I have often wondered how to become a writer.
I live in Norfolk, where the nearest university, the University of East Anglia, is renowned for its creative writing courses and its alumni. I wish, with hindsight, that I’d not chosen Sunderland back in the day and headed south instead for a degree course that would have perhaps accelerated my quest on how to become a writer.
There’s a few I know from my teaching background – The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas written by John Boyne, who apparently got some of his inspiration from looking out of his house window in Norwich and musing about fences.
Ian McEwan completed his masters degree at the UEA. His novels have always resonated deeply with both my wife and I and in fact he was the inspiration behind our unusual wedding cake, and a driving force for me wanting to become a writer.
Rewind to 1999.
We lived in Staffordshire, then, just inside the National Park of the Peak District.
Being a scholarly type, a hipster before it became fashionable to sport a beard, an English teacher, someone who wanted to know how to become a writer, I spurned the traditional wedding cakes of stacked tiers of marzipan and royal icing with some cheesy message on.
No, I wanted an Ian McEwan inspired wedding cake.
I’ve read and taught many of his novels but three in particular provided a back story and would feed not only our guests but also my wedding speech at the Izaak Walton hotel.
The bottom layer was Amsterdam, published I think that year and where, after a Sunday in Leek, when I made a tentative proposal (a dry run, before I bought air tickets), I formalised the proposal the next weekend by going down on one knee in Leliegracht, Amsterdam. Not far from Anne Frank’s house, another writer who has held me in thrall. We stayed in the Hotel de Toren, a former Dutch PM’s home.
The middle layer was Enduring Love – another novel I loved with its mesmerising opening chapter involving a hot air balloon.
Finally, the crowning book was The Child in Time, his masterpiece from the late 80s, where the character, Stephen Lewis, has to live with the abduction of his 3 year old daughter, Kate, from under his nose in a supermarket.
Once read, never forgotten and I always link the narrative with the Madeleine McCann case.
This cake, these three novels, were a manifestation of our love and perhaps, looking back, our pretentiousness.
We got engaged in Amsterdam, feel Enduring Love and were committed to have a Child in Time.
Nice cake, tragic novels though.