Life has a funny way of simply getting in the damned way.
Take my writing – as this is what this blog is all about, I may as well focus on that. Work dragged me down. The daily grind, wishing the weeks away. The dreaded Sunday, the thought of work looming over you like the proverbial cloud. In that regard, work wasn’t much different from school. Except I got paid. Well, after a fashion. It wasn’t very much, not in those days. Just over ten pounds a week I received. And no, before you jump up and down and shout, I’m not talking pre-war….“I remember when I could go out for a pound in my pocket, buy six pints of beer, take in a show, catch a taxi home and still have enough left over for a weekend away in Paris.” Yes, well…I’ve heard all that. The truth is, I didn’t have much, but I got by. I survived.
And my writing sort of got forgotten.
Then, when I was the tender age of 19, I changed jobs and found that I could afford little luxuries. A new typewriter, that was the first item on the list. And with it came a new spurt of creativity.
But it didn’t last long. Women, you see. They are your real downfall. Emotions. Never a good thing. Not when you’re young.
Writing went on the back-burner and was to stay there until I left university.
In one sentence, that doesn’t seem such an event. So let me quickly rattle through ten years of mundane, soul-destroying jobs, going back to night-school, then college, then university. It took me six years to become a teacher. I hardly faltered at all, except when my parents died. First my mum, from diabetes followed a few months later by my dad, from sclerosis of the brain. Both hideous, both leaving me reeling from the loss. When I’d gone into university, they were both alive, and now they were both gone. It took a lot of coming to terms with.
However, I got through and got myself ‘qualified’. At long last, I felt I had a bit of purpose.
My first ‘real’ job as a teacher took me to the stark beauty of Cornwall. I remember that first Sunday before I began work, surfing down at Trebarwith Strand and thinking that nothing could ever, ever get better. For many years, it didn’t. I lived in the same village as my school, and from my classroom window I could see my first daughter Emily playing in the front garden of my house, which was just across the road. Even now, that image brings a lump to my throat. Mainly, though, it was Trebarwith. I loved it there. And when I was writing novels that got published, I set one of them down there, in that wonderful place. If you ever go to North Cornwall, go to Trebarwith Strand. You won’t regret it. But make sure the tide is out, or you’ll only get a spot on the cliffside, and if you want comfort that is not the place to be.
I’d written in university. And, I’d been singled out for praise. That was nice. Writing a book, however, that was something else.
I set down an idea for a thriller. It was called ‘A flight of Crows’. Don’t ask me why I called it that. Something to do with crows and carrion, and how they fly away if you so much as look at them. Or is that rooks? Whatever, I thought it evoked a sense of terror, like Hitchcock so brilliantly evoked in the Birds. I actually thought it was a good story. I still do. But I didn’t finish it, and that was the big problem in those days. I simply didn’t finish anything. Lots of ideas, lots of plans scribbled on the back of used envelopes, but no fruition. I began to wonder if I would ever be capable of setting down anything more than forty thousand words.
And then, I went to Alderney. From that point everything was to change.