We could be soon hearing a lot more from the ‘Pullyman’ in these pages, as the sharp-witted Michael Cowin has hopes to contribute his humorous musings to Island Life readers on a regular basis.
His education in the field has been swift: with the onset of Parkinson’s Disease affecting his ability to get around, 72-year-old Michael turned to writing and in the last 18 months he has self-published two volumes of observational humour essays and two more books of his poetry.
Island Life met at his desk in the nerve centre of his Onchan home, with news that the proceeds of November’s poetry publication, Michael will have raised close to £4,000 for Parkinson’s research charities from his book sales.
They sell for £5 each, just from the island’s bookshops at the moment ‘though the whole online thing will come to fruition this year’.
‘I think it’s amazing,’ he reflected. ‘It’s completely book sales. Whatever it costs to print is all that is taken out. Some people paid £10 for a book, others I have given away. But I’ve taken no admin charges!’
Of his work, he explained: ‘It’s generally humour, but sometimes seriousness with a sting in the tail. The whole ethos is to write down what I see. Everything I write is based on the truth; it happened. Mostly.’
A line from one of his poems give some insight into Michael’s philosophy on dealing with Parkinson’s: ‘Just say you liked to play the flute, not now, it’s tambourine.’
He is clearly a ‘as one door shuts another opens’ kind of guy, but do the shakes, which visibly increase when Michael is stressed or nervous, affect his ability to write or type?
‘I still engrave, I can thread a needle. Yes, I can type,’ said Michael. ‘It doesn’t hold me back at all, though it does effect mobility. Parkinson’s has been like a catalyst. I have never been one to join things, and I was reluctant to join the Parkinson’s Society, but since I have it has been brilliant. People are so kind. It’s not sympathy, it’s like-minded people. Instead of gaining inhibitions, I’ve lost them. I feel free.’
He added: ‘I’m trying to say that anybody can do anything, at any time. People are only held back by personal limitations, that could be financial or structural. I’d never used a computer until I started writing. Now I have stood up in front of a few audiences, and enjoyed every minute. I love writing. I hadn’t written anything before, but I don’t regret that. I was building greenhouses and sheds!’
His subject matter covers everything from racism, BSE and EasyJet to growing up in Pulrose.
‘The poetry is comical, I like making people laugh. These days poetry can be full of angst and bitterness, bless them it is so serious. I don’t belittle that; they’re very clever and it’s a release, but I like poems that rhyme and tell a story and take the mickey.’
His two most recent books may have been poetry collections, but Michael thinks most of his next work will take the form of essays. As he puts it, he ‘has a head like a dynamo, it’s whirring all the time!’.
He has met his witty match however, at Government House during a Parkinson’s Society event, to showcase the talents of sufferers of the disease.
Michael introduced himself to Lieutenant Governor Adam Wood, and handed him a poem the former diplomat promised to read out to the seated crowd. In the event, Mr Wood was whisked away to another social function so it never happened, but the Cowin’s received a letter in the post soon after.
The Governor described the sinking feeling of putting his hand in his pocket later that evening to pull out the poem he had never read out, and, as well as apologising to Michael, Mr Wood added two more humorous self-penned verses to the poem on the perils of relying on a forgetful Governor.
‘We’re still laughing at that!’ said Michael.
Pullyman’s books are on sale from shops including The Lexicon Bookshop in Douglas, Green’s and Celtic Gold, both in Peel, the mobile library and Align 4 Life in Douglas.