As I approached my ninetieth birthday, and as I was still reasonably alert and competent, I had the idea of composing something autobiographical for the benefit of the family.
All my adult life I have enjoyed writing, for example theses at university, operational research reports in the army, an MSc theses when I worked for ICI, research papers for publication in my National Coal Board years, technical papers to the Institute of Quarrying, and leaders and articles as a journal editor.
For my first book I decided to use the form of a diary covering a year. Thus every date which could be evocative of an incident or experience would be covered, as would all significant anniversaries.
I entitled the book Curves of Freedom, a phrase from the poem ‘On High Hills’ about mountaineering by Geoffrey Winthrop Young which, as a rock-climber, I much admired. I dedicated the book to my wife and daughters.
I decided the self-publish the book and looked around for a suitable company to manage the process. I discovered Independent Publishing Limited in Brighton, who offered all the facilities I needed and quoted a fixed price for preparation, production, promotion and circulation.
I was very pleased with the final production, which was published in my ninetieth year.
However, what was missing from my first book was a proper account of my wartime years, which were among the most interesting and exciting of my life. I had completed a private account of these years as a record for the family, but this was so voluminous, with any maps, supportive documents and photographs that publication would have been a major and expensive undertaking.
But thinking about it I had the idea of first using the text as the basis for several essays to communicate my account. So evolved my second book. Words for Weighing, which began with two descriptive essays, ‘A Journey to War’, and ‘Burma and Beyond’. A third military essay, ‘The Burma War’, is an analysis of the campaign with the object of confounding those who were ignorant or inconsiderate enough to treat it as a ‘sideshow’.
The next of the essays were a mixed bag. Some of them enlarged on themes that were touched upon in my first book, Curves of Freedom.
So to my third book. The first two are very much take up with adulthood and professional life. The third one, again autobiographical, deals mainly with my early days – a sort of ‘0 to 21’ book, from my birth in 1920 to my graduation at the age of twenty one. The title is Tokens of Youth.
I was about to submit the text to Indepenpress when I was informed that the business had gone bust. A search for an alternative outlet finished up with Troubador Publishing Limited of Leicester.
The book is dedicated to my parents, Albert and Elsie Fish. It was published when I was aged 94.
I have just published, at the age of 96, my fourth book, entitled Across Ten Decades. I was born in 1920, so wrote this autobiography in the tenth decade of my life – hence the title.
The structure of the book is deliberately episodic, rather than continuous and comprehensive. I felt that the latter approach, although orthodox, would be boring to write and probably boring to read. The episodic approach, on the other hand, gives the opportunity to select experience, events and activities that are particularly significant for each decade.
Every chapter deals with a single decade, the general nature of which is indicated by the title.
In my particularly long, interesting and active life I have travelled widely. The accounts of the people I met and the places I encountered are distinctive elements of the book. Also my very varied professional experience, in several occupations, is a further distinctive feature.
The book is dedicated to my two daughters, Hilary and Rosie. The design, printing and publishing of the book were competently managed by the Self-Publishing Partnership of Bath. It carries the imprint of Brown Dog Books.
So, four books written and published in my nineties – not bad for an ‘Oldie’!
Across Ten Decades is available to purchase now from Amazon
Written by Brian Fish