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John Newman

As a child

I was born in Dublin long long ago. As a child I was blonde and chubby and utterly adorable ... and brave! I once rescued my little sister from a pig. I pulled her to safety by her hair and did she thank me? No she did not. When I was five my father died and my mother got very sick. My brother and sisters and I spent a short time in an orphanage ... it was the bad old days then. It was a dark time. I decided to be a magician when I grew up. I found a very old book of conjurors tricks and I very kindly allowed my little brother to be my assistant. He only had to do simple stuff like keep three hard boiled eggs in his mouth at the same time or maybe ten or twenty tied together hankies. Then I would magically pull them out of his mouth but he was hopeless. My best trick was producing my pet rabbit Louis out of a top hat (daa daa!) that I had put an invisible hole in the bottom of. That worked very well whenever Louis didn’t run away on me. In the end I gave up being a magician and became a puppeteer instead. That was fun. As a teenager my ambition was to be a soccer star. The problem was my eyesight got very poor around this time. If I played without my glasses I couldn’t see a thing and regularly scored own goals. If I played with my glasses (there were no contact lens in the middle ages), I’d invariably forget I had them on and jump up for a header and smash them. I suppose looking back on it now you could say I was a pretty goofy kid but in my own eyes I was a hero ... pity no one else thought so...

As an adult

I studied English and Philosophy in University College Dublin which was just down the road from my house so I could cycle but I was very jealous of the country students who lived in flats around the city and were free to do what they wanted. Except at dinner time ... it’s nice to get your dinner made by your mum. Nobody seemed to want to give a job to a philosopher even if he wrote good English so I decided to become a teacher. Well that’s not completely true – first I was a Folklore collector (fun!), a civil servant (boring!) and an accountant (terrifying when you can’t add!). The great thing about being a teacher is the short days and the long holidays. If it weren’t for the children it would be the perfect job. Then I got married to a beautiful girl from Luxembourg called Astrid and we had three beautiful children ... and then they grew up and now they’re a nuisance and they think I’m an old fossil. Except when they want money which is always. We live in Greystones, a nice little town beside the sea and we have a tiny house in France, beside the sea, where we live in the summer time. Summer time in Ireland can be a bit of a wash-out. No wonder the country is famous for being green ... it never stops raining.

As an artist

I don’t really have much of a routine when it comes to writing. I don’t write in the garden shed like Roald Dahl because it’s too full of junk and there’s no room. So I write when I’m in the mood ... in the dining room, usually after dinner – it gets me out of the washing up! I have always written, even when I was a goofy kid. I wrote short stories and poems mostly. And sometimes I won a prize or got a story or poem published and that kept me going for the next few years until I hit lucky again. When I was married first we were very poor and I really wanted to win this prize to Vienna for two. The prize was for the best love letter. I thought it would be so romantic to win and my wife would love me for ever and ever. I came second. The runner-up prize was three tons of turf (which people in Ireland sometimes burn instead of coal)... It wasn’t a bad prize but it wasn’t quite the same. “Darling I’ve a wonderful surprise for you ... three tons of turf...” doesn’t quite have the same ring as a weekend for two in Vienna. Never mind. She still loves me... I think. Then I started writing school books with another teacher and an old friend (well not too old). His name is Jim Halligan. This was a good idea because every time a teacher liked a book they made all their pupils buy it. However because the books we wrote were so boring and full of work the children of Ireland began to hate us so we decided to write some funny books to get back in their good books! With Jim, I wrote Fowl Play which was very wacky. Then we wrote Round the Bend, Fowl Deeds and Seeing Red. Each one was wackier than the last. We had great fun writing these books and it was a big thrill when Fowl Deeds was shortlisted for the Bisto Awards ... but it didn’t win. I sulked for days. Then Jim went off and wrote a book all by himself about aliens and mobile phones and I was so mad that I decided I would write my own book too. So I wrote Mimi. It took ages so I really hope somebody will read it.

Things you didn't know about John Newman

  1. I love shirts but I hate ties. So I’ve lots of shirts and only one tie ... black for funerals.
  2. I detest sauerkraut (except Betty’s, the best French cook in the world!). It’s some sort of pickled cabbage that everyone in Luxembourg loves (that’s where my wife is from) but it makes me vomit – not great news at a dinner party.
  3. I miss-hear a lot. My family say that I’m half deaf but that’s rubbish – they just mumble all the time.
  4. Today my favourite colour is purple. But tomorrow it will be something else. It depends on my mood.
  5. I like jam sandwiches. Especially strawberry jam but apricot is good too.
  6. I go for a jog most days but don’t get me wrong ... I hate it! But at my age I have to do something to fight the flab.
  7. Rats really spook me. Ever since I read a book called 1984 where they were used to torture people. And to think some people keep them as pets.
  8. I can’t sing and I can’t dance. I won’t even try to sing not even "Happy Birthday" except in the car on my own but I do dance even though it’s quite dangerous for others on the dancefloor. Sometimes I poke them in the eye , sometimes I stamp on their toes. When I really get going I have been known to knock over people.
  9. I’d love to do a parachute jump. I really fancy the idea of floating down through the air but what if the parachute didn’t open or the strings got in a knot or I got a heart-attack jumping out of the plane... Oh I wish I was brave enough! But Bungie jumping – no way, I’m not mad!
  10. I am not really into animals but if I were I would be a dog person, not a cat person. We’ve had two dogs, Knut and Fifi, but we don’t have any now. I wish dogs hadn’t got backsides. Cleaning up their poo can really wreck a good walk.

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