People sometimes ask me, when I take the wheel of a big boat and begin to bark orders, how long I've been sailing. A captain's long experience can of course be a great solace on a voyage. Passengers want solace.

I pretend to calculate for a moment and say, in dead earnest, about two and a half months.

This is of course a lie - it's really more like eight months. But in lieu of a lifelong career at sea, I have found my shipmates to be also comforted by evidence of a not-entirely-blameworthy earlier life, which I can in fact make my boast.

That is, if you consider journalism and freelance writing to be not entirely blameworthy. For indeed, these were my first career. These were my mother and father, professionally. And if I left them with sadness, as I did, I left them as a full-grown, responsible adult, with a great imagination for bad stuff that can happen to the incautious.

Of course it is sometimes objected that a man as young and good-looking as myself could never have had a "first career".

Herewith, the evidence.