A Caterer turned Writer … of sorts.

For nearly fifty years I have been in the catering industry; I went to catering college in Chichester, from there I went to London, cheffed in a French restaurant in Battersea, ran a theme pub, a Kings Road American Bar and Grill, and an historic wine bar in Fleet Street, ending up owning sandwich shops in the City of London and a posh sausage business in Kent.

After an horrendous car accident where I incurred injuries to all my extremities (except my head – thank God) I started writing during the eighteen months recuperating and getting glued back together. 

My Injuries were a result of a young man falling asleep at the wheel whilst driving back from stacking shelves overnight at a supermarket in Uckfield, East Sussex. He crashed, nearly head on, into my sausage van at speed. I was on my way to the sausage factory in Ringmer, near Lewes, to pick up designer sausages for my sausage shops. The ‘youth’ in an orange Austin Metro (of all cars, not a Range Rover or a Mercedes, but a bloody Metro) only suffered a broken leg!! I was cut out of my van by the fire brigade and was flown to a hospital in Eastbourne by the Kent Air Ambulance. Unfortunately, I was out for the count, something sprung a leak in my leg, and was unable to enjoy the ride.

My father, a solicitor, advised me to write down everything that happened to me, so as to be able to use it when we sue for damages and loss of earnings. So, armed with a laptop and absolutely no writing experience whatsoever, I wrote about my experiences in the hospital. When my mother came to visit me in hospital, she read the pages I had written.

“This is very boring, darling.” She said, “those insurance people will not enjoy reading this at all! Why don’t you make it juicier, put some vim in it, exaggerate the injuries to your poor broken legs and arm.”

“I can’t fib, mum,” I pointed out, “I must just put down what is broken and how it is mending.”

She did not listen to me, “You must tell them how awful it is for you, your family, and that your business is suffering dreadfully. Write about these charming nurses and all those nice doctors who are mending you.”

So, I put some ‘vim’ into the writing and enjoyed it. It was heavily edited by my wife, Pippa, and – unavoidably – by my mother.

The experience in writing the account of my recovery got me thinking about writing. My younger brother Ben is an accomplished writer of non-fiction – mainly – and novels, mostly heavily researched, historical, and read by scholars and clever people all over the world. I was never going to be able to compete with that. 

I thought about children’s books: My Godmother, Shirley Hughes CBE, was an immensely successful children’s book author and illustrator, working up to her death at the age of 94. But I am sure I could never create anything in that very competitive world. Anyway, I am not especially fond of children (except my granddaughter).

So, I decided to write novels on a subject I enjoy reading about in novels, in a way that is entertaining for people like me, who find reading challenging, who enjoy fast-paced plots and nothing too complicated … easy reading. I have not attended any writing classes or groups, and am too lazy to read ‘Writing Novels for Dummies’ books (see my blog ‘Are You a Lazy Reader?’), I am trusting that I have written books exactly what people like me would like to read. And, I should hasten to add the services of a very good, and helpful editor. Also, it seems, the books I like to read are very successful and commercial, so my books may be the same!

I enjoy reading my books! I know that is a pretty arrogant admission, but after writing the novels, I have to read and self-edit them. I go through each time at least twice – tweak a plot here, develop a character there – then the manuscript is professionally ‘developmentally edited’, then ‘line edited’ and then ‘proofread’, at each stage, it comes back to me to re-write or review the plotline or check I’ve got a dates right. I was once told by the editor, I had to re-write a love scene as it was a bit too pornographic and – I was informed – I should never use the word ‘moist’ in a love scene!  If I did not like reading my books over and over again, I don’t think I would ever get them published! 

So, why don’t you write about restaurants or wine bars, cooking and/or eating, I hear you ask? The answer … I don’t know why I have not written – yet – about something I know a lot about. We have just retired after running a B&B for twenty years in Cornwall, the stories I could tell … Watch this space!

If you are interested, the book I wrote about my recovery is called ‘Crippled: A life changing memoir’ and is an eBook on Amazon. 


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