My father had served during the Second World War and for a while afterwards, in the Middle East. My mother had grown up with bombing raids on the town, often losing friends and playmates, and her schooling was severely disrupted, like so many children at that terrible time. I owe my parents everything! They provided a loving, caring home, with clear guidelines for acceptable behaviour. We wanted for nothing important and we were given an education in family life that was unbeatable. Importantly, we were allowed to be children, and to grow up naturally, without being pushed into anything. If we demonstrated an interest in something, then they gave us as much support as they could. Laughter was never far away. My mother gave us an understanding of love, laughter and caring. My father gave me an abiding love of nature, learning to walk in silence in the countryside, so that nothing was ever missed, teaching the names of things and much more. He also provided an example, being an avid reader. My mother is no longer with us, and will always be missed, not least for her support in every crisis.
I was born in 1957, exactly half way between Christmas Day’s, the only one of my family born in hospital – my siblings had all been home births. Eldest of we siblings was my sister Dorothy, then my brother Paul, and then my sister Gillian (sadly no longer with us). There had been another older brother, Freddy, but he died at birth.
The world, or Britain at least, was looking like a great future lay ahead for all. The war was over and, despite other conflicts arising, a long peace looked like a very good bet. Of course, I knew none of that. But I was born into a world of hope, and that was important, I guess. Of course, as I grew up, I was to learn the terrible burden of living under the threat of nuclear war, but that was not yet a factor in my life.
Quieter than my siblings, I first encountered books in the form of what appeared to be a massive tome belonging to my father. It was full of chemical formulae diagrams, which fascinated and intrigued me, making me want to understand the words that crammed the pages between the diagrams. Then there were the more obvious books, of fairy tales and nursery rhymes, full of line drawings and contained within colourful hard covers. I could read well before I started school. Needless to say, the “Janet and John” style books were not my favourites and boredom at “reading time” in school was something like torture – the torture of boredom.
At the age of 4, I was unfortunate enough to contract bulbar poliomyelitis (polio’, more commonly – bulbar is one of three types). I was fortunate, however, in that it didn’t quite reach my respiratory system, though it left its mark in subtle ways. I distinctly remember being in a hospital bed, being “manipulated” for a lumbar puncture, screaming, and also watching my parents walk away from the hospital, to the nearby bus stop. During this period, I was, obviously, kept in isolation at hospital. The only contact I had with my parents was through glass. I have no idea how long I was there, but I recall having the bed’s bell cord being tied just out of reach because I kept playing at “bus conductor” with it. I also have fond memories of a nurse who looked after me during daytimes, and who even knitted my Teddy various things. Admittedly, I was spoilt somewhat, with my parents always bringing some gift of a toy. One I remember with a tinge of guilt and sadness: my father spent ages creating a Wild West diorama for me, with pine cone trees, a ‘log’ cabin, cowboys, ‘Indians’ and more. The guilt is a result of a 4 year old’s lack of care and understanding – in other words, I broke it… When I did return home, there was a short period when gifts came from others, like the granddaughter of a neighbour, who made me a knitted ‘Golly’, and a fruit basket from I know not who.
I’m not sure when, or how old I was, but there was a period when I was separated from my parents and siblings again. Both my parents were ill, and my elderly grandmother couldn’t cope with a little one as well as the older siblings. As a consequence, I stayed with an aunt and her family. It was not a happy time, for me, and I suspect it was one cause for a certain shy reserve that I had for many years after.
By the age of 13, I was writing for pleasure, as well as reading books that weren’t aimed at my age group. I was a sponge, and sometimes words leaked out of me onto paper. It didn’t take long for more serious writing to take over from the short pieces I had been producing. So, I wanted to be an author – but I needed income. I took a job, ‘just until I got my first bestseller’. Then I took a different job, and soon I was married and children came along. Jenny and I married in 1980, honeymooning for three weeks in a small village in France. Our eldest, Damien, was born in 1981, our second, Reuben, in 1984, and our youngest, Emma, in 1987. 1987 was a truly memorable year! We were attempting to buy a new house, Emma contracted meningitis and we lost the house we wanted while we were more concerned with whether she would survive, and poor Jenny was suffering with kidney stones! Even so, we were able to buy another house, just in time for Christmas.
During these years, of course, the writing declined, becoming no more than occasional forays, many unfinished. During this period I did write some very short tales for our oldest child, but they have since been lost. Don’t mistake me here! Having a wife and children, and now grandchildren, makes the desire to be an author pale into insignificance. I wouldn’t trade those ‘unproductive’ years for any amount of literary fame.
I haven’t got a long list of published works from these years! I was not lucky enough to break in to the world of traditional publishing. Not surprising, as I couldn’t afford an agent and getting manuscripts typed and submitted was beyond my resources. A few poems were published in my youth, but nothing more substantial.
Several years ago, I became disabled. Following an injury, I discovered a dark secret of that horrible polio’: it can come back to haunt you, rendering you severely incapacitated even if you seemed to have escaped unscathed! A little more writing stuttered out as my mobility was eroded. The photos on this page are from 2009, when Jenny and I were able to have our first real get-away holiday since our honeymoon. They are from Morecambe in Lancashire. Then, in 2010, a major illness struck and caused even more problems. Vegetating, I tried a few crafts, and had some success. But then the dream of writing awoke again!
Now, I write short stories and am working on a novel. I have self-published several short stories as ebooks, thanks to Smashwords,com. My preferred genres are science fiction and (more often) fantasy, though I have been tempted to try others.