Welcome to my website
I write in all sorts of ways about all sorts of things. I like making things up and I like reading. I was a drama teacher for about fifteen years, which gave me ample opportunity for both of those things.
I was an only child, apart from the first five years when I had an older sister. She died when she was eleven, something that plays a significant part in my book, Dorothy, a long poem about the nearly one hundred year long life of my mother.
I grew up with a Yorkshire accent in a village five miles north of Leeds and began losing it when I passed the 11+ and received a grammar school education at a minor public school near Bradford. The fees were paid, through the government’s new ‘Direct Grant’ scheme, by the local education authority, not by my parents, who could not have afforded it.
My Eliza Doolittle experience continued with the help of various Professor Higginses, so that by the time I got a place to read English at Jesus College, Cambridge, my vowels and aitches were sufficiently well behaved for me to take my place alongside real public school boys, whose fees had been paid by their parents and who made up most of the well spoken university population.
I doubt whether Cambridge did anything more significant for me than let me go on reading and making things up, while putting the finishing touches to my accent. The irony is that, even as I was losing mine, a Yorkshire accent was becoming a sign of gritty, northern authenticity, a positive advantage to a young writer in the era of Ted Hughes, Stan Barstow and Sheila Delaney.
Just my luck!
After Cambridge, I picked up the threads of my interrupted childhood and went on growing up. I wrote two short stories for No. 4 in Faber & Faber’s Introduction series of stories by new writers. They were not particularly well reviewed, except by the Scarborough Evening News (“We hope readers will not think it is merely the prejudice of the parish pump that makes us feel that Mr Rathwell (sic) is the most promising of these writers”) and The New Statesman (“Of the new writers here I particularly enjoyed Neil Rathmell, who seems capable of developing and sustaining a nice line in the manic.”)
I’ve been working on that ever since.