Author from Fakenham to keep on writing after stroke
They say you cannot keep a good man down. In the case of Fakenham’s Jim Baldwin that is remarkably true.
A stroke 11 months ago left him battling to overcome its devastating effects on his life and of those around him, including his wife Joan.
This has been a tragedy for a man whose main passions are writing and music.
He is a well-known published historian with eight books to his name, who has also been part of the local music scene since the days of Lonnie Donegan and skiffle. At one time it seemed his contribution to the researching of local history would be at an end.
But that is not the case for a man who refuses to be knocked over by adversity.
Physically his improvement has been remarkable but, as is the case with a third of all stroke survivors, the illness played havoc with his speech and all but the most basic words are still beyond him. He knows the road to recovering the ability to talk with be long and hard.
But his disability has not reduced his ability to communicate in other ways.
With the benefit of modern technology, a laptop and a printer, he has spent the time researching and writing essays on aspects of the history of the area, most notably the former RAF Sculthorpe air base, for many years a USAF airfield with the longest runway in Europe and an important part of NATO’s defences during the Cold War.
One essay, Sculthorpe: The Early Days, describes how the airfield was opened in 1943 but played little part in World War Two.
Building it involved a workforce of 1,400 men and 120,764 tons of cement were used in its construction.
Others include one aspect of the ‘bombing up’ of USAF aeroplanes at Sculthorpe, another details the construction of a decoy aerodrome at Coxford Heath, near Tattersett, and a third of a quarry called Harpley Dams.
Aggregate was used to help the construction of the Lynn and Fakenham railway in the 19th century. It later became a fuel depot supplying nearby RAF West Raynham. Yet more essays are in the pipeline.
But his music has had to take a backseat, an interest encouraged by his mother when he was young. She was a pianist and choir singer at the local Methodist Chapel. She paid ten pence an hour (4p) for piano lessons and when still in his teens he became part of his first band The Electrons. Band followed band through the years until his retirement from the last one, Mervyn and the Starbeats, two years ago.
But his fingers, which can still twinkle across the keyboard of his laptop, have also produced perhaps his most important contribution since his stroke.
He recalls his life as a musician in a just published book, My Years on the Music Scene. It’s priced at £3 and all profits go to the Friends of the Stroke Unit at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King’s Lynn, who have helped him since his stroke.
It, and all his essays which can be downloaded free, can be ordered at www.jimbooks.co.uk
His life has included other low moments, including the unexplained death of his son, Mark, four years ago. But it also contains other passions such as his love of gardening.
Because of his stroke he was unable to enter his chrysanthemums in last year’s annual flower show last year. A friend entered them on his behalf.
One won best bloom in the show. “How about that?” he typed delightedly on his laptop.