The History of My Creative Writing
My First Book
People might think I never took myself seriously as an author until I was 29 or 30 but this is not the case. I actually wrote my first book when I was 6.5. I was a fantastic speaker with a clear talent for drama; an enthusiastic reader, but was slow to form letters at first visually I was more of an aural talent early on. Mum was a prize winning essay writer at Maldon Grammar School in the 1950s and she was having none of it. You are a writer my son! She declared, and made me write my first book. The Summer Holidays 1984 with words and pictures! So she encouraged me to write creatively. That's one of the brand new Intercity125 trains we went down there on with cousin Kate. I think depicted there in the titles was a logo inspired by the the 1984 TUC conference which was televised live in those days oh yes, comrades!
My First Play
I haven't written a lot of drama, but when I moved from Central London to Widford Lodge Prep School for Boys as it was then in Chelmsford in South Essex my then English teacher who also doubled as my music master and choir master the multi tasking James Smith got me to write creatively all the time. All we did in English was copy out and make our own poems, and create booklets with themed short stories in. I got so used to this so that when I was asked to write once dramatic scene from the story of Henry II and Thomas á Becket for History Class with Simon Trowell I was divinely inspired somehow to grab mums typewriter for days and type out a complete 3 page classic of the whole thing. My teacher was so delighted and because we had no national curriculum in those days they went with it and asked me to direct my class in a complete performance of it which I gladly did. I still have it tucked away with mum's stash of parent's letters. I want to write about it sometime. I was about 8.5. Henry II was my favourite British King responsible for the common law and justice in Britain. he had the most beautiful wife in Eleanor of Aquitaine of his age but he had this weakness in accidentally ordering the death of his best friend from two ambitious knights who wanted to gain his favour. They had taken the drunken line over dinner 'Who Will Rid Me of This Turbulent Priest?' too literally and he was wracked with guilt for the rest of his life.
Creative Writing at Ipswich School in the 1990s.
The Crystal Bed and the IJ
Although the subject of creative writing wasn't part of our core education at my public school in Suffolk; I did briefly write for the unofficial school magazine the IJ or Ipswichian Journal which we used to sell for 5p in the playground until it was shut down and put out of business by the official school newsletter the Ipswichian Occasional which was composed by the deputy head Mr Warnes. The IJ was a witty take on goings on around the school which was frowned on I think by the teaching old guard as being far too socialist and The Ipswichian Occasional to over from the free press to create an official line to impress parents, but I did get one of my poems in the school's yearly publication and review The Ipswichian 1993. This poem was my first poem of any significance. It didn't have a title for years but it is now known as The Crystal Bed; it's about my first love playing the flute in the school orchestra at out annual concert at Snape Maltings. I had a vision like Robert Schumann of this better version of myself flying around my head like a wraith playing the flute. I came home still thinking about the performance and wrote the poem in five minutes before nodding off to sleep. The next day me being that disorganised I'd forgotten to practise anything for the final of the school literature reading prize and won it with that with a unanimous verdict. It was recorded as an A* in my GCSE Oral English log and I got a little cult status as a leader in my set because we had talent, but weren't considered the best academically at that stage. That said some of us went on to be world class in what we did in life. Winning that was important psychological motivation for my development as an artist in general. It kept me going and won my an Assisted Places Scholarship to the school after my father died of cancer as the breadwinner and mum as 10 years unemployed. I was given a term to pull the rabbit out of the hat and show me true colours or leave and I survived because of Sarah's poem. I went on to write about 145 poems at school and 435 in total so far most of the early ones were about the crush on my first love. I didn't win her because there was so much competition we only had 20 little princesses in the 6th form in those days and the competition was murderous for a woman, but I was determined to go on and win such a Cambridge bound genius in later life, someone similarly as multi tasking as a wife. Here is a voiceover of the edited version in The Ipswichian 1993 and my name and poem in the mag.
My First Set of High School Exams
Due to my very early start with German living in West Berlin when I was two; languages proved to be my best subjects academically in the first wave of exams; the equivalent of High School Exams in America in my days they were called GCSEs and were marked A* to G. An A* was the best grade and grades A-C were passes. I was quite bright and they put me in for a full compliment of 10 Academic Subjects in one hit in 1994 one more GCSE than average in one go in those days. I got a full house of passes across the board with passes in both 5 arts subjects, 1 humanity, and 4 sciences. So it was a very balanced portfolio and one of my finest early academic achievements. It just didn't feel like it at the time because I just missed out on As in 2 subjects and only got one A, but I got 1A, 4Bs and 5Cs. My Arts subjects were all As and Bs. I surprised the teachers at that level they thought I might not get the necessary 6 GCSE passes to return to the 6th form and I got all 10. Four of my GCSEs were from the old London Board and 6 form the old Midland Examining Group or MEG for short. I wasn't bad for a boy! My French was always my best subject academically I started French at 8 and I was never outside the top three in French in whatever class I was in. I was even top a couple of times in primary school. I was over 80% regularly. No problem so they let me take German also and I almost got an A in both of them, the other A I almost got was English Literature. We did English and English Literature. English contained language elements and oral english as well as unseen literary short story criticisms and things. So, I got Bs in 2 GCSE English Subjects as a double award. We all took those. Modern World History was interesting as many of the topics have shaped the world in the last 25 years. Race Relations in the US, Vietnam, Russian Communism, Boom, Bust Depression and the New Deal in the Us and the Arab Israeli Conflict. Really interesting topics but a bloody hard GCSE. I also got three separate sciences which helped me later when I wanted to study Audio Engineering and the Science of Music I got 80% in the acoustics exam. I'm also now involved in computer science and IT so that broad base gave me wide ranging academic ambition.
My GCSE Table
|MEG||1994||English||B (with A in Oral English)|
|London||1994||Music||B (with an A* of 92% in performance)|
|London||1994||Modern World History||C|
The Second Set of Results (A Levels)
This is when the full impact of not winning a first love to help me came home to roost and the pain of losing my father took hold for the first time and led to the mental instability I suffer from in my life. With my mental condition I hate what I call the alcoholics anonymous approach to mental health; where you all club togehter and say hello to your fellow retards and apend time saying you are a spak to each other all you life. People with mental health conditions deserve more than to be judged as retards. why should I disclose my condition to people so they can judge me as who they perceive me to be? for example, I take inspiration from feminist role theory for this. If a person is bipolar then they are not just bipolar as a classification they can have many other roles and parts of them. I don't see why the label bipolar should be of any more significance than any other one of those descriptive roles; teacher, father, academic, ethical hacker or whatever. Similarly a woman is not just a sex symbol, but a mum and a teacher, and a housewife, and an academic and so on. I do not have to wear the label SPAK on my forehead wherever I go for the benefit of society so they know who to avoid and be prejudice against no way. I don't have to be out and proud as a basket case I want to be respected for being me as the whole package.
So I didn't do that well at A Level because I was well on my way to having a first nervous breakdown and the warning signs were ignored I was blamed and put in detention and called lazy, just because I didn't need the hard public school regime like I'd had at GCSE I needed help and sympathy to avoid that breakdown and I had pressure piled on me instead. I just wanted to write those 150 poems and explore my emotions and it was so strict that regime they weren't trained to spot the warning signs as to why. I needed to be emotional then not pushed I needed time to go to a youth club in Colchester rather than travel 15 miles to school every day play table tennis with a nice Essex girl in a short skirt and have my first relationship. That's what I regret deeply is that I needed to replace what I my father's relationship with love for a woman. This is what I was writing poems about. this little metaphor for a split personality or bipolar was an idea I had that every other line could form a different poem if you read those lines together and then it kind of mushes together into one big sound cloud at the end and is summarised with a rhetorical question. I find this one particularly dark and powerful to me. I was fascinated with ideas like that at the time. I wanted to explore that. It sounds like a load of gobbledigook but makes sense if you read other line like there is method in insanity.
Internal Breakdown (1994)
As the world laughed I cried
Oh gentle Lord what is a lie?
Tears ran down my soiled face,
A mockery of truths,
And then I saw genial smiles,
Seeing is believing,
Passions mirrored in my own,
Everything else is false.
Face a pretty dream,
There are ways of telling,
Unashamed and yet so real,
When a truth is told.
It’s more than attraction,
Body language forever false,
Is a musician and poet whom I love,
An unsigned card,
Dripping with deception.
Whom do I trust?
This is another interesting one. We were doing Larkin so this is Larkinesque with a twist, there is largely a set number of syllables and rhythm per line but not necessarily a classic rhyme scheme as such. It's as if the true picture is captured within the stained glass and can't escape the dark clutches of my English teachers faultless military logic. Sex was logic and it wasn't to me it was Sarah an her crystal bed. Still a great white hope but I kind of liked it that way because I was like Beethoven and could write and compose for her and they never encouraged me to do it. They threw the baby out with the bathwater in terms of my talent I feel, but I do like them for giving me a good start they did give me something they just tested me almost to destruction in the process.
The Stained Glass People (1995)
They smash their world into pieces
Sylvia Green and Susan White
And label them cat, fish, grass
Elephant, in the past
Binding them in lead as living tones
Of the grey poem
A prison of light for dancing colours
No clarity of white
Fullness of a pure prism
Or perception of emotion, just a
Sharp mind fitting
Plastic shape into plastic hole and claiming
How smart life is, how sex
Is logical, and how
Prettiness is symmetry without
Reference to Blake.
Maybe critics and scientists are right but the
World’s reconstituted belief.
What’s worded right, the stained
Glass lies, covers nature with human sight.
I was told firmly to stop writing those poems forthwith and to start writing essays or my 'chances of passing A level English would recede!' That was way wide of the target for me and totally unsympathetic because he just thought I was unduly rebellious and mortally offensive for taking the Mickey. That's what happened at first I survived mentally by having a love interest when she left me I fell apart. Despite being very committed to getting good grades in principle due to my first love being a Cambridge girl I failed to do myself justice with them just about scraping through with low passes and not doing myself justice. The counterpoint to that was adding to my speech prize and winning 2 more times in music prizes and then being nominated regionally for best young actor in North Essex for Drama a subject I'd never studied academically but clearly had talent for. I felt like I had potential I'd won the FA cup without doing will in the league but a prize is a prize. My A levels were in English, Music and German. I got them all but that's it. I made up for it a million times over later and I'm still criticised to high heaven for it. I think that's criminal baring in mind the creative potential that was flowing from my veins.
The Five Epochs of my Poetry
My poetry can be divided into 5 Epochs. My philosophy is largely that of a love poet but the most interesting thing is that my approach to love has changed so much over time and this is evident in the poetry itself. It can characterised under the following headings and approaches; it is a lifelong enquiry in to the perfect partner. There are about 435 in total so far. My aim is to write 650 by the end of my life roughly the same number that appear in Ted Hughes's anthology and the same number that Rudyard Kipling wrote (both major poets)as like Kipling I don't just write poems, but prose works and musical compositions as well prolifically. They are merely aspects of love pertaining to individual thoughts I was having at the time but they are a perfect snapshot of the emotional journey and pilgrims progress that is my life to be contextualised by the tree rings of memoirs I'm currently writing for them. I'm still collating, transcribing and editing them for a combined works before I write the final 250 or so, to make up the book.
My Five Poetic Epochs
|Epoch Number||Epoch Name (& Number of poems)||Epoch Mission Statement||Life Phase|
|1||Early (190+ including those non transcribed as yet)||Innocent, Intellectual, Idealistic||School and GSMD pre 2001|
|2||Kassel (15)||Confident, rebellious, condescending||My Time in Kassel December 2001 - August 2002.|
|3||Wuppertal (100+)||Erotic, Witty, Barbed, and Fun||Wuppertal Times September 2002 - May 2005 in German and English|
|4||Cologne (15-20)||Anticlimax, Fulfilled, Dishonest||Cologne Magic May 2005 - May 2007|
|5||Late (120+)||Reflective, Sad, Deflated, Loss, Unfulfilled||Since 2010.|
Example Voiceovers of Poems from Each Epoch
Having an Affair with a Doctor (2002)
Love As the Woman's Dog (2005)
The German Scholar (2005)
Lenin Island (2019)
2 Personal Favourites
Ditsy, Bright and Beautiful (2017)
Ode to Jeanette Rack (Die Chefin (2004))