Spotlight on Local People … Graham Ashby

We ask a local personality a set of probing questions …

Graham Ashby

We spoke to Lynn man Graham Ashby, who decided to take up writing and poetry after his career in boxing.

Were you brought up in King’s Lynn?

Yes, I certainly was ‘Made in King’s Lynn’, and lived all my life here. I was born in Heacham, but I’ve mostly lived in the centre of Lynn. My mother died when I was 3 years old, but by the time I was 6 I was put into a foster home with my brother.

How would you describe yourself?

Pleasant, out-going. I try to get on with everybody. I’m a bit of a ‘people watcher’. I don’t expect anything from anybody, except to be decent and gracious to me and other people as well. I don’t like liars and cheets.

What job do you do?

I clean at a well-known refrigeration factory. I’ve cleaned all my life, and I suppose I’m quite good at it now! I’ve done everything in my time from land work to painting, building and factory work.

Who or what inspired you to take up poetry?

After finishing with boxing there was a big void in my life so I tried other sports. I didn’t get on with Rugby, it hurt too much! I enjoyed football and badminton but there was still that void.

When you are boxing you’ve got the crowd chanting your name, and that’s a big thing. I was Norfolk champion, and fought all around the country and in Germany and Wales. I was totally dedicated, did lots of training, and I must have been one of the fittest in boxing.

I’ve written stories all of my life. I tried poetry when I was a teenager but that wasn’t for me then, maybe because I lacked the life experience.

I tried again with the poetry, and that filled that void. you really have to work at poetry, and that’s a fitness of the mind more than anything. I got exactly the same feeling as I used to get out of boxing. Victory when I motored home.

I love to create poetry, and when you have that final work in front of you in the pages of a book, that’s the best feeling ever.

What are your favourite subjects to write about?

I’ve done some on sport, social poems, anti-war poems. 9/11 was horrific, so I did a poem about that which is in my book An Angel In Prayer. That was just normal people going to work and then devastation … out of the blue.

I’ve done quite a few love poems, fantasies more than anything. I like to get lost in poetry, I think people should get lost in poetry and be taken on a journey, because poetry is a wonderful craft.

Graham Ashby - An Angel In Prayer

Have you had much of your work published?

I’ve had a book published by United Press called An Angel In Prayer, and I’ve had about twenty anthologies printed as well. There is a varied audience for poetry. There was one time when I was in the local pub, and the barmaids said “give us a poem Graham” so I would write a little love poem down for them. The bar ladies loved it!

You’re in the middle of writing a story?

It’s called the Black Shuck, and it’s to do with the folklore tale of the Devil’s dog. I heard about it through my ex-wife’s family and found it really interesting.

The thing that I found fascinating is that there’s also a White Shuck, which is a good dog that protects you for the rest of your life from the Black Shuck.
So I’ve constructed this story about a normal person who has dreams, and they get so vivid he doesn’t know whether he is living the dream or it’s just an ordinary dream. You go through this series of escapades where the Black Shuck catches up to him. It’s very hard work to keep the story rolling, as it’s all in poetry and rhyme.

It’s a love story more than anything, and I don’t know how it will end yet. I’ve done a few endings and I’ve just got to figure out the best one. It’s going to be a short story with no names or places mentioned. The person is a good person but he finds himself involved in this nightmare.

Illustration of Black Shuck from Mysteries of the Unknown (Usbourne 1977)
Illustration of Black Shuck from Mysteries of the Unknown (Usbourne 1977)

Have you got plans to write more poems and books?

Yes, I would like to do a book of love poems

What’s your favourite place in Norfolk?

My armchair! Or my bed after a hard day at work. I like anywhere by the sea. You can’t beat Hunstanton on a really hot day. It’s good for your soul to inhale all that fresh air!

What type of music do you like?

Anything from Abba to Mozart. I didn’t like much of the punk stuff from the late 70s. The Doors were brilliant musicians. Perry Como, Frank Sinatra, Lady Gaga, Robbie Williams, Kaiser Chiefs. I enjoy doing karaoke.

Favourite song or piece of music?

There’s a film called Play Misty for Me. One of my favourite songs is The First time ever I saw your face by Roberta Flack. It’s a ballad that’s so haunting. It goes right through your soul.

Favourite book?
The Chinaman is a very clevely written book by Stephen Leather. The Phoenix Assault by John Kerrigan. Rupert Bear books are among my favourites. It’s like travelling into a different world. I like nothing better than the smell of a brand new book, and then reading from cover to cover.

Favourite film?

The Italian Job is a classic. One of the best we’ve ever made. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, because it had a lot of humour in it as well. James Bond films.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?

I would love to do writing as a living, and provide a good future for my son.

What vegetable are you?

A carrot! Because it’s straight like I am. I try and be honest. If you haven’t got your morals and your principles I don’t think you’ve got anything

If you could be someone famous who would you be?

I think I’d be Superman. he is my hero. A gallant person with the right heart and right ideas. I’d also like to be Horatio Nelson, because he was relentless in his idea of what we stand for. He was the first person to coin the phrase “Our band of Brothers”. He was fair to all of his crew.

What superpower would you choose?

I would love to fly like Superman.

What things would you like to be remembered for?

Being a good father, bringin up my son as best I can and giving him unconditional love.

Where can people buy your book?

The book is £5.95 and you can get them directly from me. Some of the poems in there are from the Black Shuck. The sales have gone very well, and I’ve not had a complaint about it yet!

You can contact Graham on 07502 392900.

To read some of Graham’s poems CLICK HERE.