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A few years later,  in its weekend edition, The Guardian had a column called Playlist, for which readers were invited to nominate record tracks which had particular significance for them, and explain why. I submitted two, hoping to get one published: in the end both were accepted. Sadly, neither of my parents survived to see their son's name appear three times in their favourite newspape.

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from The Guardian






The early years....



My first publication was a Reader's Letter to Eagle comic, explaining a novel way of getting grass stains out of white cricket trousers. This involved soaking them in surgical spirit which my father supplied from the dispensary of his chemist's shop. While doubtless a godsend to thousands of families in cricket-playing nations all over the world, my contribution did not secure a Nobel Prize in Chemistry or Literature.


The second venture into print was an entry in a national Road Safety competition: the first prize was was won by a poster of a cat, feet forward on the pavement, with the slogan  "Paws at the kerb". My effort won the second prize: a song to the tune of 'The lass of Rihmond Hill'. Thankfully no record of this remains, but this rings a bell:


"First you must look left

And then you must look right,

Then left again and run like mad

And you will be alright"  or something like that.   Again, it was not imported into the Highway Code, but it did merit a mention in the School Assembly and I was presented with a plastic badge and a £1 Premium Bond.


The third publication was a full article in the annual Minchenden School Magazine, "Recorded thoughts while packing Aspirins". This was a real page-turner, comprising a kid of stream-of-consciouness while I bottled various medicaments in the basement of my father's shop, as a Saturday-job. The distressing part of this in retrospect is that I accepted the English Master's editorial suggestion to incorporate a rather sexist joke. Admittedly this was long before political correctness, and the word 'sexism' had not yet appeared in the dictionary, but I still feel that this exercise of power by a more senior figure, in the service of questionable humour, verged on abuse. And I complied. Mea culpa.


Something of a hiatus in literary output lasted until 1968, at University, I wrote two articles for Open Conspiracy (the journal of the Student Left in Bristol University) on Black Power and Bob Dylan. No copies of these remain but they were serious and worthy pieces, and possibly prompted the idea that writing might become part of my future. This became more plausible when my first 'proper' publication in New Society appeared in 1971. When that piece was submitted to Penguin Books as a sample of my writing, it resulted in the contract to write 'Children and Race' which was, subsequently, one of the building-blocks of my career.







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