216 Clydesdale Road,
November 5th, 2015
It was lovely to get your last letter. I remember taking those piano lessons, and not enjoying them very much. I think Mummy was disappointed I didn’t get into them the way she obviously did. It was probably because I resented all that pressure of Grandma Jackson coming to check on me. I never did like being told what I had to do, which of course got me into trouble quite a bit.
They had rationing in Canada as well during the war, and for a short while after the war ended, because Canada was shipping a lot of food and other things to help out in Europe. But I don’t think it was ever so bad here as in England. It must have been very dangerous for those ships that had to sail all the way from here to England, because of all the U-boats that were watching out for them.
I just realized it’s Guy Fawkes Day, so I expect you’ll be having a firework display at school, and be burning poor old Guy Fawkes on a big bonfire. I always felt pretty sad about him—all he did was try to blow up the houses of parliament!
I’ve been retired from being a children’s doctor for a good few years now, and for the first time in my life nobody is telling me what to do—not even Dorothy! You are just starting out on what will be more than twenty years of being a student, though a good part of that time you’ll be earning your living as well. It must be hard for you to imagine that right now. It took me a good while to get used to having no one to boss me about and tell me what I had to do next. But I always did have a real purpose in my life, which was helping other people.
I remember even at your age you were already enjoying helping people, like running errands for Mummy and Buster and your big sisters. Well, even since I retired and married Dorothy, I’ve gone on helping folks—we both have together, which is even better. And I must say we do seem to know a lot of people who need our help in different ways.
Well, I think you already know how good it can feel to be helping someone else. I think when I look back it may be the most important thing I ever did in my life. Even now that much of my time is taken up with writing stories and poems, and even a full-length book about my working life, I am still mostly inspired by all those years I spent caring for children and their parents. I used to write what are called academic papers, all about the medical research I was doing, but I don’t do that anymore. And good riddance!
The other thing I like about writing stories, and perhaps especially writing these letters between us, is that it helps me remember things I might otherwise have forgotten altogether. Like all those schooldays—because that’s the main thing that takes up your life nowadays. I hope you’ll tell me some more about your adventures when you next write to me.
Lots of love, John