There are a million or more blogs out there today, Why add one more? I think the same thing when I walk into B&N in New York or Smith’s in London, there’s a million or more books out there, why add one more? Perhaps you, as a writer or a reader have thought the same thing. The truth is that every mind on the planet is unique. No one will write YOUR book, or YOUR blog – and every new word you read may be the one word you have been seeking all your life. So, I write. Books, blogs and more. If there is one grain in the chaff that follows that provokes, educates, inspires, even angers…then I will consider the time well spent. Be warned, I will wander from my stated purposes from time to time.
I started writing at the age of fourteen and English Lit was one of the few subjects I excelled at simply because my teacher, massive thunder clap-voiced Mr. O’Brien, was unable to fathom the source of my strange ideas. Doubtless I needed therapy in those days, luckily I did not get it and so today the darker crevices of my perhaps tortured psyche serve me well. I grew up in the grim social aftermath of World War II Europe. I saw, and heard much of the horror of the wartime years and the price we all paid in the decade after. Ever since the 1950s ‘the future’ has always been brighter for me – and I have been chasing after it ever since. Teacher O’Brien was an oasis of interest in the soul-killing curriculum of Chatham’s Holcombe Technical Institute in the UK where I was being groomed to be a mechanic in the local dockyard. A carefully planned program of failing grades in everything but English (I do admit to being a stellar student in Inorganic Chemistry but only because it taught me how to make my own explosives), ensured that I was booted out of Holcombe with absolutely no future to do with anything mechanical. My english essays got me a post as an indentured apprentice journalist on the Chatham, Rochester & Gillingham News. At twenty three I graduated as an apprenticeship trained/London University Extension degreed ‘professional journalist’. A few months later I was working as a court reporter for Bermuda’s Royal Gazette. Given this result, I think my misspent youth and dismal formal education turned out pretty well.
Chatham Technical School – the mechanic factory!
I discovered a very keen memory at an early age. While I did filter out things I knew would be of no value to me at any time in life (fractions, programming VCRs etc.), an insatiable curiosity led to me collect everything else. I committed to memory, sketched, photographed, filed, hoarded and journaled pretty much everything I came across. I will not tell you I knew my future with crystal clarity – but I did know that I was collecting for one reason only – to write. I began this process in earnest with my first assignment when I started at the Royal Gazette. I was sent to the Bermudiana Hotel to cover a Lions Club luncheon in April of 1963. An army officer was presenting a talk entitled “Soldiering in Sarawak.” I sat down and was immediately offered a huge cigar by a tiny, aged man sitting next to me. He then began to tell me his story – at the age of fourteen he had been a bugler with the US Army troops that arrived at the Battle of the Big Horn the day after the battle. That made him 101 years old. I remember nothing of the Sandhurst accented speaker’s presentation. The eyewitness account of the Big Horn battleground has never left my memory. The details were gruesome – and different from the ‘official’ accounts still propagated today. That’s the moment when I realized I needed to ‘collect’ everything I saw heard and experienced. I knew then that this was to be the pool from which I would later draw inspiration for non-fiction and fiction books, and every other form of written and spoken word I would produce later in life.