Why do Kamikaze pilots wear helmets? Why do we sterilise needles before a lethal injection?These are just some of the randomly funny and insightful questions asked by local author, Simon Mitchell. Simon’s book, It’s a Funny Old World, is a journey of discovery. And Simon’s thirst for knowledge and answers doesn’t stop there, with even bigger projects now looming on the horizon …
It really is a funny old world, Simon, because I discovered your book after you sold a copy to my aunt, when you were travelling around and selling your work door-to-door – who in turn passed it on to my mother to read. So now I’m interested in the author of It’s a Funny Old World … how did you come to Port Macquarie?
I came to Port Macquarie about 6 years ago. I’d only been married for 3 days, and I’d had a phone call telling me my dad, who lived in Kempsey, had a blood clot in his lung. I drove up to see him in hospital … and to cut a long story short, he died a month and a half later of lung cancer.
At the time, my wife didn’t know she was pregnant with our twin daughters. We hired a truck and moved all our goods here from Bondi, and we’ve been here ever since. It was a very sad time in my life – but also a happy one, as we’d discussed moving to Port Macquarie regardless of the outcome with my dad.
Where did the idea come from to write and self publish It’s a Funny Old World?
Ever since I was born, I had the bug to write a book. Dad had always been my proofreader for all my work – and I’d often made it half way through a work, and then become annoyed with it and packed it away for a while.
One day, I decided I’d met so many funny and interesting people and collected so many stories, I decided to turn the 25 feet of paper I’d collected as notes into a book that would be funny and relevant to everyone.
The only way I could incorporate all of these stories into a book was to remove the plot and description associated with most literature and invent a character called Bob Bobbin.
So – what, then, is the book about?
It’s a funny look at all the things we have a laugh at, but don’t have time to jot down. It’s cynical, Australian and a satirical look at all the things we take for granted … but at the same time, it’s more relevant to everyday life. The book tells a lot of funny events (which didn’t all happen to me!) and we come out of the other end of the tunnel and hopefully, and it throws up the idea of whether we really need a Hitler at one end of the scale or a Ghandi at the other … if every little Bob was doing the right thing, would the world be a better place? It lets us look at our own outlook on life …
You said that not all of the experiences in the book were experienced by you, but how much of this book is autobiographical? Is Bob really you?
Yeah – Bob’s me (laughs). It is me … but at the same time, it didn’t really all happen to me. Everyone tells you funny stories, and some of the things happened to mates as well, under the alias of Bob Bobbin. It’s as much a recollection for me, as it is a funny story for other people.
What prompted you to up stumps, pack the car and travel around Australia with the family to sell your book?
In 2006, when I received the first edition of the book, I took a trip to Coffs Harbour one day and floated around the shops. I wondered if people would buy my book – and I ended up selling more than 20 copies!
I went home. My wife had not long given birth to the twins at that time, and I decided to go to Nambucca next and see what would happen. The same thing happened again! I was travelling for a couple of hours each day, and after about a week, my wife came on one of the trips with me. The thought occurred that we could travel even further afield – and she agreed immediately. Within 2 weeks, we’d put all of our stuff in storage, we put the last of our money into printing 1,000 copies of the book and packed them in the car, strapped a cot to the roof – and off we went.
We ended up doing 53,000 km. And that is how I ended up writing the second last chapter in the new edition of the book.
So, basically, you, your wife, a car load of books and baby twin girls, all off on an adventure …
(Laughs). The girls were 7 months old at the time. We came back home when they were a year and a half old. I had to sell books like wildfire! The girls needed to have their bottles warmed and food pureed – we had to stay in cabins, mostly, along the way. We couldn’t really have done the trip if we’d had to stay in a tent!
What did you enjoy most about that period of travelling around the country?
The landscape was magnificent … the Margaret River, the Great Ocean Road – which was the best drive I’ve ever done. I’d never been to most of these places before. The best thing was we never booked one bit of accommodation at the time. We just rolled into every new city and town, and somehow, some way, we just found a place to stay – even at places like Kununurra, where we rolled into town after 8 hours on the road, with the kids screaming their heads off!
I actually ended up rewriting a lot of the book and put that second last chapter in after I returned. The book has been such a great avenue for me in so many ways – meeting and talking to people.
What’s next for you? I’m sure you have another project in the works …
I’m not actually a writer by trade … I’m a chemist! I did a Bachelor of Science and I specialise in organic chemistry. I’ve just finished a Graduate Diploma of Education through UNE.
I now want to produce a book that shows kids and families that you can make good food and get it on the table, not only cheaper than takeaway food, but that it can be much more time efficient than you think. I want to travel around to to schools and talk to kids about the benefits of healthy food, discuss Australian wildlife and what their perception of Australia actually is – and get them to draw a piece of artwork, that I can use in the book. The winner will be selected to feature on the cover!
I’d like to show people that no matter how fast paced our lives are, we can eat healthily – and without relying on poor food choices.
Where can people find out more about your past and upcoming writing projects?
Visit www.nutrition4fruition.com for copies of It’s a Funny Old World and my upcoming book. Copies of It’s a Funny Old World are also stocked by the Beantree Café in Port Macquarie.
Interview by Jo Atkins.