I’m often asked how Michael Morpurgo came to write the Foreword for the book version of Edie’s diaries. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin. It’s another story about the value of writing a diary.
Back in 1966 I had thrown in my job and decided, aged 24, to go to university. I had worked for a year in Dallas, Texas a couple of years earlier – arriving there just a year after Kennedy was assassinated – which gave me the time and space to ask myself what I really wanted to be doing with my life.
A little late, you might say – probably correctly – but there it was; I had applied to the London School of Economics to read Social Administration and I was anxiously waiting to hear if I had a place.
I was living in London and had the ideal temporary job running the bar in the basement of the utterly wonderful National Book League, in Albermarle Street off Piccadilly – a club for people in the world of publishing. Thereby hang many other tales…but not for now.
For several months I had been writing a diary. It now reads excruciatingly – full of cringe-worthy comments about my love life and opinions on everything! The Royal Academy is just round the corner and my breaks were often spent in there, followed by haughty criticisms in the diary.
I did eventually hear that I had a place at LSE and immediately headed off for three months backpacking around the Middle East, visiting Greece, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan (including time in Jerusalem) and Turkey, all the while continuing to write my diary.
On my return that diary found itself into a succession of drawers (much as Edie’s diaries had) for the next 40 years until, out of curiosity, I got it out again and asked my oldest grandchild, Rosa, to type it up for me. This coincided with my being asked by the publishers of the book version of Edie’s diaries if could suggest someone to write the Foreword to A Nurse at the Front.
To my surprise I came across this entry in the diary for Thursday 5 May 1966: “In the evening I went up to Hampstead to see Mike and Clare Morpurgo in their home in Well Walk…” By way of explanation, it was Michael’s step father, Jack Morpurgo, who was running the NBL at that time and also I had a French girlfriend around then whose family were friends of the Morpurgos.
Until I re-opened that old diary, I had completely forgotten about that meeting in Hampstead – well, Michael wasn’t then the celebrated author he is now! Not deterred, I decided to contact him with an invitation to write a Foreword. We met again and he kindly agreed.
So there you have it: the wonders of a coincidental meeting long forgotten. You couldn’t make it up. No, I haven’t, since you ask!
Thanks Michael (www.michaelmorpurgo.com)
You can read the Foreword here.
Dick Robinson – Edie’s great nephew
17 November 2014
More about the book here.