HOSPITAL wards were the perfect blank canvas for 74-year-old Victor Austin, who wrote a children’s book in five weeks while recovering from major heart surgery.

A former tool maker for Rover, Victor, from Blunsdon, has always enjoyed oil painting and used his hours of spare time in hospital to illustrate a story he had planned on writing for some time.

He had been knocked back by publishers before, and was amazed when the first company he approached, Austin MacCaulay, snapped up his book, called The Magic Wand.

“They would get us up at 7am every day and give us our tablets at 10am, so we had a lot of hours to ourselves in hospital,” said Victor, who spent the five weeks between Great Western Hospital and John Ratcliffe hospital during his recovery from a double heart bypass last May.

“I had been thinking about doing it for some time, and had some stories ready to go in my head. My hobby is oil painting, but you can’t do that in hospital so I just started doing the illustrations.”

Victor said the lack of distractions in the hospital wards gave him the perfect opportunity to put his mind to work.

“There is no outside influence, so everything I was drawing was coming straight from my imagination,” he said. “I could not look at books or the internet. I have always been able to do a picture from a blank page, so that was the best environment for me.”

He has now been encouraged to continue in children’s literature, and hopes more successes will follow.

“I had written two stories before now, but they both got rejected,” he said. “They were longer stories, and I think the main difference with this one is that I did the illustrations myself.

“Five weeks in hospital was plenty of time to get all the drawings finished, and I had the story more or less in my head already. A lot of people thought the illustrations were quite funny. All the people who have read it says it makes them laugh. I did not intend to make anyone laugh, but it seems to do the job.

“I wrote two while I was in hospital, and have kept the other one back as an option if the first one sells well. I have done another two since. These are much more improved than the first ones were. The difference is they came completely out of my head.

“I was very suprised when they agreed to publish it. They were the first people I went to, and I thought I would be hunting around for a few months.”

Victor would not give too much away about the narrative of the story, but said it was a very traditional work.

“It is more or less about a fox which has been causing trouble, and it’s a bit of an old fashioned fairy tale,” he said. “I am old, so I am quite old fashioned.”