I was born in Gibraltar and raised in Manchester, England. The area in which I spent my childhood had already been earmarked for slum clearance and no one in my family had stayed in school beyond the age of 15. They were usually expected to contribute to the household budget as soon as the law allowed, irrespective of any ability they might have had. It was the notorious 11-plus exam that took me out of this environment and into a middle-class grammar school. The contrast between my home environment and that of the school was so stark that I became aware of the class-system at an early age.

After leaving school, I did shift work in a local paper mill and used the money that I saved to embark on a journey that would ultimately take me through Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and Latin America. I worked as a refuse collector in Darwin, Australia, a teacher of English as a foreign language in Buenos Aires, Argentina and a multilingual tourist guide in Berlin, Germany along the way. This background has led to a lifelong interest in international affairs and, in particular, the problems of the developing world.

At the age of 30, I enrolled as a mature student at Manchester Polytechnic (now Manchester Metropolitan University) and graduated with a first-class honours degree in Psychology. I was then awarded a British Academy Scholarship to do an MPhil in History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge and a Canadian Commonwealth Scholarship to do a PhD in Psychology at York University in Toronto. I also received a scholarship that was jointly funded by the British Council and the government of the German Democratic Republic to spend a semester as an exchange student at the Karl Marx University in Leipzig. On completing my studies, I taught at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, USA and University College Dublin in Ireland before taking early retirement. 

My PhD supervisor was Kurt Danziger who grew up in South Africa and was head of the psychology department at the University of Cape Town until his public opposition to apartheid forced him to leave. He was subsequently banned from entering the country until the political system changed. It was through him that I began to make my own contacts in South Africa and I have had a close connection with the country ever since.