A Writing Flashback!

Recently, I’ve been sorting through some of the items my mum has kept over the years and I rediscovered my old Brother typewriter. My mum died during 2020 and it has been extremely tough at times for my dad and the family in general. I know a lot of people have experienced great sadness over the last year and my thoughts are with everyone who has suffered a tragedy during this time. It’s been a tough year. 

I thought I’d got rid of the typewriter many, many years ago and so seeing it brought back many memories. It reminded me of some of my earliest writing on football and so I thought I’d share on my blog the story of this typewriter. 

I bought this typewriter with the royalties from my first book – I can’t remember exactly how much it cost but I know I just about earned enough to pay for it. My first book was ‘From Maine Men To Banana Citizens’ (a pictorial history of Manchester City) which was published in April 1989. I’d handwritten that book! Fortunately, as it was a pictorial history there actually wasn’t much writing – just captions really.

As I’d handwritten the captions and posted them to the publisher there were times when they misread my writing. I had written the captions in capitals mainly, but my writing in whatever style is awful (at primary school my headteacher – an obsessed MUFC fan – used to tell me my writing was like a ‘drunken spider walking across the page’). Words like ‘the’ would occasionally read as ‘one’ to those unfamiliar with my poor writing. 

In From Maine Men to Banana Citizens some of my writing was misread and wasn’t picked up in the review process and so I know there are a few ‘one’s where ‘the’s should be (if you’ve got the book see if you can spot any!).

Once the book was published and I spotted these I knew I needed to get a typewriter. Once I’d received my royalties I bought my electric Brother typewriter. I bought a Brother typewriter because they were Manchester City’s sponsors at the time and I wanted my money to go to a company that supported people I approved of (and some think sponsorship doesn’t influence).

I was still living at my parents back then and I used the typewriter to write my sections of my second book The Pride of Manchester (co-written with Steve Cawley). This book told the story of the Manchester derby and we could every friendly and competitive game from 1880 through to publication in 1991. As the book was really a game by game story of the derby I would type a page or so at a time and the typewriter meant it wasn’t too laborious – the laborious aspect was the in-depth research. 

The book was published in 1991 by which time I was already researching and writing my third book – Football With A Smile: The Authorised Biography of Joe Mercer, OBE. I soon realised that due to the volume of writing each chapter needed and the amount of times I’d changed the flow/tone of each chapter that using a typewriter was proving to be time consuming. I decided that I needed to buy something different. My Pride Of Manchester co-author Steve owned an Amstrad PCW and this seemed to offer more flexibility.

I then used the royalties from my second book to buy an Amstrad PCW like Steve’s. It cost me about the same amount my typewriter had cost and my royalties had once again been spent – I soon realised that it was nigh on impossible to make money from writing about football!

The Amstrad PCW did make my writing life easier (until of course I could afford a PC – from the combined royalties of my Joe Mercer book AND my fourth book, Manchester The Greatest City, published in 1997!) although I had a problem with a damaged Amstrad disk which meant I lost the entire first chapter of the Mercer book. I’d been crafting it for weeks trying to get it right and then my own stupidity meant the disk became damaged. I couldn’t bear to start again – and I hadn’t backed it up (first major lesson!) – and so I wrote the rest of the book before I came back to chapter one. When I did write the new chapter one I knew (and still know) that it is not as good as the one I lost.

When I moved out of my parents’ house I took my Amstrad PCW as I was still writing the Mercer book but I must have left behind the Brother typewriter. I don’t remember ever seeing it after that until I rediscovered it the other week, almost 30 years after I last used it.

When Covid allows I’ll take the Brother typewriter to a charity shop and, hopefully, it will find a new life for itself. It served its purpose back in 1989-91 but maybe there’s still a bit of life left in it.

Who knows how many Amstrads, PCs, Apple products and so on I’ve been through since I bought my brother. Most are long gone, but somehow the Brother survived.

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