C S Kenny
What makes you buy a book? The cover, the synopsis on the back, reviews or personal recommendation? In the case of I think I’m OK, by Telford author C S Kenny, it was a tweet.
I first met Chris in around 2005, when I saw an advert on the Telford-Live.com forum for a motorcycle. I’d recently sold mine and fancied something a little more sedate. Chris had a Honda Goldwing for sale. As soon as I saw it, I knew I’d buy it. I bought the genuineness of the seller too. Little did I know I’d be reading his memoirs a few years later.
I think I’m OK is a trip through the 60’s and 70’s with a troubled but bright, inventive but misguided Bradford kid. Mature beyond his years, but more front than Dolly Parton. Check out the reviews yourself here:
I caught up with Chris, 53, recently after I noticed he bought another Goldwing, almost the same as the one currently sitting in my garage!
What did you do before you became an author?
I have worked for Aga at Ketley, I was a lifeguard at Market Drayton open air pool, delivered pizzas, was a supervisor in a factory employing disabled people, and my last job was as a Drayman. Since having spinal surgery I have been unemployed. Times have been pretty hard and at one stage I had to sell my beloved motorcycle to raise some cash. I sold it to some bloke from Wellington, his name was . . . erm . . . no, can’t remember.
Describe your book in a sentence:
It is an honest and open account of my time in and out of care as a child, giving reasons for my behaviour rather than excuses and looking for understanding rather than sympathy.
What was the point at which you decided to get your memoirs down on paper?
This is a difficult one. There were a number of factors that all seemed to pop up around the same time. I had been thinking about writing my memoir for a while then my biological father died. Two months later my stepfather passed away and I guess I was kicking myself for not letting them know what had happened to me. At both funerals I met family members that I had not seen for years and they were keen to point out what a little so and so I had been. You know the sort of thing, they do that half hearted Nazi salute whilst saying, “The last time I saw you, you were this high. I remember when you . . . blah blah blah.” I so wanted to blurt it all out but decided that if I was going to speak out then I would do it in writing.
Around that time I saw something on TV which had me shouting at it. It was a report on historic child abuse at Jersey’s Haut de la Garenne children’s home. In particular it was a question asked by the defence to one of the women giving evidence. He asked, “Why have you decided to speak out now, why didn’t you say something at the time?” Now I appreciate he had a job to do but I shouted out at least five good reasons why someone would keep quiet, and if a thicko such as I can figure it out . . .
After much umming and ahhing I sent off for and subsequently received my Social Services records. I wanted these to make sure I had the chronology right. However they turned out to be priceless. Not only did they give me an insight as to what the Professionals thought about me, they also brought long lost memories flooding back. That’s when I thought I might as well do this.
When researching the book, how did you feel retracing your steps and coming into contact with some of the people you encountered all those years ago?
Strange. At some points I became a little angry, at others sad. I laughed and cried (don’t tell anyone about the crying bit). The oddest thing I found was that as I remembered certain places, even though we are talking about the best part of 40 years ago, I could smell them. One place in particular, Ashbank in York, I can smell it even now. Cabbage, furniture polish and scrubbing soap. Yuk.
You open your book with a short chapter about your time in Strangeways Prison at 15 years of age. At that point, how did you think your future would pan out?
I don’t believe I thought too much about the future at that point, if anything I think I had already accepted that Prison was my lot, an occupational hazard. Though I’m sure I must have had a rough idea that the future wasn’t going to be anything spectacular.
In your book you wrote a poem to a psychologist. When I read it, I thought that was quite unusual, especially given your circumstances and it was in the 1970’s. I’d have thought that would not have been the done thing in a childrens home in the late 60’s. What made you use writing to communicate at that point?
As far back as I can remember I always found writing (and still do for that matter) an easier way to get my point across. As a kid in institutions I would usually be shouted down before I could get my point across but I soon learned that people tended to read the whole thing before laying into me, may as well get hung for a sheep.
I don’t profess to be good at it, just better at it than conversing.
I can say what I feel, what I want, without interruption. It may well be a confidence thing but I can use words in writing that I would feel embarrassed to use in conversation. I do sometimes flip that around, for example earlier I used umming and ahhing instead of procrastinating. (I’m from up north, five syllables? Never) The other thing is that it’s not that strange for kids to find other ways of communicating, especially delinquent children. Some, like me, would write down their darkest thoughts as a release, others would harm themselves, some would harm others. Even a child who refuses to speak is telling you something.
Running away seemed to be quite common in the 60’s & 70’s. Do you think kids in care are still absconding to the same extent?
Without question. In fact I would go so far as to say it’s worse now. In my day, if I was lucky, I would be returned by the police to wherever I had run away from and usually be punished. That could be caned, slapped, punched or humiliated in some way. If I was unlucky I would have received a slap from the police first. That’s not the “poor me” act, just fact.
The kids of today know full well there is little anyone can do to them. I would say though that the dangers some of these kids face nowadays when on the streets are far worse than the 70’s.
The abuse that features in parts of the book, took me by surprise. How do you decide what to include and what to leave out?
I don’t think I consciously made a decision to leave anything out, (if we’re talking about the abuse) I think it was just a case of me trying to let the reader know what happened without being too graphic. There is a huge amount of my antics that I left out, mainly because I didn’t want my book to just be a catalogue of petty crime. I put in what I thought were the bullet points of those years.
Are you ever going to name the gangster that became a politician?
Not in a million bloody years.
What’s next for Chris Kenny?
I’m writing a fictional novel and trying to turn my memoir into a script. By trying I mean struggling, and when it all gets too much I climb on my motorcycle and pop to Wolverhampton to buy an Express and Star. I could get one from the M54 services but what would be the fun in that?
Rated 4.7 out of 5 Stars, I think I’m OK, by C S Kenny is available on Amazon as a Kindle download. Click to View.
11 thoughts on “C S Kenny”
Sincere thanks to Chris for his honesty,guts and determination in writing this book.I too was in care and have spent many years trying to obtain records only to be told [as he was] that there are none.Thanks for giving me the encouragement to continue my fight.I wish you love,peace and contentment.
Thank you for that Tricia I really appreciate your comments. I wish you all the very best for the future. Keep at em.
I just wanted to say that your book is so beautifully written. I am passing it on to friends. What happened to you is awful and I’m glad you found the strength to talk about it. My brother was sent to a young offenders unit in Yorkshire in the early 80s. When he returned he didn’t speak for 6 months. Incidentally, he also burnt down the scout hut and watched the fire engines with my Dad. So, as a fellow Telford writer, many thanks for telling your story.
Thank you Sarah, for reading it and taking the time to comment. I hope your brother managed to sort things out for himself.
I Wish you all the best.
I’m only 20 % through the book and have not finished it yet, just bumped into this page accidentally, was not quite sure if I could find this page again once I’m done with the book. Just wanted to let you know that I absolutely love the way you write, I share many of the things you say in the book about your childhood (including the rubber cover on bed as I had wetting problem as a kid!!!) , I am so much enjoying reading your book, but not the kind of enjoyment one would expect by watching an adventurous movie, I just feel better about myself by thinking someone else also has gone through the same thing, and he reaches a point in his life where he can share it. As I said, I’m not finished with this book yet, there has so far been tears and laughers, and maybe , by the end of the book, combination of these two contradictions will cancel each other out; not feeling sad, not feeling happy either, but OK, your book can help everyone sharing the same childhood as yours feeling OK. Well done Sir, I hope you write again.
Cheers Bobby, I appreciate you letting me know what you think of it so far. I hope you enjoy the rest of it. If you do, tell everyone you know to buy it. If you don’t like it just keep shtum.
I’m reading your book after bring recommended by my mum. I admire your grit and determination. You’ve made the most of every part of your life, good and bad. I like your writing and humour. Thank you 🙂
This is one of the best written books I have read in a long time. I’ve laughed out loud at your humour in parts, but most of all I appreciate your honesty, sincerity and abundant modesty. Your account and recall relays true your skill as an Author and I’ll definitely await your next work fact or fiction. Thank you for sharing your story and I wish you every success you deserve it. Bless you onwards and upwards
Last night I didn’t sleep, as I couldn’t put your book down. What an amazing story. You went through so much. You write beautifully, with such humour and such honesty. You made me laugh, you made me cry. Best wishes and good luck with your next book.
I am intrigued by your story and do believe how impactful others state it to be. Is it possible to find a paperback copy anywhere?