As a child, I never felt like I had much in common with my peers. Don’t get me wrong, I had friends, but often they were huge fans of football, and they loved sports and other outdoor pursuits. Me—I preferred my own company most of the time. I had moments of enjoying social freedom, but that’s all they were—moments. To be fair, they were brief moments too!
Like I’ve said many times before, I preferred to get lost in stories as a child. I still do. Now, it would be obvious to point out the many books that I enjoyed, which is why I prefer to use the term ‘stories’. That is the key to me—because stories can be found everywhere, and not only in books. And great storytelling is something I adore. Let me tell you one of the reasons why…
From memory, the first thing that exploded my imagination as a child was Dinosaurs. WOW!! Nothing particularly out of the ordinary about that either. But as I got older, I seemed to become engaged in activities that many children my age didn’t. Well, they did, but not as much as I did. At primary school, I generally read a lot, or I watched television shows that revolved around imaginary worlds. He-Man comes to mind, and I thought She-Ra was incredible too. Transformers, Dungeons & Dragons, Battle of The Planets and Terrahawks were all favourites. Who remembers ‘The Mysterious Cities of Gold’? I was crazy about imaginary people, monsters and the like. Then as I got older, I enjoyed many movies. As you can imagine, I was quite the Spielberg fanatic, and I’ve already talked about my love for Star Wars here.
All through this, I was also a huge nature lover. Animals of all sorts intrigued me. Again, they still do. Then, in my mid-teens, I started birdwatching. Not the average interest for a high school teenager, but nonetheless I loved it. Many times, I’d sit and watch them in all manner of places. In hindsight, I have come to realise that this wasn’t just about a love for nature either. Watching birds was peaceful, soothing and quiet. Activities like that allowed me to get lost even further inside my imagination too. That was my safe place, and the only person I ever allowed inside it, was my dad. He would take me to bird hides in all manner of places. Yet, it wasn’t even something that had ever appealed to him. In hindsight, my dad did that a lot. He engaged with me over my hobbies, even though none of them particularly interested him. What was important, was that he never stopped me being me.
Whilst my teenage years began to end, I started to pursue other things. Music had become a big part of my life, but that’s a story for another day. My freedom was also becoming a little more important, and I stopped going on family trips and holidays. That was, until I hit nineteen. For whatever reason, I decided to go away with my family. I really can’t remember if there was a conscious reason for it. Either way I did. There isn’t much I remember about it either—we went to Cornwall like we always did. Overall, it was no different to many of the other holidays we had enjoyed together. Yet, there is one thing that will be with me forever…
One evening whilst we were on holiday, my dad asked if I wanted to go and see it. All the people in the hotel were talking about it, and it had spiked his interest. When we went, I was blown away for so many reasons. It was a Spielberg movie for a start, and for me, he had brought dinosaurs to life. Dinosaurs!! The movie was packed full of action, but it felt so real too. The sound of a T-Rex will never get old. Although, there was something else that fed my imagination even more. An egg! That egg! And out of it—came a baby velociraptor. I can’t tell you how that moment felt for me, but I was spellbound to say the least. All this—and of course, it was a book first.
When we came away from that movie, it was all we could talk about. Again, my dad was right there with me. Whether he was as fascinated as I was remains to be seen. What matters, is that we shared that moment together. And in that moment, I decided once and for all, that one day, I would write my own stories.
Sadly, only a couple of weeks later, my dad passed away. Even now, almost twenty-five years later, it hurts more than I can ever explain. But he left me with such special memories. Jurassic Park was the last thing we did together—just the two of us. He was there with me, in that moment, whilst my imagination was brimming over. For that, I will always be so grateful. And for that, I will always have a huge place in my heart for Jurassic Park.