Geoffrey Wells was born in the gold mining town of Welkom, in South Africa. The Wells family moved to various mines in South Africa and Ghana as a result of his father’s consulting work as a mining engineer and contractor in the field of shaft sinking and tunneling. When he was a young teenager, the family moved to a farm, and eventually back to Johannesburg where his father joined the university as professor of mining engineering. Geoffrey’s mother is of French and English descent. Her forefathers came to South Africa in the 1820s. She speaks several African languages and would delight Geoffrey and his sisters with stories of childhood days spent with Xhosa tribal friends.
Geoffrey’s young teenage years were split between boarding school and farm life. On the farm, at the age of thirteen, he learned to drive, operate a tractor, and plow a field. He was taught to milk a cow by a farm worker. Family dinners were events as Geoffrey and his three sisters were encouraged to engage in conversation and debate with their parents on any subject that might arise. There were times when the dishes were pushed aside to make way for an encyclopedia, reference books and novels. After dinner his father would read to them; classics such as Robinson Crusoe and The Wind in the Willows. Or his mother would tell stories of her years growing up with her six brothers.
While at boarding school, Geoffrey learned the pain and joy in cross country running and rugby. When the family moved back to Johannesburg, Geoffrey started playing drums with a guitarist friend, and soon a band came together–they started playing Neil Diamond and disbanded a few years later playing Jimi Hendricks and Cream. But the outdoors called, and at South Africa’s version of the Outward Bound School Geoffrey served as one of four team leaders. He and a friend climbed Giant’s Castle in the Drakensberg Mountains. (In 2003, two years to the day after 9-11, Geoffrey and the same friend climbed to the top of Kilimanjaro.)
After high school he was conscripted into the South African army doing his basic training with a commando unit based at the edge of the Kalahari Desert. He fell in love with the desert nights and sleeping under the stars. Geoffrey was called up during the Angolan war to defend the border from insurgent communist rebels and Cuban mercenaries. He reported to a psychotic captain who ordered him to serve as quartermaster and intelligence clerk. In doing so, he saw the horrific photographs of the atrocities perpetrated by both sides.
(Stay tuned for the next update on my professional life, film making and the start of my career as a writer.)