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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