However much we either liked or hated school, we all have favourite teachers from our school days. And a lot of people – and probably all creative people – had inspirational teachers. I’ve had a few in my school days… Mr Butcher, Mrs Turley, Mr Goodwin, but the one who stands out for me as being someone to encourage my writing was Mrs Batterbee aka. Olivia Batterbee aka. OJB.
My first completed book, Ruins Of The Old, which I entered into both my A-Level Art and English as coursework (the words for English, and the illustrations/binding for my Art), was dedicated to those three initials: O.J.B.
I always vowed to dedicate my first properly published book to her too. After all, she encouraged my stories, even after I left middle school, and even kept me supplied in yellow exercise books in which to write them for a time. As it turned out when I came to publish The End Of All Worlds two years ago I dedicated my book to my wife Emma (after all she is the one who has for seven years put up with living with a writer so it seemed only fair to reward her in some way), but those initials O.J.B. did last on to close out the the acknowledgments section.
I’ve been meaning for years, and I mean years, to try and get back in contact with Mrs B, and having published my first novel, and had it read by people who don’t know me from Adam, it seemed kind of appropriate. But you know how it is, one thing drives out another, and I never did, until…
We were back in Suffolk at the end of November last year, and my Mum had managed to get hold of her address from some other teacher ex-colleagues and so I participated in a bit of drive-by letterboxing of my novel into her house in Lowestoft. I simply inscribed a copy of my book, included a short note with it, and tucked it into a jiffy bag. I sat back and waited for a response.
And waited, and waited… I figured in the end that I must have got the wrong house or she had moved. It never once crossed my mind that she might have thought I was some freaking weirdo. So anyway, last week I wrote a letter to her and posted it off. And this morning I got a response. Not the response I wanted, but encouraging that someone took the time to send my letter back.
It turns out Olivia (now Wood) sold the house in July 2013 and moved to be closer to her son. They also said that they had taken my book to her solicitors (and gave me their names) to forward on, as they didn’t have a forwarding address. If only I had been a bit quicker off the mark with my drive-by letterboxing!