…I entered a short story competition organised to celebrate the author Douglas Reeman‘s 25 years in print.  Somehow, I won, with a rousing Napoleonic War frigate action in the Med.  This was 1984, and I was a whole 15 years old.

I got to meet Douglas for lunch in Mayfair and was thoroughly charmed by the man.  We corresponded for some time afterwards, and he was unstinting in his encouragement of me as a writer.  We lost touch, as school and exams got in the way and I shelved my wilder writerly ambitions for a time.

Recently mum and dad had a clear-out of their bookshelves and I reacquired a sizeable collection of Douglas’ books, including his Alexander Kent “Bolitho” series on which I had gorged myself as a teenager and which inspired me to write my prize-winning story.  Curious, I Googled and found Douglas’ website, which had an email address.

I wasn’t expecting him to remember me but I sent him a short note yesterday to say hello and congratulate him on what is now 50 years as a published author (that’s quite something, in anybody’s reckoning, and boo! hiss! to his publishers for not marking it).

Today I got a reply.  He does remember me, still has photos of the day we met at the Navy Club, and is every bit as charming, gentlemanly and encouraging as I remember.

This has made my day.  I am completely, utterly, and quite ridiculously, made up.