Internationally renowned writer Peter talks about his early life as a gravedigger with epilepsy
Peter Street, 70, has recently published his memoirs, 'Hidden Depths - The life and loves of a young gravedigger'. The book explores Peter's early days as a gravedigger in Bolton during the 1960s and 1970s and how he coped with his epilepsy.
Peter considers himself lucky in that he has lived 'a fantastic life'. He explains in his memoirs: "I'm quite lucky I have epilepsy, it's changed my life. Otherwise I would've led a boring life and wouldn't have the stories that I tell today".
Writing his memoir, Peter decided to concentrate on his youth and his job as a gravedigger which involved graphic and dangerous tasks that not everyone would want to complete.
As a gravedigger he worked with a wide range of men, enjoying their company and friendly banter. He felt accepted as they understood his epilepsy. They even saved his life two or three times!
On one occasion, Peter had a seizure at work when he was "six feet down" in a grave. He felt a seizure coming on. "I felt a tingling and strange feeling running up and down my legs," he recalls and his colleagues came back and lifted him out of the grave.
About his epilepsy:
Peter had his first seizure in 1964, just weeks before he left school.
His next seizure was while he was working and he was sacked because of it. He recalls that he was sacked from various jobs due to his epilepsy, until he became a gravedigger.
Peter eventually gave up grave digging and exhuming after a shoulder accident, as he was offered a position as a gardener with a better wage. This enabled him to start saving to buy a house.
Peter's life has had many twists and turns. He had a spinal injury from breaking his neck falling off the back of a wagon in 1983 and ended up in hospital for nine months. In the bed next to him was an English Literature teacher. "I could hardly read or write, so the teacher helped me to improve my literary skills" says Peter.
Peter received a grant from the Royal Literary Fund in 1998, after he had written five books.
He is now a national and international poet, with five poetry collections under his belt. He has writing residences in many places, including Her Majesty's Prison and the BBC.
In 2008 he toured mid-West America for six weeks with his last poetry book, visiting cities and universities to give lectures about his poetry.
Peter has some amazing stories from this tour, the most memorable being "chased and captured by Pueblo Indians" in the Albuquerque desert whilst he was there for a literature festival.
He said: "The Indians were like giants, they were huge! But they were very beautiful looking. They had guns and were threatening. It was like being in a scene from a Western. We were eventually released, but it felt like we were held captive for a lot longer than we thought!"
Living with epilepsy:
Peter used to have day seizures as well as asleep ones, but currently he has asleep ones. His seizures started changing around 10 years ago. He was having long auras before a seizure and timing of his seizures changed.
Peter said: "At one point, I had seven seizures at once and went into status epilepticus. It was quite serious".
Peter has autism and believes that poetry is a perfect art form for those who are autistic' He believes it has helped him make a success of his writing career.
His last asleep seizure was about nine weeks ago and don't occur as frequently as they used to.
Peter is being positive about living with epilepsy, and says: "Epilepsy is the greatest thing that's happened to me. I don't think I could've had a better life".
'Hidden Depths' has had 700 copies published so far. Peter is looking to publish the next part of his memoir, which he is currently writing.
You can buy Peter's book here: https://preetapress.com/index.php/hidden-depths
Peter is available for workshops and readings around the country with his books.