Norman Halsall

Aversion to gardening

Whomever said “You are closer to God in a garden, than anywhere else on earth” has obviously never been locked in mortal combat with my wife’s agonisingly venomous rose thorns, nor our neighbours’ rampantly expansionist ivy.
I am convinced that a memo has been passed around the horticultural kingdom, with my name, and possibly photograph, emblazoned on it, because they all seem to want to trip, scratch or clonk me on the head whenever I am in close proximity.

 

 

Caribbean Connection

I really don’t know how it all started, this infatuation with the Caribbean islands.
We were living in Breda, The Netherlands, when we first became involved.
Shirley, my wife and I had developed a system of ‘mass producing’ hand airbrushed tee shirts and kimonos, selling them primarily to large, prestigious department stores in Holland, Belgium and the UK.
The problem was that when we started to get interest from stores in the USA, they expected us to deliver thousands of garments in a very short time. Two of us working frantically in our apartment’s back room could not hope to produce anything like that number.
So, on the advice of friends, off I went to Haiti, armed with a case-full of airbrushes and air hoses, to interview prospective artists and set up a production facility, in partnership with a Dutch expat who had a small factory there.
My arrival coincided with mass protests and the coup which ousted president Baby Doc Duvalier. My travelling companion and I escaped in the last two seats of the very last flight out of Haiti.
And still I returned to the Caribbean!

Our eldest son, Justin, bears the somewhat dubious honour of completing over 20 individual flights, before his 1st birthday
– mainly between West Indian islands.

We attempted to set up business links with the Caribbean, either finding products manufactured there which we could sell in Europe, or create our own products to sell throughout the Islands.
One time we created ‘Tropic Island Treasures’, three flavours of coconut and vanilla soap, manufactured by a prominent German company. Unfortunately the minimum order was 10,000 per flavour, and the only order we received was for 12 bars “to try”

My Grandad

Was an Inventor with a remarkably vivid imagination.

He and a friend had invented a ‘collision avoidance’ device which stopped 2 railway engines, traveling on a collision course, from hitting each other. They were so convinced of its effectiveness, that they each offered to stand on the front of a locomotive, and have them run towards each other on the same line. The railway company declined!

I remember my mum telling me about an inventors’ exhibition her dad took her to as a child.
On stage was a man wearing a pair of spectacles – with windshield wipers!
The audience of fellow inventors cheered and applauded such a wonderful idea.
Then the man turned around, and on his back hung a most remarkable machine – a confusing array of levers, cogs and cables, all spinning and clunking and whirring to activate the windshield wiper blades.
Ah, what inspiration!!

 

My Mum

Often spoke to us in stories. Rather than question we children about something, or attempt to explain something salient, she would often start with something like, “You know, when I was a girl…” and go on with some meaningful anecdote intended to make her point.
It was she who told me many ‘granddad the inventor’ stories, and she told them so vividly that I can still clearly picture some of them now.

 

My Dad

Suffered from a sense of humour. There was rarely a smile or laugh, or silly remark within walking distance of his lips.
With his love for inspirational songs, he was a member of a local ‘Male Voice Praise’ choir. It was he who took me along faithfully to the rehearsals, performances and choir festivals. In the latter, we were part of massed choirs drawn from the whole country, singing in city auditoriums to audiences of several thousand.
Perhaps it is these experiences that taught me to feel completely at home on stage, especially in front of large audiences. 
Conversely, I really don’t do very well at parties or chatting with just a few people (just so you know!).