So, how did all this start – the stories, QuizzicalWorks, the behatted upside-down man?
My paternal grandmother was Danish, and during the 1920s and early 30s my father and his siblings spent idyllic summers halfway up the east Sjælland or Zealand coast in the family home in Humlebæk, a small town not far from Helsingør (or Elsinore, as Shakespeare has it in Hamlet). One day when my father was quite young he met a girl up a cherry tree – as you do – and they became great friends. Some years later the war intervened and my father and the cherry tree girl lost contact. In the 1970s, quite by chance, they met again. By this time she had been married for many years to a highly-respected professor and the Danish king’s architect, and they lived in a wonderful house in Copenhagen in which a century earlier Hans Christian Andersen had had lodgings.
Later, when working regularly in Denmark for various reasons, I stayed on numerous happy occasions in the house. During my first time there in 1980 I was preparing to join a theatre company in the US (I ended up touring with them all over the country on and off for nearly three years). One of my ‘duties’ with the company was to go occasionally into schools in far-flung communities and teach whatever subject I chose. For the primary classes I based my main lesson on fairytales and Andersen, and to gen up on that I studied his stories in English and also in Danish. I was, I have to confess, an appalling teacher (hats off to teachers; not an easy job), and I doubt if these young Americans took away much from the time I spent with them. Quite apart from the content – some of which centred on The Ugly Duckling, including a rendition of the Danny Kaye song – they found me and my English accent strange, particularly in some southeastern and midwestern states (oddly, in Oklahoma they thought I was Australian, while in the Dakotas they thought I was from Texas). On the other hand, I certainly learned a lot! But to return to the stories: somehow, because of my regular sojourns in the Copenhagen house and through so much contact with Andersen’s work some of the great man’s way of perceiving the world rubbed off on me, or so I like to believe. Hence, to a certain extent, the style and content of the stories in the current and future collections.
QuizzicalWorks: some years ago I considered setting up some sort of publishing business with the name QuizzicalJerks, but was told this might be misconstrued (really?) so I shelved it until quite recently when I decided to go ahead with the stories – and then the revised name seemed to fit the bill perfectly. What’s more, it was available.
As for my logo, the little behatted upside-down man: that’s come from my father. A neurologist, he used to think a lot (one of the prerequisites of the job), and often as he thought he would doodle on a large sheet of blotting paper on his desk. Some of the blotters were crammed with scribbled notes and figures (medical and otherwise), but also with cats, ships, trains and odd-looking people in various guises and in various coloured inks – works of art in themselves. Sadly, I managed to rescue only a few. So glad I got the upside-down man, however, as he seems entirely appropriate for Seven Simple & Slightly Silly Stories and for future QuizzicalWorks projects.