I think what I have learned from my life so far is that you have to go for what you are interested in and don’t let age or education become a barrier. Just go for it, whatever it is.” - Dr Charles M Lansley

Above: Dr Charles pictured with his latest book, ‘Pon My Puff!’

“I left school at the age of sixteen in 1967 with a clutch of Certificate of Secondary Education (CSE) certificates joining GCHQ in Cheltenham as a Clerical Assistant (today’s E2). Not having done particularly well at school and having failed the 11+ examination to go to Grammar School, I followed my father’s footsteps by joining the Civil Service and aiming for security.

Fortunately because of my age and the support GCHQ gave to educational development for the under eighteens, I was given day release to attend the local technical college and within two years I obtained sufficient GCEs to become a Clerical Officer (today’s E1). Those years of further education and development gave me a thirst for learning such that I used all my breaks at work to read up on Socrates, Plato, Sartre and Dostoyevsky. I knew I had to go to university to read Philosophy so I left GCHQ in 1971 to go to technical college to obtain my A levels. However, when I left I missed the morning tea breaks when I had to go round and collect the orders for the sticky buns. I also missed the long journey down to the bun shop deep in the basement, and the long chats to all the other young members of Staff in the long queue. This was indeed a long tea break even before the tea break had started. And then of course there were the Christmas parties, the camaraderie and the air of mystery and secrecy surrounding one’s own workplace – you never knew exactly what the office next door or on the next floor were up to. Of course, at this time, apart from a computer section, all the work I was involved in was mainly done using pen, paper and the telephone. We did, however, have a wonderful vacuum tube system in which we could send messages in a canister up a tube – when they arrived they made a wonderful sound just like the arrival of a London underground train. Looking back I would say that my four years there were very beneficial for my development. All my managers were very supportive in helping me get on.

After technical college I went on to obtain a BA (Hons) in Philosophy (University of London). I then went on to obtain a Post Graduate Certificate in Education specializing in Liberal Studies in Further Education (University of Leicester). Rather than teaching in the UK I somehow ended up teaching English in Denmark for five years, then the best part of a year in Germany and then three years working for the British Council in Oman, both in Salalah and Muscat. I remember one time there when I was a British Council guest at a National Day celebration, I somehow ended up mingling with the departing VIP dignitaries on their way to their armoured cars and saw Sultan Quaboos (Oman), President Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq (Pakistan), King Hussein bin Talal (Jordan), President Hosni Mubarak (Egypt) in addition to many other Middle Eastern Presidents and Royalty. I was so close I could almost touch them – such was the security at that time.

After Oman I returned to the UK and obtained an MA in Language and Linguistics from the University of Southampton which then enabled me to join the Defence School of Languages at Beaconsfield as a Lecturer where I taught Military English to pre-Staff College and pre-Officer Cadet students. We had a number of young Middle Eastern Royal cadets who were really not very keen on being there, some of whom managed to rent hotel penthouse suites rather than slum it in the barracks. Consequently they struggled with their fitness but were very generous in inviting staff over to their hotel suites with whole carcasses of deer, pork and lamb on offer (the deer was obtained from their shooting parties). It would have been considered very rude to have refused such invitations!

From the Defence School of Languages I benefited from an Interchange posting in which I was attached to a disability charity helping people with disabilities obtain employment. This was of huge developmental benefit and with extra training enabled me to become a qualified Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. After two and a half years I returned to the MOD and took up a number of roles in HR finally ending up with a Training and Development post at the Defence Academy.

I retired in 2010 but having developed an interest in language development and its associated link to human evolution, I embarked upon a part-time PhD into the influences of the Romantics on Charles Darwin. I was awarded my PhD by Winchester University in 2016 and was approached by the publisher Peter Lang to turn it into a book. This turned out to be a lot harder than the PhD itself and took me two years to complete, finally getting it published in August 2018: Charles Darwin’s Debt to the Romantics: How Alexander von Humboldt, Goethe and Wordsworth Helped Shape Darwin’s View of Nature. Oxford: Peter Lang. ISBN 978-1-78707-138-4. https://www.peterlang.com/view/title/62421?tab=reviews

Being at a loose end after this project, and having come across my late father’s notebooks and anecdotes on the Isle of Wight in the 1920s, as well as having ancestral connections to the Island to inspire my interest, I then set about editing the notebooks and adding additional research. My father (pictured left at around 27 years old), had always wanted to get his manuscript published but never got around to it so this seemed a good opportunity to use my research and writing skills to finally make this happen – and to make it a memorial to my father’s memory. Unlike my first book which is academic, this book will appeal to those interested in the Isle of Wight and what childhood was like in the 1920s. I teamed up with a local Isle of Wight publisher, Beachy Books, who published it on 29 April 2021: Pon My Puff ! A Childhood in 1920s Isle of Wight. By Peter Stark Lansley. Edited and Annotated with an Introduction by Dr Charles Morris Lansley. Isle of Wight: Beachy Books. ISBN: 978-1-913894-01-6. https://beachybooks.com/bookshop/pon-my-puff-stories-of-childhood-in-wootton-bridge-isle-of-wight-in-the-1920s

“So having just celebrated my 70th birthday, I’ll now have to think of another project to keep me going! I think what I have learned from my life so far is that you have to go for what you are interested in and don’t let age or education become a barrier. Just go for it, whatever it is.”