Wall to wall: I was born in 1956, in Wallasey, England. If you take a ferry across the Mersey, as the song goes, you’re there. Significantly, the ferry goes past Liverpool’s Shanghai Bund-like waterfront to a place with “wall” in its name, so perhaps I was destined for China.
I was schooled at St Aidan’s where the headmaster, Reverend J.P. Macmillan, or “Maccie” as he was known to us, maintained an unconventional approach to teaching. Every week we’d go on excursions, visiting churches, castles or farms. This engendered an appreciation of learning by experience – fieldwork, essentially.
We were also taught subjects without boundaries: history, geography and science were fused into one, which has helped me take a multidisciplinary approach to understanding the Great Wall. Maccie always told us to have three books by our bedsides, a Bible, a prayer book and an atlas. I first saw the wall marked as a symbol in my bedside atlas. I must have been 11 when I told my class that I was going to China to see the Great Wall.