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Recycling, jazz and a Cat-as-strophe
So what did you achieve during lockdown? John Biggs finally got round to book writing
When I left school in 1959 I started a six year apprenticeship as a letterpress printer. Probably the nearest thing I could find to satisfy my desire to do something artistic.
As a young lad I had the desire to one day write and print my own book but never really had the confidence or the time.
After starting my own business, working ridiculous hours and driving about 50,000 miles a year I decided that at 50 years of age in 1994 it was time to cut my hours to three and a half days a week and enjoy some leisure time.
My wife, Jane worked three days a week but not always on the same day so, at that time, living in a quite village I had time to enjoy my favourite hobby of daydreaming.
My thoughts turned to my father in law, Reginald Harry Coltman, a working class chap who had worked down the mines during the war, been a dustbin man and latterly an engineers’ labourer. He had two passions, a bike that his mother bought him when he was 15 years old which he rode around the pubs of east Leicestershire well into his late 80s and music, jazz and swing for which he had acquired a wardrobe full of old 78rpm records.
He didn’t have a great education but read every book he could find in the local library on the subject and listened to every radio programme about it and became a
fount of knowledge about his chosen music genre.
After becoming a widower later in life he continued his labouring job part time, downed a few pints at the local pub in the afternoon and listened to his old records in the evening on his Dansette record player whilst enjoying a couple of whiskies.
His doctor advised him that if he didn’t give up drinking it would kill him. His response was that he would cut it down gradually over the next ten years. He only got to 92!
It started me thinking about what he would love to have done and what would have been his dream adventure had he always been single and more adventurous so with nothing better to do I started typing up a story on my portable Olivetti.
Having written it and no longer having the facilities to print it, I dumped it in a cupboard and forgot about it.
Then 25 years later, just before covid struck my friend Gill told me about a book her daughter had written and published and I told her about the story I had written.
“Why don’t you re-do it on your laptop?” She said.
“You must be joking” I said. I am too busy practicing my French with you and playing golf!
But then what happened? Lockdown and I started thinking about what Gill had said.
My wife Jane actually got to enjoy looking at my back while I typed away,
revising and adding to my story until finally I resurfaced and passed it on to her to read.
It only took me another 61 years and a pandemic to achieve my boyhood dream but by then I had to print it off from my computer rather than by my chosen craft.
My proud achievement resided in my bookcase until another lady friend, (I have a few of them) suggested that I could publish it on Amazon.
It wasn’t that difficult and suddenly, there in my hand was my properly printed book, Tether’s End.
One of the things Jane and I can’t stand is twee endings so hopefully my story finished with a bit of a surprise.
Christmas presents were sorted as I dumped copies on my friends and family but then our niece said that there had to be a sequel.
Apart from another short story that I had written all those years ago I thought that my writing days were over. But then what happened? Another lockdown and I came up with the ideas for Tether’s End Part 2, A star is born. Followed by some more short stories to add to my other one and published that as Cat-as-trophe!
My great uncle was a chap named W.W. Jacobs who was a very successful author in the 1930s. Probably his best known story being The Monkey’s Paw and whilst I know that I will never achieve his fame and fortune I do feel that my time in lockdown has not been wasted.
Illustration: Sherry Tolputt

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