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Ray Johnson About myself

Born in the Northeast of England in 1937.

I suffered terribly at school because of dyslexia, which had not been recognized as a problem in those days. I was considered lazy, a dunce, stupid, a useless boy!  And the teachers said it looked as if I had spiders crawling over my writing book. I was forced to read out aloud to the class, so I told a story from the pictures.  It was a very good story, although it had nothing to do with any of the written words, and the class showed their appreciation by clapping loudly. The only good thing that came out of my schooldays was that the teacher made me sit among the girls until my writing improved. The other boys were fuming, wanting to borrow my spider to do their homework!


There was plenty of downside, including strapping by the teacher in most English lessons and being caned by the headmaster. He gave me six of the best on each hand for insolence when all I had done was explain that this was my best work.  I also spent a lot of time standing in the corner facing the wall, or bent over a table in front of the other pupils in the class, with the strap applied very hard on my rear end until I had difficulty sitting down.


The odd thing was that I was very skilful working with my hands and had the ability to work out how things worked without being shown. I was once asked if I had x-ray eyes. The result was that I enjoyed my apprenticeship as a motor mechanic.


Between 1959 and 1961 I did National Service in the Royal Engineers and then spent over twenty years in engineering before owning my own business.


I started writing seriously after meeting a brilliant artist.  We were both looking at some paintings and I was explaining how beautiful the pictures were, with such fine brushwork and detail. We sat chatting and he asked me a few questions, before explaining he was the artist. He told me that he had left school unable to read or write, but he eventually retired as an art lecturer in a well-known university.


He said to me “You are dyslexic. That is how you can see such fine detail when others only see a bird or flower, not what is in the whole picture.” I was 60 years old. Since then I have had over 100 poems or stories published and have received a letter from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth thanking me for a published poem I wrote about her visit to Newcastle upon Tyne.


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