The Tim Walker Story

First cover and matching t-shirt for ‘Thames Valley Tales’

Childhood provides a starting point for life, forming character, influences, beliefs and prejudices… my journey started in Hong Kong where I was born to British parents and had my primary schooling and formative years. A patchwork quilt of cultural influences on the far side of the world hardly prepared me for the shock of secondary school in Liverpool, England. Why Liverpool? It’s my mum’s home town. After taking a beating or two, I soon learned to adapt to my new surroundings, and grew to love the city, its people and football club (the red one).

At Cardinal Allen Grammar School I developed a love of learning and reading fiction, including writing the odd reflective poem. Upon leaving school with a couple of ‘A’ levels, I knew I wanted to write and jumped at the chance, when offered by a careers adviser, to become a trainee reporter for a local newspaper in Liverpool, The Woolton Mercury. Here I learned lithographic printing, layout, news reporting and feature writing, soon progressing to film reviewing and writing a music column. I researched and wrote a feature series, The History of Woolton Hall. Amongst my interview subjects were Pink Panther film actor, Bert Kwok, and The Stranglers’ bass player, Jean Jacques Burnel.

After a couple of years I went to Pontypridd in South Wales to study at the Polytechnic/University of Wales where I was elected editor of the student news magazine, LEEK, before graduating with a BA Honours degree in Communication Studies (that included practical in scriptwriting and film production). For my film practical, I wrote, cast and directed a short film, Sam Shovel and the Case of the Missing Taxidermist, receiving an ‘A’ grade. I was selected to direct and co-script the Polytechnic’s entry in the 1985 Fuji Student Film Competition. Based on a Susan Hill short story, Only the Natives came fourth out of a field of 12 national film courses.

After this, I gravitated to London and got a job as Assistant Circulation and Promotions Manager with the South London Press Group, based in Streatham. This was the start of a ten-year stint in the newspaper publishing industry, broken only by nine months at Bristol Business School where I attained a post-graduate diploma in Marketing. The diploma won me an upgrade to Marketing Executive in the Group Marketing Department of United Provincial Newspapers Limited (later United News and Media) and a desk overlooking the River Thames in the shiny black tower, Ludgate House, next to Blackfriars Bridge. Here, my creative skills were adapted to meet commercial objectives in market research, advertising sales support and product development for regional newspaper titles.

Tim in VSO t-shirt at Victoria Falls

Faced with the sell-off of group titles, I jumped before I was pushed and resigned in the mid-90s to do voluntary work with Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) in Zambia, working in educational book publishing development.  This involved organising and delivering training and support to local publishers, setting up and running the Zambia Book Fair.

Soon after, I set up and managed my own publishing, marketing and management company based in Lusaka, Zambia. I ‘lived the dream’ by launching, publishing and editing a magazine (Construction News) and newspaper (Business & Leisure News) in Zambia between 1999-2005. I also did company newsletters and helped run team building courses. My daughter, Cathy, was born in Lusaka in 2003, to mother Karen. They now live in Bordeaux, France, and I maintain a good, if distant, relationship with them.

Tim as Trustee of Men’s Matters charity, winners of Windsor & Maidenhead Council Voluntary Sector Team of the Year Award in 2017

In 2005 I took up the position of General Manager for a mineral exploration company, GeoQuest Limited based in Lusaka. After three years (that included a 3 month stint in the Democratic Republic of Congo), I joined Atlas Copco, as Lusaka Branch Manager. This was unexpectedly cut short after barely a year by the calamitous effect of the global recession on the company and the Zambian economy. As Chairman of Lusaka Rugby Club, I helped steer the club to a national league and cup double in 2008, also hosting a Rugby World Cup qualifier between Zambia and Morocco.

I returned to the UK in 2009 and now live a less hectic life near Windsor in Berkshire where I write creative fiction and help out with a local charity, Men’s Matters. I think you’ll agree, I’ve led a varied life, living on three continents, with enough material to write a memoir. I’m writing up short memories as they come to me and thinking about how to join them together.

Prompted by health setbacks in 2015, I did an online creative writing course and started to write short stories, then longer historical fiction. By the end of 2021, I’d written and self-published a five-book historical fiction history-meets-legend series, A Light in the Dark Ages; two books of short stories (Thames Valley Tales, Postcards from London); a dual timeline historical novel, Guardians at the Wall; a three-book children’s series co-written with my daughter, Cathy (The Adventures of Charly Holmes, Charly & the Superheroes, Charly in Space); a dystopian thriller novel (Devil Gate Dawn) and a collection of poems and short fiction (Perverse). I recently published A Light in the Dark Ages series in two hardback volumes, bringing my total number of titles to 15. Early 2022 finds me writing the sequel to Devil Gate Dawn, Devil Gate Day.

Now aged 60, I’m a chronically ill home-based author and charity volunteer, managing my medication-fuelled days at a steady pace. How many more books do I have in me? Who knows… I’m taking it one at a time.


Memories of Michael Sata

In the international news this week is the announcement that the President of the Republic of Zambia, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital. The veteran politician, aged 77 when he died, was known as ‘King Cobra’ for his willingness to strike out at opponents.  His determination to succeed finally saw him win an outright election in 2011 and achieve his life’s ambition of becoming President of his country.

I first met Michael Sata in 2004 in Lusaka, the capital of Zambia. At that time I had an office in Farmer’s House on Cairo Road (grandly named by the British former colonists to be part of Cecil Rhodes’ Cape to Cairo highway) for my publishing and advertising businesses, Concept Marketing Limited.  The office opposite me across the hall was Michael Sata’s base for his opposition political party The Patriotic Front (PF).  At that time he looked doomed to be in opposition forever, as opposition parties rarely win an election in Africa against a firmly entrenched ruling party.

We were both smokers, and would stand outside the building chatting about this and that over a fag. He was inquisitive and wanted to know about my business.  I did not know it at the time, but I was employing his nephew as a Graphic Designer.  One morning he burst into my office without a knock and asked to use my fax machine.  It was his way.  Not a request that you could decline, more of an order.  I told him what I would charge for a local and international call and he brushed me aside with a wave of the hand, saying he would send his Accountant over later to pay.  The fax was sent and the Accountant duly paid.

On another occasion I was queuing in the bank and he swept in, walking straight to the window and demanding he be attended to straight away by the startled young female Teller. There was a murmur of discontent from the long Friday lunchtime queue, and to her credit, the young lady refused to serve him and told him to join the back of the line.  A spontaneous round of applause broke out from the queue and words were spoken in Nyanja.  Sata left in a huff, unused to not getting his own way.

He had a well earned reputation for being someone who Got Things Done, and was respected for it. He had served as a Minister under first President Kenneth Kaunda and second President Frederick Chiluba, before forming his own political party and going into opposition.  His successful election campaign in 2010/11 was based on political opportunism and, ultimately, false promises.  Jobs for the disaffected youth, economic recovery and the expulsion of the hated Chinese.

It was rumoured at the time that his election campaign was funded by the Taiwanese, based on the promise that once elected, they could replace the Chinese as Zambia’s new friend. A shrewd move by Sata was to appoint Guy Scott, born in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) to British parents, as his vice presidential running mate.  He had been a farmer in Zambia and involved in politics since the early days of the MMD, and was acceptable to both Zambians and the international community.  All was set for a high energy, high impact and emotional election campaign.

His election victory on 23rd September 2011 was indeed historic, sweeping past the struggling Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD), whose twenty year reign was staggering to a halt under unpopular President Rupiah Banda, despite a reasonably good set of economic figures.  Perhaps a warning to the ANC in South Africa?  The MMD was hurriedly set up in 1991, with US and British support, as a vehicle to topple the creaking Kaunda administration, and restore Western economic interests back into the country.

Fast forward twenty years and the Chinese have become the bed fellows of many African States, offering infrastructure development in exchange for minerals. They wanted a slice of Zambia’s copper and cobalt output, and their preferred approach is to side-step Western free market economy rules and head straight for State House for behind closed doors negotiations.  In Zambia’s case, the Mines and Minerals Act was amended in 2005 to force mining license holders to return a proportion of their land to Government.  These reclaimed mining concessions were duly handed over to the Chinese.  African Leaders love the personal attention and the feeling of being important the Chinese bring to negotiations, oh, and their personal wealth tends to increase as a result.  The West are left feeling uncomfortable and rejected, like a jilted bride at the altar.

Sata’s manifesto was therefore greeted with a mixed reception by the business community and internationally. To throw out the Chinese would please the West, but carried with it the possibility of further draconian measures including more expulsions of foreigners or the return of the dreaded Nationalisation.  Poor Zambians were hopeful of a better life, and turned out in large numbers to vote in the PF and Michael Sata on a wave of nationalism.  In my office in 2009, I had caught his nephew designing a PF newspaper advert and admonished him for doing a private job on company time.  Perhaps it was just as well that I wound up my business and left Zambia in 2009 to return to the UK, and watch political events unfold from afar!

There was ultimately a sense of anti-climax after Michael Sata’s ascendancy to the Presidency. He was an aging man in declining health, and had just achieved his life’s ambition.  As with many in his situation, he was forced to accept compromise to keep various interest groups happy.  The Chinese were the first to make their way to State House, and shortly after their presentation to the new President, all was rosy in the garden and their friendship with Zambia was re-affirmed.  Business as usual, and the youths hopeful of employment were left with the harsh reality of taking low paid jobs for Chinese and other foreign investors on the minimum wage of less than two US dollars a day.

Michael Sata’s story is one of endurance and determination. His road was long and hard, perhaps mirroring the post-colonial experience of many Africans.  But he proved that it is possible to succeed, and that under the scrutiny of the international community, it is less easy for ruling parties to fix the election to stay in power…..well, at least in some countries.  Congratulations to Zambia on recently celebrating their 50th year of Independence.  I remember my time in Zambia with warm and deep affection for the country and its people.  I wish them happiness and success as they tread the thorny road between self determination and the pressures from the international community, both East and West.