John Bennett brings Mr Pinklenose to life
When John Bennett began losing his sight he didn't sit at home feeling despondent. Instead he took control of his life and decided to turn an imaginary character from his childhood into the hero of a children's book.
John, who lives in Shrewsbury, was only four years old when his father started telling him, and his siblings, magical stories about one of Father Christmas' special helpers.
Last year John was diagnosed with myasthenia gravis which affects his eyelids, arms and legs. It is a condition which only affects 10,000 people in the UK. John was forced to retire, and that was when he had the idea of bringing his father's exciting stories to life.
"After I left the army I started working with BT as a security consultant, taking care of the company's important information and computers," said John, who lives at The Coppice, a ShireLiving scheme in Bicton, where he is able to maintain his independence thanks to the onsite support, care and assistance.
"I had to retire last year due to my failing eye sight and have been supported by the Blind Veterans. I've also had a lot of support through the ShireLiving scheme – without them I wouldn't be able to carry on living in my own home as easily, and would be more dependent on my wife Lizzie. It is also a great way to socialise as I run a computer course at The Coppice, helping to give support to other tenants.
"I did a five-day course with the Blind Veterans in December, where we had to put together a business plan. I came up with the idea of writing about Mr Pinklenose – the imaginary character my father Peter had created when I was a child - with my sister Susan and brother Paul. I can't have a nine to five job, or travel for work, and so writing books is perfect for me."
John's book, which is aimed at children aged two to seven, tells of how Mr Pinklenose works for Father Christmas. When a child is born Mr Pinklenose gets a fairy to sit on the child's shoulder and they report back if the child is good or naughty.
"Even though it is about Father Christmas, The Amazing Mr Pinklenose is a story to be read throughout the year, as it has a moral for the children," said John. "My father told the same stories to my two daughters, Louise and Nicola, and I'm telling them to my four grandchildren. It helps to keep them on their toes as the other days I told my two grandsons that Mr Pinklenose might be watching them and they both stood to attention – that is the power of Mr Pinklenose."
John trademarked the Mr Pinklenose character and a website was created by Geeky Designs, along with Facebook and Instagram pages. He self-published his first book, which is about Mr Pinklenose and what he does, and the second book, which comes out soon, is about Mr Pinklenose and a lost kitten. The book is available on pinklenose.co.uk and a percentage from every sale goes to Blind Veterans.
"It was magic as a child to hear these stories and each of us had a different idea of what Mr Pinklenose looked like," said John. "The image of how I saw him has now been recreated thanks to illustrator Louise Saunders. I'm going to keep writing, as people are asking me for another story and it is great to give my children and grandchildren something to remember me by."
Pictured is John Bennett with his book, Mr Pinklenose
John will be doing a book signing at The Coppice, on Holyhead Road, Bicton on Sunday, September 1st from 2pm to 4pm. For more information contact The Coppice on 01743 266750.
2nd September 2019