Reading James Herriot's accounts of his experiences as a vet reminded me of my early years working on the estate. I too had been privileged to meet some wonderful characters and had a memory full of incidents. It was a story that should be told, but could I do it?
For someone who was a very reluctant letter writer, tackling a book was a huge challenge, and it was a while before I plucked up enough stupidity to have a try. Over a period of four years I managed what, at times, I thought was impossible.
To protect the identity of the individuals and the estate, I changed names of the characters and places, and wrote as Geoff Surtees, which are my second two christian names. Falling For It: The Apprenticeship was published in 1995 by Farming Press. Alas Farming Press are now no more. You can read the introduction here and some reviews here.
About that time a new forestry magazine was near to its launch and, because of the book, I was asked to write for it. The policy of the Forest Machine Journal was to use foresty people who could write a little, rather than journalists who could write but knew nothing about forestry. I seem to be the one they found.
Writing the book was hard work, but short articles are enloyable and keep me in touch with trees and forestry. At first I was only writing one article per month, but now it's much more and I'm always keen to hear of anything that could be of interest to readers.
Unfortunately, forestry is not immune from politics. While decisions are made by people in remote places, it is the men on the ground that suffer the discomfort. These people rarely have the opportunity to air their views, so I have tried to remedy this with a regular feature entitled One Man's Beef. Here is an opportunity for anyone connected with trees, forestry and its machinery - or anything associated, to have their say. So, if you have a beef related to forestry, and would like to share it, please get in touch with me by phone or e-mail.
Visit FMJ's web site at www.forestmachinejournal.com.
Update 2010: I have now completed my second book Sticks In The Memory, published by Wagtail Press priced £7.99. Both books can be obtained from Wagtail Press. Enticed by the prospect of more money, I left the estate in the early '60s to embark on a life as a forestry contractor. I believe that life without humour is a serious waste of oxygen. Here I give good examples of that thinking in action, share the many tales of the people I met, both in the countryside, and in the towns. I see everything through eyes searching for mirth and humour. This is a collection of some of my amusing and funny stories. You can read the introduction here and some reviews here.
Cartoon above drawn by Gordon Songer +44(0) 1502 569657.