I met Tommy way back in 1991, when we both started to work on cruise ship MV Kareliya. The crew was Ukrainian, the staff -mainly- British and there was one little Dutch cruise hostess, me. On the ship (it’s a ship, not a boat!) we were also neighbours. Now, the walls on a cruise ship are thin, very thin. So, if you want to know some juicy details, you can drop me an email. Just kidding, what happens on a ship, stays on a ship. Well, most of the time. An example of how thin these walls were, I could hear Tommy stirring his teaspoon in his tea. Tommy’s main job was to entertain the children onboard. When working on a cruise ship you always have several jobs, by the way.
You have to entertain the passengers, as they can’t do that themselves, you have to participate in the evening shows, you go to hospitals when a passenger becomes ill.
I have seen quite a few hospitals in the world. I liked the one in Bergen, Norway the best, but maybe that’s because of the dead drop gorgeous doctors who work there. Sometimes a passenger was so ill that he had to be picked up by a helicopter. And sometimes passengers died, of course they did. We had bets. ‘How many body bags do we need on this trip?’
Back to Tommy, Tommy had a Star Trek alarm clock. It woke me up every bloody time. Thin walls, remember? He also had a VCR in his cabin. Yay! I don’t know if he remembers this, but one evening we watched Stephen King’s “IT” in his cabin. That night I honestly did not sleep. I hate clowns. Clowns suck (not Wobblebottom, he’s okay).
Years later, when I stayed a couple of days in London with my friend Joanne, also a cruise colleague-friend, I spent the day with Tommy as Joanne had to go to work. Tommy took me out, first we went on the London tour bus, then we went for a Mexican lunch in Camden Market. I drank my first Strawberry Margarita ever then (I am sure he doesn’t remember this day!) and my second, and maybe a third and I had a fab time. I also have met Alison that day, he shared a flat with her. This was the time Tommy not only worked seriously on his writing career but also played in “Buddy, The Buddy Holly Story” in Strand Theatre.
The musical was about Buddy Holly, who died young, on the 3rd of February (my birthday!), in 1959, he was a singer and it is all a very sad story. Me and Jo went to see the musical that evening and although I am not really a Buddy Holly-fan, we had a great night.
I think that’s the last time I saw Tommy, but then Facebook was invented and we became Facebook-friends. About a year ago Tommy announced on Facebook that he had cancer, throat cancer stage four. Inoperable and he had to have some intense chemo therapy and other nasty treatments. He started to blog about this whole process. Soon people said ‘make a book’! And that’s what he did. You can now buy this book at Amazon. Please buy his book.
The thing is, Tommy has been a children’s writer for years now. And most writers do NOT make a lot of money. Tommy visit schools a lot and gives writing workshops to children, it is a big part of his income to support his family. The cancer took away this income, he was too sick to write, too sick for school visits. Luckily lots of friends helped him and his family but you can help too. Buy this book. It’s a great book. It’s sometimes sad, sometimes shocking, it’s dark and light, and very often hilarious. Cancer sucks, this book doesn’t. It’s great.
PS: It's now available on Kindle, but it'll be also published in paperback.