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ISBN 978-1-909585-39-3
First published February 2021; 136pp
paperback with endpapers; 198 x 129 mm

Click here to read a pdf excerpt.
Roy Watkins was born near Southport, Lancashire, in December 1939. After spending the early war years with his Welsh grandparents in Liverpool, he was carried back to his birthplace by his mother to escape the Blitz.
In 1966, Faber & Faber published some of his short stories, after which he taught in secondary schools, then left England for the USA to attend Columbia University Graduate School of Arts. After teaching at various universities he moved with his wife, Eve, to Wales, where they founded a letterpress publishing concern, Embers Handpress, printing and binding books of poetry and translation by hand.
He retired in 2014, and now lives in northern France.
Roy Watkins  Simple Annals
                        A Memoir of Early Childhood


I hear everything. I hear for miles and miles. I can hear everything that ever happened. Some nights, the fog bell. That’s all right if the ships are safe. It’s the drummer I can’t abide. I say it in my prayers, Please not the drummer, but that makes no difference. He’s far off when I first hear him, over the stile at the sea bank, and slowly he comes closer, closer and louder, down the grass track between the cornfields, beating a drum as he comes along.

One morning in 1969 Roy Watkins woke up to find words on the sheet of paper he had left in his typewriter before going to sleep: ‘an incoherent jumble of apparently unconnected phrases about fire, explosions, soldiers, and railway lines’.

The words recorded an actual event in Watkins’s life that took place just before his third birthday. Simple Annals is informed by these and other images and memories that surfaced over the following years: the sounds and songs, scrapes and surprises, of childhood in an ordinary but loving family in Lancashire in the 1940s and early 50s, brought to the page with an almost pre-verbal immediacy.

‘What I most admire is his emotional delicacy and perceptiveness. The spare but telling descriptions of his parents’ relationship when his father comes home from the war, and the evocation of the character of his friend’s mother and his fascination and then full love for her, wonderfully conveyed by a quote from Isaac Babel: “‘The love and jealousy of a ten-year-old boy are in every way the same as the love and jealousy of a grown-up.’ And I would add: and perhaps more painful, since the ten-year-old has also the pain of knowing himself to be a child.”’
     – Ruth Fainlight

‘There isn’t an iota of sentiment or nostalgia in his recollection partly because the past isn’t embalmed but seen as an ecstatic and traumatic living root and presence in the writer’s being ... Watkins is entirely original and this book is a masterpiece.’
     – Nuzhat Bukhari (full text here)