About Simon

I was born and raised in the Bloomsbury part of London just round the corner from General Eisenhower’s underground HQ. Bloomsbury was famous in the early part of the 20th century for a bunch of people known as the “Bloomsbury Set”. I have never read any of their novels and they won’t read mine because they are all dead.

Just short of my third birthday, on Palm Sunday 1945, the last V2 rocket to land in London fell about a hundred yards away and demolished Whitefield’s Congregational Church. I was asleep when the rocket landed. Although it blew the glass out of my bedroom window, it didn’t bother me because I was dreaming — about what I know not. Sadly, I was too young to be dreaming about Betty Grable.

My grandparents were 4 out of 38 or 40 brothers and sisters so when my father, who was from Swansea, reckoned he had a hundred first and second cousins plus aunts and uncles, I believed him. Only about 80 ever visited us in London, but they did make me aware of my Welsh connection. My Welshness was increased by holidays in Swansea where we stayed with various aunts and uncles having travelled down on my father’s motorbike. The motorbike had a pillion seat roughly 6 x 4 inches and was comfortable till we got to Shepherd’s Bush followed by the remaining 197 miles of agony – ofttimes I considered writing a complaint letter to the “Royal Society for the Protection of Backsides,” but I could never find their address.

One aunt lived in the salubrious village of Bon-y-Maen with its panoramic view of the stunning Landore valley. The Landore in those days was considered the most depressed area in Britain with its copper, steel, sulpher and tinplate works which meant nothing grew in the valley but this had its benefits – when we played on the virtually bare slopes at Bon-y-Maen there were no stinging nettles. One also saw that London was not the only town to have been bombed.

The English side of the family — that is, mother’s family from Balham in South London — we rarely saw (and weren’t my mother and father pleased about that.)

My first school was about ¾ mile from Lord’s Cricket Ground, where my father would take me on the crossbar of his bike after school in the summer. He would never pay to get into the ground but he would show his warrant card to the gateman, give him about 3d, and we would be in. Lord’s was so beautiful compared to the bomb sites round our home that it has never lost its appeal. As for bomb sites they were never attractive to me because they smelt and tramps used them for toilets yet they were a wonderful source, for many years, of wood for November 5th — “bomb fire night.”

Secondary school was in Dulwich, South London, which I loathed — though the boys were fine. My favourite memory is leaving the place every day even though from the age of 15 I had to cycle home. Initially, I cycled the same route out and back but after a few months I found travelling round the three sides of Parliament and Trafalgar Squares a bit hair-raising so I changed and went home via Denmark Hill, the Walworth Road and the Elephant.

Academically, I bounced along the floor like a flounder wearing hob-nail boots with magnets. The sole exception was English where I was anchored permanently to last place. Des Fitch, my English master, used to mark my essays with a red pen in both hands and backups behind each ear — he would write a longer criticism in red than my original essay. My English sadly never improved at University or in business except lecturers and managers used different coloured inks — green, blue once even violet — to make their comments. I have tried to improve by reading grammar books, but I have given up and have followed the old military adage, “Never re-enforce weakness.” All I can do, as in my book, is to write to the best of my limited ability.

My working career was in IT – enough said.

Simon on the under-14s rugby team

Simon on the under-14s rugby team

My sporting career had no zeniths but I once played rugby for Hampshire against Kent, in the county championship, my opponent being Peter Wheeler – later to gain undying fame as an English international. Can that be considered a molehill rather than a zenith?

My father had played against the “All Blacks” in 1935-6 and the senior side in the final Welsh trial of that year. Then after the war he became a first class rugby referee and was often referred to as Dai John in press reports. Unsurprisingly, I was always considered Welsh by boys in school.

In cricket, which I played for 40 years, nary as much as a worm cast of achievement — everything just as flat as a bowling green.

So why write a novel? Peter Prince, a novelist and scriptwriter, once had an essay of his read out in class by our Des (see above). I can remember the essay 50-odd years later. It began, “He stood on the bridge at midnight as the clock struck twelve.” It was a great story and has inspired me ever since to want to write. Another writer in the same school class was Alan/Nigel Hinton. Blame Pete and Nigel for Queen of Clubs because they were my role models — not Dickens or Clarence E. Mulford (writer of Hopalong Cassidy books).

Queen of Clubs was triggered by sports clubs struggling to manage their finances and how they can hang on to their assets in the modern, money-grabbing world. ?

About Queen of Clubs »