I remember the occasion. It was a hot summer's day, and my grandparents had put a table and chairs out in their garden for the kids to write or draw on. I had what was meant to be a drawing-book, but I decided to write a story instead, as well as illustrating it. I was four years old.
This was the first of several stories I wrote about a horse called Stephen Trotter (or stephen-troter, as I originally called him) who for some reason wore a suit and top-hat, before moving on to more ambitious tales. My brother (three years older) insisted on "correcting" what I'd written, but I still prefer my first draft.
I think many of the themes I've used since — independence and responsibility, aspirations, the abuse of power — are latent in this story (so latent that they're invisible) but my narrative technique and characterisation have definitely developed since the age of four. And my spelling's slightly better, too.
I've also reproduced one of my illustrations for the story (Stephen and the man with the teliscop). I think this is an important picture, showing as it does my wisdom in concentrating on writing rather than art.
once apon a time there was a Horse called stephen-troter and he pulld a cart and his driver was called Joe.
one day he was pulling his cart along when they met a man with a teliscop in his hand. and the man said stephen coued look throo the teliscop so stephen looked throo it. and he turned the teliscop upwaeds toords the sky and what does he see he sees a parashootist coming down and then he said I wish I coued fly in that Aeroplane said stephen.
Never Mind said Joe phaps we can hier it.
and then they saw the parishootists had nealy reeched the ground. stephen shook hands with the parishootist. and then they hiered aeroplane and had a ride in it.
and then they went Home and went to sleep.