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I have for many years loathed the authors of boy’s stories, and non more so than G.A. Henty who wrote the most glorious nonsense about adventurous young men and the apparently splendid adventures they got up to.
So it was, when I reached the ripe age of thirteen and my parents asked me what I intended to do with my life, even I realised that the Wild West and a Colt cap-and-ball revolver were both past their expiry dates, and plumped instead for a life at sea.
I wonder how many other lads found themselves by reason of boyhood reading in a profession which was neither romantic nor exciting other than when matters went awry, and entirely unsuited to a young fellow with a romantic imagination and no common sense whatsoever? Er, yes, I do refer to myself.
I went into a nautical training college, the General Botha, and after graduating joined a British Shipping Company as an apprentice; subsequently obtaining a Second Mate's ticket in London in 1955. I then helped deliver a ship to New Zealand and remained ten years on the NZ Coast where I learned some mighty useful practical seamanship in somewhat primitive conditions, and passed examinations for a Foreign Going Mate's certificate with a Home Trade Master's endorsement.
The necessary foreign-going sea time to qualify for a Master ticket was very hard to come by in NZ, so I went out to the China Coast in 1965, and had some adventurous if not always pleasant times in tramp ships where the seamanship learned in NZ proved a blessing. After gaining my FG Master's ticket I remained in Hong Kong for ten years, working at first for local shipping firms, then for the Marine Department, later working five years as a Marine Surveyor.
Much of the remainder of my time was less exciting. I was ashore in Bushire handling cargo for the nuclear power plant site when the Iranian revolution broke out in late '78. I was ambushed and stoned during the kerfuffle but escaped if not with much dignity, at least with my life and a busted head.
Presently retired and writing fiction, something I should have done from the beginning. It does take we fools a while to sort out our priorities.
Moral of all this is, if you wish to write, go to university, where, with luck, you might find somebody wise enough to teach you how to do this. Adventures may provide the material, but not the skill to set it down in writing.
on June 24, 2010 :
Flights of Fancy cries out for a live stage production. It is peopled with colourful characters. Who wouold not recognise Ffoulks in many of today's Robber Barons? Cleverly written.
(reviewed the day of purchase)