It’s hard for 21st century children to imagine what growing up was like in the 1940’s and early 1950’s. There was no television and so we mostly entertained ourselves. Stories were an important part of our evenings. My mum made up stories, mostly about woodland animals and fairies drinking cowslip wine out of acorn cups. My dad recited poetry that he’d learned in school, usually ballads based on history, parts of which I still remember to this day. Sometimes we would sit quietly, all of us with our heads in a book.
Besides reading I loved to write. I made magazines out of whatever paper I could find. Notebooks were scarce and expensive. Can you believe that felt pens and biros hadn’t been invented? I wrote with a pencil and illustrated my stories and poems with wax crayons. When I was a bit older I was allowed to write with ink, but that meant dipping a nib into an inkwell. I always got inky fingers and ended up with blots all over the page. The best present I ever had was a very special propelling pencil. It had four colours – black, blue, pink and green. It allowed me to make small, neat drawings that had been impossible with my chunky wax crayons.
Besides writing stories I also enjoyed telling stories to children. I think that was why I decided to become a teacher. Ending each school afternoon with a story was my favourite time of day. When I had children of my own I told them stories and made sure that they had plenty of books to read. Buzzing away in the back of my brain there were ideas for stories that I never had time to write. Years and years later when I became a granny, I made up stories and rhymes for my grandchildren. It was they who persuaded me to write my stories down.
I still like reading children’s stories and I love reading my stories to children. I always give them a chance to ask questions and I try my best to answer them.
The two most popular questions are:
- How do you write?
- I always used to write with a pencil in a notebook, but that meant spending time transferring everything to the computer. So now I usually write directly onto the computer.
- Where do you write?
- The answer is anywhere and everywhere. I have lots of notebooks ready to jot down unexpected ideas. I have a notebook in the kitchen, I have one by my bed, and all my coat pockets have notebooks in them.
- When I lived on Islay I used to write in my cabin on the shore of my seaside garden. Sometimes I wrote at a table in the garden. In winter and when the weather was cold I sat in a comfy chair beside the fire. Sometimes, my beautiful Bengal cat, Leo, sat with me, but he’s so huge that I hadn’t much room for my laptop and I had to try to type with one hand.
- Now that I live in Shropshire I write at a table next to the French window. There is a terrace outside and the garden slopes down to the Reabrook. There are trees and birds and every time I look up there is something interesting to see.