New Review
Worldometer says that 3,297 book titles have been published so far today. An independent author can be lost in this ocean of books. From time to time my memoir ‘The Best of Days’ pops to the surface with another review. The most recent is cheering: By Dafydd — Captivating stories 13 July 2020
I will admit to a bias, as I count the author as a good friend, but knowing him only adds to the richness of a memoir that I believe anyone would find enthralling. A natural as well as highly skilled story-teller, Harry begins by rooting his life in his family history, back to World War I in which his father fought and even earlier, as well as, very distinctly, place: the North East of England. Readers of the author’s poems will know how well he can convey such deep context and community history, and how much it means to him. Without a flicker of sentimentality, he paints a vivid picture of hard lives, not to mention great loss, that produced sharp-witted and colourful characters, in days when not all homes had electricity and a family’s stock of coal was supplemented by spillage gleaned from the beach. Harry’s own childhood was spent among the privations of World War II – nevertheless his fondness for the earthy excitement of those years, and the love of nature he gained, is movingly clear.

His early fascination with the sea, growing up beside it, is also evident, and the bulk of the book tells of his first career sailing on it as a radio officer in the merchant navy. When he begins relating this part of his life, you realise that no one can quite tell a sea story like Harry Nicholson. Only 17 when he joined up, even his first few months voyaging between the world’s ports with the widest possible variety of companions, clearly revealed to this curious and capable young man a lifetime’s worth of experience – and, luckily for us, of memories. From the edgy comedy of a drunken captain and his life-threatening decisions, through a spicy initiation in a Japanese port, via disasters and threats that constantly remind us of the dangers of the sea, Harry ethralls us, moves us, entertains us, and never once overstays his welcome. His stories are crisply and vividly told, with a perfect eye for telling detail, wry observation of character, incisive humour and – memorably – unshowy compassion for the wide variety of human beings he meets, of all stations of life, and so many cultures. Perhaps the most haunting story of all is that of the SS Minocher Cowasjee, whose Morse distress signals Harry has to listen to, helplessly, across hundreds of miles of ocean. But perhaps the most touching is that of the vivacious blue-eyed girl that Harry meets at a dance, on shore leave, at home, and the perils of absence their relationship faces – a thread that weaves its way among all the more exotic tales, while being no less captivating for that.

About Harry Nicholson

I once bred Beveren rabbits in all colours. Today, I'm an enameller who works with a kiln, fusing pictures in glass onto copper. On Amazon is my novel, 'Tom Fleck', set in the North of England of 1513 - the year of Flodden. A sequel to 'Tom Fleck' is 'The Black Caravel' published in 2016. My anthology of poems came out in 2015: 'Wandering About.' Recently I published memoirs of my time in the Merchant Navy: 'The Best of Days' and 'You'll See Wonders" I've a blog of poems, stories and art at:
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