As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been working on the memoir of an old soldier, Tom Moore – Loughborough’s own Captain Tom. He’s been wanting to tell his story to the world for more than twenty years, since he first began sharing snippets and poems about his life experiences with virtual friends on an online forum. But for one reason and another, the project failed.
First, a friend who worked Tom’s writing into a rough first draft became ill and died from cancer before the project could be completed. Tom was too busy to do anything with it himself, with a full-on job as an Emergency Planner for Buckinghamshire County Council, which saw him working duty shifts at nights and weekends in addition to his daytime hours. ‘I thought, ‘I haven’t time to do this,” he says. ‘I’ll have to leave it and get back to it later.’
But Tom didn’t feel any better able to work on the book once he’d retired, either. ‘I wanted to develop it, but I’d got no way of doing it myself. Whilst I might’ve been capable of writing a book, I really didn’t think I was capable of writing an interesting book.’ So the project was put away again for another decade or so.
Which is when I come in. A friend of Tom’s wife Nancy knew someone who might be able to help, and though it turned out he couldn’t do it himself, he contacted an acquaintance of his, WW1 expert and author Dr Karen Ette, who’s a friend of mine. She sent me an email with the title ‘Possible work for you,’ and a summary of what ‘the elderly gentleman – as sharp as a tack’ wanted doing. ‘A storytelling and local history focus, possibly oral history,’ it said.
I paid my first visit to Tom in September 2020 as the UK tiptoed out of a first, scary lockdown. I was anxious indeed I might take a killer virus into the home of an isolating, vulnerable couple, and we chatted, masked-up and at opposite ends of a long living room, with patio doors wide open and poor Nancy looking likely to freeze to death in a draught. Tom’s eyesight issues and the difficulties of hearing each other through masks didn’t help, and it all looked a bit hopeless, to be honest. Tom no longer had access to digital copies of his own writing or to his friend John’s book, and inputting it all from scratch was going to be a mammoth task.
It’s taken longer than ever anticipated, but we did it – first the poetry collection which, illustrated with Tom’s paintings, has been his real concern, and now Book One of his memoir, covering his life from birth up to the age of 24. Getting to this point in a Time of Covid has been quite a story, but as you may know, I do love a good story! Which is pretty much how I came to take on the challenge in the first place!
‘Shape, Shine and Shadow – a memoir of a Braunstone Boy,’ is published by Timepiece Press (2022) and available on Amazon as a paperback or e-book.
Loughborough-based readers can get a postage-free copy for £8.99 by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.