Derek Winscombe is a retired entrepreneur, having been present at the troubled birth and premature death of more businesses than almost anyone in the history of UK commerce. He now lives in a static caravan somewhere just north of London, with his odiferous dog Wally.
He was born just too late to be part of the hippie movement, but more than made up for this by devoting the 1970s to a decade-long experiment on his body by ingesting prodigious quantities of every single drug he could lay his hands on. In many ways it is surprising that he managed to survive this period at all, something that he puts down to his body simply being too stoned to work out how to die.
Life as 'Akh'kfler'
At the end of this time, he announced that he had renounced all illicit substances and from now on he would dress entirely in beige. He also stated that he wished to be known as Akh'kfler and that he would live simply as a 'man of the land.' This turned out to involve building a series of shacks in the back gardens of various well-wishers - at least until it became apparent, with the onset of the first winter, that he was completely hopeless at building anything that was designed to last more than a couple of days.
Early Years of Life with Mary
He was rescued from this lifestyle by his future wife Mary, who saw through the bravado of his adopted name and unusual lifestyle and thought she detected an unhappy soul who had the potential to become a real force for good in the world. In this, she was almost entirely wrong, but for a number of years they were passably happy together. She persuaded him to start calling himself Derek again, and with some money from her parents, they set up a business selling wind chimes, dreamcatchers and other knick-knacks to festival-goers in the South West of England.
This business eventually folded, following a number of incidents where Derek's dreamcatchers were accused of causing nightmares - although this may have been a rumour put about by a rival who claimed that Derek had stolen his designs. So with a further investment from Mary's parents, they set up a shop in Glastonbury, selling furniture that Derek had constructed himself, despite having no formal training - or indeed any real skill - in this area. This business also folded, along with most of Derek's furniture, his chairs being particularly prone to collapse after a week or so's light use.
Birth of Tom
By now Mary was pregnant with their son Tom, so with a further injection of capital from her long-suffering parents, they married and put down a deposit on a small terraced house on the outskirts of Bristol, while Derek tried a succession of increasingly disastrous ways to make money. From time to time Mary would try to persuade him to take a proper job, but he was insistent that he was never going to become the sort of bread head who would sell his soul to The Man.
The following is an incomplete list of Winscombe's failed businesses:
- Musical rabbit hutches
- Door-to-door encyclopedia selling - for Microsoft Encarta
- Tie-dye three-piece suits
- Tamagotchi babysitting
- Trading in Beanie Baby futures
Divorce and Single Life Again
Eventually, Mary grew tired of Derek's consistently failing endeavours and the effect they were having on their young son, so they agreed to go their separate ways, with Mary retaining custody of Tom. Derek went back to the music festival circuit and for a time worked as an itinerant roadie, until he put his foot through one speaker too many. Then he taught himself to play the accordion, being convinced it was due for a massive revival. It wasn't. Finally, he had a brief career as a member of the Polyphonic Spree - at least until the original owner of the outfit he was wearing found out who had nicked it.
Following this series of reversals, he abandoned the music business and retired to his static caravan to ponder the vicissitudes of his life. Every now and then he emerges with another idea that will finally make his fortune, before returning soon after to lick his wounds.
In his spare time, he is an enthusiastic devotee of conspiracy theories, particularly the ones that can be repurposed to give some kind of narrative meaning to his life.
- Long-time readers of this Wiki may be under the mistaken impression that Tom's father is called Jim, owing to the author of this page's misapprehension that he hadn't yet been granted a name and Jim seemed as good as any. However, after a re-read of The Riddle of the Fractal Monks, it turns out that he is in fact called Derek. Amazing, really.