About Andy (by Andy)
Andy won the 2006 International Story Writing Competition in English and subsequently appeared in the 'Anthology of Short Stories - Torrevieja, Another Look 2006' - In fact he had two stories included in the anthology, the only person to do so!
I think I was conceived on D-Day by joyful parents who were thankful that the War would soon be over, but their night of passionate pre-VE Day celebration was premature, as I was. V2 rockets landed in London and I am sure my parents contemplated leaving me in my pram in an open area with a huge painted circular target round me, and a sign which said, “V2’s here please”.
I seemed to attract germs like a magnet, and like many children of that time, had a permanently runny nose, measles, whooping cough, influenza, and every debilitating childhood disease known to post-war Britain.
The London smog would have killed my father had we not moved to Southern Rhodesia where I spent a blissfully happy youth. My secondary years were spent avoiding cross-country runs, rugby and the complexities of sine, cosine and tangent.
I was undecided about my career, as all teenage boys do I considered being a fireman, vet, artist, marine biologist, marine archaeologist and pilot. The Royal Rhodesian Air Force beckoned and at one stage I was strongly tempted to be a Latin teacher. However Mr. Arnold-Jones, my headmaster, at Ellis Robbins Boys High in Salisbury Rhodesia, convinced me that a career in primary teaching would be more suitable, and I followed his advice. I had three wonderful years at the Teachers’ Training College in Bulawayo, acting, making puppets and jewellery, wandering the Matopo Hills and learning to be a teacher.
In 1966, more than forty years ago, I wrote my first set of stories, an anthology of creative tales ofr children, for my final thesis. “Publish them!” wrote my Senior Tutor. I can remember them all: Fred the Frum who lived under my bed, the Woojums who lived in a forest and made life difficult for the wizard in the castle above, Rondo McTrill the Musical Mannikin, and a host of highly improbable but quite charming creatures who did quaint and quirky things. I submitted my manuscript to somebody who claimed to know somebody in the publishing industry and my stories vanished forever.
My career took me to Spain and the Costa del Sol, but Africa called strongly to me and I was happy to return to where I felt most comfortable.
Malawi gave me fourteen years of joy, and I now realise how privileged I was to have all that time spent at Saint Andrew’s Primary School, in Blantyre.
My latter days there, as Deputy Head and Boarding Master, were spent trying to re-establish telephone links, ensure there was water for the primary school, the hostel and the ancillary staff, wondering when the television would be back on, why the electricity had gone off again, and who was firing weapons outside my boarding hostel and at whom.
Sonia, my wife, and I took the decision to leave and moved to Jesús Pobre, just outside Dénia, on the piece of Spain that points towards the Balearic Islands. We have an impressive mountain behind us, orange groves in front of us, the smell of lemon blossom, and a large, furry, black dog called inevitably, Buster Crabb. In summer we live outside by the side of an almost continuous barbecue, and in winter we heat up the house, light the fire and snuggle down.
In recent years, I have discovered the joys of sitting down at a computer and writing the stories that pop into my brain during leisure hours. I repeat the stories over and over again, until they clamour to be written down. But a well-planned story can go seriously awry and end up in an unexpected place, a phenomenon which baffles and intrigues many writers. New characters and situations frequently burst into the plot and insist on a place in the narrative. I had amassed some forty stories, frequently tried them out on my family and was always assured of a favourable response. My father-in-law, a person of explosive enthusiasm, was firm in his belief that the stories should be published.
I wasn’t convinced since I had previously wasted time and money on the usual search for an agent, and had received a wad of scrupulously worded replies to the effect that since I wasn’t a known author, I was regarded as a low form of life on the literary ladder. This is a frequent and tragic occurrence: a writer may have written a story or novel of amazing brilliance, only to have it rejected because nobody has read it. A case in point; an author wrote to an agent and enclosed his manuscript with page two upside down. It was duly returned with that same page still upside down and a beautiful letter praising his style in glowing terms but regretting that since he was not a known author they would be unable to proceed any further. Submitting a manuscript is a thankless, demoralising and wearisome task and has been responsible for a number of wonderful stories being finally discarded, flung into a cupboard and lost for all time.
But I struck it lucky!
One of my favourite pastimes has always been walking. I have walked along beaches, through African National Parks and rambled around mountains. It is an inexpensive pursuit and allows me time to get my thoughts into perspective and indulge in a little mental creativity.
I recently decided to walk from Tarragona to Valencia, a trip of some nine days. Sadly the only time I had available was during the terrible heatwave in the hottest July for about forty years. As a result, after six days of sweating, cramps, inability to swallow, fungal infections and fatigue I turned back and went straight to my doctor who told me I was seriously dehydrated. Once I recovered I put my thoughts onto paper, and sent them to the people who sponsored me. (I was collecting funds for a maternity hospital in Malawi.) My wife put up a copy in the staffroom of the Lady Elizabeth School in Javea where she teaches and it was read by a gentleman who came in to do routine facility maintenance. He was struck by the style and content of my report, and told his author friend about what he had seen. The author and publisher wanted to know if I had written anything else, so I submitted Poisoned Petals, my anthology of Short Stories with a Spanish Flavour.
Libros International enthusiastically accepted all my stories, which were edited by the talented Nik Morton and Poisoned Petals will appear as one of the first books to reach the booksellers’ shelves in 2008.