I am tall, dark and handsome, (well O.K., maybe not, but one out of three isn’t too bad is it?) I have three ‘young adult’ children and was raised by a wonderful Mum and Dad, along with 4 other siblings, on the banks of the Tillingbourne, in pretty rural Surrey, in the south east of England. I have lived in Bude, Cornwall, for these past 18 years, where, until recently, I ran my own small gardening business; but I don’t like to be defined, or judged, by whatever currently earns me a few quid, or by my more ‘respectable’ previous career. I have other strings to my bow, and not least this writing lark.
This guy below, in the video, Mr Mike Nesmith, was, without me really knowing it at the time, a major part of the musical soundtrack to my early years. His music sort of seeped into me like a cultural osmosis. Mike had written so many of the songs that were slowly but surely becoming embedded in my heart. But, at a young age, I didn’t yet know he had written them, or much cared. It wasn’t until many years later that I realised that I much preferred the Nesmith (Monkees) songs to the much more commercial offerings written by the likes of Diamond, Hart and Boyce. I still love his music.
I remember, when I was still at primary school, singing pop songs in bed on long, hot summer evenings. Early favourites, apart from the Monkees and Beatles of course, were Nancy Sinatra’s ‘These Boots Were Made For Walking’, Ray Davies’s ‘Waterloo Sunset’, and Roy Wood’s ‘Blackberry Way’. My Mum, quickly spotting my emerging musical interest, and maybe even a little talent, (her father had been a well known tenor in Reading), had quickly signed me up to the village church choir, where by 1970 I had become the head chorister. In the Christmas season I regularly sang carol solos at Guildford cathedral, probably because the other lads didn’t look so innocent, fresh faced and cherubic as me. My mum was so proud.
But it wasn’t to last. My voice broke half-way through ‘Matins’ and my singing glory days were finally over. I was on the scrap heap at eleven. Rejected by the Church of England. The choir master tried to make me stand in the back row with all the old men, but it just wasn’t the same, none of them wanted to play ‘finger shadows’ on the church wall during ‘evensong’. Spoilsports. The fun had gone. It had got up and left the church, along with my mates, their voices having already broken. I soon followed.
It was at some point in the mid to late 60s that my Dad first told me of his creepy encounter with the apparition of a ghostly gunpowder worker, and from that moment on I was instantly hooked on ghost stories. Any ghost stories. I just couldn’t get enough of them. Dad had inadvertently sent me off down a long, dark, creepy, winding road. My reading matter expanded significantly. I began to read scary tales by the likes of M.R. James, W.W. Jacobs and Charles Dickens. By the early ’70s I had expanded in to all things ‘paranormal’, I had shifted up a gear from fiction to (alleged) reality. I was still fascinated by ghosts, but now U.F.Os., time travel and other mysteries too. On my weekly visits to Guildford library I regularly came away with a bag full of ghost story collections, the latest Colin Wilson, Erich Von Daniken or Brad Steiger book.
After my demise as the undoubted dazzling prince of all boy trebles, I had begun to be heavily influenced by some entirely different music. It had come through the thin stud wall between my big sister Sue’s bedroom and my own. I loved some of her tastes…..Buddy Holly and some early Bee Gees in particular, but I soon discovered new favourites of my own. Roxy Music, T. Rex, Roy Wood’s Wizzard, Rod and the Faces, Bowie, and Slade. During those days I could often be found in Sue’s bedroom playing my new vinyl on her turntable, having first of course thrown her Rubettes and Racy rubbish into the waste bin, where, if I’m honest, they probably felt a lot more at home.
But, if the weather was pleasant, it was far more likely that you would have found me outdoors with my mates, playing football, riding my bike, swinging on ropes from trees across the Tillingbourne, building woodland dens, climbing the big gnarly old oaks, playing soldiers in the W.W.2 concrete pill boxes in the woods, paddling my canoe, or perhaps just lazily stood by myself on the river bank, dangling my rod, waiting oh so patiently for that elusive little nibble! Mine was an idyllic country childhood that would have even made Laurie Lee turn to Jack Hargreaves and say “Who’s that country bumpkin Jack?”
I left school in the long hot summer of ’76 having done well in history, English and music, but not quite so well in all the other subjects, that was possibly because I had skived off on the exam days for my poorer subjects. I still have all of my old school reports. My parents had held on to them for many years, and had occasionally brought them out to entertain their friends if there was nothing funny to watch on the telly. I briefly worked in a garden nursery. It was just a piano keys throw from my home, which I will explain to you one day. I learnt a few things at that nursery, mostly from a fun loving bloke who was a few years older, and a very bad influence. His name was Chris, and he wore N.H.S. spectacles with milk bottle bottom thickness lenses. He was a ginger Mancunian too. No, he didn’t have much going for him did he? He was down south because he was on the run from the law up north for football related fisticuffs. He was very good at fighting, it has to be said. He taught me how to pot up chlorophytums and maranthas, oh, and also how to arrive at work at nine thirty, but still be able to clock in on time at seven thirty, that was a very useful thing to know too.
Shortly after that short stint in the hot greenhouse glasshouses, I embarked on a four year apprenticeship to become an architectural Ironmonger and builders merchant for a business called ‘Skeet and Jeffes’ in nearby Woking.
During the late 70s and early eighties, when I wasn’t working, I spent a lot of time with my mates. If we weren’t in the pub together we would be out camping, climbing (small) mountains, playing football, and riding on motorbikes. I spent a lot of time arguing with Tories, fishing, thinking about pretty girls, reading books about ghosts and U.F.O.s, messing around in cars, travelling all over the U.K., and going to lots of gigs with my mates.
Some of those activities were accompanied by the developing soundtrack of my life, which by that time had included Dexy’s wonderful first album, Dylan’s ‘Blood on the Tracks’, Stevie Wonder’s ‘Songs in the key of life’, the Stone’s ‘Some Girls’, Springsteen’s ‘Darkness’ album, and some early Clash.
We enjoyed standing at the back at Undertones gigs, we wanted to see how long we could restrain ourselves from running forward cutting through the densely packed excited crowd; to get down to the front and leap about like complete idiots. Our restraint never lasted very long. The glorious primal beat of the Undertone’s three minute, three chord songs, mostly about chocolate and girls, were far too powerful for us to resist. I sometimes gave in first.
After my apprenticeship I worked within the same company in various sales roles for eight years, and I gradually acquired various business, product, accounts, and even law qualifications; I also went back to college and did two ‘A’ levels. By 1988 I had moved on to become a sales rep for another builder’s merchant.
I eventually left Surrey in 1990, at the grand old age of thirty, for an adventure of sorts, to live and work up in beautiful Northumberland. While I was up there I made many new friends and worked in two jobs that I really loved, firstly as a sales rep for ‘J.T. Doves’ builders merchants in Hexham, calling on builders on building sites and at their sales offices, and then later as the assistant manager of ‘Plumb Centre’. I also set-up my own little weekend business, hiring out bouncy castles for childrens parties. I called it ‘Bounce-around’, (a little ‘nod’ to my old pogoing days). Every winter I would take my children out sledding on the local Northumberland hillsides; the children had a fantastic childhood up north which they would not have experienced in quite the same way down south. But after nine years, the novelty of those long, snowy, cold north-east winters finally began to wear off.
I had got itchy feet, (I think there’s a bit of the Romany in me), I had fancied a change of scenery and lifestyle. I gathered my family safely behind me in my faithful old covered wagon, (oh, all right, it was a blue Volvo 240GL estate), and we travelled westwards down the A303, heading towards the setting Sun, to glorious Bude on the rugged North Cornish coast. We were boldly seeking out a new beginning, and of course those elusive ‘endless summers’ of which I had long day-dreamed. I had seen far too many ‘John Hinde’ Cornish post-cards, they had all promised me (in the small print) ‘sunshine in abundance’. I think ‘abundance’ must have been somewhere near St Ives. Those glossy holiday brochures too, flaunting those beautiful, shapely, sun-kissed women in skimpy bikinis, lazing around on ‘tropical’ looking beaches, hadn’t helped much, and don’t get me started on those palm trees and bronzed surfers. I wanted some of that, to be bronzed and beautiful like them. I’m still waiting. I was sick of the arctic north-east weather. I was tired of having to wear a pair of thermal long johns, two jumpers, and a woolly scarf on the beach at Whitley Bay in mid-July; during what the Geordies, with their very dry sense of humour, laughably called ‘summer’. I wanted to feel some warm sunshine.
It was down here in Cornwall, soon after I first arrived, that I first decided I wanted to be my own boss, and so, with a love of gardens and a very distinguished horticultural family pedigree, I decided to become a gardener. My father’s family tree, several branches of it, (ha, ha, see what I did there?) included several head-gardeners, various other jobbing gardeners, and plenty of green fingered folk. But I knew I needed to get some proper gardening experience first, and so I worked for a local landscaper for a few weeks. I quickly learnt the trade by watching and listening to my fellow workers, and by picking their brains. On the Friday of the sixth week I noticed that they had started to ask me for advice, so I quit the job there and then, to go solo as a self-employed gardener. I put an advert in the local newspaper seeking gardening work, bought some second hand gardening tools at a Bude car-boot sale, and waited for the calls to start coming in. And come in they most certainly did. Among my proudest gardening achievements was the design, and implementation, of the lovely ‘Mystic Surfers’ gardens, (photo above), at Tintagel, for my late, sadly missed friend, Maurice Willmott.
For a few years at the beginning of the new Millennium, when the waves were, as the surfers liked to say… “really going-off”, I surfed the Bude area. Or I should perhaps say that I “tried to surf”. Despite once being told by a young lady that I looked ‘well-fit’ in a wet-suit, frankly….well, how can I put this? Well…. I was really rubbish at it. I kept falling off. I didn’t particularly like getting wet either. I eventually gave up, took off my wet-suit, towelled myself dry, and sold my surfboard. (Well I might have got dressed first). With the proceeds from that sale I bought my first guitar. At first, (to quote my far more musically talented friend Maurice), I sounded ‘really bloody awful’. If I reached up to the wall to touch or grab my guitar, ‘Geordie’, (my labrador), would run towards the door on his hind legs with a fearful look in his eyes, his front paws over his ears, to escape the inevitable horrible noise that he had quickly learnt would soon follow. But with some help from my great friends Danny Ball, (on the right), and Maurice himself, (to your left), my playing slowly improved. So much so that I soon lost the ‘really’ and ‘bloody’ prefixes, to become, well, just…. ‘awful’. But ten years later, after much studying of great finger-picking songwriters such as John Prine, I can now play some pretty ‘finger-style’ acoustic guitar. I write my own songs, both the words and the music. The neighbours seem to like me playing my guitar, they are a very enthusiastic bunch; just recently they knocked on my wall, (they must have still been up at two in the morning), to show their appreciation of me playing ‘Ace of Spades’. I love listening to music of many genres, particularly Americana/Folk, old country blues and some early jazz. My diverse tastes include everything from ‘Mississippi’ John Hurt to the ‘Wedding Present’, via Verdi and the Felice Brothers, oh, and even the Beach Boys too, yes you could say that my ears really do…… ‘get around’. (Groans all round).
I’m a bit of a ‘bookworm’. My favourite authors include Laurie Lee, John Steinbeck, Brad Steiger, Jacques Vallee and James Herriot. What makes me laugh? Well, on the box, I enjoy slick, sharp comedies such as ‘Frasier’, good old fashioned British comedies like ‘Only Fools and Horses’, and the wonderful Irish ‘Father Ted’. I have also recently re-discovered the superb American comedy ‘Best of the West’, which reduces me to tears and makes my stomach ache from laughing so hard. For fun reading my favourite comedy writers include David Nobbs, Tom Sharpe and Mark Wallington. Many years ago, while commuting on a train in to London, I was convulsed and crying with laughter whilst reading. I couldn’t help it. I couldn’t stop. I was that close to peeing myself. People were staring. Some were even pointing. A posh city gent type was sitting, very tightly hemmed-in between other bland, boring suits, behind a row of ‘Financial Times’ opposite me. He leaned over towards me. “Excuse me young man”. (Well I did say it was many years ago.) “Would you mind awfully (think ‘John Le Mesurier) showing me your book cover please?” I managed to suppress my laughter for long enough to raise the book. “Oh, Tom Sharpe!” The city gent exclaimed with a knowing look. “He has that effect on me too!”
I’m interested in, among many other topics, music, playing guitar, the paranormal, geo-politics and history. I love retro British motorbikes, 1930s era aeroplanes, (see below left), and steam engines, (my Dad was a fireman on the Southern Railway). I enjoy ‘coarse’ fishing on the Tillingbourne, (coarse fishing is the type where you swear at the ones that get away). I once nearly caught a big pike…….. on a blackberry! (No, not that sort.) I also love, but not necessarily in this order, visiting Heligan gardens, walking the coast path between St Ives and Lelant, walking in the Surrey Hills, cycling the local Cornish lanes, watching ski-jumping, Woking F.C., Bobby Moore, Jimmy Greaves, George Best, being with my ‘kids’, going to gigs, making random stuff from recycled items, and eating treacle tarts smothered in Cornish cream, (the tarts covered in cream, not me.)
I like to take long walks, particularly if there’s a nice pub or two en-route. I once walked the entire Cornish coast path. On my return somebody asked me why I had done it. “Because it was there.” I explained. Long before my kids grew up I played a lot of indoor 5-a-side football, and I scored a few belters in my time, but then, to be honest, I think a few of us did from time to time.
I only ever got sent off the one time. I had been repeatedly ‘nutmegged’ by a faster, much more skillful opponent, and I had finally lost my temper. I removed the lad’s legs from under him, sending him sprawling. Mostly on his face. For about thirty feet. When the poor lad finally picked himself off the floor his nose was so red that he had instantly acquired the nickname ‘Rudolf’. The ref of course really had no choice, he pointed to the penalty spot and showed me his red card. I remonstrated with the ref, somewhat unconvincingly and insincerely, that the lad was a well known diver and actor. It had cut no ice with the ref. He was having none of it. He was in a foul mood. He hadn’t even wanted to be the ref that day, he had been talked into it. He would have much rather been playing. He was going to make damn sure that somebody would pay for it. He had probably chosen me because I had a prettier girlfriend, and was a far more skilful player than he was. He stubbornly kept his red card held high, he remained silent and aloof, playing up to the crowds, (all ten of them), who were all watching the match from behind the rope climbing nets high above the indoor pitch in Woking leisure centre. I balanced up on to my toes and looked him right in the eyes, (the ref was at least six feet four inches tall). There was a very tense stand-off. You could have heard a pin drop. The ref never even batted an eyelid. It soon dawned on me that the ref was never going to change his decision. It was then that I had publicly questioned his parentage. I took my shirt off in disgust, (I had seen Kevin Keegan do it), and then dramatically threw it into the bottom right-hand corner of the net, before walking off the pitch and taking an early shower. It’s a good job that my maternal granddad had died before I was born. He would not have been very pleased with my behaviour that day. Ernie Thomas had been a very highly respected referee in the old Isthmian football league!
I once ran a half-marathon, representing the south of England for my company. I had trained very hard for several weeks, running up and down Anchor hill in Knaphill. I got myself pretty fit and was confident of a reasonable placing. But sadly it just wasn’t to be. I stupidly went drinking in the Nottingham University bar the previous night, with some other alleged ‘athletes’, (until being thrown out at about 3 a.m.), and, to be frank, I had slightly overdone it. The next morning, suffering with a huge hang-over, what felt like two dead hamsters in my mouth, and feeling very unfit and dehydrated, I had eventually crossed the finishing line. Second last.
Well, at least I didn’t finish last you may be thinking, that’s something to hold on to. Well maybe, yes, under normal circumstances perhaps I would agree with you, but here’s the thing, the old guy who came last was very, very unlucky to finish last. He had trained very hard too. He had also, unlike me, avoided the uni bar the night before, had an early night, slept very well, and had even enjoyed a really nutritious, if boring, breakfast of nuts and museli. But, very sadly for him, his very sensible preparation had all been to no avail. The old chap had had a massive heart attack, and he had died halfway around the course. To make things even worse, he had dropped dead just after I had finally managed to pass him. The last words that the poor bugger heard were “In yer face fat-boy!” Well, how was I to know? That bitch Thatcher had encouraged us all to be selfish. I was young and impressionable. It was just the old competitive spirit coming out.
I enjoy writing, and I hope that you will enjoy reading my writing. I hope that you will enjoy my daft, and my not so daft ramblings, and my occasional rants too………please come on in and browse awhile, and don’t take anything I write too seriously. I don’t. If I haven’t offended you, or somebody or something that you hold dear, please be patient with me, I’ll get to you in time. I hope that you will find something here that will interest you, or make you laugh, (but hopefully for all the right reasons, and in all the right places). My major areas of interest, writing-wise, (although you will find others), are genuine personal stories of the paranormal, stories based on my happy building sales days up in Northumberland, and my later gardening exploits in Cornwall, (think James Herriot meets Tom Sharpe and Mark Wallington, at a party thrown by Harry Pearson, and you will get some idea of the writing style I try to achieve.) I am currently collecting local Cornish peoples’ paranormal stories for a creepy compilation that I hope to have published before too long. (summer, 2018). In my fiction I like to blend real life events with half-truths, some slight exaggerations, and, frankly, but keep this to yourself……..loads of out and out damn-right lies. I like to mix in some dark, slightly manic humour, with the occasional sprinkling of melancholy, history and nostalgia, and then pepper it all with loads of references to the music, characters and places that I love. If you are a big noise in the literary/media world, and you like what you read, then please get your guys to call my guys, I’m sure that we can all come to a mutually beneficial financial arrangement, and that we can all then live in shared security, forever and ever after. Enjoy!
P.S. Edited…January 2018. I published my first book, ‘Wyatt’s Weird World!’, back in 2015. It is available on Amazon Kindle. I am currently working on a book based on other people’s witness testimonies to strange events in and around Cornwall.
Note; Any written work, music, images or videos that Mark Anthony Wyatt has created, remains his personal intellectual property. But any other written work, music, images, or videos are the personal intellectual property of those who created them. The owner/host of this website makes no monetary gains from showing other people’s content/intellectual property, he only shares the content because he admires the people who created the content. If they or their agents wish the content to be removed he will do so, but he feels it would be short-sighted as this website is but a portal to more interest in their content.
Mike Nesmith’s excellent website is….
Constructive comments below are very welcomed. Glowing praise even more so. It’s how I know you have been here. Offers of highly paid writing gigs, though unlikely, would be lovely too. But just for the record, all spammers can just go and …………….