Is there no end to the talents of our wonderful residents? This month, one very creative gentleman has impressed us all by publishing a book of short stories for children, after taking inspiration from events in the house garden.
During lockdown, a group of birds caught the eye of Leslie Rocker, 94. A little research later revealed that the birds were called dunnocks: also known as hedge – or tree – sparrows, which, unlike the more common, solitary house sparrow, live in families.
Said Leslie, “When I was a very young boy, I enjoyed reading about a family of rooks in a book called The Rookery and, after watching the dunnocks for some time, wondered if today’s children would enjoy similar stories”.
Leslie has been a writer most of his life, writing his first “novel” at the age of nine. During his three years’ national service in the Merchant Navy, he studied “ing lit” with the Seafarers Education Service so that on release he was able to work as a journalist and in magazine editing.
He joined an am dram society in the East End of London and the lure of the footlights became so strong that he became a professional actor and director, working in “rep” and on tour and eventually finding his way on to London’s West End, where he encountered and worked with many distinguished actors and directors.
One of his favourite memories, however, is from when he worked at the important provincial Oxford Playhouse, where one of the smaller parts in a play destined for the West End was a then little-known actor Sean Connery.
After some thirty years, which included acting and directing in a major West End musical Leslie decided there were “easier ways to starve”. He left the theatre for good and returned to writing, since when he has edited magazines, written and published poetry, novels and even scripted and produced plays. He is now officially retired and writes only as a hobby.
Which is how The Dunnock Family came about. He hopes it will teach children something about birds and also help them learn to read. It is available from Amazon and all the usual outlets.