Richard Binstead (67-71)



Richard Binstead (67-71) was born in Montreal, Canada and arrived in the UK aged 7, joining the NCP in 1967. He became a CC in Hesperus and left in 1971 “with the grand total of three ‘O’ levels and a Reserved Cadetship to Dartmouth awarded at the age of 15.” He takes up his story:


“Not feeling up to retaking my ‘A’ levels straight away, and after working as crew and waiter/steward on an English registered Bateau Mouche cum cabin barge, sailing the Seine, Yonne and Marne rivers, I hiked and hitch-hiked my way from Paris to Johannesburg. My proud grandfather and ex-soldier/civil servant informed Dartmouth of my activities (it had promised to keep my place open on producing the two ‘A” levels). He was sniffily told by some naval jobsworth that I`d be better off joining the Army!


Indeed, I had spoken to a young Green Jacket Lieutenant I`d met patrolling his section of the Kinshasa rail link, (the Zaireans had refused to allow any Belgian soldiers to do it), and asked him to convey my respects to a Colonel Tillett, (Recruiting Colonel for the regiment), whom I knew from Pangbourne days. Perhaps ‘jobsworth’ wasn’t so far off the mark after all! I did later join the RAMC (V) as a paratrooper years later and stayed for a few years, but remained a lowly ranker, just there for the adventure.


Once in Johannesburg, arriving with £5 in my pocket and an address, I spent several weeks hunting down a job. I ended up as a Maitre D` in a Viennese-style cafe in Hillbrow, then a restaurant cafe section of the city near Wits University. At the tender age of 19 I was often left to run the salon and kitchen by the owners.


Back in Blighty, I drifted for a while, working in Cambridge as a University Library assistant, and in a bottle factory in East Ham as a night worker. Then I looked after my grandmother in Ruislip, whilst studying for ‘A’ levels by correspondence. What I`d failed to achieve in two years at Pangers I managed in nine months on my own.


By then, thoughts of the Navy had rescinded, although some time later I also spent a short while in the RNR on fast patrol boats as a Radio Operator, mainly to get the RN out of my system, and also for some paid adventure p/t. It worked, as I found naval life claustrophobic and anachronistic.


After a while, having trained in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture, I had a practice, but found working with sick people not really to my taste (selfishly no doubt); the philosophy and psychology of the East being much more my thing. I had by this time also explored Buddhism and Sufism.


However, the future of student grants was becoming problematic and I was getting on a bit, so I decided to get to a university whist I still could. I decided to do a degree in French/ Classical Civilisation but only three institutions in the country would take applications from people who did not have an ‘A’ Level in French and I ended up at the Polytechnic of North London which became a full-fledged university while I was doing my year abroad at the University of Aix/Marseille111. I ended up with a 2.1 BA in Classical Civilisation and French, and a Secondary Level PGCE in modern foreign languages (French/Spanish).


I taught for a while in private and state schools in London and then headed for Cornwall, where I still reside today in Polruan. I spent 13 years teaching down here before retiring in 2011 at the tender age of 58. I`m now full-time carer for my aged mother, and three rescue dogs; a Watch Keeper and Rota Manager for our village NCI Station; a thespian for our village theatre group; an MA student in Western and Buddhist Psychology and Psychotherapy at Middlesex University; and I also run a small family business letting properties.


For relaxation I study Ki Aikido and play at the Chess Club held in the pub at the next village of Lerryn; I meditate and do yoga/calisthenics etc. together with long dog walks along cliffs, beaches, and in woods and by rivers, often being dragged in to the local at the end of the walks by the Labrador! I`ve also done the occasional bit of sailing and boating of course.


This coming year I plan to take up ball room dancing lessons with my new Californian girlfriend, and to resume shooting. On the occasions when I`m inactive, I love to stare out to sea and along the Cornish coast (as far as the Lizard on a clear day) from my lounge window. It`s a great vantage point. So, in retirement, never so busy. Next July I collect my OAP. And that about sums up the life of this OP. Not the achiever that so many other OP`s seem to be, but at least content with my lot, and financially comfortable – well reasonably, anyway.”