Here in an irregular column, top-selling Welsh Valleys Humour author will share his experiences of writing and his experiences of the craft… take a seat in a comfortable chair with a lovely cup of tea and enjoy his wisdom and humour!
Table of Contents
December 2018: A momentary brush with Sci-Fi
I suppose it’s fair to say that I was rather an awkward child – if you asked my teachers, that is.
I grew up to be a scientist and I am a typical scientist, if you like – pragmatic, tunnel-vision, black is black, white is white and ne’er the twain.
One of my best friends, a Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry and Immunology once said: “Scientists do tend to be a bit reductionist, but it must be said Dai, you are by far the most extreme I’ve ever come across.”
Even though I ‘grew up’ to be a stuffy old scientist, to be honest I was like it as a child. It must have been a nightmare trying to teach me. Well, I was fine in science and maths but I refused point blank to participate in anything that involved fiction – in other words, reading novels, poems and Shakespeare for the English literature classes that I had to endure throughout my school years.
Even as a small child, pre-school age, I could never fully engage with the things that we were bombarded with by our parents, teachers, aunties and uncles, friends, older siblings, etc. – fairy tales, the tooth fairy, Easter bunny, father Christmas et al.
These just didn’t make sense to me, I couldn’t actually commit fully to any of them and would say things like,
“I don’t believe a word of it!”
“You must be joking, do you think I’d fall for that?”
“I’m not having that, you must think I was born under a banana boat, or something.”
As you can see I was not fully au fait with my idioms at this time.
But, enough of that. I entered school (in 1959) with the philosophy that I could not afford any time to listen to, read or watch anything that I knew had been ‘made up’ before I started. What’s the point? It’s not real. Why bother? And I managed to maintain that attitude right through school.
Let’s fast forward to late 2015. By this time I had a good career behind me and was winding up my employmentary (not a word, but should be) commitments. Also, by this time I was ‘scienced-up to the hilt’ and had maintained my existence in my fiction-free bubble very efficiently.
I was also a published author and had received great success and won a few awards for the material that I had penned since 2003. Thankfully, my work had been classified by, ‘them what know’ as ‘non-fiction.’ Phew!
One day, I opened an email from the Open University – I suppose it was one of those that would be classed as spam by most people, even me to be fair, but my attention was drawn to the word ‘FREE’ that appeared in the subject field.
The email was advertising free short courses which covered the whole spectrum of academia so, I decided to scroll through the list, you know, just to see if there was anything that caught my eye.
Something did catch my eye actually, a short course entitled; ‘Start Writing Fiction.’ I clicked on the link and waited with great expectation.
It told of a six to eight week course which prepared budding novelists to begin to start to pen the book that they had inside them. Everyone has one inside them, apparently.
I decided to investigate this course. Even though I was an established published author, the whole fiction genre was a completely unknown area for me. ‘Why not?’ I thought. “It’s free anyway. Go for it.”
It was certainly something that, over the years, I had received a lot of ‘stick’ over, you know, being a fiction-free zone and I have had strong words with a few people who decided that I needed to be taken to task over my choice of reading material.
One ex-colleague saw it as his life’s mission to educate me and wean me into the world of fantasy that he had occupied for most of his life. He was certainly the ‘bestest-read’ person that he could think of and for some reason saw it as a quality to become a bit of a snob about.
“I just can’t understand why you don’t read, Dai.” He used to say.
Well, contrary to popular belief (or his anyway) I do read – I pointed out that I’d read over 1,000 books. The difference between our reading material was, the stuff I read was real and the stuff he read was made up.
“You can’t have any imagination, Dai,” he used to say, “filling your head with fact after fact.”
I said, “My imagination is such that I do not need to kick-start it into action with the contents of someone else’s imagination.” He didn’t speak to me for weeks after that one.
Anyway, I digress. Back to the story.
The course was pretty straightforward to start with and continued in that fashion. We (the learners and my peers) were given short passages of text that had been written by well known writers and they asked ‘us’ to critique each passage along the lines of:
“How has the author created tension here?”
“How do you think the main character is feeling at the moment? How good a picture has the writer painted about her dilemma.”
“The author has used very short, succinct and ‘punchy’ sentences here. “Why?”
And so on.
As the weeks went on, we were asked to critique our peers’ critiques of the same passages as gradually they taught us how to judge writers’ worth and to how express our thoughts and feelings using the written word.
The end of the course required ‘us’ to produce our own piece of writing and post it for our peers to critique using our newly acquired critiquing skills.
I think we had to write 1,000 – 1,500 words and I began to ponder what to write.
Fiction was a new thing for me. I hadn’t read any. What does it look like on the page? Arrggghhh!
I finally decided to explore science fiction – I mean, I’m a scientist aren’t I. I had always regarded the term ‘Science Fiction’ as an oxymoron. If it’s fiction, it can’t be scientific and if it’s scientific, it’s got to be fact, hasn’t it? I thought I’d explore that concept and see what happened. One thing I had to be vigilant about though, I had to make sure that any science in my passage would have to be correct. I didn’t want someone like me getting in touch and saying,
“Oi, you can’t say that! That’s nonsense, scientifically flawed. That could never happen. Philistine!”
So that was it then. A short piece of ‘correct’ sci-fi compacted into 1,000 words (always take the shortest option) and posted it up for vetting by the other people on the course.
I wrote a short passage concerning a person who was in a very dark place sometime into the future and things looked to be getting worse for him. At this point, I introduced another character and that, basically, was that. I entitled it, ‘Made for Each Other,’ posted it and awaited feedback.
I made sure that I encapsulated everything I wanted to do to create a mini-story, or at least a hint of a story within the constraints of the 1,000 word target that I had set myself.
I was quite shocked at the feedback that I got from my peers.
“Wow! That is brilliant. I’m hooked. Will you please post the rest of it?”
“Please, please, please can I see the rest of your novel. It’s very intriguing.”
“This is a monster. Are you going to get it published? Can’t wait.”
Hastily, I posted:
“Sorry everyone. I don’t have a story to tell. This was a stand alone piece of writing done purely to complete the course. I won’t be continuing with this but thanks for your kind words – very encouraging.”
I didn’t visit the site after that.
A few weeks later, I mentioned it to a friend who is a sci-fi guru and avid reader in that genre (two to three novels a week) and he asked me if I would show it to him. We worked in the same place so I emailed the story ‘upstairs.’
He was very complimentary and said that I should ‘finish it’. He told me he was going to nag me until I did.
Well, I get enough nagging at home and I didn’t want it in the workplace as well so I said I’d consider it – to appease him to be honest, I never really meant it. I mean, I didn’t have a story. That was the reality of the matter!
The next day, over coffee, I came clean and told him that I would not be continuing with ‘Made for Each Other.’ He ignored that and said, “The first thing you need to do is lose the title. Most writers decide on a title when their work is finished. You have two characters here and the inference here is that they’re going to end up together- it’s a bit cheesy. Your readers are going to expect a relationship. This expectation may put people off reading it.”
He suggested that I called my original 1,000 word piece ‘Chapter One’ and continue from there. He challenged me to write chapter two that evening and email it to him in the morning and he’d give me feedback on it. He also said that he would give me some words or phrases that he wanted incorporated into the story, just to see what happened. I can’t remember them all at the moment, but, the one that comes to mind at the time I am writing this was, ‘butter beans’. Very sci-fi I know, butter beans, but all the words and phrases that he gave me were just as random.
As things worked out, I ended up writing a chapter a night and emailed it to him every morning. When I got his emailed feedback, plus the obligatory random word/phrase, I had my task for that evening.
I also decided to keep the title and try to make it fit – as a challenge to myself.
After a while and, although I didn’t know it at the time, ‘twas about half way through the novel, my colleague said, “This is like nothing I’ve ever read before. It’s so diverse. Random. Bonkers, even. You’re a good way into this story I have absolutely no idea which way it is heading.”
I had to admit, “Well, if it’s any consolation to you, I don’t know either!”
Anyway, 33 working days later (I didn’t do it on weekends) I decided to wrap up the story very abruptly and made chapter thirty four the end of it. When I put the final full stop I was quite pleased that I had done it. It was a challenge to myself. I mean, I’m a fiction-free zone, aren’t I?
My colleague then decided to ask me to finish it. I told him it was finished; I wasn’t going to add to it.
He said that the end, if I was going to leave it at that, was typical of the rest of it. It was difficult to tell what was going to happen next – and when whatever did happen, it would be totally removed from what had gone on before it – but it worked. Continuity was sound and it actually fitted together as a story – despite the random words/phrases that he had chucked in. His view was that this piece of work was unique.
I was pleased when he said that he had not read anything like it before, but, not surprised really. I had no grounding in Sci-Fi and so I didn’t know how it looked on paper (does that make sense?) or how it was presented. I certainly wouldn’t have adopted another writer’s style as I hadn’t read anything by anyone else, I would have nothing to base my story on apart from whatever came into my head during those 33 evenings when I tapped away on my PC.
I gave it to some other seasoned Sci-Fi buffs to get a view from them to see how it sat in the genre – was it up to it? Is it good enough? Should I shelve it? Suggestions?
All feedback was good – the work sat well within the genre and was as good as some of the published material that was ‘on the shelves’. Although, one guy came back and said “Actually, this is not ‘Sci-Fi’, it’s ‘Dark Fantasy’.”
Well, that was a genre I’d never heard of before, or since for that matter. I wasn’t even sure what Sci-Fi was until I wrote the book and I’m still not sure I am now, so I decided that I wasn’t going to explore the ‘Dark Fantasy’ route, and still haven’t.
So, will it ever adorn the shelves of Waterstones or WH Smith’s? I don’t know. I haven’t done anything with it since the initial flurry of interest. I did mention it to my publisher and they don’t consider Sci-Fi for inclusion on their booklist.
I suppose I will experience a rush of enthusiasm some time in the future, which is usual for me, when it becomes high profile in my mind for a few weeks and then wane into obscurity – like the series of screenplays that I wrote in the mid 90s based in the Welsh valleys that I also shelved.
Screenplays? That’s another story.
Chapter One of ‘Made For Each Other’
He stood before a blank wall gazing at his muted reflection in the dull metal.
‘Enter!’ instructed a warm female voice. He became aware of a small aperture opening at chest height which silently and rapidly expanded until it was large enough for him to step through. He didn’t really want to be there. He didn’t know what to expect, but he was sure that, whatever the reason he had been summoned, it would be bad news.
He looked into a room that was quite bland and brightly lit. Walls, ceiling and floor merged seamlessly into an off-white, slightly shimmering void where two flat angular vivid blue shapes seemed to float in the otherwise featureless space. The larger and higher one he knew as a table, and on it a blank clear glass screen; the smaller one with two flat planes at right angles to each other was, he recalled, a seat. His parents had similar furniture in their living cell with shelves and couches, too, made of the same field controlled material.
Vertigo, and a slight feeling of nausea as he stepped over the threshold, and relief as a hesitant foot met the solid surface of the floor.
He advanced to the table and touched the seat with his right hand. He touched seat with his left hand. He sat, felt the momentary give until the field adjusted to the new weight, and looked around. He tapped his left foot four times. He tapped his right foot four times.
“David. N456D19C. The council has completed the assessment and their findings will be relayed to you now.”
David looked around. The same warm female voice, but where did the voice come from? Not the screen as the voice filled the air defying his attempt to establish its direction. He was alone. Who said that?
He swung round and surveyed the featureless room. No, there was definitely nobody else there.
“David. N456D19C. The council has completed the assessment and the findings will now be relayed to you.” Same pitch; same timbre.
“Hello?” said David.
“David. N456D19C. You have acknowledged your presence by speaking. Please confirm that you are David. N456D19C”
Still looking around, David replied, “David is my name. The N456 … thing, er, sounds right. Can’t be sure, I did know it when I was a kid. Knew it by heart when I attended Education, but that was years ago.”
“Voice recognition confirms that you are “David. N456D19C. Findings will begin. If you do not understand, you can speak to a mentor who will explain things fully, if you request it. The findings are final and are not negotiable. We are required by GM to give you this option, it is not compulsory, but citizens in similar positions have utilised counselling from mentors.”
“Before we start,” David began.
“This is not a discussion. The purpose of speaking to you today is to give you information only. It is not interactive. Once the information has been passed to you, the findings will be carried out. There will be a brief interim following this session where you may liaise with a mentor who will be skilled at dealing with people in your position. The meeting with your mentor will be for clarification purposes only. Whatever is discussed with your mentor will neither affect, nor delay your fate and the way in which it is implemented.”
“How do I get in touch with …..” David began. The voice interrupted.
“David. N456D19C. The council has completed the assessment and the findings will now be relayed to you. The cause of your parents’ deaths has been attributed to the virus EN17 class, BBR65RT strain. That is confirmed. You have no trace of the infection. That is confirmed. Your status was, and remains; ‘Cosseted’. This status is unacceptable. Your psychological assessments have been examined and your Aspergian condition confirmed. This condition has remained unchanged since the initial statement allocated to you when you were seven years old.
As a Cosset and an Aspergian, you do not have the social skills to contribute to GM and as you are unaffected by any strain of EN17 class virus, your death is not imminent. You are 37 years old on this day and this could mean that you could live for another 75 to 80 years. GM has assessed the scope for contribution from you until your death, assuming that you reach life expectancy, and a negative value has been returned.
As you have not committed any crimes, controlled termination will not be considered. Instead you will experience a Humane Level 7 Extradition which is the most appropriate course of action after taking all factors in your case into account.
The information has now been relayed and you will soon be offered counselling. You must state whether you would like counselling when offered. If you do not, Humane Level 7 Extradition will commence immediately.”
David sat and wondered about the meaning of the message he’d received. What now? He would like to know exactly what the message meant. Did he have to apply for an appointment with a counsellor? Was that information in the message? Did he miss it?
Humane Level 7 Extradition was it? What does that mean?
He turned to his right. Standing by his side was a pretty lady. She was quite short, had long dark hair and a welcoming smile. David nodded.
“I am Natalie. I am a trained counsellor and mentor. I have expertise in Cossets, Aspergians and Humane Extraditions, Levels 3 to 7. Is there anything you’d like to discuss?”
“Yes,” said David, “there is something I’d like to discuss.”
February 2018: How I Became an Author
In truth, the only reason that I became an author is entirely due to the support and encouragement from Ronnie Barker– coupled with a huge fluke. While working for a company in Newport that threw together a workforce from Bristol, Newport, Cardiff, Valleys, Barry and Swansea, I used to write down the sayings that people came out with on my office desk pad. Mainly to remember them, but also to use as ammunition in the constant banter that flew around the place each day. I became known as the scribe and/or clecker (note: clecs is Welsh for to gossip) and people would report back to me if they heard something that warranted being logged. So, I was getting quotes from conversations that I wasn’t even a part of.
Because of my raised awareness and interest in this ‘study’ it extended beyond work and I’d come home from the pub with a pocketful of fag packets and beer-mats with phrases scribbled on them. I added those to my desk pad in work. Soon the desk pad was full so I ordered an indexed book from stationery and transferred the contents of the desk-pad into it. It was then that the ‘Silly Sayings Book’ was born. I still have this original handwritten version.
There was a lot of interest in the ‘Silly Sayings Book’ and I started to lend it out and word got around that it was a fantastic read. People would ‘report’ things to me that they’d heard in the pub, at home or from their own workplaces and it almost became a full time job entering these into the ‘book’. Very often I would get up in the morning and find ‘quotes’ scribbled on beer mats and scraps of paper that had been hand-delivered by folk on their way home, gleaned from wherever they’d been the previous evening.
I began to word process the sayings and this became the master document and, sadly, the original handwritten book became redundant. When printed I realised that I had amassed about 300 A4 pages of one-liners. A lot, in other words and, in fairness, they were all malapropisms. When my loaned copies of the ‘Silly Sayings Book’ were returned my readership regularly urged me to get it published and after a while I thought that it would be worth a punt.
I researched a few publishing houses and began the exercise that thousands of unpublished authors have done for years – started to send them off in the hope that one of them would take a chance on my manuscript. The manuscript was hardly presentable as it was just a package of one-line quotes. After about a year of submitting this manuscript I had a drawer full of rejection slips – the feedback was fairly standard. It was encouraging in one way as they all commented on how good the material was, but, it was just a long list and not publishable in that format. I was pretty clueless at that time how to modify it to make it more attractive to a publisher so I shelved the idea and stopped submitting it.
A few months after shelving the project I saw a programme on Ronnie Barker and was interested to hear him say that he was a fan of words, and in particular the way that words were being used wrongly. It struck me that my manuscript would be right up his street. I had decided that my publishing dream was over and I no longer had any use for the manuscript so I thought that he might like to read it. I posted it to him at Mr Ronnie Barker, c/o BBC, BBC Television Centre, London. My view was that if it gave him a giggle, I would be happy to have supplied it. I had no idea if it would get to him – but it turned out that it did.
About a month after posting the work, I got a call at 6:50am on a Sunday. I answered the telephone whilst waving to my missus in an attempt to get her to cease shouting, “Who the hell is ringing us at ten to seven on a Sunday morning!”. It was only Ronnie Barker. He thanked me for thinking of him and for sending him such a fantastic piece of work. He apologised for taking so long to reply, but he’d read the whole thing three times and loved it.
We talked for about an hour about its content and we went through his list of favourites that he had compiled from my master copy. He asked me for permission to use some of the material in his after dinner speeches, as at that time he had retired from comedy and was running an antique shop in Banbury. He did the occasional appearances and speeches and thought some of my quotations would go down well. Of course, I agreed and he thanked me once again for sending the material to him.
I then had to go through the whole thing with my missus who was not 100% convinced that it was actually THE Ronnie Barker, as I hadn’t told her that I had sent the script to him. During my explanation the phone rang again, and she answered this time. It was Ronnie Barker again. My missus handed the phone to me and she began bouncing around the house, punching the air as if she’d just scored the winning goal in an FA Cup final!
This time Ronnie asked me if the work was published. I told him it wasn’t and he told me that I must get it published – it needed to be ‘out there’ for people to see, It was too good, he said, to be sitting in a drawer. He told me that the main reason that I should get it published was because he wanted to write the foreward for it as he was so passionate about the work he wanted to have a connection with it. He told me to tell publishers of his involvement as a selling point and that he would be writing the foreward if accepted. His view was that this may tip the balance in my favour with any publishers who couldn’t quite decide whether to go along with the proposition or not. The only thing that he said he wanted in return was a signed copy from me.
I started negotiating with the publisher Y Lolfa about the new project (including the promise from Ronnie Barker) and the dilemma was still the fact that it was just one big list. We decided that I would try to get a high profile Welsh comedian on board to produce some humorous chunks of prose to just ‘break up’ the list to make it more readable. The idea was to market the book as the Celeb’s Book of Silly Sayings with myself being credited as being a collaborator as, realistically; I was unknown and not a selling point.
After discussions with a few celebs, it was clear that I was not going to get anyone on board and I went back to Y Lolfa to say that the project was probably dead in the water as I could not rustle up a big name. Lefi Gruffudd, Y Lolfa’s Commissioning Editor, suggested that I wrote the chunks of prose myself and submit it just so that they could evaluate it. I asked Lefi to give me an approximate word count to aim at and agreed to ‘have a go’.
I was at a loss to think of a topic to write about, initially, to complement a list of malapropisms which was, really, the theme of the book. I decided to write about life in a south east Wales valley –demography, attitudes, personalities and the language we used. Strangely, there were no references at all to valleys language in the manuscript because I and the people who had contributed to the compilation of malapropisms all spoke the same version of non-standard valleys English so nobody had ever highlighted it to such an extent that it warranted inclusion into the ‘Silly Sayings Book’.
I constructed about as much as I could bring to mind on the language (which I called ‘Valleyspeak’ as a working title) and then penned some jokes with a strong Welsh slant. I checked the word count and revisited the original manuscript and copied and pasted just over two and a half pages (randomly selected) into the Valleyspeak book. This brought the word count up to the required number and I emailed it as it was to Lefi with questions such as: Do you like the style, am I producing what you expected, shall I change direction, are there any bits to be omitted and would you like me to enlarge on any sections? Two days later Lefi emailed back with a simple: “We’ll publish as it is.”
I was dumbfounded. Suddenly, I was an author. I’d heard of the trials and tribulations that prospective authors go through, years and years of submissions and rejections – and there’s me, accepted straight away following a tentative submission of my first real attempt at a structured piece of work which contained less than 1% of the material that was originally supposed to be the theme of the book. I calculated that, in its entirety, it took just under 15 hours to produce the complementary text for the book. I hadn’t even proof read it! Ronnie Barker was also genuinely thrilled that I had managed it. I sent him his signed copy too!
The book was called Welsh Valleys Humour and it headed the Welsh Books Council’s bestsellers list for 7 months. It always outsells all of my other books on a yearly basis and in 2005 I won the Welsh Books Council’s Award for Best Selling non-fiction. A reader friend has told me that Welsh Valleys Humour has headed the Gwales bestsellers list every year since 2005 to 2017 for the period covering Christmas sales.
Starting the ‘What’s On In Cwmcarn’ newsletter
About 12 months before I secured the publishing contract with Y Lolfa, I bumped into a friend’s wife– my friend had been admitted to Royal Gwent Hospital with a serious illness. I asked her how he was and she said he was bored, so could I send something down to cheer him up?
I wrote a long ‘nonsense letter’ and gave it to his wife to take to the Royal Gwent and give it to him. Somewhere in the letter I said that I had been writing a newsletter entitled What’s On In Cwmcarn– I had been doing it for two weeks and so far every issue had just been a plain piece of paper with the words, “Fuck All!” written on it. One evening I was a bit bored so I decided to actually write an issue of What’s On In Cwmcarn which was a list of spoof news stories that were ‘daft’.
Feedback from the hospital was good- it was passed around the ward. The nurses and doctors read it and passed it to different wards. My friend also showed it to other friends who visited him and they contacted me and asked for a copy. The following week I wrote a follow up and sent it to the Royal Gwent with his wife and emailed the second issue to the friends who had requested the first one. I wrote an issue for the 10 weeks that he was incarcerated; when he came home I stopped writing the newsletter.
I began receiving emails from people on the mailing list saying things like: “Oi, where’s my newsletter? I haven’t had one yet this week.” I explained that I had stopped because the reason that I had started doing it had ceased – my friend was out of hospital. They insisted that that was no reason to stop producing it and persuaded me to carry on. I reluctantly agreed.
By this time I had showed a few people at the college I was working in and it was being emailed internally around most of the staff who knew me. They were then emailing it to their associates both within the college and outside. I used to email it to about a dozen people not cobbected to the college and they were also passing it on to people that they knew. I am aware that one person that was on my email list worked in a tower block in Surrey and he emailed it globally to everyone in the building (that was 3000+ people). I had a massive readership, bigger than I could have imagined.
Returning to the main story- Ronnie Barker got back in touch about a week after receiving his signed copy with feedback on the book. I was expecting him to be unhappy because I’d used so little of the material he’d seen and the final book contained mostly prose ‘knocked up’ very quickly by me! He had never seen this. He was very complimentary and told me that he hadn’t realised that I was such a talented and accomplished writer. Neither had I! Apart from scientific essays and papers it was the first non-serious stuff I’d written.
He asked me to send him something else that I had written, but I didn’t have anything apart from the What’s On In Cwmcarn newsletter so I copied and pasted some examples of past issues into a word document and posted it to him and added him to my mailing list. He absolutely loved the newsletter and he used to ring me to discuss his favourites from each week’s issues.
Once he said: “Does Cwmcarn actually exist?”
I said: “Yes, it’s where I live.”
He said: “In that case I must visit. I am fascinated by Cwmcarn and I have this mental picture of it. I have to see what it’s really like.”
After a few weeks he asked me if I would like to submit some of the ‘stories’ from the newsletter for inclusion into the Two Ronnies end of show ‘newsdesk’ section- he even suggested which ones to submit. I agreed, obviously, and collected a few hundred stories from back issues, including the ones that he’d requested and began to compile a submission letter. The Two Ronnies had made a comeback and they had just aired what was to be their final show. They were going to make one more series and my stories, hopefully, would feature in that one.
Sadly, Ronnie Barker was visibly infirm during the filming of the last series that was aired and following that, his health deteriorated very quickly and he passed away. The official ‘last show’ never happened- and he hadn’t actually visited Cwmcarn either, which was a pity because I knew he genuinely wanted to come.
When Y Lolfa approached me for a new book I suggested that I used the bank of stories that I had supplied to Ronnie Barker. Lefi was on the mailing list for the What’s On In Cwmcarn newsletter so he was aware of the kind on material that it would contain.
The problem, again, was how to present it because, like the ‘Silly Sayings Book’ manuscript it was a huge list of unconnected spoof news stories. After a lot of huffing and puffing, I decided to create a scenario whereby an archaeologist, way into the future, acquires an archive of the What’s On In Cwmcarn newsletter and studies it in depth.
The story involves this archaeologist trying to make sense of something that never made sense in the first place. He reads a batch of stories and then comments on what each may mean – when he has completed one batch, he moves onto the next batch, and so on. If I had to choose which of my books was my personal favourite, it would be this one. It is entitled Cwmtwp and it involved me doing a find and replace exercise on the main script and changing the word Cwmcarn to Cwmtwp- mainly because I still live in Cwmcarn.
I mentioned earlier that I was shocked at the extent of my readership for the newsletter; when I finally got fed up with writing it I decided to call it a day. The last one that I penned was entitled The Last Issue and I emailed it out to the usual suspects. After two hours of this posting, I received an email a reader in West Sussex with the message: “Well I don’t know you are but thanks for keeping us amused over the last eighteen months.”
I received close on two hundred emails over the next week or so from people hailing from the UK, USA, Canada, Norway, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, all thanking me for writing the newsletter and how much they would miss it.
Two odd stories
One of the people I emailed the newsletter to had a best friend who was the Chief Constable of Gwent Police, and my friend would forward the newsletter to him each week. One of the recurring characters in the newsletter was called Sergeant Hogg, the chief of police in Cwmcarn. I didn’t depict him very favourably – he was corrupt, uncouth and every time he made a statement, they were made from the cake shop, the chip shop, the canteen etc.
My friend told me that the actual chief of police was a huge fan of Sergeant Hogg and couldn’t wait to see what he had been up to this week? My friend also told me that when the Chief had finished the newsletter, he’d highlight the Sgt Hogg story and pin the newsletter on the central notice board at police headquarters. It seemed that all of the officers at Gwent Police who frequented Police HQ were also fans of Sergeant Hogg. I was always intrigued why they would like him- I didn’t.
One of my colleagues had a friend who was in the RAF. He told me a very sinister ‘newsletter related’ story. Apparently, his friend was in an aeroplane flying over Iraq during the Gulf War days and they were actually in the process of bombing Baghdad. I can’t remember how many my friend told me were in the plane but during the process of bombing people they were all laughing out loud because one of the airmen in the plane was reading out the latest newsletter to them from a laptop! What a sobering thought.
The original ‘Silly Sayings’ book: