Could you tell us about your background?
I was born in
Hannover Germany in 1952 –
to a German mother and English father, from Lancashire.
My mother was Renate Schubert – the grand-niece of Franz Schubert. She came
from a fairly well-to-do family which become horribly reduced in circumstances
due to their opposition to Hitler. My grandmother Clara Schubert had to escape
until the end of WWII due to the aid she gave to Jewish families. My father was
a working class man whose parents hailed from a farming background but moved to
Chatham Kent. My father left school at 14
and became a dock worker. He then joined the Army at 15 by misrepresenting his
age – and went on to become a major in the Royal Engineers. I was raised
in Farnham—Surrey—where I attended Farnham
I was the vocalist for the Savage Cabbage Blues Band from 1968 to 1970
and played solo Delta Blues around the home Counties from 1970 to 1972.
From 1972 to 1975 I took an Illustration degree at Bristol Art
School where I received a
1st class honours degree. From 1975 to 1981 I travelled
back and forth to the Himalayas where I
studied Vajrayana Buddhism. In 1981 I settled permanently Cardiff in South Wales. I
married Caroline Tresise – a Macmillan nurse who took her degree in Cardiff. She was raised
in Berkshire but—like me—prefers Wales to the Home Counties. We have
two children—Robert E Lee Togden aged 15 and Ræchel Renate Tresise Togden aged
8—who, like us, play musical instruments, ride horses, and enjoy reading.
Caroline and I are Vajrayana Buddhist teachers – and our lives mainly involve
writing books, travelling, and teaching in Britain
and the USA
where we have students.
Could you give a brief description of your book ‘an
odd boy’ Volume I?
monothematic memoire of the Arts between 1957 and 1975 – written as a novel
with dialogue. Volume I covers the years 1957 to 1968 and concentrates
mostly on poetry and the formation of the Savage Cabbage Blues Band. There’s a
thread of romance that runs through the book – because I see romance as
inseparable form Art. You have to be in love with colour, sound, shape and form
to be an artist – and so romantic love naturally reflects the dimension of
creativity. In a way the book is a description of a young lad’s rebellion
against pedestrian normality.
What was the hardest part of
writing ‘an odd boy’?
Knowing where to
stop. As it is . . . the four volumes of ‘an odd boy’ runs to little
short of Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’. There are so many episodes that had to
remain unwritten. There were always many fascinating facts I had to omit.
I was given the good advice to ‘kill the kittens’ but doing so was sometimes
painful. ‘Kittens’ are the aspects of the book you love – but which
detract from the flow and dynamism of the book.
books have had the greatest influence on you?
Shakespeare and the Beat Poets. That’s my
immediate answer – and it probably deliberately provocative. It’s hard to
say which books have had the greatest influence – because I have been
influenced by so many authors. Historical novels. I particularly love
Jane Austen – for her wit and irony. I have great respect for Patrick
O’Brien. His nineteen volume sea faring odyssey set during the Napoleonic Wars
is a remarkable tour de force. It’s also delightfully informative on subjects
as divergent as 18th Century psychology and medicine to
anthropology and sociology. I suppose ‘an odd boy’ attempts to be informative
in similar style vis-à-vis Blues and the Arts.
Briefly, what have you done to market ‘an odd boy’?
myself – it was all arranged by my marvellous publishers. they began
with a Facebook launch, which involved two hours question-answering in relation
to ‘an odd boy’. The questions were mainly based on extracts that I’d been
posting on FaceBook over the last year. The extracts were culled from the
website dedicated to ‘an odd boy’ we’ve received some delightful endorsements
from international Blues performers such as Sugar Blue, Deborah Magone,
and CJ Tozer. I’ve been happy to discover that ‘an odd boy’ now has 5
star reviews on Amazon, Lulu, and other websites. We held a book signing
evening in Bristol
in November which was well attended. The audience asked intelligent
questions about the meaning of Art and of being an Artist – and ‘an odd boy’
has also been accepted as an entrant in the Wales Book of the Year Award 2012.
you spend your time when you are not writing?
Enjoying my family
– there’s laughter and fun in our home. We play and listen to music, read,
paint – and we all ride horses. We also watch movies – mainly period drama. Of
course my writing time extends beyond literature to answering email from our
students and composing periodic epistles for the same. I travel to the USA to teach twice a year – and when I am not in
I like to spend as much time at home as possible. I’m a home body and
I love my home. I have never enjoyed travel a great deal – even though I’ve
spent a fair few years in the Himalayas. I
never travel for the sake of travel. I enjoy being wherever I go – but apart
from the wonderful people I meet, I’d rather be at home.
are you working on next?
Yes - there is
still editing work to carry out on the next three volumes of ‘an odd boy’.
After writing ‘an odd boy’ I wrote ‘wisdom eccentrics’ a book about my time in
the Himalayas. It was writing ‘an odd
boy’ that helped me write ‘wisdom eccentrics’ – but having written ‘wisdom
eccentrics’ I saw immediately how the language in ‘an odd boy’ could be
improved. It is important to me that the perfection of the craft never reaches
stasis. I always have books on the back burner – so as soon as
there is time I shall commence work with completing my anthology of poetry.
The poetry is there but I need to write a fairly lengthy anecdotal introduction.
I’ve never published poetry before because I’ve never reached the point at
which I could consider the poems to be finished. This has meant re-writing ad
nauseam. I have revised most of them a score of times. Every few years I move
into a poetry phase and write a handful of pieces. When I do so, I usually take
the opportunity to revise older works. There will be two poetry books. One will
be an anthology of all my past work entitled ‘Ravings of a Mild Mannered
maniac’ – and the other will be a narrative written in cantos—each comprised of
five 9-line verses—entitled ‘. . . and so’. Then – there’s an
off-the-wall project – a recipe book called ‘The Tiger’s Table’. The
gustatory olfactory senses are mainly neglected when people speak of the Arts –
and Caroline and I would like to change that. This is something of a long
term project because nothing I cook makes references to measurements or
qualities. This means we shall have to cook everything and take notes of
what we’d need to tell the reader with respect to reproducing our outrageous
gastronomic exploits . . . It will be the recipe book that puts the
‘hell’ in health and the ‘die’ in diet . . .