Ever since my teens I have attached a great deal of importance to writing. Leaving aside technical work, I have, however, rarely sought to get anything into print, pleading that my interest has been in writing for its own sake, not in suffering the humiliations of trying to persuade some young lad, or lass, in a publisher’s office that his/her employer could make money out of it. My object, then, in writing – at least until recently – has been primarily to sort out my own ideas, which have always tended to be non-mainstream, and to express them in the most elegant fashion I can achieve.
I have to confess, though, that I regard my writings to be as important a validation of my existence as my production of a family or of technical or administrative work, which are all very worth while, but doable by more or less anyone so motivated. To be valid as a validation, nevertheless, I suppose some sort of communication beyond myself is necessary, and I am reduced to consoling myself with the thought that once, somehow, somewhere, they get into an archive writings are as permanent as most human artefacts. If only one person, now or in the future, reads them sympathetically the aim of communication will have been achieved. I have, for example, read my great-grandmother’s unpublished poems sympathetically, and as far as I am concerned she is immortal.
My first poem did not come until I was around thirteen. Nothing very great, but there were three verses to it and I recited them proudly to my mother. I remember now only the first. The poem, which was about the recurring seasons, expressed my view at the time that poetry needs to both scan and rhyme, and it was based on my burgeoning interest in the natural world.
Searing wind and racing cloud,
Blinding snow and freezing rain,
Thus the winter’s misty shroud
Is drawn across our land again
A bit tumpity tumpity. My interest in the natural world also motivated an early article on the fly agaric mushrooms to be found in our local woods, and this was one of my only two non-geological pieces to be published to date – in the Welwyn Times. I believe it was my mother who submitted it. Some months later I was surprised and gratified to receive a payment of seven shillings and six pence for this effort – the sole remuneration I have ever had from my by now considerable output.
In my early adulthood I was given to writing periodical assessments of life and my objectives, and also I produced the diaries and letters some of which are copied…