My youth was noted for one thing, a nomadic life. By the time I had finished my education as a teenager I had been through 14 different schools. My first 30 years of life I had not been anywhere from birth more than 3 years maximum, and most would be a lot less than that.
Formal education was a struggle, though there were many other aspects of life that would open my eyes to things I would never have learned from a book. Perhaps a part of the coping mechanism of a youth living an unsettled life was the reason that I would find it easier to quickly forget the people and places of my past. The reasoning being that I could not settle if I was always looking back at where I had been. I could speak some more on that, but for a moment let me share with you an experience that took place in 2006.
It was just another funeral. Never a week went by without a phone call with a request from the community usually from people with no church connection. On this occasion I had often met the deceased when visiting a local nursing home, but never the family. Her son lived away from the district and all the arrangements for the funeral were made with the daughter. The first opportunity to talk with her son was at the “tea” that followed the funeral. As I spoke with him and his family I began to realise that they lived in a district that I knew very well, I lived there briefly as a teenager. I recognised some of the places he spoke of, but not the people.
Then, as he spoke of a business in the locality the memories began to revive that much more. I remembered the name of the family that owned the business and spoke of the family. I felt safe, because I thought the family no longer were there, and that seemed to be confirmed as he spoke of the name of another family who owned the business. That was fine, until his daughter interrupted and said, “But that’s the maiden name of the wife of the couple who now are the owners.” She mentioned her first name and I knew the name instantaneously. As teenagers we were very close, but with my nomadic life, and the unreliability of the postal system at the time we lost touch. Never seen or heard of each other for 40 years.
I was shocked, not so much that I remembered her. What shocked me most was that she was the only one I remembered. It was a difficult period in my life and many people had played a part in being my support. Why could I not recall who they were? For the sake of professional attitude, I needed to keep these thoughts to myself, but it was not easy.
Move forward now to the beginning of 2007. For health reasons I needed to take time out from work. Life was always very active for me with a keen interest in the community where I live, so taking time out was something that seemed so alien. Perhaps that was one reason that I did not give a lot of serious thought to writing, there was never the time. I would write small items for magazines and local newspapers, but nothing more than that. Often I thought about spending more time writing, but time was not a luxury that I possessed. There was always another project to engage in.
So, I have to take it easy, they said.
Take time off, they said.
I could not imagine that I could cope with sitting “twiddling my thumbs”. What could I do with myself? I thought back to that funeral, and the conversation that was exchanged. As an adult I have considered that every person we meet in the journey of life is a person to be treasured. We all develop in accordance with how we interact with each other. Yet, I wondered how true I had been to that concept in my youth, if the “treasured” people had been forgotten. Could this be the reason that time had been thrust upon me, time to reflect and honour the people of the past? I was beginning to learn an important lesson here, I feel, as I sat at my computer recording as much as I could reflect. There is so much character and human interest stories that need to be recorded in real people as well as the stories of fiction.
It was, at first, an action intended as a personal exercise, but as a story of 18months of my life emerged I was encouraged to publish. It was my first book, with another on the way. But what is true for all of us is, if a dream of writing is to be fulfilled, it needs to be given time out of our lives to put it into action.