New Forest of Bowland based author publishes lockdown stories for children

Alan J Walton lives in splendid isolation on the fells near Oakenclough, and has crafted a series of written and audio stories that are surreal, funny, scary and ridiculous in equal measure.

Saturday, 23rd May 2020, 7:00 am

Last year, Alan, 72, wrote an anthology of childrens' stories - The Adventures of Pik and Pok - about two small worms who live in a wormery at the bottom of a kind old lady's garden.

Aimed at children aged between five and seven, the stories were later published as an audio book.

A few months later, as the first troubling news was coming out of Wuhan, China, about Covid-19, he started to formulate the idea of another story and after reading the biography of the Marquess of Bath he had the idea to stretch the plausibility levels of a story loosely based on this type of person.

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Alan Walton.

It was then that the Marquess of Bethelstone Stories were born, featuring characters including Reginald Ponsonby-Smythe, "thick-as- two-planks" Humphrey, Heinrich-that-lives-in-the-wall, crazy Madame Relton with the dangling earrings, and evil-as-they-come Harry Grimes, and of course Ethel, and Gladys...

Alan, who is originally from Crawley, West Sussex, has worked in sales and marketing in both the pharmaceutical and medical equipment areas for many years.

He said: "Back in 1989 I used to improvise and make up stories for my seven-year-old son, Daniel.

"There were so many times he found it difficult to get off to sleep and pushed me hard to tell him stories.

Reginald Ponsonby-Smythe AKA The Marquess of Bethelstone.

"Mostly my rough and ready imaginings sent him off with the Sandman but it did take a lot of effort as you can probably imagine.

"The years passed by and the need for bed time stories evaporated.

"Many years have passed by and, believe it or not, Daniel is the one who has pushed me to write a couple of anthologies of childrens’ stories.

"He is now 37 and it is hard to believe but he still adores these stories and….so do many other adults who have listened with their children!

Alan during the recording of the audio books.

"I don’t feel there is anything wrong in adults enjoying books meant for children…in fact it can bring a sense of comfort in these rather troubling times."

Alan said The Adventures of Pik & Pok stories are "completely stupid, funny and engaging stories", and he tried hard to imagine how a young child would perceive the content.

With friends, he tested it on children aged between five and seven and it quickly became apparent that they really identified with the stories and were mimicking the sounds created.

"This was very pleasing to me," he said.

He said the Marquess of Bethelstone Stories were a long labour, and aimed at children aged 9-13.

"There are some necessary scary episodes contained within!" he said.

Alan is now fully engrossed in his biggest project yet, ‘Peter & His Uncle Stories’ which he has targeted strictly for the 10-14 age group.

"There are many adventures and the book increases in scariness as the stories build to a climax," he said.

"The genre is science fiction with a liberal amount of horror thrown in for good measure."

‘The Pik & Pok Stories’ and ‘The Marquess of Bethelstone Stories’ can be found on any internet search engine.

Alan invites you to sample the first story from ‘The Marquess of Bethelstone Stories’ using the link HERE.FURTHER READING

Alan's partner Christine Andrews, a talented artist herself and originally from South Africa, describes the conditions that Alan writes in.

She said: "It's so isolated there, with miles of heather, bracken and wandering sheep in all directions, that one could easily imagine him having to hunt for his food and fashion quills from pheasant feathers for his writing – him being a story-teller and all.

The truth is, Alan is not alone, not at all. With him lives two cats, me, and a host of imaginary characters.

"These make-believe personalities have been with us for many sheep years, and new ones are constantly being added to the menagerie.

"They're very much part of our everyday life, so much so that I expect that when we do finally tie the knot, I'll have to pledge to take thee, Alan, and thee dear thick-as- two-planks Humphrey, and Heinrich-that-lives-in-the-wall, and crazy Madame Relton with the dangling earrings, and evil-as-they-come Harry Grimes, and Ethel, and Gladys... till death us do part.

"A year or so ago I had the privilege of meeting two little earthworms, one old one young, one grumpy one sweet, with the perky handles Pik and Pok.

They live in Alan's stories as well as popping up everywhere in our daily doings, opinionated and full of advice on how to dispose of banana peels, if you don't mind.

"One can't but love them!

A big favourite is our Reginald Ponsonby-Smythe, or as he is fondly known, the Marquess of Bethelstone.

"As round as he is short, and very finely turned out I'll say, he delights in entertaining children and servants alike on a scale worthy of his estate – in the pillared-and-mirrored mansion or on the rolling lawns sporting a massive fountain and sculpted shrubs.

"We're talking long tables bending under the weight of puddings and cakes, fireworks and talking gnomes, always with an adventurer gatecrashing the party!

"In case you think it's all light and feathers, I have to caution you.

"The epics turn shadier and more scary as we join Peter and his uncle Claus on their challenges and journeys through caves, down into the earth and even in dealings with species from cold, dark space.

"You'll need maturity, wisdom, courage and wit to help them save the earthlings from a threat of extinction...

"Alan is old, but not too old, and he is young, forever.

"He imagines and tells brilliant stories, lots of them, with a warm and bright velvet voice that has been compared to Michael Cane's.

"When the days are long and lonely, it's a delight to press the play button, close the eyes and escape into the quirky world of Alan J Walton.

"If you would like to meet any of these characters personally, you can find them at: https://youtu.be/Td_Ljda1Uc0."