November 15 2016
This is me aboard the ocean-going tugboat on which my dad served as first-mate in Liverpool Harbour in the early 1960s. This was before the Mersey silted up, when the big liners were towed into their berths by any number of tugs, depending on tonnage, with a pilot boat leading the path through the deep water channels. This is how I spent many a weekend back then. The water was cold in that improvised bathtub but it wasn’t drawn from the Mersey (I don’t think). Not much thought for health and safety regulations back in those days though. I don’t remember complaining. But my dad wasn’t really the sort of bloke you complained to. Certainly not at the age of four, you didn’t.
My memories of the harbour and the industry surrounding it – like the huge Tate & Lyle sugar refinery near the docks – are vivid reminders of a world that’s gone. I put some of it into my novel Dark Echo seen through the eyes of my character Jane Boyte in scenes depicting the Liverpool waterfront more than thirty years before this picture was taken. And of course Dark Echo herself is a far fancier vessel than anything my father ever crewed. But I do have some nautical credentials and they go back to when I was very young. Probably why I’ve never in my life suffered from sea sickness.
In other news, the early reader reviews for Harvest of Scorn both on Amazon’s UK site and the Goodreads site are the best I’ve had for anything I’ve written. The last book in the Colony trilogy is going down really well and I’m both relieved about that and genuinely gratified. As an author you just never know whether anything’s actually any good until your readers deliver their verdict. That’s the acid test, the only opinion that counts. And when the reception is as positive as it’s been so far, it makes all the effort seem worthwhile.
My relationship with my father ended abruptly when I was eleven and he chose to close the chapter in his life involving me. I’ve a few strong recollections of him. One of the most enduring is of him weeping silently when we passed the radio mast sticking up above the surface that was all left visible of a tug sunken by collision in a fog. Those Mersey fogs were sometimes lethal and my dad had known the men who perished aboard her.
Some episodes from childhood we remember. Others are just impossible ever to forget.