Turning Japanese

PUBLISHED: 10:25 11 April 2008 | UPDATED: 15:06 20 February 2013

John Clayton

John Clayton

John Clayton, Essex Chambers of Commerce chief executive, tells Emily Pascall about his passion for military history and his attempts to converse in Japanese

How old are you?
A very young 55.

Tell us about your family
My wife is a teacher and originally from Northern Ireland. We have two children who are 18 and 22 years old.

Where do you live?
Very close to the seafront at Thorpe Bay.

How long have you lived there?
Seven years. Before that we lived in Chelmsford for 20 years.

What do you like about Thorpe Bay?
Well, nearly everyone is older than we are, so it makes my wife and I feel young. On a more serious note, the mainly retired population means that it is a tranquil place to live. I love being close to the seafront and spending time in my garden, complete with our own palm tree.

Have you always lived in Essex?
I was born in Rossendale valley in Lancashire - a little textile town in the middle of nowhere. After my studies at Hull University an opportunity opened at Natwest in London. I had always liked the idea of working in the City and Chelmsford was a perfect place to settle.

What do you do for a living and what do you love about your job?
I am the chief executive of the Essex Chambers of Commerce. I love my job because I get to meet and assist so many people. There is no such thing as a typical day, more like a typical month, which is very helpful with a job as busy and all encompassing as mine.

Have you ever met anyone famous through your job?
Yes, William Hague stands out. He is very charismatic and had great stories to tell.

What are your hobbies?
Anything that doesn't involve too much exercise. My job is so busy that when I have time off I enjoy doing nothing - a walk along the seafront perhaps or reading in the garden. I love books on military history and am particularly interested in World War I. I did learn Japanese a while back at night school, which was a great challenge.

What is your worst habit?
If I get bored in a meeting my gaze blatantly wanders around the room.

Which five people would you invite to a dinner party?
John Major, because apparently he is nothing like how he was portrayed when he was PM; Napoleon, to check if he was quite sane; Earl Hague, leader of the Army in World War I; Hilary Clinton, because I can't quite make my mind up about her; and Barbara Folly, who is the new regional minister for the East of England. I haven't met her yet and it would be good to kill two birds with one stone.

What do you want to do in 2008?
It is important to me that my job makes lasting changes and that what we achieve has lasting significance for people. From that I take huge satisfaction and keep the enthusiasm to keep working hard.

What is you favourite place in Essex?
I recently went for dinner at Old Leigh and it was very beautiful.

Describe what Essex means to you
I see it as a county of contrasts. From stunning coastline and historical landmarks to hardworking individuals and modern development.

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