Who am I? I’m a nobody, an embarrassment to a forward-looking society, a scurrilous minor writer. I’m dealing in a dying trade as books are being produced at a great rate in these post-literate times but they are being read less and less. Despite this grim situation, I live, writhe, fulminate and continue to write. It’s pretty much the only thing I can do and I’m resolved on going down with the ship. I’ve ‘self-actualised’ to borrow a tacky term from the therapy industry. I’ve finally embraced the fact that I’m a recusant, a rejecter of the modern myths and delusions that people live by nowadays. I prefer to dig down through all the kitsch and the crud to the dark places where fragments of the old gods lie.
If you really want facts I was born in Broken Hill, Northern Rhodesia. Neither that country nor that place exists by that name any longer yet Africa lives on within me. Africa helped make me tough-minded and self-reliant and shaped in me a realistic view of humanity and a sense of the fragility of notions of ‘progress’.
I survived 10 years of boarding schools where I was mauled and battered by abusive school masters. Not for me the wallowing victimhood of the ‘Me Too’ brigade though. I came away from my tormentors toughened and wary and thanking them for teaching me about the fierce passions of the adult human.
I stumbled into a redbrick university in England in the days when you only needed a bit of talent to get into literature courses rather than a redundant mass of ‘A’ grades. I’d learned a love of books in Africa and went on to study literature and to teach at a university in Texas. I completed a PhD on the work of Vladimir Nabokov in 1982 then quit the university scene for good. Those claustrophobic academic corridors were not for me.
I worked as a professional gardener for 6 years as well as holding down dozens of other manual jobs then I retrained as a psychiatric worker. Then followed twenty years of my mental health career in Britain where I specialised in high risk forensic cases and worked in a maximum security psychiatric facility. I felt strangely at ease in those locked environments. Perhaps my strange childhood had given me a nostalgie du prisonnier.
I left my career early in my mid-fifties, sold my house and began to live the writing life. I’m a late comer but I’ve learned quickly. As St Augustine observed, “Walk fast, o man, before the shadows come…”
As for the rest, well, I think I’ll ask my cat Spider. I think he’ll say, “The truth is on the wind, Catch it as it flies.”