I had known him at college thirty years before, kept fitful touch over those years and was aware of his local success: turning his back on his professional training as a teacher, he had worked for some years as an auxiliary in a mental hospital – this was the early seventies – then teaching part time in a borstal before joining a school for ‘maladjusted’ boys as a houseparent. By thirty-one he was deputy headteacher, and got his own school – one of the largest residential places in the country for what were now emotionally and behaviourally disturbed boys – at thirty-four. At forty-eight he tore it all up, and at fifty-one he phoned me to ask: would I write his story?