The Old Time
The Old Time
Perfect Bound Softcover
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About the Book

My generation was the last to grow up without television. Life was different then, and that eventually led me to the title, The Old Time.

I was lucky enough to grow up in a beautiful part of the Chiltern Hills in Buckinghamshire, and went to the primary school in West Wycombe, situated at the bottom of West Wycombe Hill, with the Hell Fire caves at the back and the Dashwood mausoleum on top next to the church with the famous golden ball.

At the end of my road were the meadows and woods where I spent all my time playing out. I have vivid memories of those days and my adolescence (there were no teenagers then, remember), and also of the schools I went to, and the teachers who made such impressions on us.

But this is not a book of memories. It is a loving recreation of countless funny and vexatious experiences that I had with friends and playmates. We had real childhoods then, and I have tried to recreate that world, to make it come alive, like shoes to walk around in.

It is often said of first novels that they are thinly-disguised autobiographies. The Old Time is a thinly-disguised autobiography which has a lot of the characteristics of a first novel.

Some unfunny people I know have said that the book made them laugh. It is hilarious in places, but it is also deadly serious. I am creating the 1950s from a very personal perspective. It's an emotional world I want the reader to enter and get absorbed by. This is not Sociology. This is how it felt.

Preview coming soon.

I am not important. The book is important. Let me tell you how it came about.

I lived for a year in El Salvador when the war broke out into the open, 1989-1990, and one Saturday I went out for a run through the villages on the slopes of the San Salvador volcano.

It was a wonderful day and I came back thrilled that I had been out for so long and had had such a good run. I felt so healthy. I had a shower and sat on the sofa. I felt very calm and peaceful.

All of a sudden an idea came into my mind about an old man reminiscing to his grandchildren about the wonderful things that had happened to him in his life, and especially his childhood, which bore, I have to say, an uncanny resemblance to my own. I could see the ending where the old man takes the grandchildren down to the bottom of the garden at four o' clock in the morning to see the urban foxes that wandered around at that time, which was an echo of my experience in Birmingham before I had come to Salvador.

Luckily there was nobody in the house. I went into my little room where I had an electronic typewriter set up (no computers then) and for four hours without a break I wrote down the old man's story as though it were being dictated to me.

Later, I fiddled around with it, blowing up a few sections here and there and adding a few scenes.

The story grew. It was getting long for a children's book, but I knew that I could sort that out later.

Two years afterwards, back in England again, as I was adding a few early scenes to the old man's life, I suddenly realized that I wasn't writing a children's book at all. It was my book. It was about my childhood, not his, not this imaginary narrator's. It was about the nineteen fifties. It was about the world I had grown up in. There would be no foxes, no grandchildren. No great 'wisdom' would come out of it.

Instead there was a much more difficult and demanding task, which was, in effect, to start over and recast everything in another light. That's when the going got rough.

The Old Time is the outcome. I commend it to you.

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