This week is a chance for me to celebrate the success of some of my friends. Time catches up with everyone eventually but for sportsmen and women I think there is a period of denial. They know that age will make you slower or weaker and that there will always be youngsters coming through who want your shirt but having had a career where you are always the best must make it hard to actually accept the passing of time. I think that’s why some players go on a season too long or boxers decide that they still have it and want to make a comeback. Planning for a future without being a top flight sportsperson can just be something too hard to think about.
I think that’s what impressed me most about James Hook. I’ve known James and his family for years. When he first rang me, he was still very much a top sportsman, playing regularly at club and international level. James understood that nothing lasts forever, and he wanted to think about a career after he hung up his boots. Most players think about punditry or broadcasting and we did talk through some of those opportunities, but it was his main idea that made me stop. James wanted to write a book.
Now a sportsman writing his autobiography is nothing new, Waterstones have shelves full of them. That makes sense I thought, a great career playing in numerous positions and he had lived in France for a couple of years. There would be plenty to write about and I’m sure lots of inside stories to share. It was the next bit that took me by surprise, James wanted to write a children’s book about rugby.
By this stage James had a family of boys of his own. Getting boys interested in books is notoriously difficult but if you can find a subject they are interested in then they can get ‘hooked’. James’ lads were mad keen on rugby. He had been to the book shops and whilst there were numerous children’s books on football there didn’t seem to be any on rugby. James had an idea about a group of school friends who dream of winning the Rugby world cup or playing for the Lions. He had it all mapped out in his head, a series of books that would go from school to the professional pitch spread over a number of books all aimed at getting children to read.
As he was talking an author friend of mine came to mind. David Brayley is a lot younger than me, but we grew up in the same part of Swansea going to the same schools, so we had a lot in common. He had left a ‘proper job’ in the council to follow his dream of being an author. He had edited and contributed to a children’s sports book called ‘Believing in Achieving’ before going on to co-write sports biographies with Cricketer Tony Cottee and footballer Ashley Williams. At the time I had just read his latest book about a teenage cyclist called ‘Champion of Champions’.
A couple of days later I arranged for the three of us to meet for a coffee at the Hyst on Swansea High Street and after the introductions, and I think buying the coffee, I made myself scarce. It was obvious that the two of them got on well and David would keep me up to date with the latest information.
11th April 2018
We’ve written about 27,000 words and met with a Sports literary Agent in London.
1st May 2019
James and I met with a publisher who is going to make an offer to our agent.
30th April 2020
Evening Mal. We got sent the final cover today…always an exciting time.
Finally, this week…
20th September 2021
We’ve won the Daily Telegraph Children’s Sports Book of the Year!!!
I went on to twitter and saw the pictures of the two of them beaming in their tuxedos. Just for you to know winning that award is like winning the Oscar for best Children’s Sport Book, its enormous!!!
The award is bound to help promote the book, but it doesn’t stop there. James and David have the next book in the series published on 14th October by Polaris Books. Chasing a Rugby Dream, Book Two – Impact. Next time we meet the coffees are on them!
The next person I’ve been celebrating this week is Avis Scott. Avis is a wonderful singer who has played hundreds of gigs and recorded lots of records over the years. She comes from a musical family; Bonnie Tyler is her sister.
Some years ago, I was recording songs from my musical ‘Cappuccino Girls’ and asking various singers to take on different songs from the show. Bonnie sang the title track, but I had one song that ended the first half of the show that I knew would be perfect for Avis.
Avis has a strength but also a vulnerability in her voice that can make you cry. The song is sung in the show by the character Demi. For years Demi has been in a toxic relationship. Her husband has controlled her, making her feel useless and worthless. Finally, she decides that she won’t take it anymore. She decides to leave and from this moment on her life would start again…this day would be her new birthday.
Over the years Avis had done a lot of gigs with Chris Needs and once he heard the recording the song soon became a regular favourite on the Chris Needs Late Show on BBC Radio Wales.
Earlier this month I was talking to Rachel Williams who runs SUTDA – Stand Up to Domestic Abuse. Just like Demi in Cappuccino Girls, Rachel had been in an abusive relationship for over 18 years. 10 years ago, this week, she was shot and severely wounded by her partner. Yesterday she ran a ‘sold out’ online conference for SUTDA with guests including Ruth the ITV Weather presenter and messages of support from Jeremy Vine and Robert Rinder. I mentioned the song to Rachel, and she asked if they could include the song in the conference to use it as an anthem for survivors.
After Rachel (@Dontlookback198) filed for divorce in 2011, her husband shot her in the leg. He later killed himself. Listen to Rachel’s story and why she’s campaigning for men and women who suffer #DomesticAbuse. pic.twitter.com/F3rkOBMLB3— Home Office (@ukhomeoffice) January 21, 2019
When I rang Avis to ask her permission she sounded excited to know people still wanted to hear her sing. I’m sure Avis still has her dreams; I know I have. It’s good to know that sometimes dreams really do come true although it always comes down to vision, hard work and talent. James Hook and David Brayley prove that’s true.