“Martin, stop!” says Jill, with an air of urgency. But I have seen the same thing at the same time. I slow the car, scanning the scene ahead, trying to absorb the scene before me. “Right, I just need to …”. I am searching the dashboard for that elusive, rarely used button with the triangle on. And I’m checking the road behind me in mirror – I don’t want to become part of the accident too. There. My hazard lights are on now and there is no one else behind me. It’s only just gone six in the morning. It would have been a different story later in the day with the road full of holiday traffic. I open my door; not what I would usually do in the inside lane of a fast dual carriageway. “Give me your phone,” says Jill. I’ll call the police”. I’m not surprised that Jill takes the admin role. She knows she’s no good with blood.
Unless you manage to avoid the TV, radio and the press you can’t escape it: Our society is obsessed with the cult of celebrity. Has it always been this way? I think that it probably has. But with rolling news and the internet, we experience news, as it happens, like never before, including celebrity news.. Significantly, the modern celebrity doesn’t need to have done anything noteworthy to require celebrating. In particular, reality TV throws up ‘stars’ who have, as yet, shown no noteworthy skill or achievement. It’s now well know that in surveys children no longer want to grow up to be teachers and doctors, like they used to, but to be sports stars and pop stars. On talent shows you can regularly hear the same words tumble from the lips of gifted and dreadful singers alike: “It’s my dream”, “Singing’s my life”, “I really, really want this”. Is there really such a fine line between genius and delusion, or is there something more going on here?
Don’t you find that a story means so much more when you find out that it’s true? And very occasionally something that starts out as a story becomes a reality. Well, this is one such case…
I found it mildly surprising that many of our friends had our family down as the last people they would expect to get a dog. I grew up with a dog. Admittedly I don’t like being licked by them, I feel a little uncomfortable when people elevate them to human status and I definitely don’t like the smell of ‘wet dog’ but otherwise … I like them.
The beach is one of my favourite places to be – it’s the sounds of a breaking wave followed by pebbles tumbling back under the next one, or the distant roar of bigger surf carrying over a long flat sandy beach; it’s the sun on my face and the soft, warm sand between my toes; it’s the distant intensity of the horizon that stretches each way into my peripheral vision; it’s the way the sounds of children playing and people talking seem close, yet distant at the same time, but somehow they don’t intrude as the sun shines red through my closed eyelids.
I have always thought in metaphor and simile. From a young age it seemed natural to me to translate a concept from one form to another, just to prove I’d grasped it. When the same thing happens to a story the result is a parable. It might be simple and charming, it might even tug at an emotion, but at first glance it appears no more than a story. The power of a parable is in that ‘ah-ha’ moment, when I realise what the story means in its own parallel universe. So because of the way that my thinking is wired it seemed inevitable that I would be drawn to writing in parables just as I was first attracted to reading them.
I grew up in the 60’s – not the swinging 60’s you understand, the swing hadn’t swung as far as my town. The 60’s for me were a time of wonder and possibility. There was talk of a passenger jet that would travel twice the speed of sound and the possibility that men would actually travel to the moon. It seemed like anything could happen. Who would have guessed then that the supersonic jet would be retired without replacement and that manned space flight would find a sterile rock and go no further? For me one the most exciting possibilities of the 60’s was in the exploits of Jacques Cousteau. Even in black and white his TV programme seemed vivid, colourful and full of possibilities. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to explore the Undersea World that he had found? I never believed I would get the chance, but get it I did. Just before our first child came along my wife and I splashed out
I remember when I first heard the song in the 70’s. Like many others I was mesmerised by the swirling, velvety instrumentation and backing vocals. Back then was impossibly new. But for me there was something else even. I once heard the song playing on the radio and as it started to fade the DJ came in with the words, “That’s 10cc with ‘I’m not in Love’ – A love song if ever I heard one”. The words seemed to crash the moment and break the secret. Yes, it was true, but it felt like it should not have been spoken. I had recognised that the genius of that song was that the listener saw, more clearly, the heart and desire of the singer than he did himself. So, as odd as it seems, it felt to me that this DJ was being insensitive. I don’t think I consciously recognised all this at the time but, as a writer of children’s stories, it’s an approach that I have instinctively taken up myself, where the reader understands what is going on before the central character does himself.