My introduction to Peter Hinchliffe came when the telephone rang in my home on Alder Street, Fartown Huddersfield early in 2000. Peter introduced himself as the News Editor of the Huddersfield Examiner my home town newspaper that I started reading as a lad of nine or ten. He explained that he was doing a series of articles on ex-patriots from Huddersfield and district, and it had come to his notice that I was soon to emigrate to the United States of America with my wife Gay, an American, and start a new life in retirement.
Peter is an engaging and likeable fellow, and we soon opened our hearts about our past lives and our plans for the future. Peter wrote the article and it was published in the Examiner. And that, I thought, was that. But it wasn't! After going to America in June 2000, Gay and I were called to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as Church Educational System Co-ordinators based in the Institute of Religion at the Knoxville Campus of the University of Tennessee, positions we took up in October 2000 until March 2002.
Following our missionary service, in June of 2002 we moved to Montana, a place with which I had fallen in love one summer when visiting my daughter Andréa, then living in Libby, Montana. We moved to Troy, a small city in Montana 23 miles from Libby and rented a 3 acre spread with a double-wide mobile home in the middle of the Kootenai National Forest just west of the spectacular Cabinet Range of wooded mountains.
One day the telephone rang. It was Peter. Goodness known how he tracked us down, but he was a newshound and had his methods. He said he was beginning a personal project on the Internet to be called Open Writing, which was to be a platform and showcase for writers and poets from all walks of life and give unpublished writers a place to have their work published. He invited me to write a weekly column for the e-zone, suggesting Montana Diary as a suitable name. I was eager to accept and so began a friendship with a gentle, caring Yorkshire wordsmith that I respect and admire. Montana Diary was published on January 15th, 2004.
In June of 2004 for health reasons we decided to move to Gay's former home city, Mesa, Arizona, so Montana Diary was re-titled as Letter From America. The last issue of Open Writing contained a single item, dated November 3rd, 2013.
When Peter had posted that piece, the server he had used for almost 12 years malfunctioned and froze Open Writing, so no further copy could be posted. Peter took that as a sign that his work was done, and that he should retire Open Writing and concentrate on enjoying his autumnal years. Thus it was that my association with Peter Hinchliffe's Open Writing came to an end.
My last contribution was posted the day before the server retired. It was chapter 53 of an early version of my novel-in-travail, "Luddite Spring: the Huddersfield Luddite Uprising 1811 -1813." My autobiography, A Shout From The Attic, was also being serialised in Open Writing.
Now, I raise my pen and say a heartfelt "Thank you, Peter," and, as Peter would say, "Cheers!"