When he was sixteen, Alan applied for a scholarship at Atlantic College, the international sixth form boarding school in Wales, which, at the time, was more expensive than Eton. The school had both an outward bound and academic ethos, and given that his grades were far from outstanding and he was no athlete, he never thought he would be accepted.
Fortunately he was, because it was while he was at Atlantic College that he met his partner, Lanna, to whom he has been happily married for forty-four years. It was also - as you can see - an amazing place to study and make friends from all over the world.
After Atlantic College, he read Politics and American Studies at Swansea University. There, he lived in a cottage in Mumbles village (right next to the George, the pub where Dylan Thomas had so often drunk himself insensible) and was awoken each morning by the sound of the wind blowing through the rigging of the boats moored just across the road.
From there Alan went to Manchester University to complete a post-graduate certificate in education.
His first teaching post was in Blackburn, Lancashire, on which the town of "Whitebridge" (the setting for the Woodend and Paniatowski books) is very loosely based.
The character of Charlie Woodend owes much to Harold Woodend, an old furniture dealer who Alan played dominoes with at the local pub.
The stone hand-loom weaver’s cottage in which Charlie lives in the books is the cottage in Tockholes village (see photo) that Alan and Lanna lived in, and now he has retired and moved to the Costa Blanca, he is living in their villa.