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News, extract

Dear Hearts and Gentle People

This is my last posting of news on the web, at least for a while.  If you want to get up to date on the news drop me a line, but at eighty we do not expect much news.

So let’s look back for a moment.  What has been going on?

When I was seventy and a retired businessman I decided to sail our narrowboat to Carcassonne and write a book about it.   

Experts said that you cannot sail a narrowboat across the Channel, a friend who was a famous writer said that any book would be a little production about whippets and fairies, and a literary consultancy advised that although I could write, I was too old and with three hundred books published each week in the UK I must be joking. 

I had a degree from Oxford, mainly in old English, and in my business I had written many hundreds of reports.  Not much of a start, but something.  

I wrote and rewrote a couple of chapters and found an agent, David Smith of Annette Green.  Three publishers wanted the book and David chose Transworld.  He liked the book and said I could sell 100,000 copies, Transworld said 30.000.  The boaters said I would drown in the Channel.

Well here I am ten years later, having had the best years of my life.  My beloved Monica and Jim and Jess and I sailed in France, the USA, and England, wrote three books (my ilogy), sold a quarter of a million copies, met a lot of famous people, and had adventures that still terrify me when I think of them.  Now Jim is dead and the Phyllis May is sold and we holiday on real ships, driven by real seamen. 

At home I reply to fan mail and talk at the odd festival and Monica gives very popular presentations.  I suffered a stroke which slowed me down no end. The doctors say my life expectancy has not been compromised but tragically my personality is unchanged. (Last time I looked up the life expectancy tables they said I had been dead for some time.)

So Er, that ‘s it.  How blessed we have been – the vines of Languedoc, the majestic Rhone, the pelicans and the alligators, Moon River and the great crossings, the Yorkshire mills, the Trent Valley with the sky the colour of an old oil painting, the wind in the trees and rocking the boat, Jim and Jess warm and all of us safe in our travelling world.  Behind the stove Monica’s horse-brasses clink and glow – the antique shapes of Kings and Kesars straunge and rare.

Best wishes From Tits Magee (to whom fear is a stranger), Gulfstream Rose (it took more than one sailor to change my name to Gulfstream Rose), and the cowardly thieving and disrespectful Jess.  And from Jim too except he is dead.

WE WERE NOT ALWAYS OLD GEEZERS you know.  In the early sixties we were young geezers.

EXTRACT – early in my first book as I wrote the passage below about Jim running I realised I could write well.  So I choose this passage to say Goodbye.

      I went for a jog with Jim.  He was balky because Monica had gone shopping and it was hot.  We came to the river again.  The evening sun was at our backs; the line between water and air had melted and there were four carp suspended below us.  They were velvet black, each more than a foot long, idling in the sunshine.  I felt good, the way you do when something is explained that had not made sense before.

     I decided to run round the meadow and let Jim off the lead.  A whippet running as hard as he can is fast indeed – sometimes he goes through a door only he can see and comes out somewhere else.  His ears go back, his eyes fix on his mark, his legs reach under him and there is such power in his footfall that you can feel him drum the ground.  All the time he holds his balance so he can jink or turn and as he runs he seems to be smiling.  There is something desperate about a whippet running – he does it as an artist, everything about him is compromised for it, and he is the best in the world.  It makes you happy to see something doing what it is meant to do, whether it is lazing under the water or running in a green meadow. 

     That evening I told a fisherman about the carp.  Jim had tried to eat his maggots and his sandwiches and I felt I should offer a little conversation.  They grow to forty pounds round here, he said.  They were black, I said.  Are they really black?  Yes, he said, they are black.  But not underneath.  Underneath they are gold.




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