A brief life
It’s 2016 and Simon’s two main preoccupations presently are writing fiction, and being CEO of The Mind Clinic.
Well, someone’s got to do it.
The fourth Abbot Peter murder mystery was published this year: A (Very) Public School Murder. And February 2017 will see the publication of The Soldier, the Gaoler, the Spy and her Lover – the extraordinary story of the last year in the life of the imprisoned and philandering Charles I.
Meanwhile, wearing a different hat on his bald head, Simon looks after The Mind Clinic, which takes counselling into organisations as diverse as a recruitment agency, a school, a hospital, an IT company, a clothes retailer, a food retailer – and a cathedral. Our basic calling is to provide safe, confidential and insightful space for individuals or groups, because life is difficult; and sometimes it’s important not to have to edit what we say.
But it hasn’t always been this way. Life is change… even when you don’t wish for change.
Born in Sussex, Simon mainly wanted to be George Best until he picked up a degree in history (still a great love) from Oxford University, where he also became involved in the dismantling business of satire, producing scripts for TV and radio, including Spitting Image. (While at uni, Simon did audition for one of Richard Curtis’ reviews, as they were contemporaries; but someone called Rowan Atkinson got the gig. Whatever happened to him? I’m sure Richard, despite his CBE, regrets his decision to this day.) A few years later, and still feeling the pain, Simon did win a Sony radio award for his script work on Simon Mayo’s Big Holy One.
Simon was a priest in the Church of England for 20 years (having given up on the idea of being George Best), serving in three London parishes, which was ‘an enormous privilege’. Feeling that adventure to be over, however (which was an uncomfortable surprise), he then worked for three years in a supermarket, where he stacked shelves, worked on the tills, filled in on the bakery, chaired the shop union (he was appointed in the cold store) and had a good laugh and cry with his colleagues. He also had some run-ins with the management and twice caught shoplifters after a chase up the street. It pays to be fitter than the thief…
He left the store with both sadness and gratitude to risk the freelance adventure and has now been a writer, therapist and retreat giver for eight years. He wrote Shelf Life: How I found the meaning of life stacking shelves (Random House) followed by The Beautiful Life (Bloomsbury), now republished as The Journey Home; and The Enneagram: A private session with the world’s greatest psychologist (White Crow)
He wrote a weekly column in the Daily Mail for four years, and was a columnist for the Church Times for the last 11 years (it started out as a six week slot).
He’s had six fascinating conversations with figures from the past: Vincent van Gogh, Jesus, Mozart, Tolstoy, Meister Eckhart and Conan Doyle. Each conversation is imagined but their words are not, and people have found them a unique way to get to know these famous figures, more authentic than traditional biographies. They’re published by White Crow Books, in the ‘Conversations with’ series.
More recently, Simon’s books have included the popular One-Minute Mindfulness, published by Hay House; Solitude: recovering the power of alone, published by White Crow, Pippa’s Progress: a pilgrim’s journey to heaven, published by DLT, and One-minute Meditation, published by White Crow.
Simon leads a few four-day retreats each year, and occasionally a group weekend, if it feels like a good idea.
Simon sees people one-to-one for work support, emotional support, spiritual direction and counselling. He also offers individual retreats in The Hermitage, a lovely self-contained space next to his home.
After 30 years in London, Simon, who has two children from his first marriage, now lives with his partner in Seaford. He enjoys running long distances, the early morning, the changing seasons, the white cliffs, reading, football, meeting friends for a coffee or a meal, country pubs, frost on leaves, a fire in the hearth, roof tops in silhouette and swimming in both warm and chill sea – oh, loads of things, too many to mention. His favourite author is Hilary Mantel, favourite TV detective, Foyle, favourite TV comedy, The Office, favourite musical, Les Miserables – he has seen it five times – favourite painters JMW Turner, Caspar Friedrich and Van Gogh and favourite meal, fish and chips by the sea.
His hero from the past is Meister Eckhart and his hero in the present, anyone who’s kind; or who listens. And he likes to write to music by Ennio Morricone or Pink Floyd or someone else… though sometimes it has to be silence.
His ambition – apart from enormous book sales, worldwide fame for Pippa and Abbot Peter, and writing the lyrics for a West End musical – is to be happy in his own skin, because everything else flows from that.