In schools, one of the most popular questions I'm asked is, "How did you become a writer." The first step along the road was becoming a reader.
This is how it started... in the long-ago summer of 1971 I was working three days a week in Sandra’s, a one-room hairdressing salon at the top of our street. One Saturday morning as I was washing Mrs. Murphy’s hair, she asked, “So is this what you’re going to do for the rest of your life, Josephine?”
“Oh no,” I replied, chuckling. “Of course not. It's just for Saturdays.”
The room fell silent. Sandra glared at me. Later, she opened the till, put three pound notes into my hand and said, “Don’t bother coming back next week. If you’ve no ambition, I don’t want you working here.” My parents were furious and disgusted, not with Sandra but with me because in those days, any misfortune was your fault. The following Saturday I found a job at Westcotes Library and this really did change my life. I worked eight hours a week as I studied for my ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels, (not very brilliantly,) but my time at Westcotes Library taught me how to cherish and respect all sorts of books. I developed a life-long love of reading as well as a good knowledge of the Dewey System and many other skills which have helped me in teaching, writing and family life.
In 1971, one of the most popular novelists in Westcotes Library was Thomas Hardy. Along with hundreds of others in the west of Leicester, I worked my way through Tess of the D’Urbervilles; Under the Greenwood Tree; Jude the Obscure and The Mayor of Casterbridge. At school, I imagined myself in the Wessex of the late nineteenth century and I felt irritated at having to study The Waste Land – so bare and meaningless compared to the town of Casterbridge.
Westcotes library was the open door that gave me an entrance to another world, the world of books. I realised that you didn’t have to be rich and idle to read, you just needed time and a good local library. In all my time there nobody asked me if I wanted to be a librarian but I learned to respect all of those people and their everyday commitment to the local community.
At the end of sixth form I went to train as a teacher at Endsleigh College in Hull and then I taught for several years. I still visit Westcotes Library and read a great deal but when I first opened the door to the library and smelt the beeswax polish and saw the huge, wooden, newspaper lecterns, I walked into a new world, a world of books, a universe of stories.
Thanks for visiting this page and I hope you enjoy my books.Now my books are in Westcotes Library and many other libraries throughout the UK. I would love to show Sandra that her disappointing Saturday girl did have ambitions beyond washing hair and undoing rollers. But Sandra’s one-room salon is now part of a terraced house and she has disappeared. I live a few streets away from the one-room salon and from Westcotes Library. I have the greatest respect for hair stylists, especially Eve, but it wasn’t for me. Sandra did me an enormous favour in firing me that day. That was one step along the road to me becoming a reader.