That’s not what I wrote!

When I saw my very first article in print, I immediately went in search of a big hole to jump into and disappear. Forever.

It was an article that I had submitted to my local daily newspaper, the Coventry Evening Telegraph. It was a mild nature article concerning the wildlife one could see along the local canals and rivers. It did have a bit of an edge: it gave a gentle reminder to fishermen not to leave their rubbish behind. Some of it, in particular fishing lines, could be dangerous to wildlife if they got entangled in it.

The article was scheduled to appear on Friday 24th March – many, many years ago.

Friday evening: WHAT?

I remember rushing out early that evening to my local newsagent, buying a copy and feverishly scanning through it while standing outside.

I could not find my article.

I searched through the newspaper again, desperately looking for my headline. I think it was “The Wildlife of Coventry Canal” or something similar. Still no joy.

On my third scan I did come across an article about fishermen that someone had written. The headline aggressively screamed “First Blasts in Rod War.” What an aggressive headline, I thought. Who would write such a provocative article?

The subhead was no less antagonistic: “Fishermen? They’re enemies of the countryside says battling student.”

My eyes flicked down to the first sentence.


“The noble art of angling holds no joys for Denzil Walton. He believes that when it comes to keeping the countryside clean, anglers are at the bottom of the league.”

I couldn’t believe what I was reading. And it got worse.

“Denzil is launching a one-man campaign against devotees of the rod and line.”

That’s not what I wrote! I never wrote anything about war, enemies or campaigns!

I read through the whole article. I couldn’t recognize it from what I had submitted – or the me it described. In fact, it wasn’t me at all. I was a peace-loving, conscientious young man who liked walking along the riverbanks looking at birds and simply wanted to give anglers a friendly reminder to pick up their old fishing lines. I had been transformed into some kind of tough, aggressive, Rambo-like canal-side vigilante.

But it was about to get worse.

Monday morning: NO!

It just so happened that at that time I had a temporary job at my father’s workplace, Rolls-Royce Aero Engines near Coventry. I was replacing a clerk in the Planning Department who had suffered a heart attack and was off work for three months. I’d only been there for a week.

I arrived in the office at 8.25 on Monday morning and was just getting a coffee from the machine when the manager of the Planning Department breezed past.

“You. In my office. Now!”

I decided the coffee could wait and followed him to his office.

To my horror he pulled out Friday’s Coventry Evening Telegraph from his briefcase, slammed it on his desk, opened it to my article and stabbed a finger at the headline.

“You wrote this crap?” he shouted.

Please God, if you could just open up the ground underneath my feet, I will be a lifelong disciple of yours.

“Er, well, I did submit an article but the editor …” I began.

I had clearly not been called in for a discussion. He read the sub-head out loud, in what I can only describe as an “extremely aggressive and sneering” tone of voice.

“Fishermen? They’re enemies of the countryside says battling student.”

He lent over the desk.

“This is crap, completely bloody crap. I’ve been an angler for over forty years and I’ve never left a scrap of litter behind. I’m a member of an angling club and we have very – VERY – strict regulations about litter.”

He paused to wipe a bit of his spittle off his chin. I decided it was wise not to follow his lead and so didn’t touch the spittle that had flown onto my cheek.

“We would never – NEVER – leave lines or hooks behind. We always – ALWAYS – clear up after ourselves. This article is a total – TOTAL – disgrace.”

It was at that point that I realized that his office door was open, and there was complete silence throughout the whole department behind me.

“We are PROPER anglers. It’s the bloody GYPSIES you should be after. It’s them who leave their litter behind, whose dogs shit everywhere along the canal bank, who chuck their garbage into the cut. Instead, you point your finger at us, respectable anglers!”

His face was reminding me of the beetroot I had cut up to put in my lunchtime sandwiches.

“And another thing. We are not ‘fishermen’; we are ‘anglers’. There’s a difference. Anglers take angling very seriously, it’s our life, we are not your amateur fisherman who only goes out once a year, we are there every week, in all kinds of weather.”

I was beginning to wonder whether another member of the Planning Department was about to have a heart attack.

“You clearly don’t know anything about angling, and if you think you’re going to make it as a writer, forget it, because you clearly don’t know a thing about writing either.”

He slumped into his leather swivel chair and spun it round to look out the window. I thought he had finished, but he hadn’t. With his back to me, he cast his final line.

“I’d fire you right now if it weren’t for the bloody unions on my back. Get out of my office and get back to work.”

I turned round and left his office to find about 30 office staff transfixed by the Monday morning excitement. The Rolls-Royce Planning Department had probably never seen such drama before.

After that, I had absolutely no contact with the man at all over the next three months. He never greeted me, never acknowledged me, never asked me anything or said anything to me. If he needed me to do anything he would always ask the Head Clerk into his office who would then relay the information to me.

However, after 34 years as a professional writer, he was wrong about one thing.


  1. Wow. What a story. That’s crazy and it really makes me wonder how much we read is just that… Rubbish. Thank you for sharing and I love your post and enjoy reading you. I had to chuckle that you left his spittle alone. I can see you write very well!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh Denzil, what a dreadful story. That editor must be like the current editor of our local newspaper which is nothing but a scaremongering gossip rag. He doesn’t let the truth get in the way of a good story.
    I can feel your pain too. My first published article was in a national magazine and was all about holidaying in the Austrian Alps. While the text was what I had written, and mentioned Austria several times, the title was misprinted and said Australian instead of Austrian. It just looked stupid and amateurish. After being so excited about seeing my first travel story in print, I was so upset by what was such an obvious editorial error I never told anyone it was printed. My experience isn’t anywhere near as awful as yours but I do know how you feel.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Brilliantly written Denzil. I was actually a journalist on a local paper too – a very good one, in fact – but I still wouldn’t recommend that people speak to journalists if they can help it – or god forbid, submit a piece.. : )

    Liked by 1 person

  4. That was a real baptism of fire into publication Denzil! I’m glad it didn’t put you off and you kept going nevertheless. My first publication was a short story in an anthology and I was devastated to find that they’d missed out the last part of the last sentence, so that my story ended mid-sentence without the important few words that said what I wanted it to say. On balance, a much gentler introduction to the ways of publishing!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Denzil – I work in the humane field, and the nets and fishing gear left behind are killing sea life in massive amounts. While it may not be the people you and I know who respect animals and are so careful, it is happening at an alarming rate – and all fisherman should at least be aware of its happening. However, it’s most unfortunate that your work was so twisted and published in that way. Condolences.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am aware that this is a much greater problem in the oceans that on inland waterways. I have been thinking of blogging on this topic as it links with the subject of this post. If you have any info or links to websites that you think are particularly informative, please let me know. Thanks for stopping by. Like your artwork by the way!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks on the artwork :-). There are many sites on this topic – here’s one on whales –; on just dolphins –; in general –; all sea life-
    You would need permission for use of photos, but you can also look more on your own by Googling “ghostfishing” of “ghostgear”. What you will find is quite disheartening, though numerous groups are working to help eliminate the problem. Good luck! Jeanne

    Liked by 1 person

I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback ...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s