TED Sherrell, who will be familiar to readers of this paper for his occasional Totally Ted columns, says writing is one of the loves of his life – along with his wife Ann and his family.
The latest compilation of 60 his columns, Totally Ted! The Third, is now in bookshops and available online.
Ted, 80, writes about many things that are dear to his heart – his family, his lifelong support of Plymouth Argyle football team and his recollections of growing up on his family’s farm in Bere Alston. He also likes to draw on current affairs, the quirkier the better.
When we meet he is mulling over a snippet about how the Japanese government is dreaming up a campaign to encourage young people to drink more alcohol to stimulate their economy. ‘It turns out young people aren’t drinking enough,’ he says.
Humour is key, he explains. He once wrote about his op on his little finger, something which linked him unexpectedly to former prime minister Margaret Thatcher. It turns out that the condition is known as ‘Margaret Thatcher’s finger’ being one the late Iron Lady suffered from.
‘I must have had 20 people stopping me in the street after I wrote that one,’ says Ted.
‘And yet if you write on something serious, point out something you think is wrong in life, you don’t get any response at all.
Humour is the critical bit and not to take oneself too seriously, because whatever you say, there will be somebody out there who disagrees with you.’ Ted, who lives in Tavistock, has been honing his craft as a writer since his teens.
He has been associated with newspapers, on and off, since 1959, when on leaving Tavistock Grammar School, he got a job as a cub reporter on theTavistock Times. This was long before the era of computers.
‘My first job on a Monday morning was melting down the lead from the plates on a Monday morning in a big furnace,’ he recalls. ‘That would be little different from the mid 19th century.
‘That job didn’t last long, and my next association with the paper was with the Tavistock Gazette. That was in 1979, doing advertising, and I did some journalism, mainly columns on Plymouth Argyle.’
Ted, who says he has had more jobs than hot dinners – has kept coming back to the newspaper industry in between spells as a door-to-door salesman, insurance agent, shopkeeper and fireman among other things.
All this has proved rich material for his writing. He started writing in his 20s, with a novel set in the Bere Peninsula of his boyhood, while working nights at an aircraft factory at Filton, Bristol.
He had his first novel published in 1978, Kingdom of Cain, about two brothers growing up on a farm. There followed some collections of short stories. ‘All my short stories have been based on characters I knew as a young man growing up in a village,’ says Ted.
He might have been a farmer, but in fact, he realised in his early 20s that that life wasn’t for him.
‘Writing has been the love of my life, along with my wife and family,’ he says. He has been Ted has also drawn on his time in the council chamber in Tavistock – 42 years on the town Council, 32 on the borough council.
‘Forty-two years of negativity and inactivity, but if you don’t do anything you can’t do anything wrong,’ he said, adding. ‘I did enjoy it. I was also 30 years a magistrate, which was an experience in itself.’
Ted started writing his columns back in 2014, and is still writing a column each week longhand, on paper, with one of his sons typing them up for him. ‘When I die I want to be buried with a Plymouth Argyle scarf and a Biro and some paper but no computer,’ he adds.
► Totally Ted! The Third by Ted Sherrell is published by United Writers, £9.95.