Who Am I?
Well, like anyone with a brain, I’m still finding out! One thing I do know though, having just ‘celebrated’ yet another birthday - there is no room for a sixty-four year old who hasn’t got their act together, whether as an author - or anything else where you are striving for something alongside all these incredibly talented younger people I see around me [god rot them!!!], and their quick-acting brains and intellects. I have to practise using my brain every day just in order to prevent it atrophying.
I was born in 1953 - a Norf-London Boy with a ration book. I can’t pretend that I think I’d have had the life chances that I have, had we stayed there. One member aside, our family was very poor, but he brought the extended family down to Hampshire in 1956.
As a child growing up on the edge of the New Forest, we had freedoms that a lot of kids can only dream about today. We were out on our bikes all through the long summer holidays. We roamed for miles, went almost where we pleased, and no one ever bothered us or tried to restrain us. We played in woods, rivers, sand pits, quarries, on old disused wartime airfields and railway tracks [both are among the most evocative places I have ever been], and of course on the New Forest common land. The landscape there was empty by comparison with today.
I still visit that area now, every six weeks or so, for family reasons. Whilst some areas within the New Forest National Park boundary have changed surprisingly little, outside, it feels crowded and kind of ‘hemmed in’. Compared to West Wales it now feels like some kind of miniature 'crazy golf' course! Once the family reasons are gone, I will probably have no other need, nor inclination, to return to the area, at least on a regular basis. As I say, though, growing up there in the early 1960s was something else, and it is still so vivid in my memory.
School was crap – largely indifferent teachers and much bullying - and it was afterwards, at the University of Life, that I really began to learn. I worked in the family business for seven years, before starting out on my own at the age of twenty-three.
It was a thrill being a teenager in the late 1960s and the early 1970s. I heard many Tory MPs in the most recent election campaign, trying to warn us off voting for one Mr. J. Corbyn, with phrases like “does anyone remember the Britain of the 1970s? Do we really want to go back to that?”. Well my Old Etonians, I say “just walk me towards the time machine!”.
This is what I miss about the 1970s. I was living with a fellow ‘green activist’ by 1973. We had met a year earlier, and that was about a year after I had first gotten into these issues. The movement was young then, and we were all just so inspired. Our idea of a good Saturday night out was sitting in a pub planning the next demo, leafleting campaign, or piece of direct action. Change was all about. It was in the very air you breathed, and it was so bloody exciting. You really felt you were on the cusp of something new, very big – and most importantly – it wasn’t party-political!
The law was very different then too. I don’t think we ever notified the police about a demonstration in those years – we weren’t required to! Then 1979 came, and it all changed. The Special Patrol Group started turning up at demos and it all became much darker. A lot of the activists quit and became very introspective. We hung on until 1987, but then, even we succumbed. Our temperaments were less like those of the MC5 by then, and more like West-Coast rock! And many are still roaming those ‘inner landscapes’ today.
I moved from a rented property in Bournemouth, to West Wales, in order to continue the roaming of my own inner landscape. This was after I sold my first business and had the means to buy somewhere of my own, out on the coast, where I’d always dreamed of living. I never voted for Thatcher [obviously, I hope] but for me personally, the 1980s were a decade of plenty. Lots of everything imaginable! I now hate that I got partly swept along on the tide of it all. Even the slightest degree of clear and logical thinking should have told us all that it simply could not last, nor indeed, should it have. Much of it was ugly in the extreme.
I then started a new business, which I still run today – though the days of strutting around like a headless chicken and working eighty-plus hours weeks have long gone. I spent twenty minutes watching a water boatman on the garden pond recently - something I would never have found the time to do in earlier years.
I pride myself on being ‘out of time’ but very much ‘in the right place’. I am also very pleased to be one of the few people left in Britain without a mobile phone! My time here is now divided between running my business, dreaming, writing, dreaming, listening to music, dreaming and dog walking – the latter giving me plenty of time to think despairing thoughts about the current state of the planet. I do cheer up on occasion though - mainly when listening to Leonard Cohen or jazz [the happiest music I know].
My first literary efforts started a long, long time ago – writing poems and long letters to young women, where I did, in fact, achieve a surprising degree of success. Are all women poets? No, as I’ve sometimes found out to my cost – but some definitely are!
With work deadlines now largely gone, I decided the time was right to pick up the threads of some ideas I’d first written down using a manual typewriter, almost thirty years ago. Much-revised, they formed the beginnings of the first book in the West Wales Odyssey series, Splitting Rainbows.
And as I began to write again, suddenly, there it all was before me. The clear, crystalline concept for these twisted and slightly dark tales - that are not thrillers, but are - that are not love stories, but are - that are not crime stories, but are – and are not smut, yet probably are that too! All shot-through with the sea and the coastline, rock & roll, and other things which are the stuff of life itself - and which, I hope, also contain the full gamut of soaring and plummeting emotions, which are, for most of us, an inevitable consequence of the very act of living.
The second book in the series, Broken Crockery, which revolves around the dinner party from hell, and the consequences that flow from it, followed very quickly, as parts of it were written concurrently with Splitting Rainbows. I have now added book three in the series, Sophie - a Death and a Life. A love story with some hate, abuse and police brutality thrown in for good measure! Sophie is certainly the nicest character I have so far created - and my favourite.
Currently, I am working on the final book in this series, The Soul Farmer. This will pull together all of the darker undercurrents that have been running through the first three books. A friend who has read draft sections of it has said that it parachutes Twin Peaks into West Wales. As an absolute devotee of all things 'Twin Peaks' and the genius that is David Lynch, I do take that as a compliment! Publication date for The Soul Farmer should be late in 2017, though down here in West Wales we don’t do deadlines!
I hope you will accept the invitation to enter my mind through the words I have written, and that doing so may cause you to laugh, maybe shed the odd tear or two, send an occasional shiver down your spine – oh, and to think and to question. Of course, you may just as easily decide to exit this web site immediately!
In either case - as the great comedian Dave Allen used to say, “May your god go with you”.