John Bennett is a self-described “reluctant writer”. He struggled academically at school and missed a lot of his primary education due to childhood illness. Despite this, he is now the author of four books, the latest being a memoir on his childhood in rural Kent.
The book is titled “Memories of a Kentish village – A childhood spent in more innocent times” but John says it isn’t a criticism of the modern world. “It’s not attacking technology; it’s covering a time that is now lost. It’s only thanks to technology that I was able to write this book. I was a very sickly child and I missed about half of my primary school education, so English has always been hard for me. It’s only with word processors and spellchecks that I can write my books now.”
Although it’s an account of his own childhood, John wrote this book for his father, Fred, saying, “I was born in Bramley, which is part of the Ickham parish, and my father owned the local shop in the village. He was the go-to person for anything historical from World War Two. He never got a chance to put anything down on paper to describe his childhood, and as I’ve started to become an author, I decided to write down my story which overlaps with his in many ways. I’ve written it so that absolutely one hundred per cent of the royalties gets split between Ickham Church and Wickhambreaux church. I’m not seeing a penny out of this – I’m doing it in memory of my dad and donating it locally to where he grew up and where I grew up.”
The book boasts a foreword by award-winning children’s author Sir Michael Morpurgo. “When I was ready to get the book published, I thought ‘Who could I possibly get to do a foreword for me?’ And then I remembered that when I was fourteen or fifteen, I used to deliver groceries to Michael Morpurgo! After about a year of trying I finally got through to him, and he was very happy to do it. He likens the book to Cider With Rosie and Lark Rise To Candleford, which was quite touching because having read both books years ago, I could see the likeness. Living in East Kent in the early 60s was definitely a place that time had passed by; the local residents who worked on the farms all had that strong Kentish drawl of an accent, and you just don’t hear that anymore because that generation have all passed.”