhaps I think that I really am interesting. I convince myself that in my old age I want to share my life and thoughts about life with others. Maybe the dreams of an old man with cancer will be interesting – even of some use – to psychologists. Maybe the autobiography of someone who has changed his country, wife and career like socks is more interesting than that of someone who has “sat on his arse for forty years and hung his hat on a pension”, like the character from a book we had to read in our English class at school. I can’t imagine my poems will give much pleasure or inspiration, but maybe some of my stories are readable and there’s quite a large variety of quite good photographs on the site. Some of you have even got something out of my blogs.
I suppose the main reason for my doing it is because it’s fun - I enjoy it, and all my life I’ve made a point of doing things I enjoy. If one doesn’t enjoy one’s own life it’s not very easy to help other people to enjoy theirs. “Love your neighbour as yourself” and all that – but first you have to love yourself. Well I do – a lot!
I was born on 25th July 1941 in Salisbury, England and spent my childhood at Sandle Farm, Fordingbridge, with my father Frederick, mother Elinor, sisters Anna and Sarah and brother Simon. There were several advantages in being the eldest; with three younger siblings I was left on my own more often and there was no one to hand down their outgrown clothes or sandals to me.
I started my education at St. Katherine`s Primary School, Ringwood, where I had the habit of continually falling asleep during the lessons. At the age of seven years and nine months I was sent to boarding school, to the Cathedral School, Salisbury, where I discovered that it was possible to survive without the continual presence of parents. When I was thirteen I moved to the school next door - Bishop Wordsworth’s Grammar School. Thus, almost my entire schooling was spent in the shadow of the beautiful Gothic cathedral in Salisbury.
At the age of twelve I decided I wanted to be an RAF fighter pilot, but this passion was cut short by a call to the priesthood, which in turn developed in a desire to teach. However, after a visit to the Salisbury Playhouse I fell in love with the theatre and instead of following my headmaster’s advice and studying history at King’s College Cambridge, I left school, and while looking for an opening in the theatre, earned my living by working first in an estate agent`s office in Salisbury and then as a plumber`s mate for Shering`s the builders in Fordinbridge. Unfortunately, I have forgotten everything I learned there.
Eventually I managed to get a foothold in the theatre and completed a course in stage management at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London. This was followed by an engagement as assistant stage manager with the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Arts Theatre, London and a spell at the Criterion Theatre, after which I joined the BBC as an assistant floor manager, having just married Jenny, an actress I met during a theatre engagement at Frinton-on-Sea. In January 1964 I became father to Justin.
After a while I turned to directing and directed film inserts for the “Blue Peter” children’s programme. In 1969, my first documentary film, “I Want to be a Showjumper” won a BAFTA award as the best children’s television programme. A subsequent series of documentary films took me to Yugoslavia where I went for a week and stayed for 40 years, having fallen in love with and married Mila, who provided me with two more sons, Andrea and Jovan.
I directed children’s programmes for Belgrade Television; “Marigold”, “Granny’s Boy”, “The Fledgling”(which was awarded the ‘Prix Jeunesse’ in Munich, 1980) and then for Sarajevo Television - “Sunday Magazine”, “Musical Notebook”, “In Search of the Dodo” and “Open the Window”.
This was followed by a desire for change and I took up teaching English, working at a number of language schools in Belgrade and at the Krishnamurti International School at Brockwood Park in Hampshire, England where I taught English and Drama.
Another important change took place when I divorced Mila and married Zorica - my 3rd wife - on the 3rd of the 3rd month - just before the start of the NATO bombing in March 1999. 3.3.1999 - the numbers add up to 34 - 3+4=7 - our lucky number!
The next major change came in 2005 when I was diagnosed as having Multiple myeloma, a form of cancer that develops in plasma cells, the white blood cells that make antibodies. Thanks to the ever-present help of my two guardian angels, in the form of my wife Zorica and doctor Jelena Bila, I am winning the battle against this disease.
I now work as consultant to the Children’s Department of the Serbian Broadcasting Corporation, contribute to programmes and workshops at the Children’s Cultural Centre “Majdan” in Belgrade, translate from Serbian into English, teach English and write. I have completed a `self-portrait` trilogy, “Pigs Do Not Eat Banana Skins” and a book of seven short stories “The Golden Candlestick”. I am currently completing my autobiography: `Timothy Byford: ‘Warts and All`, the title of which I am considering changing to “Life begins at Seventy”.