Globe-trotting poet is made of the write stuff

PUBLISHED: 11:39 21 June 2007 | UPDATED: 12:32 04 May 2010

TIGER TALES. John’s childhood memories have been recalled in a new book. Photo: HELEN DRAKE

TIGER TALES. John's childhood memories have been recalled in a new book. Photo: HELEN DRAKE

AS a schoolboy, John Taylor s vivid imagination would take him away from harsh post-war life in Littleport to adventures in far-away lands. From his desk in the village school, he would become a fearless Spitfire pilot, join Long John Silver on his pirate

AS a schoolboy, John Taylor's vivid imagination would take him away from harsh post-war life in Littleport to adventures in far-away lands.

From his desk in the village school, he would become a fearless Spitfire pilot, join Long John Silver on his pirate ship or become part of Scott's expedition to the Antarctic.

But, in reality, his childhood was unremarkable. He played the usual schoolboy pranks, got himself into trouble in the classroom and met the colourful characters who make village life special.

John always believed life was an adventure to be lived to the full. But never in his wildest dreams could he imagine how his future would turn out.

Now, after years spent travelling the globe and finally settling in Australia, he has gathered all his childhood memories into a collection of poems that have been published under the title Raising Fen Tigers.

The book has delighted, among others, the families born and brought up in Littleport.

"Life is an adventure and you have to grab it with both hands and go for it," said John.

"No one wants to look back in years to come and say 'I wish I had done that'."

John started writing his poetry after moving from the tropical climate of the Whitsunday Islands off the coast of Queensland in northern Australia to Melbourne in the southern state of Victoria.

"I had been used to going out bush walking and living in shorts and T-shirts," he said.

"Suddenly I found myself shivering in Melbourne and staying indoors. I had to find a way to amuse myself, so I wrote my first poem about my school and teachers.

"I sent it to my older sister in Cambridge and she encouraged me to do more. I started to get excited about the next poem before I had finished the one on which I was working.

"They would just come to me and I would scribble down lines wherever I could. I would write while I was fishing.

"Eventually my sister bullied me into sending them to a publisher. She always bullied me as a child so this was nothing new," he joked. "She told me if I didn't send them she would.

"I was blown away, gobsmacked, when I heard they were to be published in a book. I couldn't believe anyone would want to buy my drivel.

"I can't comprehend the response I have had."

John attended the former St Martin's School in Littleport, but he admits he never did very well and had to stay for an extra year to re-sit his exams.

On leaving school he went to the Pye electronics firm in Cambridge where he trained as an electrical mechanical design draughtsman.

But, at the age of 24 after qualifying and working long days, evenings and Saturdays in his chosen career, he was disillusioned to receive just £11 in his pay packet.

When he saw an advertisement for salesmen and realised their earning potential and the fact that they also drove company cars, he decided to switch careers. John never looked back.

His decision led to world travel and homes in South Africa, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and Australia, among other countries.

Eventually he and his Austrian-born wife settled in Australia's northern territory where John ran a 250-seater restaurant with his son.

John returns to the UK about every four years to visit his sister in Cambridge and his younger sister and 90-year-old father who live in Ashford, Kent.

"I had a marvellous childhood," said John.

"It was hard but we had great adventures."

INFO: John's book, Raising Fen Tigers, is published by Melrose Books in St Thomas' Place, Ely.

Available from bookstores, priced £11.99.

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