Where it began
An empty writing book.
The thrill of getting a brand new exercise book on the first day of term; the feel of the cover, the colour on the outside and those invitingly pale blue lines inside just waiting to be filled with your very own personal journey through the next few weeks of education. Remember?
God but I loved those new, fresh books. For me they were like a clean slate. Which I’m guessing is where the saying comes from. A clean slate. A new Term. A fresh start.
And I always tried to change my handwriting. I remember clearly trying to make my loops bigger, my dots more pronounced, my tees, whys and effs cursive to shame a mediaeval script and for the teacher to tell me how beautiful my writing was.
Which actually did happen once as my best friend and I jointly won a ‘Most Improved Handwriting’ award and my prize was ‘The Children of Cherry Tree Farm’ by Enid Blyton. The only downside being that my writing was obviously crap to start off with, if it had ‘improved’ so noticeably.
But that’s where it all began for me. That year. At that precise time. I just wanted to fill and fill and fill those waiting white pages up with as many lovely words as possible. My “most improved” written words. And I wanted everyone to read them and tell me how great they were. And the more encouragement I got from my lovely teacher, Mr East, at aged 9, the more I felt the need to cast aside the boring old “What I did at the Weekend” (all much of a sameness - I cleaned out the gerbils, I walked the dog, I ate some more seventies stodge and groaned at ‘Farming Diary’) and so I began to invent things to make the two days I spent away from school sound more interesting than they actually were.
Which heralded my first trip to see the Headmaster. A formidable, Captain Mainwaring of a man who stood far wider than he did tall in his brogues and who could turn stone to jelly with a single well-aimed query.
So, why hadn’t I told anybody that my “Policeman father (actually a butcher, but Policeman is way more exciting don’t you think?) had been mauled into Intensive Care at the weekend whilst trying to arrest three masked gunmen who had broken into our house and tried to make off with my mum’s diamond necklace (realistically glass - diamante at a push) before our Alsatian dogs (in truth one daft Mongrel who’d no more raise a bark than lick a poor intruder to death) savaged them to the ground and ripped their throats out”?
I clearly wasn’t giving out any indications of distress following my bloodbath of a weekend and was asked why this was.
And if The Simpsons had been on the telly back then, I’m sure I’d have given my favourite Homer quote in response to my total fabrication of creative genius:
“I’m not lying - I’m writing fiction with my mouth” (for “mouth” read “pen”).
So for me, fiction was just stuff that sounded far more interesting that my life actually was. And I liked it.
Oh, we had to have those three Alsatians put down of course and Dad’s never been the same since he hung up his Chief Superintendent hat and took that desk job at NASA. And Mum, well she keeps all her ‘bling’ firmly stitched inside her gold-leaf embroidered stocking-tops now. Next to her Colt .45.
And me? I write books. No, seriously, I do.