I hear everything. I hear for miles and miles. I can hear everything that ever happened. Some nights, the fog bell. That’s all right if the ships are safe. It’s the drummer I can’t abide. I say it in my prayers, Please not the drummer, but that makes no difference. He’s far off when I first hear him, over the stile at the sea bank, and slowly he comes closer, closer and louder, down the grass track between the cornfields, beating a drum as he comes along.
One morning in 1969 Roy Watkins woke up to find words on the sheet of paper he had left in his typewriter before going to sleep: ‘an incoherent jumble of apparently unconnected phrases about fire, explosions, soldiers, and railway lines’.
The words recorded an actual event in Watkins’s life that took place just before his third birthday. Simple Annals is informed by these and other images and memories that surfaced over the following years: the sounds and songs, scrapes and surprises, of childhood in an ordinary but loving family in Lancashire in the 1940s and early 50s, brought to the page with an almost pre-verbal immediacy.
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