On the Sunday Glenn, Elaine and I went for a walk together in Wanstead Park. We had lots of conversation about politics and literature. Much to their surprise and delight, Elaine and Glenn found for example that, as children, they had both really enjoyed the Viking stories by Henry Treece see - http://www.amazon.co.uk/Viking-Saga-Vikings-Miklagard-Sunset/dp/0140317910/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262163620&sr=8-1.
But in this blog, I want to focus, in particular, on our conversation about English literature, and how this got me thinking and reflecting more on something quite specific - namely, our English teacher at school and my childhood dreams of writing a novel.
So, from a situation where both Alan and I had been bullied at school, we came out 'on top' in various ways. Anyway, I digress somewhat.
Now, one might ask - 'why should I be given any special treatment by an English teacher?' There were after all, some 30 children in the class. But the point was that I loved reading and read more books than anyone else in the class. At one point Miss Allison set up a class library. This involved her taking books out of the school library, and putting them on a shelf in our classroom. At this point, I was reading books from the public library, the school library, the class library as well as books from my own collection at home. I also used to do voluntary work in the school library with my friend Pat Sandel in the lunch hour.
It all seemed such a wonderful idea.
But the whole thing did puzzle me as a child. I was a well-behaved pupil, who never gave any hassle. I got good marks in nearly all of my subjects. I was passionate about books and reading and very interested and keen on learning in general. So, anyway, all of this had a bad effect on me, particularly when it came to pursuing the idea of writing a novel, which I have put 'on hold' until now. Still, I got my first non-fiction book published in 2005, on Globalisation, see http://www.woodheadpublishing.com/en/book.aspx?bookID=1669&ChandosTitle=1 - so, at least, my fantasy of writing a book became a reality. And I am now starting to realise that many of the lessons I learnt from writing a non-fiction book can actually be applied to fiction writing - particularly in regard to the need for focus and determination and thinking in very concrete ways about how to make getting a book published a reality, which is somewhat different from dream-like fantasies of course! If one wants to achieve something, no matter what it is, one has to be clear and single-minded about it.
All in all, in my school years (from 1st-5th year, when I was 11- 16 years) Mr Thomas was the best teacher we had as far as I was concerned, and Miss Allison was our second best teacher. I wanted to 'put the record straight' here as well, because although I had these personal issues with Miss Allison, I still learnt a lot from her lessons and she was indeed, a very good teacher. Also, when I was 16 years old, I thought briefly about leaving school and becoming a nursery nurse. But Miss Allison thought that was a terrible idea; she said that I would hate it, clearing up children's sick etc. So, I decided to stay on and do A Levels. She certainly gave me good advice there; and I am grateful to her for that. Obviously, also, she could not really have given all the help that I would have needed to get a novel published either at such a young age, but it would have been nice if she had given me some positive feedback and encouragement, rather than the more negative feedback that I got. But there we go. It wasn't to be. I was determined, though, that our middle son, Victor Rikowski, would not suffer in this regard. So once when we were walking home from school one day when he was 10 years old, and he said he was feeling 'odd', the 'warning lights' came up. I went immediately and spoke to his junior school teacher and she said that she had noticed him walking round the playground on his own. I told her that he wrote lots of stories. She then really encouraged Victor; he read stories that he had written out loud to the class, and became something of a leader in this regard, really inspiring the other children. This all greatly increased his confidence of course. If my confidence could have been increased in the same sort of way, then that would really have benefitted me. Still, it wasn't to be. Reflecting futher, perhaps, also though, these early school year experiences have made me somewhat too tolerant of loud, bullying people sometimes, and this is something that I need to be mindful of in the future, and continue down my path of connecting up with tolerant, considerate as well as creative people.
So, that provides some more background information about me, novels and novel writing. But for now, enough reflecting - and on to novel-writing!
Dinner Party at our home with some of my school friends and their partners, July 2009