I’m not really the biggest fan of New Year – partly because on the party animal scale I rank as “boring”, but also because I always remember my grandmother... my Nannie, Mary Herbert who passed away at the end of
Her husband, my grandfather Les had died in February 1999. They were aged 87 and 88 respectively – not a bad (or good, depending on your point of view) advert for the effects of lifelong smoking! I remember at one point, my Grandad smoked a brand called Peter Stuyvesant (no idea if they still exist). In “real life” Stuyvesant was a Dutch-born seven-teenth century colonial governor in America... how proud he would be to know that his work and achievements were immortalised in a packet of cigarettes...
But I digress. Grandad hailed from Coventry, Nannie was born near Edinburgh – the pair married on 4th December 1937 in Coventry Cathedral... the same cathedral that was razed to the ground during the Blitz less than three years later. At the time, Grandad was working seven twelve-hour shifts a week at the Armstrong Whitworth aircraft factory in Baginton – two heavy falls in younger years had resulted in the loss of a kneecap and a permanent limp that prevented him from joining the armed forces. Nannie had left Coventry and was living in the small Leicestershire village of Croft. Grandad later rejoined the family and they remained at no.1 Kendall’s Avenue for the rest of their lives.
I have so many fond memories of trips to Croft. Their home was simply an open house to numerous relatives and I couldn’t wait for the first glimpse of Croft Hill, or the small bus shelter that signalled the turn into Arbor Road... the moment when you knew you’d arrived. It was a modest house, but it was a happy home and I wouldn’t have swapped my trips to Croft for any number of foreign holidays –they were special times... with special people.
Grandad pottered in the garden, pottered in the kitchen, fell asleep while the wrestling was on... and was a magnet to females of every age. I don’t know how he did it, but in my teens, it was a secret I’d have happily paid for! Nannie was wonderful... I remember her singing songs with her sister Florence – in Welsh– but collapsing in fits of giggles before finishing them. I’m led to believe that there was alcohol involved! She also loved to play cards and dominoes and the more you lost, the funnier she found it.
Luckily, my own children were able to visit Croft and get to know their great grandparents, but it is a sad fact that nothing can halt the passage of time. Luckily, I have happy memories of the last time I saw Grandad and Nannie... and even now, small things like the smell of grilled toast or the distant sound of a train (a freight line was situated close to their house and you would always hear the gentle rumble of trains during the night) take me straight back to the innocence and magic of childhood.
On New Year’s Eve I will raise a glass to you both – as I do every year. God bless you Nannie and Grandad xxx
You will recognise the boy in the photograph... it’s you... 40 years ago. And yes, the hairstyle might be a bit dated, but at least I’ve got all my hair... and my looks!!!
I’ve got the chance to write to you... eight is a little on the young side for words of wisdom, but you might still want to read on.
I’m standing in the garden... and life is fairly straightforward. I go to school; I come home and play... Mum and Dad are here and my sister Suzanne... Gran and Grandad, Nannie and Grandad are in Darlington and Croft respectively and all is good.
But now you have no grandparents... one by one they pass away. You will only be twelve when Grandad (Eric) dies... too young to understand, but the memory of the moment will never leave you. Then Gran, then Grandad (Les) and finally Nannie... you will miss them Richard... and it’s fine to miss them. You will feel guilty for never telling them how much you love them... but even though I’m only eight, I’m pretty sure they knew... and still know.
Mum and Dad will still be around though... there’ll be times when you don’t think you need them, but they’ll be there for you and never give up on you when you get things wrong. And I mean badly wrong. You will grow up to have some good qualities, you will be caring, kind, loyal and trusting... too trusting at times... and you will make mistakes... some that will completely change the course of your life, but believe me Richard, you will get there in the end. So much naivety, but when you reach the lowest point (spoiler alert it’s 2004-6)... you will find that you have the inner resolve to fight so hard... and you do come out the other side.
I can’t quite believe it myself, but you will be there to see the birth of two daughters... personally I can’t imagine anything better than scoring a goal for York City right now, but hormones and all that... Things won’t always run smoothly – and yes, some of that will be your fault, but you will also burden yourself with guilt that is not yours to carry. You won’t be able to undo the past Richard, but when truth is revealed, remember your children are what matter. Just be there... be strong... be honest... things will work out, I promise.
You will try your hand at a few jobs... you’ll work in shops and offices, but when the chance comes to work in the NHS, grab it with both hands because you will meet the woman who will make you truly happy. Just so you don’t pick the wrong one, she’s called Elaine... her life’s had its ups and downs too, but you are perfect for each other. All I will say is that the best things in life are worth fighting for... so don’t you dare give up. You will wish you’d met when you were teenagers, but fate could have easily made sure your paths never crossed. Love her always Richard... she’s the one...
I’m very happy to say you will play lots of cricket... you’re not brilliant, but you’re not bad. Enjoy every moment because your joints will pack up when you’re forty and a big void will be left. You’ll try lots of other sports, you’ll be quite good at some of them, but don’t ever dream of becoming a footballer! You’ll even enjoy running... right now, I imagine I can sprint like Valeriy Borzov... the Richard reading this blog can barely run like Valerie Singleton.
One big surprise is that you will become a published author. I know... I can’t believe it either. And even when people say how much they enjoy your books, you will still doubt yourself... but you can write... and you can be quite funny at times too. You got that from me!!!!
Finally, you need to know that good and true friends are hard to find... but although things will be tough as you grow up, your life will be touched by some wonderful people. I’ve got two bits of advice for you... firstly stay true to yourself. You’re not perfect, far from it and some of your better qualities are also your weaknesses, but as well as a brilliant wife, the 2012 version of me will have a few friends who make a real difference... just keep believing in yourself because you make a difference too. And ultimately if you can make even a small positive difference to somebody’s life, then I would give you my best manly hug and say “well done” because that’s how this eight year-old is judging you...
Oh and secondly, go to the bookies in August 1983 and put all your money on York City to win the 4th division title... they win it by a mile and you’ll be loaded!
Anyway, I’ve got to go now Richard... be happy and don’t dwell on the things that you can’t change. You might not be as handsome as me, but trust me... you’re doing okay...
Lots of love Richard x
I’ve decided against my last pre-Christmas blog being a look back... I do the introspection thing far too often. I’m therefore going to ponder on what 2013 might bring... or at least what I’d like it to bring, so this is more “three wishes” as opposed to New Year’s resolutions.
Anyway, notwithstanding the three “H’s”... health, happiness... HUGE lottery win... with which I hope my closest family and friends (and me!) will be blessed, I would love for next year to bring some stability on the work front.
With the shadow of another restructure looming ever larger, the sense of insecurity (verging on blind panic) that comes from not knowing what will be happening to your job can weigh heavily at times. I love what I do... I am proud to work within the NHS and if my fairy godmother is listening, please wave your little wand like you’ve never waved it before.
Actually, I have utilised the services of another with regard to my employment prospects. A statue of St Gregory of Nin stands in the Croatian city of Split(one of my absolute favourite places). Legend has it that if you rub St Gregory’s big toe and make a wish... it will come true.
So I did... and I did... and I’m ever hopeful.
For the record, the said toe is now extremely polished and shiny from all the rubbing... perhaps it’s just as well that the legend was somehow foot-related...
Wish number two concerns my writing. I’ve been amazed at the reception I’ve received for what is essentially just a hobby. The ultimate dream would be to be “discovered” and for my slightly offbeat writing style to be unleashed on an unsuspecting public. No I don’t think it will happen either, but the two projects I have for 2013 are my look at the “Black Dahlia” murder and the completion and publication of my ridiculously overdue novel. Feel free to place your advanced orders now!!!
Finally, although we’ve already got tickets to see the brilliant Mrs Brown’s Boys in June, there is one other live show I am desperate to see... and that would be the return of Killing for Company. They are the band that Elaine and I “found” together... something that means a lot to me. Great band, top blokes and guaranteed good times... so Greg, Steve, Andy, Richie and Jamie, seeing you back on stage is officially wish number three... fingers crossed... and if that doesn’t work, I’ll be paying St Gregory another visit.
This morning, with Christmas and the end of the year looming ever larger, I had every intention of looking back over 2012... a kind of “the year that was...”, but then came the events at Sandy Hook in Newton, Connecticut...
Out of respect to those who perished and those families who lives have been devastated by the loss of a loved one, I am not going to mention the name of the killer. Nor am I going to go into any detail as to how the tragedy unfolded... nothing anyone can say will change the awful fact that 27 people were killed – and twenty of them were children.
Children who were presumably getting more excited by the day for the arrival of Santa...
Children who had every right to enjoy growing up before taking on the responsibility of adulthood, with all the possibilities that life can bring...
That right was taken from them in an instant yesterday, in the most heartless circumstances and I simply cannot imagine the raw grief that has engulfed this small town. I honestly don’t know how you can begin to pick up the pieces after something like this... a story that you read about, but always happens “somewhere else”. Well, for the residents of Newton, Connecticut, that “somewhere else” was home... the sorrow you would have had for the loss of unknown lives is now the anguish felt for a friend, a neighbour, or worst of all, a young child you helped to bring into the world.
I have said on here once before that I am not an overly religious person... but with due respect to anyone whose faith has a deep and
meaningful significance, maybe this morning I would be wondering (even questioning) quite what bigger purpose there can possibly be for yesterday’s tragedy...
I am one of the growing number of people who are sending fewer and fewer Christmas cards and giving a donation to charity instead – my chosen charity being Children in Need. There are a couple of reasons – one being the ever-increasing cost of sending something through the post, but the other is far more important... and that is the fact that those people who are important to me hopefully already know and the sending of a card doesn’t mean they are any less important or that they are not in my thoughts.
Notwithstanding my immediate family who have to put up with actually seeing me every now and again, the brilliant thing about social networking is the ability to keep in touch with other relatives and friends with whom you might lose contact otherwise...
2012 has been a year in which I’ve stayed close to those I hold most dear... but it’s been a time of new friendships and the rediscovery of old friends as well and I’m grateful to one and all for the difference you have made... and hopefully will continue to make.
So... in no particular order, I would like to send my best wishes for a wonderful Christmas and a healthy, happy 2013 to... all my relatives (especially Natalie who is preparing to start a new life with her family in Australia x), my mates from cricket days gone by at the Fell and Ropery Lane, mates from the Thunder and Heed Armies, the new friends I’ve made through my Marilyn Monroe bio and my other books, those friends who are as desperate as I am to see the brilliant Killing for Company back on stage in 2013 and the guys from the band (nadolig hapus!), friends from other bands whose music keeps me company on my long trips to work... and not forgetting Mar, Marg, Maggie and Ruth who I hadn’t been in touch with since the 1980s.
If I’ve forgotten anyone, I’m sorry... put it down to old age...
Right... time to clean that chimney and wait for Rudolph and his pals to make an appearance...
Some time ago, I received an e-mail from JR Southall, who’d not only enjoyed my Doctor Who book Desperately Seeking Susan Foreman, but told me that my efforts had actually provided part of the inspiration to compile a book of his own.
It was flattering to say the least that my attempt at writing and self-publishing a book had been appreciated – perhaps more so by someone I didn’t know.
Anyway, that “inspiration” has now been turned into a fan anthology entitled You and Who (published by Miwk Publishing), a collection of stories and memories from Doctor Who fans of all ages. My copy arrived today (with my article included) and a very kind name-check in the introduction... and I quote: “the tone of the prose was delightful...”
Well I couldn’t agree more!
As with that first edition of Desperately Seeking Susan Foreman, You and Who is being sold to raise funds for Children in Need – congratulations JR, I really hope it does well and for more details, please visit the publisher’s web site: www.miwkpublishing.com
And finally, for anyone from Mwik Publishing who is reading this and looking to support a certain aspiring author who is hoping his break will come in 2013... www.richardkirby.org is your link... you are welcome to contact me... mainly because it’ll stop me pestering you!
Back at the start of 2010, I began work on a Doctor Who book based around a search to obtain a signed photo from as many female TARDIS companions as I could manage to track down. The book called Desperately Seeking Susan Foreman – I thought it was quite a clever title... in many ways it was the best bit of the book!
I was happy with the first edition, but far more pleased with the second (which is still available via www.lulu.com hint hint..!). The saddest part of the reissued version was that Elisabeth Sladen, who played Sarah Jane Smith arguably the best-loved of all the Doctor’s companions, had passed away on 19th November 2011. I had received two photos from Lis and their inclusion now had a much greater and more poignant significance.
The biggest disappointment was my inability (and I tried really hard) to contact Carole Ann Ford, the eponymous Susan Foreman. The character was clearly central to the book, but my seeking... desperate or otherwise... had proved unsuccessful.
Just over twelve months on from Lis Sladen’s untimely death, two more former companions from whom I had received replies have also passed away: Caroline John (who played Liz Shaw) in June 2012 and Mary Tamm (Romana) the following month. The death of the former was a particular shock, as Caroline had not only sent two signed pictures, but had written a note asking for a copy of the book and then a lovely thank you letter (with a cheque that I hadn’t asked for but donated to charity at Caroline’s request).
At this point, I decided to have one last try at finding some of the "missing” companions by exerting some gentle pressure on a couple of agents. The response was immediate as three photos of Louise Jameson (Leela) arrived within a week, but then nothing...
Totally out of the blue, the photo at the bottom of the page arrived!!
True, I didn’t find every companion, but I found the overwhelming majority... and I might just have to add an afterword to the current book to bring the search to an official conclusion. Susan Foreman has been desperately sought... and eventually found!
A couple of days ago, there was a post on the Immortal Marilyn Facebook page from a young lady asking for some recommendations for Marilyn Monroe biographies. It was hardly a surprise that Michelle Morgan’s book Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed should receive top-billing –I’ve said before, it’s an incredibly well- and lovingly-researched piece of work and it’s a privilege to be able to count the author amongst my friends.
But then... in the third reply, there was my attempt: Something Had to Give. It’s actually quite hard to describe how I felt when I saw what Marijane, Michelle and Jackie said about my book... and about me... but it was a kind of shock (verging on disbelief), followed by a bit of pride, which immediately succumbed to a second wave of shock.
I don’t really think I have the right to be mentioned in the same breath as some of the writers whose works (and names) are justifiably known the world over. I type away for pleasure and I’m pretty sure my next door neighbour doesn’t even know my name, but I’m honestly flattered that there are those of you who have enjoyed one or more of my books and hopefully my writing style as well.
Whereas professional authors presumably count sales in the hundreds and thousands, I count them finger by finger and, if a book does really well, I’ll also use my toes. Whatever ability I may or may not possess, I love what I do, but even better is the fact that other people have had some pleasure out of reading my books... and then using them to stop unwelcome draughts.
So with my Coronation Street book now available and selling like... er... cold cakes... I am able to formally reveal that my next project will be one suggested by one of those I have “met” through the power of social networking, Leslie Summey. The next subject to be given the Kirby treatment is going to prove very difficult, probably as challenging mentally as anything I’ve ever done, but I am going to do the best I possibly can to write about the mysterious and horrific demise of Elizabeth Short (below)... the Black Dahlia... in 1947.
I’m not giving myself any deadlines for this piece of work... but if there are any supportive comments out there, now would be a very good time to post them.
I’ve just seen Andrew “Freddie” Flintoff’s professional boxing debut... a winning debut at that... and I’d like to share a few thoughts.
Even in the build-up to the fight against American Richard Dawson, opinion has been divided as to whether or not Flintoff should have been granted a license to box and whether or not the reputation of the sport would be potentially damaged by what many saw as a “gimmick”.
Having watched the four-round contest, I think it’s fair to say that Freddie was a bit green, or raw... but he’s only been seriously involved in boxing for a matter of months, so his technique was never going to be flawless. Defensively, he left himself open – in fact he was knocked down in the second round – and I would suggest that a more experienced fighter than Dawson might have better exposed Freddie’s naivety.
When he came forward, his right hooks were almost “bowled” so round was his arm, but (and this is a “but” of the big variety) what Flintoff lacked in craft and skill, he more than made up for in strength and courage.
Let’s be honest Dawson is more of a blubberweight than a heavyweight, but there’s nowhere to hide inside a boxing ring and there’s potentially a lot more than just your reputation at stake when punches are being aimed at your head. I can’t speak from personal experience, but if you get hit by a 241lb bloke (who may not be in prime condition, but is still very strong) it’s going to hurt... probably quite a lot... and irrespective of how much training you’ve done and how much ability you have, boxing is incredibly tough and obviously not without risks...
Freddie Flintoff is an iconic figure, a cricketing legend, who clearly craves a challenge that is both sporting and personal. Boxing provides those tests and offers him an opportunity to prove (even if it is only to himself) that he can meet and even overcome a new challenge without ten other team mates there to help him if things don’t go according to plan.
I am sure the opposing views will remain, but for me, Freddie Flintoff is a man who really has nothing to prove, but whose bravery and determination I both salute... and totally admire.
All my own work... almost.