Eleven-year-old schoolboy, Roy Nuttersley has been dealt a pretty raw deal. While hideous parents show him precious little in the way of love and affection, school bullies make his life a misery. So Roy takes comfort in looking after the birds in his suburban garden, and in return the birds hatch a series of ambitious schemes to protect their new friend.
As with the best-laid plans, however, these get blown completely off course - and as a result the lives of both Roy and his arch tormentor, Harry Hodges are turned upside down. While Harry has a close encounter with God, Roy embarks on a voyage of discovery that draws in and impacts on everyone around him, including the local police, his headmaster and the national media. Where will it all end, and will life ever be quite the same for Roy Nuttersley?LISTEN TO CHAPTER ONE
"Towards the end I could hardly put the book down. It shows how important children are to their parents and the changes that an adult goes through because of us. This book has an exciting plot and I love the description and the way that the characters have almost been brought to life."
Rebecka Salmon, aged 13
It's a question I often ask myself. Well, basically I'm a short-sighted bloke aged 50, which I suppose is pretty old really. And for 27 years I have worked at various advertising agencies and marketing companies as something called a copywriter. This means I have to sit in an office and write the words that appear in adverts, leaflets and letters. It's a funny old job. Sometimes it can be fun when, for instance, you have to make a TV or radio commercial. But this doesn't happen very often. At other times it can be rather dull and frustrating when a client rejects your work that you created and insists that you do something far less interesting.
Outside work I'm a husband and a dad, and I live in North West London with my wife and two children. We don't have any animals in our house but we do see lots of birds in our garden. And yes, we do have a bird table, but only the one, and this is usually attacked by the squirrels before any bird can get to it.
Four years ago I was working as a copywriter at the London office of a large global advertising agency that had decided to join up with another even larger agency - one that wasn’t doing very well. I guess the people in charge felt that the success of the smaller company might rub off on the bigger company. But this wasn’t to be.
The process of joining the two companies was very messy and took a very long time. Many clients of both companies didn’t want to spend their money on advertising until they could see what the new company was going to look like. So during this time, work dried up, and copywriters like myself found ourselves twiddling our thumbs or reading the papers (it’s difficult to do both at the same time).
I, for my part, decided to at least use this time constructively by forming an idea for a story in my head, and writing it out in longhand while travelling on the London Underground.
This quiet period at work continued for many months until eventually the newly formed company decided to employ a very jolly little chap to manage all the people like me who helped create the work. This was my new boss and he bounced around the place like a small child let loose in a large toy department.
His jolly nature was, however, very deceptive. Within a few months he had fired everybody in his department - me included. So I was out on my ear with a few tatty crates of books, notepads and an even tattier manuscript entitled 'Sleeping with the Blackbirds'.
Sometimes it's difficult to know where ideas come from, but most of us draw on our own experiences in life. My son, for instance, used to spend hours watching birds through his binoculars from his bedroom window. And yes, they were blue binoculars. He can even see a very large oak tree from his window, a few gardens away.
And when I was a little boy, my parents used to employ an old gardener who used to lean on his bicycle and his gardening fork for support. Despite his physical problems, he was a wonderful gardener. Oh, and he was also an ARP man during the war.
So already, you can see where these elements of my story came from.
Centrepoint started life way back in 1969 when a man by the name of Ken Leech who was vicar of St Anne's church in Soho, London decided to open the basement of his church as a temporary night shelter for the increasing number of homeless young people sleeping rough on the streets of London.
Forty years on, Ken Leech's small gesture of kindness has blossomed into a national charity offering services right across London and the North East of England. In fact, today Centrepoint offers more than just a bed for over 1,300 young homeless people every night of the year. It provides them with the personal, social and educational support they so desperately need to build their self-esteem and turn their lives around. For these young people, Centrepoint is a place they can call home.
When you get to my age, you tend to look back at your life and begin to appreciate how lucky you've been. I was lucky to have wonderfully supportive and loving parents, go to art school, hold down a reasonable job, get married and have kids of our own. It's been an ordinary kind of life - but one I wouldn't have missed for the world. And it's the kind of life we all tend to take for granted. But the sad truth is that for many young people, the story is very different indeed.
For far too many youngsters, a happy and supportive family just isn't there for them. Not having this is a bit like having your life support system taken away. And the reasons for this are of course many and varied. I don't really want to get into this now, but there have of course been many high profile stories in the media over the last few years about abused children. And many politicians now talk about our 'broken society', and by this they mean the breakdown of family values. Sadly, it's always the children who become its biggest victims.
So when I originally wrote the book it was really only meant for my own kids' eyes, and I guess I wanted them to understand that not all children had it as easy as they did, which is why I created Roy and Harry. But as soon as I had the idea of getting the book published, I realised that it could actually do some real good by raising money for real youngsters who need help.
If I'm honest, there is also another reason. I knew that if the book could raise money for homeless youngsters, more shops would be prepared to stock it and more people would be prepared to buy it. So this would mean that more children would get to read all those words I penned. For someone who's never published a book before, that really was an exciting prospect.
So there you go. Now you know why I wanted my share of the book to go to Centrepoint.
Simply buy the book and the money the publisher would normally pay me goes to the charity instead. So if you enjoy the book, and I hope you do, please, please recommend it to your mates, because the more books that get sold, the more money we can raise to help homeless children. Children like Roy and Harry who haven't had the best start in life.
I enjoy reading out loud whether it's books or radio scripts. In fact, my kids find me a bit embarrassing. But if you think your school would like me to come over to read a few chapters and talk about the book, perhaps you could tell your teacher or head teacher to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org