Tuesday 21 May 2019

Seymour launches memoir collection

Bray author Seymour Cresswell
Bray author Seymour Cresswell

Seymour Cresswell's father handed him a simple present of an orange in July 1959 on the shore at Crosshaven. This is one of the many deeply personal moments in his collection of stories of the same name, A Present of An Orange and Other Stories.

The Bray resident set to writing after retiring from the legal profession some years ago.

Storytelling has been a part of Seymour's DNA since his youth. He was in Trinity Players in his university days, and in 1980 joined St Patrick's Amateur Dramatic Society in Dalkey, where plays and pantomime continued to dominate his spare time.

'I decided that I would fulfil a promise to myself. I've always said that I'd like to write. I'm not really quite sure why. I came to that understanding later,' he said.

He joined Storytellers writers group in his native Dalkey, under the mentorship of Ferdia MacAnna. 'He's a wonderful mentor in that he exudes positivity,' said Seymour. 'If there's any criticism, he gets you to make it of your own work, in a very subtle way.'

The people in the group range from those who are not able to write very well in the beginning to those who are really very proficient and already published. All of them very bright, very interested, and very much wanting to write.

From those Saturday morning sessions, Seymour's collection of memoir pieces was born.

'I gradually put this collection of 24 together,' he said. 'I discovered that I found it easiest to write in memoir. I also found that my own memory was a bit slack in places, so you had to make things up. So I describe it as memoir on steroids! In that you've got to fill in the gaps sometimes.

'I found myself writing about my parents, I didn't think I was going to write about my parents.' But there they are, leaping off the pages, larger than life.

'My father was someone who was very economical with outward show of emotion, or indeed affection. Although he was an affectionate, gentle person. He never raised a hand to me, ever. I don't think he ever shouted at me, ever, but he was a little remote emotionally and I always rather resented that.

'But as I went about the business of writing the book, I found all sorts of avenues for understanding and forgiveness that I didn't think were there.'

Seymour found it an intense and cathartic experience. 'A lot of people have said I write in a slightly different key when I write about my father, that's not intentional, it just happened.'

The characters are all real, and the material is warm, honest, in places hilarious and in others eminently touching. We see the world from Seymour's point of view, from a small boy to the father of the bride.

Committing memories to the page is something Seymour feels is important.

'My father died without having written a memoir and he had an interesting life, a lot of which he was very quiet about,' he said. 'He fought with the artillery in the Second World War, and hated every second of it. That's a story that should have been written down. It would have been good for him. He never spoke about it. It wouldn't have been a story of heroism, but of boredom and blind terror.'

As he worked on his own stories, Seymour enjoyed having a weekly audience to engage with in the writing group. 'I used to find myself walking along on a Saturday morning going along to the session high as a kite, almost like opening night!'

He welcomed all feedback, in particular that which would pick at his work and lead to useful changes.

He had some success with the work in competitions. His story Opposing Escalators looks at his mother ageing, his children coming on, and his mother then descending into Alzheimer's. The piece was runner up in Dalkey Creates Festival competition. The following year he entered the open mic competition in Finnegan's pub, and won with 'Hey, Blondie!', the tale of a hilarious and seminal moment for both Seymour and his teenage son.

The beautifully written book of vibrant and vital stories is available in Dubray books in Bray and Dun Laoghaire, Bridge Street Books in Wicklow or online at Amazon.

Bray People