A Change of Mind

| August 14, 2017 | 0 Comments | Email This Post Email This Post

A Change of Mind by Tony Whelpton

“I was once old; extremely old. In fact I am one of those presumably rare people who can remember their ninetieth birthday many years after it took place.”

It sounds a bit weird, doesn’t it? You might even think that those are the opening lines of a novel – and you’d be right. You would also be right if you went on to say that Maurice Summerfield, the old man who spoke those words, was not in his right mind. How do I know? Because I’ve not only read the novel – several times – but I wrote it too.

So who am I? I am an English novelist, and, to modify Maurice’s words, I am old, extremely old; in fact in January I shall be celebrating my 85th birthday. I’ve been writing books for about forty years, but I didn’t turn my hand to fiction until I was nearly eighty, and the story of Maurice Summerfield, which is called A Change of Mind, is my sixth novel.

Does that mean that I’m not in my right mind too? A good many of you might think so – after all, why carry on working at a stage of your life when you could be taking it easy?

Because even at my age, I don’t really feel old, I feel young! I remember many years ago reading some very wise words: “Everybody should die young – but as late in life as possible.” And ever since then I’ve refused to be old. Or rather, I’ve refused to think old, and if I feel like doing something, then I do it!

But three or four years ago something strange happened to me: I started to stammer. I’d never stammered before, even as a child. I thought at first I must have had some sort of stroke, but the doctors couldn’t find any physical or neurological reason for the difficulty I was having.

Then last year, having just finished my previous novel, I was trying to work out what to write next. Now when I’m writing a novel, I like to have my main character fighting some sort of cause, some problem external to themselves, but which they can’t possibly allow themselves to ignore. So I found myself thinking, “If I’ve got this speech problem bugging me, and I don’t seem to be able to get rid of it, I might as well make use of it, and write about somebody who has the same problem as me.” And so Maurice Summerfield was conceived.

Now don’t get me wrong. This isn’t my autobiography, not at all, for there are many ways in which Maurice differs from me, and there are things that happen to him that never happened to me. But there is something that novelists are able to do that isn’t possible in real life, and that’s to decide the outcome. Of course you have to make it realistic, or else your readers will just throw the book away, but if you’re writing about a problem which seems unsolvable in real life, you are able to find a solution to it, which is just as well, because who wants to read books which present problems to which there’s no answer?

So Maurice Summerfield explores all sorts of avenues, all kinds of therapy. But he does have one invaluable asset: his wife, Elaine, who knows how successful, how popular, and how influential Maurice has been throughout his life. Accordingly she sets about contacting a number of people who have figured in some way in Maurice’s past life and have gone on to be extremely successful in their own fields, people who, crucially, still feel that they owe their own success to Maurice’s encouragement.

Having ensured their willingness to cooperate, she then organises a series of lunch dates for Maurice and each of these old friends in turn, among them being people who have achieved considerable success in sport, in politics, in the theatre, in music, and in other spheres too. The ultimate effect, of course, is to boost her husband’s self-esteem, but it also changes him from the confused, troubled old man we first meet into a much more positive, forward-thinking character. As a result the novel becomes a remarkably uplifting one to read, and, as one reviewer commented, “This book is full of vivacity and gusto, and great fun to read.”

And what effect did it have on the author? Does he still stammer? Or did the writing of this story have some sort of therapeutic effect on him? I’m perhaps not the right person to answer those questions, but by way of reply I shall relate to you something that happened last month: In my home town of Cheltenham, at the heart of the beautiful, gently rolling Cotswold Hills, in the south-west of England, we have an annual literary festival. Not just any old festival either, but the oldest, the largest, and the most prestigious literature festival in the UK, and the organisers invited me to introduce A Change of Mind to the festival audience. And so, on 12 October 2017, I spent half an hour talking to and reading to a large audience, and do you know what? I didn’t stammer once.




Tags: ,

Category: Articles, Baby Boomer, Blog

Healthy Lifestyle Tips | Best Ways To Stay Healthy | Health And Fitness News | Health And Fitness For Seniors | Senior Health Products | Baby Boomers Generation