A former Surrey police officer who lives in Storrington has completely turned his life around after retiring from the force to become a successful writer and photographer.
Brian Simmons, 74, enjoyed an interesting and diverse police career ranging from firearms squad to recruitment and training officer.
He also spent time in the media relations office at Surrey Police HQ, Mount Browne in Guildford, where he developed a love of writing.
So when he left the force, in addition to taking up woodworking as a new occupation he turned to writing and photography in his spare time which has been extremely successful.
He has had two books published and his photographs regularly appear in magazines and are sold as greetings cards.
The idea to write a memoir initially surfaced about eight years ago.
He said: “I was in a conversation and heard myself say that I didn’t really remember much about my young life. Then I thought, that’s crazy, I know memory gets a bit poorer as the years pass but that’s usually for short term stuff.
“So I decided to set myself a challenge and see exactly what I could remember. In the event it turned out to be quite a lot and of course one memory sparked off another.”
So with the guidance of a local writing group he set about the task of writing a memoir and on completion, he was delighted when his fellow ‘students’ reckoned his manuscript was definitely worth publishing.
He decided on the self- publishing route through Create Space, a subsidiary of Amazon which he said was really accessible and a fascinating experience.
His first book ‘Stepping out from Ashtead 1944 - 1964’ is a light hearted read about his childhood years and includes accounts of many daft and occasionally hair-raising stunts and pranks.
These included almost shooting a policeman off his bike with a mis-aimed rocket, setting the local park alight and coming close to injuring himself with home-made gunpowder.
His early life also included a short but very mind-broadening spell as a steward with P&O and then his first taste of the police service when, at the age of nineteen he joined The Met and served in Lambeth.
Brian’s second book, ‘Until the Lights Went Out’, was recently released on Amazon and covers the following 30years of his colourful life.
“Apart from a brief four years as a 1960’s motor trader, very Arthur Daly, it’s really about my life as a police officer in Surrey”, explained Brian.
It recounts some of life’s more serious stuff around bereavement, marriage and divorce, climbing the greasy career pole and an eventual breakdown which ended his career, hence the title ‘Until the Lights Went Out’.
But despite this rather gloomy title, the book also includes a great number of laughs arising from his experiences in the police and also lifts the lid on many aspects of the service the public may be unaware of such as firearms training, rural policing, press and media relations, recruitment processes and more.
Brian said: “Memoir writing and the self-publishing process is not going to make many of us wealthy but I have found it a most satisfying, mentally stimulating and enjoyable process especially when readers take the trouble to get in touch to say how much they enjoyed my books, identified with the experiences or in some cases found themselves motivated to have a go themselves.”
He admits he is now addicted to writing and has already picked up the pen for the next instalment of his trilogy.
Apart from writing Brian loves photography and is particularly passionate about the Surrey Hills landscape.
“I developed my website, Surrey Hills Images, primarily to share my passion for the Surrey Hills landscape with other like-minded lovers of the countryside”, he said.
“But since moving to Storrington I am discovering how very photogenic the Sussex countryside is too.”
The site contains a varied collection of wonderful images of landscapes, people and places that Brian explains have appealed to him over the years.
His pictures are available as greetings cards, prints and wall art. http://www.surreyhillsimages.co.uk/