A bit on the side.


Welcome back to another blog hop, with #OpenBook. Here’s this week’s prompt.

Don’t forget to click the purple button to see what everyone else has to say.


What is a side skill that has been useful in your life? Where did you learn it? Have you written it into any of your stories?


In my life, I’ve done lots of things. Living on a ship for months on end meant that you acquired skills that you might not have expected to. It wasn’t just about driving around the oceans and watching cargo swinging on the end of a crane wire. As well as all the navigation, avoiding rocks and other ships, you had to take care of your home. That meant painting, greasing and general maintenance. If something broke, you needed to be able to do something about it. And in the absence of someone to do it for you, you learned to fix an awful lot of things, mainly by having a go, applying logic and, when all else failed, by reading the instructions!


I’ve also had to sew up cuts, give injections and fight fires whilst wearing breathing apparatus. All of those things were not what I had ever thought I was going to have to do when I signed up.


When I first left that life, I drifted around, doing a lot of different jobs before finally becoming a pilot. I was a lockkeeper, assistant harbour master and an insurance surveyor. I worked in a bar and even spent time washing and delivering hire cars when I was short of cash. Later, in what was supposed to be my retirement, I got bored. So I founded and ran an organic bakery, after teaching myself the secrets of Sourdough baking. Then I found writing (or it found me).

And that’s before you consider all the other things that I taught myself to do to save money, such as decorating, gardening, house and car maintenance, mending my children’s bicycles etc., etc.

I guess you could say that my life has given me a variety of side skills. As well as savings, some of them have even made me money (except writing – so far). Even if they haven’t, the learning experience has always been worth it. The sense of satisfaction and achievement when I master a new skill still gives me a buzz.

A lot of the things I’ve found myself doing have lodged in my writing. I’ve adapted the ships that I sailed on to run in space and given old shipmates (and family members) thinly disguised parts. I’ve used my experiences to creating liveable habitats on alien worlds, based on places I saw. I’ve put a twist on situations I’ve found myself in and pinched overheard conversations (it’s amazing how invisible you become when you’re washing a car), using them to kickstart ideas.


Nothing you learn or do is ever wasted, even domestic chores can have a place in a novel.


Mostly, I’ve used all the life lessons and knowledge I have to create fiction. And tried to make it impossible to tell where reality ends and the product of my imagination begins.


Until next week.



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5 Responses

  1. Daryl Devore

    Sounds like you’ve live a wonderfully interesting life. And yes, even the most menial task can find its way into a book.
    Tweeted.

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