From Housemartins to Henrietta
Why would a popstar turn into a children’s author? Stan Cullimore explains.
Recently, I was sitting in the kitchen eating my breakfast, when the front doorbell rang. One of my daughters answered it and seconds later she walked into the room carrying a large parcel. She read the label and then sighed. ‘It’s for you, Dad.’
I wiped my mouth and got ready to experience the most exciting moment in any author’s life. I was about to hold in my hand, for the first time ever, a copy of my newly (and only!) published book: Henrietta and the Tooth Fairy. I opened the padded envelope and drew out not one, but six complimentary copies.
For a moment, even the children were stunned into silence – until, at last, my youngest said (and I quote) ‘Daddy, take me to the toilet, NOW!’
‘That’s the trouble with kids,’ I thought as I carried him upstairs. ‘They have no sense of occasion.’
When I returned the books had been passed round and duly admired. All I had to do was to explain to my puzzled offspring why I had decided to waste my time writing children’s books when I could have been doing more useful things like earning a living. I told them that a kind lady at Piccadilly Press had actually paid me to do it, and therefore it could be looked upon as work. At which point my eldest (they’re always difficult at her age) shook her head and announced sadly that; ‘You’ll do anything to avoid getting a proper job won’t you, Dad!’
Since then I have taken to opening my letters in private – but I do have to admit that she has a point. You see, for a short while, a few years ago, I was in a successful pop group called ‘The Housemartins’. I was, therefore, a popstar. I didn’t look like one and I didn’t feel like one, but nevertheless, I was one. And very nice it was too. But it was definitely not, what my mother (or my eldest) would call, a proper job.
In fact, often I would lie in my bath (I was a very clean young man), covered in bubbles and reflect upon how very odd my life was. After all, I had gone to Hull University to get a Maths degree and in the process had somehow managed to acquire a recording contract as well. Not that I was complaining. As jobs go, being a popstar is not that bad. True, I did have to spend a few years teaching myself how to play the guitar, sing and write songs. But, there are worse things in life – and it was well rewarded in the end. Also true, I had to spend most of my time travelling. But, it does broaden the mind (and you get lots of interesting stamps in your passport). In fact, the only worrying thing about the whole business was this. Everyone who has been a popstar for more than a couple of years is (to put it mildly) a trifle strange. Peculiar even.
I didn’t want this to happen to me. So, when the chance came for me to leave, I did. I retired gracefully to the highlands of Scotland and got married. I also learnt how to twiddle my thumbs and avoid thinking about what I was going to do next! As it turned out, what I did next was to become a father (by various ways and means) to several small children. So I had my work cut out doing the usual domestic stuff. Cleaning teeth, wiping noses, changing nappies and reading bedtime stories. Still not a proper job, according to my daughter. All her friends had Dads that go out to work, in proper offices!
It was at this point that I bought my wife a cuddly hippo, who (whom?) she called Henrietta. For some reason, I told the children that when they were asleep, Henrietta talked to me – and told me stories. (Maybe I had gone a bit peculiar by then …) Either way, my children now wanted to hear these stories for themselves, so I began to tell them as bedtime treats. The trouble was, when I attempted to repeat them I would forget things that the children remembered. And I would find myself hopelessly bogged down with questions which I could never begin to answer. The only solution was to write down these stories, in secret, and memorise them.
Well, as it does, one thing led to another, and I now find myself the author of a second and third book about Henrietta – the world’s favourite hippo (with a sneezy nose). What’s more, there’s a fourth on the way and possibly a fifth and sixth. In fact, I could possibly describe myself as a writer. With a proper job. The trouble is, my children won’t believe me. Only last week my daughter found me lying on my bed with my eyes closed plotting out a story; when I told her I was working, she laughed and said, `Dad, you don’t know what work is!’ That’s what I can’t stand about kids – they’re too clever by half.
Stan Cullimore’s books are illustrated by John Farman. All three are published by Piccadilly:
Henrietta and the Tooth Fairy, 185340 170 6, £5.95
Henrietta’s Bubble Trouble, 1 85340136 6, £5.95
Henrietta and the Ghost Chase, 1853401714, £16.95