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November 13, 2013

Ian Hutson: Personal Background Influences Writing

It’s just my opinion of course but I do think that whether they like it or not, a writer’s background has an awfully large influence upon their output. You can tell an awful lot from what someone writes. This is simply because their personal history defines the unspoken foundation for their world view, what they see and don’t see, what they value and don’t value. My books edge towards (and beyond) the deliciously absurd, and that very accurately reflects the splendidly varied life that was gifted to me by my family.

I was the third child of two, fifth in a family of four. Depending upon my mother’s mood I was either a “little surprise” or a “bloody mistake”. Although sickly and weedy for the first few years I now resemble an elderly human bullock with spectacles, table manners and a fine line in linen jeans, Boden jackets and unfashionable hats. My favourites are the tweed flat cap, the pith helmet and the “Thicksulate” triple-insulated beanie. Next Spring I will be experimentally moving into a bowler - I think it is important to keep evolving and to try to swim with the sartorial tide of society.

As a child I enjoyed eight different schools ranging from twenty-pupil single-teacher village affairs to two-thousand two-hundred pupil monsters. As an adult, some eighteen different houses that I can remember varying from apartments in Hong Kong to Scottish island crofts with no running water. There have been eight different jobs varying from literally mopping vomit off office floors to producing Parliamentary reports and accounts for Westminster. I have enjoyed five mothers-in-sort-of-law, all but one of whom disliked me actively and intensely.

NGLND XPXWherever I roam in my memory the absurd and the startling crops up splendidly. I remember my mother’s magnificent dumplings - four to a pressure-cooker and a tight fit at that. It didn’t occur to me at the time just how far the family’s meagre food budget was being stretched. I remember my civilian father facing down puffed-up self-important moustachioed Wing Commanders and the family having to move on (again) as a consequence. My father taught all of us the very noble art of cutting our own nose off to spite someone else’s face and we all not only excel at it, we love it. 

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I remember once driving to collect my mother from her long shift working at a frozen food factory. Upon seeing the long, midnight-blue bonnet of the Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit hoofing up to the gates the security chap ran for his cap, raised the barrier and saluted as I swept under. My mother, still in overalls and mop cap, then got in and we whooshed out again, chuckling. I’ve eaten in the original Raffles in Singapore, fished at midnight in Norwegian lakes, been lost in Paris during a thunderstorm, driven a camper-van across Australia, bogged down a Jeep on a beach in Mexico and slept the night in a telephone kiosk on the pavement outside Barney Rubbles, a biker club in darkest Blackpool because I was too drunk to walk.

The family saw vast rows and arguments with all and sundry, and we also lived through archetypally English peaceful goings on at the Vicarage on the banks of the Ouse. My neighbours have been “by the hour” types in the grottiest of flats with thin partition walls and they’ve been genteel and gently faded Lords a-sitting in the lush countryside of Norfolk. My point is that such absurd contrasts don’t sit quietly in the muse, not when they are in biblically multitudinous company.

The homunculus sitting behind my eyes and driving me through life is a gibbering wreck still coming to terms with the past fifty years of influences. Some authors write about wonderfully settled and solid themes, about permanence and life-long love and ancient values. My domain is the fleeting, the process of life, the giggly vignette, flash-cards of serendipitous scenes and contrasting circumstances. Whatever your life has been, it’ll surely be on show in your work and there’s probably little that may be done to change that. There’s an awful lot of froth to be written before I am in any danger of writing something serious and deep.

~About the Author~

My Father was a Grimsby deep-sea fisherman turned Cold War spy, an electronic-warfare expert turned naval historian. My Mother was a factory-worker, home-maker, socialite and lady. When I was born we moved to Hong Kong in time for the worst cholera epidemic, drought and typhoon of the century. As a child I spoke only Cantonese and a little pidgin English. I learned to read and write at age nine, on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland where my Father listened in to the USSR’s transmissions and we all lived on a croft with two pet sheep and a house with no running water and no bathroom. Aged ten we lived in a friend’s public zoo in Norfolk (and I skipped school for the year). Aged fourteen I enjoyed driving my Aunt around to lay off her semi-pro bets at bookmakers. I eventually studied for a BA in Operation Research Systems Analysis and a Masters in Industrial Relations and then started work in the British Civil Service and EDS, ITSA, AVIVA et al. Only got shot at once, while my car was stuck at traffic signals - and they missed me (just). Corporations and I company on acrimonious terms and I left to concentrate my own businesses. Naturally, I promptly went bankrupt when the world went topsy-turvy and lost my home, car and valuables to the Official Receiver’s  auctioneers, although I must say that the County Court Judge was a sweetums, considering. I am now a peacenik vegan hippie living in a hedgerow in Lincolnshire, England, and my hobbies are starving, patching my underwear and being happy. If I grow up then I rather want to be a Womble or possibly a Clanger.
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