My secret life: Trevor Baylis, inventor

Saturday 03 November 2007 01:00

Trevor Baylis OBE was born on 13 May 1937 in Kilburn, north London. An inventor, he swam for Great Britain at the age of 15 and spent years as a stunt man before creating the first wind-up radio, in 1991. This was in response to the need for communication in Africa. He received an OBE in 1997 and holds two entries in the Guinness Book of records. He lives alone in Twickenham. Trevor Baylis Eco Media Player £169.99

I drive/ride: A Jaguar E-type with a soft top –circa 1970; I can only afford an old car. I also have a Range Rover, for winter use only.

If I have time to myself: I watch television, walk my dog, Ike, sit in my hot tub and gaze at the river and play in my work shop. I find classical music helps my creative thought processes and am usually plugged into my Baylis Brand Eco-player.

You may not know it but I'm no good at: Cooking, doing the accounts, and as for tax returns... don't get me started!!!

You may not know it but I'm very good at: Swimming. Many, many years ago, I swam for Great Britain. Remember, I am 70, and death is my next big event – but once I had a life and I lived it to the full!

A book that changed me: A biography of Frank Whittle- who at the age of 21 invented the jet engine – yet was ignored by government (where have I heard this before?)

Movie heaven: Anything with Marlene Dietrich in it.

Comfort eating: Undoubtedly this would be fish and chips with a little bit of honey. Believe it or not, there is no fish and chip shop in Twickenham so often I travel as far as Brighton to satisfy my stomach. And without my microwave, fish and chips would not be the same. And I still dip biscuits in my tea – bad form, but oh so satisfying!

When I was a child I wanted to be: An engineer, because by the age of five I was doing the most amazing things with my Meccano set. And I couldn't even write my name yet.

I wish I'd never worn: Odd shoes to a speaking engagement. It was at a conference in Jersey which was 'black tie', and in packing my suitcase too hastily I put in one black slip on and one lace up. When I appeared on stage it was impossible to conceal this blunder. I made a joke out of it by saying "this is what you get when you hire a mad inventor"

All my money goes on: making my lady friends happy. I also enjoy visiting National Trust properties with friends, especially in the summer when I can travel in my E-type Jag.

At night I dream of: My old stunts that so easily could have gone wrong. The rest, I'm afraid, I must censor.

My favourite building is: The Sydney Harbour bridge, which was hand built. I can imagine what skill it took to insert and secure the rivets which held the structure together. Some of them are 4 to 5 inches in diameter

My biggest regret is: Not swimming at the1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne. I missed qualifying by a 1/10th of a second, but I try not to dwell.

It's not fashionable but I like: smoking my pipe, which I've enjoyed since I was 15. I was proud to be made 'Pipes Smoker of the Year' in 1999 – the down side is my taste buds cannot tell vindaloo from vanilla.

If I wasn't me I'd like to be: Burt Lancaster, he was a guy who really did perform his own stunts, and the women went wild for him.

The shop I can't walk past is: There are several of those wonderful emporiums in Twickenham High Street with their wares displayed outside the front of the shop. They like eastern market stalls only with a shop front, and they have everything, rugs, buckets, dishes, kettles, electrical goods, and beautiful vinyl flowers in neon colours.

My favourite work of art is: paintings done by my mother, who did the most beautiful landscape paintings and these I shall treasure forever.

The soundtrack to my life is: 'Falling in Love Again' sung by Marlene Dietrich. And sometimes 'They call Me Naughty Lola', for the wonderful innuendo in the lyrics – also sung by Dietrich.

The best invention ever is: undoubtedly the Jet Engine – created by Frank Whittle in 1930, and if the Ministry of Defence had listened to Frank, World War II would have been World War 1!! And we would have chased away Nazi aircraft with jet planes and not piston driven aircraft. The world is a smaller place now because of Frank's invention.

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