Other little girls wanted to be ballerinas (this I understood) and nurses (this I didn’t). My first serious ambition was to be a pirate.
This was thanks to Robert Louis Stevenson and my dad, who read Treasure Island to me on Saturday afternoons while sitting on the stoop of his workshop, with the result that tales of the high seas and buried treasure will always be accompanied for me by the faint aroma of sawdust. (Oh, and thanks also to whoever wrote that very detailed and fabulously illustrated history of piracy, which I devoured as a child.)
Then I was taken to a Navy open day. Now I knew: I wanted to be a submarine captain. The romance of being able to sail undetected beneath the waves clearly outweighed the discomforts and cramped conditions. The grownups thought it very amusing to remind me that I wanted to be a pirate; I informed them I would be a pirate in a submarine.
And so it remained until later, having read rather more Biggles books than is good for anyone, I decided that I wanted to be a pilot. [Insert Pirates of Penzance quip of choice here.]
[The tall ship above is a replica of Captain Cook’s vessel, the Endeavour. Both photos taken at the Australian National Maritime Museum.]