The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Johnny Ringwood

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The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Johnny Ringwood


Summary: Peter enjoyed Cargoes & Capers with its memories of life in the East End and stories how the author, Johnny Ringwood, turned his life around. He had rather a lot of questions when Johnny popped into Bookbag Towers to chat to us.
Date: 1 July 2017
Interviewer: Peter Magee
Reviewed by Peter Magee

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Peter enjoyed Cargoes & Capers with its memories of life in the East End and stories how the author, Johnny Ringwood, turned his life around. He had rather a lot of questions when Johnny popped into Bookbag Towers to chat to us.

  • Bookbag: When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, who do you see?

Johnny Ringwood: If I close my eyes and try to think what my readers will look like, I suppose because of the title, they will be people initially from dockland areas, especially London, although some of my readers who know me personally from all walks of life have found it interesting, and have passed it round in their circles.

  • BB: I thought it was fascinating! What made you decide to write your memoir? Have you any plans to write any more books?

JR: It certainly wasn't a lifetime's ambition! The idea came from my eldest son. Over the years I've shared with my family and students in classes that I've taught, a lot of the stories about my past.

It was one day a couple of years ago when Terry said Dad, why don't you write down the titles of all the stories you can remember? So I took up the challenge and sat down with a note pad and did just that. After looking at it my son said there's a book there, and the rest, as they say, is history.

I've no intention of writing anything else!

  • BB: That's a pity, Johnny. We're most impressed by your memory for detail. Did you keep a diary? Did you need to do much research and how long did it take you to write Cargoes and Capers?

JR: I've never kept a diary, so I guess I'm blessed with a long term retentive memory, although saying that, my short term memory is somewhat lacking much to the annoyance of my wife. I didn't need to do much research except to get as near as possible to the relevant dates. It took, in total, about six months to write (or should I say type) Cargoes & Capers.

  • BB: The East End of your youth, or the East End of now - which do you prefer? Would you ever consider living in Docklands?

JR: I lived in the East End until 2002, before moving out to our current home in Essex, so I guess my book reflects 67 years of my life in Docklands. Once the docks stopped trading the area went into deep decline. My early memories of living in Docklands were happy, but now when I return there, I feel very sad. Would I want to return and live there again? Well, I'm sorry but the answer is no. The area as it is now has lost its community spirit and pride.

  • BB: If you had your life again, would you do anything differently? What's your best and your worst memory?

JR: Obviously stepping into the life of crime and letting so many people down is something I wouldn't do. All the details are in my book. The worst memory was seeing a photo of my wife, Brenda, sitting alone in our living room whilst I was in prison, looking totally broken. Some of the numerous best memories are Brenda agreeing to marry me, the births of my three sons, achieving goals in life which had seemed impossible and being blessed by a loving and ever-increasing family.

  • BB: You've run a Health and Safety consultancy. Health and Safety is often mocked as being a sign of the nanny state: do you think rules and regulations are taken too far or do we not understand the importance of what the law is trying to achieve?

JR: Health and Safety, in the main, has got a bad name caused by lay people putting their own interpretation and practice into areas where they have little or no background on the legal requirements. My approach over thirty years in the game of Health and Safety was to ensure that these legal requirements when put in place had a great deal of common sense and benefits to the workplace. Prior to 1974 when the Act first came into force some workplaces were in dire and dangerous condition. It's ironic because of recent events (such as Grenfell Tower) that there are cries that more stringent Health and Safety controls should have been in place to prevent these tragedies happening.

  • BB: As a young man you saw a lot of the world. Do you travel much now and if so, where's your favourite place?

JR: No, my travelling days are over. Brenda, my wife, has a number of health conditions which prevent it. My favourite place now (as described in the book) is sitting on my swing at the end of our garden on a warm summer's evening.

  • BB: That sounds idyllic, Johnny. Keeping fit: is it worth it? What's the best part of it - and the worst?

JR: I started seriously keeping fit in 1967, after I stopped smoking. The benefits far out weigh any sedentary lifestyle. After any form of exercise the feel-good endorphins kick in. All my clothes still fit, and it's certainly nice to hear people say you don't look your age and I certainbly don't feel it. I really can't think of any bad aspects; being a man of habit it's become a way of life!

  • BB: When things went wrong for you, you picked yourself up off the floor and made life come right again. Do you think everyone can do this?

JR: Can every body do this? Unfortunately the answer in some cases is no. Everyone on this planet is unique and as such their physical and mental make up differs. However, if the person in need requires a leg up then every effort should be made to create a positive outcome. At least give them a chance to try.

  • BB: What's next for Johnny Ringwood?

JR: As stated in the book I'm a Christian, so my destiny is in the hands of the Lord, but if it is His will, I would in the remaining time I have left, like to become an Effective Peace Maker, so that my family and all the peoples of this world have an assured and peaceful future.

  • BB: We wish you every success with that, Johnny - and thank you for taking the time to chat to us.

You can read more about Johnny Ringwood here.

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