The Boy Without Love . . . and the Farm That Saved Him by Simon Dawson
A warts-and-all celebration of mothers (human and animal) everywhere, from the popular Devon based radio presenter.
Simon Dawson is a broadcaster, smallholder and author of several books including humorous life-on-a-farm memoirs.
However, his cheery exterior masks a very unhappy past. His mother did not love him, and informed him of this fact often. She spent most of his childhood trying to find someone she could give him away to, played him off against various gangster lovers and abusive boyfriends, failed to feed him and overtly taunted him.
Simon, meanwhile, lost his virginity to a much older woman, failed spectacularly at school, and took the blame for their house burning down. But eventually he found a soul mate and together they now care for a menagerie of animals.
In his new book he decides not just to face up to the emotional damage his mother inflicted on him, but to try to understand her and achieve some kind of reconciliation before she dies.
Was it his innate unloveableness, or was it something that would now be called postnatal depression?
Warm, witty and honest, the book charts the humour, the anger, the confusion, the hurt, the hate and the desperation of a mother who can’t give love and a son longing for it. All of this is set against the backdrop of present day life on the farm where some animals also mysteriously reject their young.
Simon Dawson is a journalist, radio presenter and author of the hit nature and self sufficiency books The Sty’s the Limit and Pigs in Clover. Following a drunken misunderstanding, Simon agreed to give up his London life and move to the wilds of Exmoor, where he and his wife Debbie started a 20-acre self-sufficient smallholding from scratch, packed with free-range animals. As seen on Ben Fogle: New Lives in the Wild UK.
Simon Dawson – What Book?
- What book inspired your love of reading as a child?
Actually, and I know this is a terrible confession, I didn’t read my first book until I was 21. There were no books in the house, my mother didn’t read and school was a disaster. It’s funny looking back though, because I think I was a bookish boy without books, if that makes sense? Anyway, in answer to the question, the book that inspired my love of reading, and the first book I ever read, was James Herriot Vet in a Spin.
- What book took your breath away?
Has to be One Day by David Nicholls. You know, the bit near the end…? Just didn’t see it coming.
- What book made you laugh out loud?
Many, but the one that really stands out is an old one, Clive James Unreliable Memoirs. I just think his writing is stunning, and I remember reading it with tears of laughter rolling down my face and splattering onto the page. The bit in the guest house was just so beautifully observed, and so true!
- What book made you shout at it’s pages?
Probably a Steven King – “If you hear a strange noise coming from the boiler in the cellar, at night, when it’s dark, and you’re on your own, DON’T GO AND INVESTIGATE!”
- What book made you cry real tears?
There have been a few, but probably only one where I had to stop reading and wait until I was on my own. Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes. It’s not the type of book I would normally pick up and read, and I can’t remember why I did, but as soon as I started I couldn’t put it down – well, until I got close to the end, and then I had to. At least for a while.
- What book has stayed with you always?
There are not many books that I re-read. I’m not really one for old comfortable favourites. I think, maybe because I didn’t start reading until late, I have this desperation to read fresh books that I’ve not picked up before, almost like I’m missing out if I don’t read something new to me. That said, there is one that I read and immediately bought on audio and listen to probably four times a year, and have done since it came out, and that is Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz. It’s about a crazy, dysfunctional family, and, for some reason, I find a lot of hope in it.
- What book taught you the most?
I know I’m supposed to give some clever answer involving Steven Hawking or someone, but truth is it’s probably the Earth Children series by Jean M Auel. For me there’s everything in it; there’s survival, there’s love (a subject on which I’m endlessly fascinated), there’s communication, there’s the relationship between Ayla and Jondalar and also between them and the animals and the land. Living myself off-grid and self sufficient off the land, with my wife of 28 years, surrounded by animals and part of our diet made up by foraging, I feel like the books taught me so much.
- What book would you give to a stranger?
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller.
Big thanks to Simon for sharing his picks with us. Come back soon.
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