I became interested in story telling through my great granny, my mother’s side, who told fairy tales to us three boys. We were then all under age 6; a time when we lived on a farm neat Newcastle Natal South Africa. We didn’t see much of her, but being an asthmatic there were times I was confined to being alone in spring while my brothers were out playing. To overcome the frustration of this I imagined my own stories because it was difficult to read when breathing was hard, even be they kids’ books. Luckily then there was no TV.
Otherwise, I was not an ardent reader but rather an outdoor kid preferring playing games of sorts, and was generally good at them. We had to go to school, and boarding school at that for twelve whole years!
At school we had to write weekly weekend essays. I initially only did these poorly, the half-hour between hostel breakfast and school assembly. Then one day, at a Thursday assembly before school, the Headmaster told me to see him in his office. As you know that means trouble; this being that my English teacher, Dr Neuendorf, a wonderful elderly lady, had told him of my slovenly efforts with respect to my essays. She said I could do much better; emphasizing that the contents were good but the presentations horrible. As punishment I was told to rewrite the previous week’s essay after school at school. If this was not up to standard, as judged by her, I would not be picked for the weekend’s away rugby or cricket match. I couldn’t miss that so wrote and wrote and handed it in. I played in Saturday’s rugby match, which meant it was OK, although it didn’t end there.
At the Monday’s assembly the Headmaster, before all the kids, called me up to his side and told me to read my fist essay followed by the repeated one. He then, before all school, gave me six of the best. It was worth it; he knew I could take it. In those days parents knew the value of discipline. I’m just sorry this did not happen earlier in my school life, and not in the last two months of my school days. From then on I enjoyed writing my Friday essays and got A’s in all. I then proceeded to university and did a Science degree, BSc, Master, and PhD in biochemistry with a fairly successful basic research profession. I can now add that I’m sorry I did not include languages and history in my post school studies – yes it’s called hindsight!
When I had kids, I remembered great-grannies tales, so as soon as possible, well when they could understand I told my kid’s nightly bedtime stories. This happened after reading or being read to by their mothers. They loved these, as later did my granddaughters, and all their friends. They were about my fictitious friend, nicknamed Jaapie (little monkey) who in my imagination learnt to speak to the animals and birds by just listening and mimicking them. This was initially understood as a truth by the kids. When my granddaughters heard these they asked me write them up for them. I had by then joined a writers group, CWG in Brisbane, so in time in my late sixties, I did. In my books Jaapie became JP. The stories are about the crime solving of JP and his Animal Detectives.