Gripping adventures of rock pool friends

WELLS resident Peter Butler has written a series of children’s books inspired by holidays in Cornwall with his family, the first of which will be launched on his 80th birthday in March.

The stories, illustrated by Wells artist Kathryn Pow, tell the exploits of Gripper the Crab and his sea creature friends who live in a rock pool in the fictitious Cornish town of Porthmeric.

The adventures are intended to be fun to read and listen to but also have important messages about sea pollution, global warming, over-fishing and homelessness – and also lessons about how sometimes in life, things are not all they seem to be. 

“The books are to enjoy, to encourage children to write, and to encourage parents to read to their children,” said Peter.

“Each story also has a message from which our children and even mums and dads will learn.”

The stories were inspired by family holidays with his wife and two daughters in Cornwall, where the girls enjoyed playing in the rock pools learning about the creatures who lived there, and then giving them names.

When they got home, they missed their rock pool friends, so mum Britt would write pretend letters from them which they then had posted from Cornwall.

“You can imagine the excitement when those letters popped through our letterbox, so much so it made me think that one day I could take it all a step further and write a series of fun yet informative stories about life in and around a rock pool,” said Peter.

His plans suffered a setback in 2016 when he was diagnosed with bowel cancer. After an operation and chemotherapy, the cancer went into remission, but it has now returned, which has given him an extra spur to get the six Tales of Gripper the Crab published.

“It gives me a very good reason for living,” he said.

“You can’t stop and think about bad things. If you’ve got cancer or know someone who’s got cancer or not got the will to live, there is always something you can do. Cancer is not the end of life, it is the beginning of a new one.”

The sea creatures’ adventures are told by Barnacle Boppy, and Peter has converted the shed at the bottom of his garden into a Barnacle Boppy Fisherman’s Hut complete with lobster pot and fishing nets, which is where he writes his stories. The first to be released is Heidi’s New Home.

He said of the sea creatures: “They’re a family. The family is the greatest institution in the world. We families can make the world a happier and better place.”

He says that the age group for the stories is anyone from 3 to 93. There will be more information online soon with details about how to buy the books, and how to donate to child cancer charities if desired. 

Peter’s working life started at Sheldons in Wells, where his father was a director, and he went on to become a TV commentator, primarily on powerboat racing, and producer.

His 1952 MGTD has become a familiar sight in the annual Mendip Vintage & Classic Car Tour, and he has restored a classic car and vintage caravan known as Milly and Tilly – a 1958 Hillman Minx Convertible (Milly) and 1959 Vintage Caravan (Tilly) – that he still hopes can be used to raise money for cancer charities.