David Spiller was born in Cambridge in 1949. He attended the University of Newcastle where he received a BA Honours degree and has spent the majority of his life in teaching, specializing in art and design. David retired after working for thirty-six years in this role and wrote Caught in the Act. Here are ten things you should know to familiarise yourself with this new author.
I can tie a cherry stalk into a simple knot in my mouth by using only my tongue.
I was once challenged to do this by someone. I cannot remember when or where. It sounded impossible but I thought that I would just give it a go. To my amazement I did it at the first attempt. It wasn’t just beginner’s luck; I can do it at will repeatedly. Not surprisingly some people look at my knotted stalk with an uneasy disbelief!
I think that being retired is fantastic.
It is strange to think that so many men are terrified of retiring because of a percieved loss of status or the unknown. Having had a stressful career, that problem didn’t apply to me. And I could take up writing. I have just published my first book, “Caught in the act” a collection of 26 short stories, some of which are metaphors for aspects of my life. My only previously published work was when I was the theatre critic for the student newspaper at university.
My career as an art teacher was truly satisfying.
Working with young people in a creative and yes, sometimes challenging environmment was so rewarding. Especially when it all worked out and students not only developed educationally in so many ways but also went on to have exciting careers. Creativity is all about making something from nothing and the most important ingredient is imagination. Nothing of importance which the human race has ever created would exist without first being imagined.
I love the English language in all its forms.
The biggest legacy which our nation has left to the world is the ubiquity of the English language. Many words are truly mesmerising in their sound; endorphin, carapace, canopy, pelargonium… And I must mention the homonyms, homophones and homographs; words which hint at their meaning and their own shared legacy from ancient civilisations.
As a boy in the sixties, I was sent away to a public school.
Bullying was rife and mostly instigated by the pupils but sadly also by some of the masters. Unfortunately I had an English master who had decided to make my life and that of some of my fellow pupils’ lives a complete misery. He humiliated pupils that he didn’t like. He also had favourites and he had a nasty habit of picking his nose. He features in my next collection of stories. He was a stickler for the correct use of grammar, as a result of which I do have a very good understanding of how to use apostrophes. I am happy to say that the school now is a very good one.
I never mind having to wait when I am meeting someone. Without making it obvious, I can sit and watch people for hours. Especially at the arrivals or departures of a busy airport. Seeing people greet each other or saying goodbye is often very touching.
I think that old wooden boats are beautiful.
Recently on holiday in Zanzibar we went sailing on an ancient dhow. It consisted of a simple hollowed out mango wood log of indeterminate age. Two outriggers were roped to one side. It also had a rudder and a lateen sail fixed to a raked mast. There are pictures of such boats on old paintings in India from thousands of years ago. I live in Suffolk by a river and I see some examples of old wooden fishing boats; a few are still in use and carefully maintained. Unfortunately too many are just left to rot in muddy creeks. The age-old skills used in the intricate construction of these beautiful boats are in danger of being lost for ever.
I also have three guilty secrets:
I am afraid of heights.
When I was four my family moved to a huge old house in the country. My bedroom was three stories up. All the window catches were wired up for safety. However that did not stop me from having regular nightmares about climbing onto the roof. It was always the same; I would slip, then hang on to a gutter that broke away and then fall. I would always wake up before I hit the ground. It took place so many times. But the last time it happened I actually “controlled” the dream. I then experienced what it was like to crash to the ground. I woke up in a terrible sweat but never had the nightmare again. Even now whenever I look down from high places or see photographs of heights, like the famous builders of the sky scrapers of New York, I have a weird tingling sensation in parts of my body.
Watching ‘junk’ on TV is very relaxing.
“How do they do it?” or “Food Factory” are special favourites. They are simple, factual, documentaries and are genuinely interesting. My wife cannot understand my attraction to such programmes. However I find them totally absorbing, completely stress free and after a busy day they are an ideal way to relax. But I never watch soaps, that really is going too far.
I love swimming naked, ideally in the warm Mediterranean sea or at a special hidden river in the south of France. There is absolutely nothing like it. The sense of freedom and exhilaration is wonderful. I am not talking about swimming on designated ‘nudist’ beaches, that is not what I want. For me it is a private activity usually in a secluded cove away from the crowds or in a river. The Summer sun would be shining, the gentle water would be sparkling and my wife and I would be revelling in the glory of it all.