Why do I write?
I was asked this question some time ago and spent a little time thinking about the question. It was observed by the questioner that writing was hard work, was it for money? I quickly disabused him of that one ,no there is little money in it, but one does have the opportunity to put into words one’s thoughts and feelings and this is sometimes surprising to read after it is written down. Did I write that? good heavens! that must have been when etc. etc.............!
Having left the armed forces and the NHS, working afterwards in private medicine, I found I had few real friends to whom I could ‘let my hair down’, professional colleagues indeed existed, but that is not the same as a personal friends. Having now to spend my time listening continually to moans and complaints and trying to do something about it, I did sometimes long for the companionship I found in my former life and in writing my first book ten years ago this gave me the opportunity to revel in nostalgia , sad and happy memories, but a fulfilling time for all that where I learned to be an acute observer of the scene and react accordingly-correctly I hope -and was rewarded with success.
So my first book ‘To Travel Hopefully’ received a good review but the pleasure was spoiled when the publishers went into receivership and I lost most of the print run! However I did manage to retrieve a few copies which I still have and give away from time to time to interested persons, usually ex- service people who also want a bit of nostalgia!
My second book ‘Rueben the Fisherman’ was in reality a rant against the political correct circus, who want to make everything comfortable and not to be offended particularly in conventional religious matters. The wonderful Authorised Version of king James is loved by many and still used by conservative believers, the words are beautiful but the meanings of these ancient writings are not fully understood by readers of modern English, but to hear them week after week are comfortable to listen to knowing that nothing changes, the listener failing to get the idea that the thing that changes most in their unchanging world is that the world changes but people don’t, and the language of Shakespeare is foreign to most people today. So I gave a persona to the biblical characters therein and invented a few people who had to exist to make the basic story credible using my knowledge of human nature and historical research.
My third book’ Lydia’s Dream’ was virtually all imagination, built on research and what little was known of the events of the first Easter and the subsequent affect it had on the uncivilised world of those times and the reaction of those people who had the ability, or were allowed to question orthodox opinion. Philanthropy in the Roman world was not a well known commodity ,it took the Greeks to think things through ,but natural concern for the family and those who were related existed, but not to the uneducated and under priviledged in a slave owning society. But following a lot of research I had a far better view of Roman society than I had gathered previously from cinema or t.v programmes .Even today there is a lot of talk about Archaeology but not a lot is known, as opposed to guessed at, as how these people lived. So my imagination was brought into play. I have been told that theologically the book is flawed but then there is dissent at all times in such matters.
My next book ‘An Ever Rolling Stream’ is autobiographical and is a memory of where I came from ,why I did what I did and why I thought as I did until with the experiences of over eighty years I could see more clearly –and possibly cynically-why I behaved as I did ,but it was fun to write .I leave it to the reader to decide what sort of person I am!!!
My Penultimate book ‘Get a life’ is a reaction to growing up in a proscribed society with all its taboos, poorly understood but performed for all that -and the result. Much as the young today would like to change history, you can’t, and the things we had to cope with and the proscriptive way of life, are now gone forever for people like me, but then it gave my life direction until I could work things out for myself. Poor Fiona is the child of my imagination, but I’ve seen in my life so much misery cause by these taboos etc. and I was determined to show that they can be overcome if you subscribe to a liberal ethic, that is, what you should do, not what you must do. Fiona had to exercise choice,I had little when I was brought up, that is the problem I find is rearing its head again today, you must do this or that, or you won’t fit in!
My last book about to be published is ‘Pa –and the law of the unintended consequences’ the story of a hill billy farmer in America who is an innovator, but never thinks anything through and all his ideas come back to bite him. Those who have seen it think it’s very funny-hope readers do! I have met people like this, do they ever learn?
There has been an interesting response to my second book' Reuben the Fishermsn' as expected ,that from the clergy has been predictable as the book is not controversial theologically, but I have been surprised at the number of non church going people who have enjoyed it, many people who in their childhood who heard the stories told in Sunday school, these are stories I have embroidered .They may still hear them told if they attend church on special occasions today ,but they are sparse in their telling and in medieval English and all the nuances in their original Greek are not translated ,so I attempted to put them in modern English to freshen them up.! one reviewer was surprised at this as I have also used the vernacular, but did not the Romans have their own way of speech apart from received Greek ?Another reviewer referred to the novel as inspired ,but though the world changes, people do not ,they still love and hate, hope and fear ,but express themselves in the language of the day. My first book written some years ago' To Travel Hopefully' the story of 22years in the RAF medical branch was well received, not in print now although I still have a few copies left if anyone wants one. My latest book which has gone to print and will be released for publishing in March just before Easter is called Lydia's Dream, the story of what happened at the first EASTER told from the point of view of The Procurator's wife who had a dream prior to the execution of a local preacher, begging her husband not to proceed with a sentence of death. Nothing is recorded in history of her background or her name, but she spends her life with the dream ever present in all her doings, and spends many hours and tears trying to find out what it was all about.. I spent many hours researching Roman and Jewish history to build a persona for Lydia and the many people she came into contact with in her long life, and have tried to make it as true to her time as possible. But it is the result of many years of experience in health care as it is known today ,in various parts of the world among different cultures having seen dreadful poverty and excess riches, also much unpleasantness and corruption between peoples, and writing this book caused me to think again about my beliefs, and it has been quite cathartic in that it has released in me quite a lot of emotions that were hidden because possibly the good old British stiff upper lip syndrome which we use to help us navigate stormy seas! It is interesting that Pontius Pilate the Procurator of Judea although mentioned in the N.T. had little recorded about him elsewhere ,and it was not until 1961 that Israeli archaeologists found evidence that he had lived at this time of the occupation by the Romans of Palestine.w So although the novel is fiction ,it based on quite a lot of facts.
Being brought up in a fundamentalist family with two brothers before the war, we were at all times reminded by our parents that anything we did that was not ‘Godly’ was unacceptable.
Those things under that category were numerous ,and deprived us of many childhood delights which today are regarded as rites of passage for children.
Such things as the cinema, the theatre ,dancing ,comics or even circuses were frowned upon, and we were instead ,encouraged to read those things that were good for the soul and guaranteed us ,we were told, a safe passage eventually to heaven when we expired .!
We suffered many embarrassments ,for example we were not allowed our presents on Christmas day , had to wait until Boxing Day when Christmas day fell on a Sunday,
Firework night ,even if it did represent our triumph as a nation over Popery, again when November the fifth was on Sunday, suffered the same fate ,yes we had the bangers the previous night to the amusement of the neighbours ,who thought we’d got the date wrong. In fact to do anything representing pleasure we felt was denied us on a Sunday, not that we could have done much, being dressed in our Sunday best bought for us at great expense in those times, by our rather impecunious parents.!
We were taught in Sunday school by those of the same ilk as our parents ,the lessons designed to teach us the authority of scripture, and both the teachers and ministers of the non-conformist faiths, were treated with great respect.
In fact the minister, to we children, was God himself, and with a stern manner and voice pronounced his gospel with many incomprehensible words and listening to him on a hot day, on one unforgettable session I began to fidget as only a child can, and was taken out of the chapel, given a good smack bottom and marched back in for the rest of the service!
However as we progressed through life and learned to be ourselves and fitted in with this Godless society ,we endured taunts for our faith but learned to ignore them, being assured that it was our duty to suffer in silence and to be a ‘light to others ‘in the world..
But as I grew older ,and at the age of 14 was now at grammar school and I was learning another side to life ,that for example the world could not have been made in six days ,and if I did not believe that ,I was not going to be confined to the flames of hell as I had once been promised by a missionary home on leave from China!
As I left school with a school certificate in eight subjects, all of a good standard ,I now had to look for a job commensurate with my abilities ,but a rather narrow background to base my future life upon. Up to now I had not been taught exactly how to live ,but as a result of my home life, knew how to die!.
My father was at this time was diagnosed with malignant disease and following surgery lived only a few days, leaving my mother to bring up we three boys ,and had to go out to work.
His death was surrounded with all the practices of the church, many prayers had been said for him to no avail this struck me as disappointing, I was not really intellectually capable of understanding why this happened ,and had no concept of the meaning of prayer at that time. I could not formulate a response to some would be comforter ,who told me that after all they had done ,and he still died ‘the lord wanted him or he would have healed him!‘
However I joined the nursing profession as a student in 1949. This brought me face to face with a lot of death , pain and misery , and it also brought me into contact with caring and compassionate people.
I had assumed up to now that that these two attributes were in fact the property of those who were of our faith, and discovered to my surprise that these apparently ‘Godless’ people ,were actually more compassionate than many of the faithful I’d met in the past!
After I left the NHS on qualifying I was conscripted into national service to serve in the RAF medical branch for some years. The story of my time therein, I told in my previous book, ‘To Travel Hopefully’ ,published in 2001 by Pentland Press.
A few years later during my service ,my mother met a lay preacher at her church and subsequently married him. It turned out be a complete disaster-he expected complete obedience in all things from her and when he couldn’t get his own way ,this very ‘Godly man divorced her, and although she was guilty of no crime apart from being a rather assertive lady, was thrown out of the church!
This finished me with the non-conformist movement ,and I eventually joined the CofE which gave me the freedom to question the faith and was non proscriptive.
So my spiritual growth which had been constipated up to now, suddenly was liberated and took off, and began to grow.
So I now look with some scepticism at those who claim to be the holders of the truth. I told some insistent door step preachers weeks ago that they were right! That pleased them ,but then went on to say that ,so was Hitler, Stalin , Mao ,Polpot ,Saddam Hussein and all the rest, they knew they were right, But the only man who was right, was murdered by people like them,! That did not please them!.
So when I listened again at early communion one morning ,the story of the paralysed man who was healed, I didn’t question it ,but wondered what ever happened to a man who had that done to him .and who reported it ,and to whom ,and how did it come down from two thousand years ago for me to hear it today, so perhaps using my imagination I could tell it to present day readers.
I wrote the first chapter as a short story, but it took me over and the stories came thick and fast into my memory ,and after a lot of research came up with a tale which showed ,I hope, another side to these well worn stories that may influence others to look at them again.
But these stories were written down by somebody, first hand? or second? or even third hand,? did they change in the telling? we will never know .I took them at face value as a child, now in my eightieth year and still a believer, have found them exiting to look at with fresh eyes ,and with experience of life as it really is .
There are a lot of hidden gems therein, and when you find them, some pearls of great price!
Of recent years I have practised acupuncture ,having qualified in the art in 1983 ,but I retired when my wife died in 2006 and left me bereft ,however many of the people I treated over the years needed biblical type miracles to help them! But it’s a strange and ancient art ,and patients who had not responded to conventional medicine ,often responded to my care ,partly because I focussed my whole attention on them without ever once turning any body away.
Auguste Pare the great 17th century French physician, said that the role of a practitioner was to cure sometimes, to relieve often, but to comfort always ,the man in my story that the clever people murdered, did just that!
I remarried in 2007 ,my dear wife is paraplegic, it’s a hard life for both of us, but we are happy ,and after a lifetime caring for the sick ,I plod on still in practice, but of a different kind now.!