My mother said when I was born - Malta 1949 - they had a tradition. I cannot vouch for it and if so, whether they still practice it today. Perhaps someone can let me know. Anyway, when a baby is able to sit up, he or she are placed in the middle of a blanket and surrounded by various objects, such as pencils, books, needles (Duh?), toy cars, dolls (Duh?), etc., various objects portraying diverse subjects, traditional trades and occupations. The first two objects the child picks up then informs the family what will interest the child as an adult.

Now cue in the spooky music for ‘The Twilight Zone’. You got it. I picked up a book and a pencil. 

So it would appear this tradition began working for me.

Books have fascinated me since that day. I love the smell. The feel. The sound. The look of them. The distinct difference between a new and an old book, the one that leaves a dusty, hungry feel on your fingertips – the energies passed from one word lover to another. So, it seems the tradition worked.

So was this tradition a glimpse into the future? Reprise ‘The Twilight Zone’ music. Had our forbearers discovered a Stargate? Then to pop the cherry on top of my personal historical cake, a pen flew into my hand and I discovered writing.

My first serious delve into ‘proper’ writing – the pencil - happened shortly after I came to England for the second time, permanently this time, in August 1959. Someone gave me a red pen – never had a red pen before – but it inspired me so much I began writing deep, philosophical poetry in a blue schoolbook. Deep? Philosophical? Please. What did a ten-year-old kid know about such things?

‘Most of the basic material a writer works with is acquired before the age of fifteen.’ - Willa Cather