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The Crag Ratz, biting the bullet and model airplanes
HARRISON – Forty-five-year-old Lloyd Robinson was born and grew up in London. After traveling parts of Europe and the US, he decided to plant his roots in Maine.
He recently took time to tell us about his life.
Q: When were you born and where were you brought up?
A: I was born on April 26, 1966 in Paddington, London. London is broken up into boroughs, but there are regions within those boroughs. Paddington is in West London.
I was born at St Mary's Hospital.
We moved shortly after to Islington which was a boroughs in North London.
Q: Did you have many siblings?
A: I have an older sister, Della, and a younger brother Frasier. They both live in London.
Q: What did your parents do?
A: They were the caretakers of a church, but they also had other jobs.
Mom worked with looms making large rugs and carpets and also did the bookkeeping for a Bingo Hall up the road.
My dad worked as a security guard at the National Theater in London.
Q: What was it like growing up?
A: When we moved to Islington, we actually used to live in an apartment underneath the church that my parents were caretakers of.
Life was good. My brother, sister and I were never super close but we did all play together.
We had this big Tonka-type truck and we would drive up and down the road.
We had a dog and it was a Pyrenean mountain dog and it was a very big dog. It would escape sometimes though the fence and we would have to split up and go look for it. Sometimes we found him at the cinema and people were feeding it as they were in line.
My parents bought a small, holiday cottage in Gloucestershire. It was pretty run down, but they fixed it up over the years. It was nice to get out of the city and go to an area of woods. We would play outside and set up a camp under the pine trees. We would track and watch people walking by and they never saw us.
There was a big area called a common, and it was covered with grass and people would go there with kites and model airplanes and that was fun to watch.
There was an old quarry and we would play in the rocks.
In the city we played in the street ... usually football, which Americans know as soccer. There were also a few fenced-off areas and we would go to the park and kick around in the grass.
I was involved with the army cadets till I was 17. I had a uniform to take care of and we would do weekend camping trips where we would learn to shoot and have drills, battle scenarios and we would fire blank rounds. Once a year we got to do it for two weeks and we would learn real army tactics.
Even back then we had quite a few American TV shows like Starsky and Hutch, McCloud and TJ Hooker.
When we moved from the church to a house I was 11 and there were lots of kids because near the house was a block of (what we called) council flats and they were affordable housing units for people. There was always a game of some kind going around at the park, and behind the flats was a large play area and lots of kids to find.
Q: Was there anything you wanted to be when you grew up?
A: I wanted to be a pilot for the navy.
Q: Where did you go to school?
A: The local public schools in town.
When I turned 11, I attended the London Nautical School and we learned all the subjects. Then they taught things like navigation and seamanship and we could go out on the boat and learn charts and steering. It was the only school of its kind in London at the time.
On my last year of school, I got close to some friends and one of the teachers started an outdoor club and we started rock climbing. We went to Wales ... hiking canoeing and sailing.
That was a big part of my last year at school. Those friends I met are still some of my best friends today. We called ourselves the Crag Ratz and we even had hats made up.
Q: Did you get into mischief or play pranks?
A: It’s difficult to get into too much trouble, because in the UK, you can drink when you are 18, or even if you looked it. So I was going to pubs when I was 15.
One time it snowed, which was uncommon and it blocked all the roads to London. We took a Land Rover and tied a rope to it, and tied a feed sack to the end. We sat on the sack and went sliding down the road like we were water-skiing.
We spent a lot of time taking that Land Rover on weekends, in the woods getting stuck etc.
Q: What have you had for jobs?
A: Just paper routes and such.
Q: Did you go in the service?
A: When I was 19, I made my application to the Royal Marines – I passed that and went to a four-day recruiting course and that was in Devon. They basically run you through a mini version of what is basic training. They wanted to make sure we were prepared and to see if we were cut out for it. There was a three-month waiting period after that and in that time I did a lot of thinking. It was a 10-year commitment and I decided there were things I wanted to do before committing that long.
Q: What did you do?
A: I had a friend from Montreal and we had a warehouse job. The company moved and we got laid off. My friend told me I was welcome in Montreal anytime.
So in December, I went with $1,500 in my pocket.
After that I went back to the UK and got a job at the post office. While working there I saw a travel show speak about being a camp counselor so I did research and went to a camp near Oakland, Maine and taught kayaking along with being a counselor. I was around 25 at the time and I did that for two summers.
Q: How did you meet your spouse?
A: We had nights off at camp and we would go to Waterville and there was a nightclub there called Champions and I met Heather there. She was living in Buckfield at the time.
Heather knew someone in my van and came over to say hi.
Two years went by and she sent me a Christmas card back in England. We had been introduced so quickly I didn’t remember her name, so I decided to shoot a letter back off to her. After many long-distance calls and letters I came here in November of ’95 and we married in January of ’96.
Q: Are you a citizen?
A: I am a resident, which is different from a citizen. I got residency since Heather is an American. I did have to fill out a lot of paperwork and it cost a lot of money. So I pay taxes, I pay into Social Security, but I can’t vote, join the military or run for office.
Q: What did you do for work?
A: Construction in the summer and in the winter of ’97 I went to Sunday River and worked with the snow making crew. I loved that.
Q: Did you live anywhere else?
A: We decided to go to Denver to visit and it was such a cool place, we moved there in ‘98. We got jobs on the mountain and the world championships were there and I got to work the course.
We hadn’t been to England to visit for a while, so we decided to go there in the summer and come back in the fall. I got a job in construction and the three months ended up being three years and by then she was able to work in retail management.
We decided to travel and backpack the world. We got all prepped for Africa and India, but we hadn’t calculated the financial side. In October of 2000, we went through France and worked our way through Italy. When we got to the heel of the country, that’s when the money got tight. We stayed in a hostel for a while over Christmas and planned to go to Greece, then ferry to Israel and then Africa. We got to Greece and Heather got sick so we went back to Italy and got jobs near the hostel. We finally bit the bullet and went back to London.
Q: Then back to US?
A: Yes, but by then my residency had lapsed, so I had to reapply. It was around the time of 9-11 so there were a lot more hoops to jump through.
Q: Did you travel the US?
A: Yes. We did 22,000 miles in a little over three months. We just traveled till we saw where we wanted to end up. We went to Prince Edward Island, New Orleans, up the west coast and the Sierras as far as Whistler. We were in Bozeman, Montana when we found out that Heather was pregnant. We still wanted to check out Wyoming and Colorado, so we condensed our trip and came back to Maine in 2004. We were only planning on coming back for a year, but once there is a baby and then grandparents, it’s pretty tough to leave family.
Q: What do you do now?
A: I work in the woodshop at Sabre Yachts and I am a parts runner. I coordinate the flow of parts so everyone has the correct components to make what they need at the right time.
Q: Anyone said you look like someone famous?
A: A guy in Amsterdam told me I looked like Arnold Schwarzenegger. I had my sunglasses on and it was back in the Terminator days.
Q: Did anyone influence you to the point of changing your direction in life?
A: It’s sort of the opposite for me. I guess I always wondered where I would have ended up had I joined the Marines.
Q: Do you collect anything or have a hobby?
A: I have many magazines on lots of different subjects. I don’t really collect them; I just don’t throw them away.
Q: Any children?
A: Yes, Charlie and Owen; they are seven and five. The first child was born on the second of March and the second child was born on the first of March.
Q: What is the last book you read?
A: I just finished Paradise Alley, by Kevin Baker. It’s about the backlash of the draft and soldiers coming back from war and having to fight their neighbors.
Q: What is the one thing you could not give up?
A: Cheese. I could live off cheese and I can't do without my tea either.
Q: What is the one thing you would happily do over again?
A: There was a day in England and I was supposed to be working. I got up at 6 a.m. and the weather said 85 degrees. So I decided, on the spur of the moment to go to the beach – I never do that. Heather didn’t believe me at first. We went to Hastings in Sussex and spent the day there. In the middle of the afternoon, we took a nap and it was just a perfect day. Great spur of the moment things usually are.
Q: What would you like people to know about you?
A: That I'm a simple man trying to live in a complicated world. Life is good when I have everything I need in my backpack.
Q: Last day on earth; what would you do and who with?
A: Go powder skiing in Utah with family and friends.
Q: If anyone could walk in right now, who would you most want to see?
A: The big wave surfer Laird Hamilton. He lives his life in pursuit of his passion and hasn't let fame distract him from it.