Friday, 29 July 2022

Language, Power and Studs McGuire

 Decades ago I was working as a senior lecturer, running a complex household of hard-working husband and two talented, resourceful children, keeping an eye on my clever mother, and – as well as this – working on my Master’s degree in Education.

And I was loving all of this

My research was entitled Language and Power. As well as the historical and theoretical aspects of this research I completed the practical element at a Teesside secondary school. The school had an outstanding head teacher, the late, great Malcolm Glenn, who was eventually an eminent HMI. Malcolm was a liberal-minded and forward - thinking educator and this – the location of my research - was a very happy and very successful school.

My research made use of qualitative method - interviews and conversations with eleven - to fifteen-year-old pupils - to discover how these children perceived and experienced the power structures within that school. Location was important; I interviewed and spoke with pupils only in the corridors and obscure corners of the school - specifically not in places which signified the concrete power of that institution such as classrooms, staff rooms et cetera.

The eventual merging all this loose qualitative material into a viable research document was a complex writing experience, incorporating the making of significant links in the data, formulating ideas and ultimately writing a coherent document.

In later years, as I proceeded to write and publish a string of novels, it dawned on me that this research and writing process had not been dissimilar to writing a long novel. It also dawned on me that in this academic process of writing up my research I was - without intention -honing my novel-writing skills: these two aspects of my creative experience were merging in an interesting way.

In Malcolm Glenn’s school, relationships between adults and children are open and mutually respectful, so the children and young people here accept me as I walk around in the school with my notebook and my odd questions. I think they quite like loitering in corners talking to this strange woman.

One time a tall, heavily built boy comes up to me and says “Hey Miss! You’ll want to talk to me!” His voice is surprisingly deep.

I look up at him. He is half a head taller than me.

Pen hovering over my notebook, I ask his name. This is always my first question,

“Me name is Stewart,” he says. “But you can call me Studs. They all call me Studs.”

In time I was pleased to deliver my research, nicely bound in black leather, which qualified me for my master’s degree. Afterwards I was flattered when my supervisor invited me to proceed to a PhD. I thought hard about it and decided not to take this path, as I was now working on my third published children’s novel, after which I was planning to embark on my first adult novel.

And now, decades later in this ongoing review of all my novels and stories that I am working on with my friend Donna M, we come to the novel called The Real Life of Studs McGuire. (Published 1987).

In working on this book as I was developing my main character – a tough resilient boy who vows to revenge his friends – I remembered the boy in Malcolm’s school called Stuart, the boy who stopped me in the corridor while I was wearing my researcher’s hat and said, “My name is Stewart but you can call me Studs.” This was when, trusting my instinct, I borrowed his name and perhaps something of his personality for my main character in this new novel - Studs McGuire.

The naming of characters is so important in fiction.  I’m now thinking about the issue of naming for my most recent collection Siblings(Published in 2021). For this collection I pored over academic sources of Welsh and Scottish names for the seven brothers and sisters, each of whom has a story in the collection set in 1922. I wanted names that would reflect their Celtic heritage. The chosen names reflect the unique nature of each character whose story is being told.    

Now, as Donna M and I handle the book called The Real Life of Studs McGuire, we note that the cover art has some resemblance to the cover art of Theft, my first published children’s novel. (See earlier post about Theft.) In each case the visual story arcs are very similar. There is such energy and implicit knowledge of children’s life there, as the action surges to the centre front of the cover. And the urgency within the narrative is reflected in the illustrators’ images for the two books. It is only all these years later that Donna M. points out to me that the artwork for both of these covers was by the artist Steve Braund.

You might be interested that I republished The Real Life of studs McGuire in 2014. This was an interesting exercise but I still prefer Steve Braund’s artwork to my own concept for the new cover which is it must be admitted modern, sharp, and dramatic. What do you think?

I have to say that I am realising now this journey with Donna M. through the sequence of my novels maps my writing life in all its aspects. It is all proving very exciting.  

And afternote: you might be interested in the different cover copy on each of these editions.

1987 Edition of The Real Life of Studs McGuire

Studs McGuire is determined to find out the identity of the kids responsible for taking his friend. Tony on a drugs trip. As a result, Tony lies unconscious near to death in hospital and studs is set for revenge. And then comes Nova – and studs that never met anyone like this girl before. We’ll never cooperate with him on his quest to find the loathsome flicker with his punk followers, The quest is a dangerous one, but still feels Tony’s very life depends on the outcome. 

Available HERE 


2014 Edition of the real life of Studs McGuire:

“Maybe I can do that, Studs.” Tony’s voice squeaked a bit but he coughed and said, “See you then! In a deeper tone. He turned round and banged out of the café followed by his two advisers. Almost instantly the rest of the kids in the corner stood up and trickled out. The big lad called Sligger averted his eyes as he passed Studs in the girl.

Available HERE 


Saturday, 9 July 2022

The Evolution of my crossover novel, LIZZA

I have been working with my great friend the literary academic Donna Maynard on an archive project, which she hopes will link my hundreds of notebooks with the succession of novels which have been published over my name in the last 50 years. The process will take a year or so but should prove interesting.

We began by considering my first published work – Theft, a children’s novel from 1972published by Corgi Transworld (Scroll down to read a post here called ‘The 50 Year Novel.’)  

And now Donna and I are considering Lizza, my young adult novel, published in 1987 by Hodder $ Stoughton. We examined both editions: of Lizza - the hardback and the paperback editions.

First, we look with fresh eyes at the hardback cover - illustrated by Steve Braund. I admire it for its sensitivity and its own storytelling arc.

Then we compare this with the cover of the paperback which, as you can see, is much sharper and more modern, but still very appealing and charming in its own way. But after forty-five years, although I remember the novel very well, I had almost forgotten the details of the covers.

Now a frisson of shock ripples through me as the details of these covers remind me of myself at the particular time of writing.  

On the hard-back edition, the biographical blurb reminds me of myself at this time in 1987: a younger self that bedded herself deep into the background of my present day.  life. Here - in the words of my first great editor, Anne Williams - is what the cover says about this young, aspiring writer:  

“Wendy Robertson is senior lecturer in education at Sunderland Polytechnic. She has been writing since she was 16, but because of a full-time career much of the writing remains unpublished. In 1973 her first novel Theft was published in paperback k by Corgi Transworld and for several years she also wrote a weekly article on a variety of subjects for the Northern Echo and she has published and she has had several stories published in magazines.

"Wendy Robertson lives in a Victorian house at the centre of Bishop Auckland, County Durham, which he loves because yours is obsessively interested in what she calls ‘the past in the present. What is reality and what is fantasy can never be disengaged,’ she writes. ‘In my writing I take this a stage further placing my magic imagination at the service of the basic story which may be a well-rehearsed refrain. She is married with two grown-up children, a boy and girl.”

Dear reader, I still live in that same house. Lizza came out  forty odd years ago and this statement was very true of my life at the time, which was a combination of a very committed family life and a very intense working life, where my long-term lifetime commitment to writing had to be squashed in around college vacations, transporting children to their schools, visiting museums and art galleries for my interest and for their education. Also at the time I was involved with the early stages of Women’s Liberation. 

And so it was that with the publication of Lizza by this major publisher I was finally given permission to acknowledge that I was indeed a writer which would allow me at last to place the writing of stories to their proper place at the centre of my life. (Lizza - a so-called 'young adult' novelm- proved to be my crossover novel between children's fiction and adult fiction.)

This meant tailing off my work in higher education, where I had learnt a lot and which I had really enjoyed. In reality I still went on to sustain my commitment to education in that I transferred this to the running of writing workshops and a commitment to mentoring new writers  

But always at the centre of my life were my long novels, which I went on to complete at the rate of just about one every year for the next couple of decades. I had certainly become a novelist.

One interesting thing about this 1987 blurb – as I say, forgotten by me since then – are my quoted comments on the cover: 

‘What is reality and what is fantasy can never be disengaged.’ And “In my writing I take this a stage further placing my magic imagination at the service of the basic story which may be a well-rehearsed refrain.’

I had forgotten that I had made this declaration on the cover of Lizza, but now I must say that I have continued to write and work from these principles in all the decades since. Evidence for this commitment still exists in many of my posts here on Life Twice Tasted. I have also preached these principles in many of my writing workshops.   Check here 

I am sure I have written or expressed those same feelings this year and in all the years since the publication of Lizza.  You will find similar principles expressed throughout my blog posts.  

I am looking forward to collaborating with Donna in creating and documenting this archive. And in the process I will learn a good deal about myself and my writing life. In short it will be another story taking its place in the the web of stories which constitute this writer’s life.

For your possible interest check here for  a list of my Publications:-








Sunday, 19 June 2022

Father's Day Memories

 On the evening of Father's Day I am remembering my own Daddy, Billy Wetherill, who died when I was nine years old when my life changed radically. But he still remains lodged near my heart two generations later. I wrote this poem about him and published it in my collection With Such Caution. You might like it.

4 Billy: A Daughter’s Tale
We walked along, your giant’s hand in mine,  long fingers poking inside my hand-knitted sleeve.
Remember the nights she left the house for work?
You sat and read the paper as I scaled your knee
settling, birdlike, into that rustling space.
Remember how we cut out pictures
and pasted them into the Panjandrum book?
Remember how you read us stories -
your voice going up and down
like the waves of the sea?
So very sorry you don’t know my youngest –
like you he’s  highly numerate - you
did not see him standing tall for Tai Kwan Do 
(white clad and obliquely oriental)
or cricket-ready, complete with pads
and helmet and faceguard protection.
It’s a lifetime since I passed your dying age
of thirty seven,. And now I contemplate
how very young you were  when
you abandoned your life and mine,
when - to my nine-year self - you seemed eternal.
It has taken two generations
between then and now  for me
to ventilate  the retrospective pain
of losing you too soon.

My father died when I was nine and I see now that our relationship was the template for my whole life.


                                                 On Amazon:

Thursday, 16 June 2022

New Aspects of Personal Freedom

 One consequence of these last three years - involving as they have the destructive and distrantimg advent of Covid in addition to an increasingly disabled partner needing 24/7 personal care - is that I have only rarely been able to get out of the house. In consequence the world   outside of my door has become a mysterious unvisited place.

Any time to give attention to my lifetime vocation for creative writing has been squeezed into only very small spaces. Even so I have managed to use these spaces to complete a collection of newly conceived short stories – Siblings – and as well to nurture them into a broadcast over Christmas in collaboration with Bishop FM. As well as this I have embedded the short stories into a book which is now available on Amazon.  (The post below describes this process.)

But I suspect that now, perhaps, things are changing. I have managed to organise two afternoons a week when the very competent C will mind both house and partner for two hours. In this time I can be my own self, walking in the park, walking on the High Street, drinking coffee in a café. And writing.
We had a practice run last Monday when I went out on my own into my beautiful town and sat in the Fox’s Tale – my favourite café. I was buzzing with the freedom of it all. I drank a little, ate a little and then I picked up my pen and, very quickly, wrote a series of lines as a finger exercise (see below).

After that I turned the page in my notebook and wrote very quickly for 90 minutes, drafting a series of sequences sketches which will certainly play their part in this year’s new novel set in 1963. 

All very good stuff – as my son would say. Then I came home to find that my house and its precious occupant were still standing.

I certainly feel like a page has turned in this writer’s life.

In the Fox’s Tale (1)


is coming out of the door

and knowing all is safe

in the house behind me.



is walking down the ancient street

neatly split between sun and shadow

making my way among strangers

and giving this one directions

to a certain a bank. He smiles.



is eating avocados, and drinking

cappuccino with chocolate sprinkles

sitting beside a young man with a laptop

and wondering about his research as

he hums in time to the music in his ears.



is chewing a warm bagel

watching the world, and

relishing being outside and alive.



Thursday, 5 May 2022



At last, after one or two to production hiccups, my new collection Siblings is now live for interested people on Amazon. Producing my own volumes is the most exciting late-life experience for me. Since Theft, my first published novel in 1972 (one keen reader remembers this novel here )  my novels have been produced by major publishers accompanied be a small army of accomplished proof-readers and marketeers.

I was always happy with their work, although sometimes the covers – beautifully painted - were more saga-esque than I would have preferred. I remember one editor telling me that if there was a woman on the cover – there was always a woman on the cover – this could produce thousands more sales. And if the woman was accompanied by a child, that could mean thousands more. The same applied if there was gold foil on the cover.   

In those days I just wrote my novels alongside the many other things – children, husband, demanding profession - in my life. These novels would be long - often running to 80 or 90,000 words.

However, in recent years the world around me has changed radically:  it has shrunk and slowed down, dominated as it is now by my role of full time carer. However, writing is my vocation, and I am still writing – now rather slimmer volumes -  and publishing them myself through  Amazon Createspace. 

 As my Auntie Alice (aka Eirwyn in my newest book Siblings…) wrote in my autograph book circa 1951. ‘I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.’

This is never more so than my new collection of short stories, Siblings.  

These later volumes are slimmer and perhaps do not appear so genre-specific as many of the early novels on my list. When I first started on this private publishing gig (see Damselfly )  I continued to produce in the  long fiction form. – Becoming Alice – The Pathfinder – An Englishwoman France – without deliberately meeting the protocols of genre fiction. (One of these books - the novel The Bad Child features an extra perceptive middle child who resembles Ayla, the central storyteller in Siblings.) Other recent books feature short prose (Kaleidoscope) and  poetry (With Such Caution) turning more and more to the seductive melding  of memoir and fiction about which I have written here on Life Twice Tasted before. Of course there have been those larger novels one was Becoming Alice the other one The Bad Child. And I have another one in plan.  

I am happy with them all. Writing and producing books in this way is not dissimilar to having children, in terms of the protective pride one feels as they venture out there in the world

I am feeling that now in the case of Siblings, out there, strutting her stuff.

So here I am - rather weirdly with my editor’s cap on - talking about myself in the third person on the back cover of Siblings:

In this collection Wendy Robertson dances the borders between memoir and fiction, exploring the lives of seven siblings presided over by their mother who was widowed in the First World War. Their separate stories begin in the year 1922 in a mining village in South Durham. Each of the five sisters and two brothers has an individual story unique to themselves. The storyteller here is observant Ayla, the middle child in this talented family.


She tells us: “This collection of short stories is dedicated to my mother Barbara and her siblings. Her family of storytellers embroidered their often-told stories not only into the history of their own family but also significantly into the history of the 20th Century.”


She has published many novels and several books of short stories. Many of these reflect the history, landscape, and personalities emerging from County Durham, where she has lived most of her life. In that time she has also travelled researched, written other novels set in London. Coventry and North Wales and far afield as Singapore, America, and France. Discover more about these novels on her blog at



See her essay about dancing the borders between fact and fiction, 






Wednesday, 20 April 2022

‘The unexamined life is not worth living.’ Plato. 'The Midnight Mannequins.'


 ‘The unexamined life is not worth living.’ Plato

I am aware that in the modern world an increasing range of people have heartfelt aspirations to write. However it might be the case that some people who have aspirations to write never quite manage  to examine their own life or the lives around them in the Platonic sense. Some people think that writing means ‘writing down’ as opposed to the reality of writing, which is observing, thinking and transforming their own experiences to make them universal and truly felt by the reader.

(Sadly at the present time some writing aspirations have been built around ideas of fame and fortune which is a false doorway into that precious room of writing.)

My admittedly long life in writing and publishing has been divided almost equally between writing and teaching in and out of schools and institutions. Then, after a number of published novels and short story collections,  this has inevitably culminated in more recent years in workshops and courses in the community, addressing the writing process.

And now I am reflecting on all the courses and workshops I have facilitated over this long time. I have the feeling now that many people who are not actually labelled ‘writer’ can indeed write and that some have a well-founded, deep desire to see their stories on the page. These are people of talent and persistence like Mike Daley who have developed their innate ability in the Platonic sense, to examine their own life and the lives of people around them.  

So I understand that many people who are not actually labelled ‘writer’ can indeed write and have a deep desire to see their words and creative perceptions on the page. In some cases these people have moved on towards publication. One of the pleasures of doing all this has been meeting people like Michael Daly, writer of The Midnight Mannequins.

Some years ago Mike came to one of my workshops and - if you like – ‘caught the bug’.  And so inevitably I have been thinking about these years of teaching as I read and enjoyed his new published volume of short stories The Midnight Mannequins. .

It seems to me that, in going through this process, Mike Daley has developed the complex literary ability to walk the line between memoir and story- a delicate process I have written about this elsewhere on this blog.

Mike certainly has had a life which is worth examining. His witty and confiding tone has the familiar literary ring of the Irish voice. Born in Roscommon, Ireland he came to Britain to join the RAF at the age of seventeen. After a successful career culminating in the role of Squadron Leader he left to become a university bursar in Durham city. In 1985 he was awarded an MBE for military service in and was awarded the freedom of the city of London.

Interestingly his fiction is not confined to any journalistic accounting of these experiences. The titles of his short stories will give you a clue. Besides The Midnight Mannequins, we have How Was Your Mother?, Jolly Good Show, The Price Tag, Love Letter, Lunch Without Laughter, The Book Club, Bed Seven, The Tea Dancers, The Defaced Fiver, and The Dance Band. All these stories lead the reader from one to another to explore the life experienced with weight, irony, and knowing allusions ensuring that good writing is the product from  unique ‘examined life’.

Read and enjoy! And – I would say this, wouldn’t I? 

To obtain it :


Saturday, 29 January 2022

THEFT: The Fifty-Year Novel.


THEFT: The Fifty-Year Novel.


I am so pleased to have found you after fifty years. You don't know me, but I would very much like to thank you for creating something a long time ago that has had a prescient influence on my life.’ .Richard Temple


It had been on my mind for many years that I should somehow try to get in touch and let you know how deeply Theft had reached into my imagination.’  Richard Temple. 

 I am embarking on a long post, I admit. But bear with me - there are two stories almost magically entwined here. I hope, though, as a reader or a writer this I will be worth your sustained attention.  


THEFT The Fifty Year Novel

Wendy’s Story

In 1972 Carousel, a branch of Transworld Publishing, published my very first novel THEFT.

At that time I was a young teacher with two children, managing a family and a house and a working husband. At that time I was writing, obeying the compulsion that had consumed me since I was eight years old. At that time - as well as changing my library book 5 times a week - I used to write my invented stories on A4 paper, then fold each story in half and stitch the spine with my mother’s big tacking needle. In some of these ‘books’ page I even pasted in a library marked up with dates of imaginary borrowers. (Then and always libraries were my heaven-sent place in a rather difficult young life.)

THEFT, written when I in my twenties, was longer than these home-made beauties and took some time to write. Then one night I was sitting in a group of women who were discussing an organisation called Books for Your Children – a group led by Anne Wood, another teacher emerging from South Durham. She happened to mention that some people were - even now! - writing for children. So I happened to say that I’d written one, for a start. She asked to read it and I willingly handed it over.

The next day she rang and said, ‘We’ll have it.’

Puzzled, I said, “Who? Who will have it?”

That was when she told me that she was newly appointed editor for Carousel, the new imprint launched by Transworld.

My daughter Debora, now very grown-up indeed, recently told me that she remembers the day when a box full of copies of THEFT arrived on our doorstep and how excited we all were to see these books with their wonderful cover spilling out of the box.

After that, as well as teaching and family et cetera, I produced several children’s and adult novels before I took the bull by the horns and designated myself a full time writer and proceeded to write more novels.  


THEFT is a story told using the context of my own South Durham working class life and family. Here on the blog you can see that that since the publication of Theft in 1972, alongside teaching in schools and later working in higher education I have written a good number of novels which celebrate my  own cultural context - I hope without stereotyping, romanticising  or denigrating that life and its values. This, I trust, ensured that at the core of all the novels are grains of fundamental truth which are the sign of good fiction and will be recognised by readers from widely different backgrounds – as turned out the case with Richard Temple. See his story below.

Quite an important point here is that, as well as my own South Durham setting, the novels are sometimes located in such far-flung places as Spain, Russia, Singapore, USA and of course - as with many migrant Durham families - locations such as Ireland Scotland and Wales. I grew up very keen on both travelling and researching. And in my fiction, characters are featured sometimes leaving and sometimes arriving in the north-east of England my heart’s home. Like THEFT these novels spring out of my identity as a South Durham person

And so now I have come to full circle. I have just completed the collection SIBLINGS – short stories of seven brothers and sisters living in just such as the location as the setting for THEFT. To my delight these stories were broadcast over Christmas Anne will be published as a book lateOr this year.


And now for the special reason for telling you this long story. I received a letter from a perfect stranger Richard Temple, who lives in London and is now retired from his job as a graphic designer at the BBC. He has his own story to tell about theft and its role in his quite long life.


Richard Temple’s Fifty Year Story of THEFT

Letter One:  Richard and Christine


Hello Wendy,

I am so pleased to have found you after fifty years. You don't know me, but I would very much like to thank you for creating something a long time ago that has had a prescient influence on my life.

I'm talking about your novel, THEFT.

I was about eleven when I read it. My mum was a good chooser of books and had bought it to keep me happy while I was recovering from mumps and very miserable about going away to a boarding school at the end of the summer holidays.

THEFT was so enthralling.  I loved every sentence.  I also loved the fact that the story-teller and main character was female.  Being a boy, I realised for the first time that girls liked a bit of excitement too and weren't really that different from me.  That, and the fact that a lot of the action was at night.

But I was transfixed by the setting, the rows of terraced houses in the North East, the curtain that was a kitchen door and the community spirit and the warmth of the mother telling the story.  It really had meaning for me and I understood it, even though I had a very different life myself.  I was a middle class child growing up in Cheltenham and went to boarding schools.

I read the book four or five times and took it away to school with me, so I could escape the rabble and travel away to the cobbled streets and night adventures somewhere warmer, in the emotional sense.  The illustrated cover was very good too.  The moonlit image stuck in my head and visualising it brought back the feelings and people inside the book for my entire life.

When I was twenty-two I went to London to work for the BBC.  My bedroom at home had been emptied by then and turned into a guest room.  All physical signs of my childhood existence had disappeared, along with my books, and that was that.

In London I met a girl.  She was a nurse from Gateshead.  It felt like we'd always known each other and after a few months I went up North to meet her family.  Until then I had not made the connection with Theft but I soon did.  My accent, the sense of being different and 'posh'.  But soon I realised that these people were warm, not hostile, they were tolerant and included everyone no matter how odd they might be, which was a far cry from my own world until then.

My girlfriend had grown up in a terraced house in a street just like the one in your book.  It was the 'sixties but even then there was no bath, no hot water, no heating apart from coal fires.  There was even a curtain across the doorway.  Her mam had worked in a shop.  Her dad was a train driver who had become ill with the coal dust and died far too young.  They had a cobbled street, strange gas-style street lights and even a pub on the corner like the one on the cover of Theft.

She was living there when I read the book and I can see her almost as if you had been writing about her.  I really felt as if I had entered into the book that had made such a strong and meaningful impression on me.  My girlfriend also had an older brother who had looked after her much of the time when they were growing up and they had near scrapes and similar tales to tell.

My Geordie girlfriend is now my wife and we have been together for thirty-five years.  I told her about your book early in our friendship.  One day my mother was emptying her loft and gave me a box that she had put all my books in years before.  To my joy, there was the moonlit street, the kids running for their lives and 'Theft' in rounded letters.

Christine - that's my wife - grabbed it and read it, and like me loved every bit of it.  The almost supernatural attraction it had for me when I was eleven is not lost on her and she finds it as strange as I do.

We settled in London but often go back to the North East.  Although in London, the house we live in is in a Victorian terraced street.  Sadly the cobbles went years ago, although there are some left along the gutters and in the lanes. Now Theft is kept above the fireplace in the bedroom and I would not be without it.

Thanks Wendy.



Richard Temple: Letter Two:

THEFT and Family Life.

Dear Wendy

I am bowled over and overwhelmed by your reply to my humble thank you, I really am.  I will follow your links and listen to the stories of Siblings.  I can't wait to hear it.

It had been on my mind for many years that I should somehow try to get in touch and let you know how deeply Theft had reached into my imagination.  It remained a 'should do' item on several lists until I was mildly unwell with covid last year and, lying in bed feeling miserable, raking over life in general, my eye fell on the spine of Theft.  I thought of you and realised this was my chance to do what I had always intended to do, but never had.  I reached for my tablet and started Googling and soon found your blog.  Obviously I found it fascinating and was even more delighted to see an email address.

How you have managed to accomplish so much is beyond me.  What an achievement.  All those books and everything else; truly amazing.

You were kind enough to say my story was beautifully told in a way that hinted that I might be a writer.  From you, that is indeed an accolade, probably the greatest compliment I've ever had.  I will have to let that sink in.  I've always been told I'm a writer, but I have never published a book, nor even reached the end of writing one.  I can write a chapter, but then I feel the need to get up and walk around and that's the end of it.  Ten minutes later I'm bored with that story and have a new idea for a different one. 

I am actually a graphic designer and worked for many years at Television Centre in Shepherd's Bush, London.  I'm more or less retired now, so maybe now is my moment to get writing.

I tried to keep my first letter to you a brief one although there are more strange parallels between Theft and my own world.  I mentioned my wife Christine, whose childhood felt so familiar.  Like you, she always enjoyed books and was the first ever in her family to get A-levels and then reach university.  She studied English Literature and our love of reading, especially modern poetry, brought us together.  Perhaps like you, judging from what you have said, education in all its forms has been her metier and she jumped across several unexpected stepping stones to eventually becoming a senior university lecturer.  She has always been totally confident about her childhood and proud of her home and her wise and clever parents who did not have the same opportunities.  I am proud of that too, although I can't claim any credit for it.

Thank goodness for education.  It really does transform and there is nothing better.  Although thinking about how easily I found your blog, the World Wide Web springs to mind as close second.  My son is in his second year at university and one of his lecturers made the point a few weeks ago that his generation of students is the first to enter university with no experience of the world without the internet.  That was quite a thought.  He has always used it to teach himself.


That brings me to the next thing I want to tell you.  Your daughter says that the books we encounter in childhood are transformative.  She is right.  I think they can be for adults too, but perhaps less subtly.  We read Theft to our son William several times when he was growing up.  He too loved it.  In terms of being transformative, it prompted wonderful discussions about his north-eastern heritage and he was fascinated to hear all about his mother's life in the terraced house in Gateshead that was so similar to the book's.  The concept of a house where children were bathed in the kitchen sink is a real one for him.  Those stories have made him, I am pleased to say, very realistic about education and how different life is for him as a result of it.  He's ambitious and interested in politics and that has a lot to do with your book.  So who knows how long and how far Theft might continue to work, its magic.

You have achieved so much, have so much to be proud of and that alone is an inspiration.  I too read The Secret Garden as a child and got a lot out of it, even though it terrified me.  I did also love the translated books of a French author, Paul Bernard.  They were often adventure stories about a group of kids set in France.  They gave me a life-long interest in France. The long roads, the empty countryside and the rambling, dilapidated villages where it's a good thing to sit with a Pernod, smoke Gauloises and contemplate nothing much, apart from life itself.




 Thank you Richard for giving me permission to print your story and for making this week so much brighter, Wendy.



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