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Children's book about crazy flamingoes, inspired by eldest grandchild, is raising money for motor neurone disease charity in memory of author Paul Joynson's son Olly

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A flamboyance of flamingos get up to all kinds of antics in a new children's book by a former Bishop's Stortford man inspired by a bedtime story he invented for his eldest grandchild Amelia.

Sadly, Paul Joynson's The Mingoes and their Amazing Adventures was published just days after his son Oliver – Amelia's dad, who helped to design the book – died after living with motor neurone disease (MND). He was just 41.

Paul, 74, started creating his whimsical short stories about four years ago when Amelia, now 8, said that her pink serviette looked like a "mingo". He thought the word was so adorable that he was inspired to do something special for the youngster.

Paul Joynson (43307951)
Paul Joynson (43307951)

"She stayed with us that night and I decided I would write a little story and bring the Mingoes in to read to her at bedtime," he said. "It came to bedtime, I sat her down and said 'Look, Grandad's written a little story, especially for you'. She went 'Oh no, Grandad – Mr Men!'

"I developed the interest of writing from there. I started writing silly poems and people started to read them – friends said that they were OK."

Even though Amelia was not entirely engrossed in her grandfather's stories at the time of their invention, the proud little girl has since introduced him to her classmates at Brightlingsea Junior School in Essex to talk about his published work. The silliness of his verses were beloved by the children.

"The Minoges aren't very bright. Because they're not very bright, you can't give them names because they'll forget them. So the leader we call Number One. And all the rest are called Number Two," Paul explained.

"The leader has got the desire to do everything that humans do, hence the stories are almost never-ending."

In The Mingoes and their Amazing Adventures, the flock go skydiving, punting in Cambridge and even take driving lessons.

Paul has written 48 poems about his Mingoes so he hopes his debut book will be the first of a series.

"My wife and I do all the drawings," he said. "We do them in an outline, so the book itself becomes a colouring book."

Paul and Jeanette, née Auger, his wife of 52 years, live in Halstead. But, in the 1980s, they lived in Grosvenor Close in Thorley Park.

Paul, now retired, previously worked as a salesman and then manager at Anglian Windows in Bishop’s Stortford, before taking on the role of operations manager at Birchanger Green services at junction 8 on the M11. But his favourite job was working for easyJet at Luton Airport as a ground operations and compliance auditor.

Paul and Jeanette’s sons attended local schools: Oliver was at Birchwood High School while Andrew, who lives in High Wych, went to the former Hadham Hall at Little Hadham – where his parents met one another when they were both students there.

Oliver, father to Amelia and two-year-old Willow, played a crucial part in his father's publication journey. "He decided it would be good to make the book," said Paul.

Oliver, who worked as a senior designer at Braintree-based Labelon, used his graphic design skills to lay out the book. Sadly, he never got to see it in print. In the summer he died from motor neurone disease, a year after being diagnosed with the condition.

The book was originally supposed to come out at the start of 2020, but the coronavirus pandemic delayed its release. "Olly passed away on August 11 and all of the books arrived days later," said Paul. "The only thing we can say is that he would have been very proud of it."

In memory of his son, Paul is donating all the profits to the Motor Neurone Disease Association.

"It could be an ongoing situation," he said. "If the sales are good then the publishers will obviously want a book two and three – and there's actually [enough stories] for up to six books."

* The Mingoes and their Amazing Adventures is available now. It can be ordered on Amazon or through the Austin Macauley Publishers website.

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