Celtic Illumination, part 270, Physician, heal thyself.
Some of you, The Illuminati, may be thinking that the double top secret cabal who were structuring my training were a bit ‘off the mark’ by putting me into such jobs and situations. Once again, it is only with hindsight that we really can see how brilliant their strategy actually was. In order for them to produce a person who was capable of becoming the greatest King of Ireland, ever, first of all they would have to show me how a corrupt and broken society operates, and boy were they having some fun doing that. It’s very easy to look at something like the morally reprehensible British class system, realise how wrong and stupid it is, but that will not fix it. To shake the stupidity out of people’s heads, you first of all had to understand what their driving factors were. Why are people so happy to pretend that they were better than someone else?
Now before any of you start writing letters to the Times of London complaining about what I have said, please understand that the problems that existed in England also existed in Ireland, you gave them to us. But we had one or two more problems heaped on top of us and I was going to have to be able to lead every person in Ireland out of the mire and into a bright new future. The air force showed me how the class system operates, in miniature, it showed me how it punished people and it also showed me how people, without merit, were constantly rewarded. The mortgages and life insurance environment introduced me to real people and showed me what their dreams and aspirations were. It also introduced me to the criminal underworld and the upper echelons of society, two worlds not so far apart as they would like to have us believe. The advertising environment showed me that there are a very many normal and nice, hardworking, decent people in the United Kingdom who feel totally lost. They feel that they have no voice to represent them.
I suppose you are now wondering what on earth I was going to learn from poking about in people’s ears. Well; I sat about for ten or twelve days before I caught a train down to Birmingham to undergo my basic training as an audiologist. Scrivens were a huge UK wide company, you would always see full page adverts in many daily newspaper for their ‘invisible hearing aids’, so I was happy that, unlike the advertising job, this position should be legitimate. It was strange to find myself in a classroom with three other fellows, but what was even stranger was the fact that the training manager was from Dundalk. When we met, we immediately began to talk about home. He said that it was a pity I hadn’t arrived the month before as the training manager then had been a fellow called Dessie MaCabe from Warrenpoint. Did I know him? Not only did I know him, but I had knocked about with him and we had both attended Violent Hell, although when I say attended, Dessie being from Warrenpoint had been a day pupil while I had been imprisoned in the place as a border.
My final memory of Dessie was a not a good one either. Dessie was off to be trained as a priest so three of us, that’s Mervyn, Dessie and myself went on the rip the night before he left for the seminary in Maynooth. For the heathens among you Maynooth, is the National Seminary for Ireland, where they train young men for the priesthood. Dessie was so drunk he could hardly stand, so we had to carry him to his house and pour him on to the front step before knocking the door and running, well I don’t know the correct term for running while staggering, stuggering away? It certainly gave me a confidence boost to learn that a Violent Hell man was connected in to the mix.
I was secretly pleased that I wasn’t going to meet Dessie as on the way home Mervyn had this grand idea on sobering him up a little. It involved me holding Dessie while Mervyn punched him in the stomach. Now, in the cold and sober light of day, I know how stupid and horrible that sounds, but at two o clock in the morning when you are completely off your head, Mervyns’ suggestion that punching Dessie in the stomach would make him throw up and therefore mean that there would be less alcohol in his system, did seem to make sense. Whether it made sense or not, it is an incident that I have always felt embarrassed about as Dessie was a lovely fellow and although I didn’t hit him, I was still a part of it. I don’t even know if Dessie was hurt, or even remembered the incident, but I did and I find it strange how these things can haunt you for ever.
It was during the afternoon of the first day, after we had spent most of our time filling out forms and contracts that my suspicions were aroused. We were given our ‘executive company cars.’ Not only were these things insured on our behalf and taxed but we were also given a fuel card. Free fuel! How good was that? Now for me when someone says ‘executive company car’ I immediately think of Jaguar, or Mercedes or even Audi. I know a lot of people would say BMW but for me the BMW is a spivs car, the epitome of ignorance. Even today if I find myself behind a brand new, top of the range, BMW I know that the indicators will not work. So you will understand my concern when I discover that my ‘executive company car’ is a Ford Fiesta.
I didn’t say anything, I told myself that it was free and that it was fun, which they were. Nippy and fast, far from executive though. On the second day the four of us, the students, wandered off at lunchtime and found a pub. I think we each had about two pints of beer and a sandwich before returning to a huge bollocking. We were young professionals who should not be drinking alcohol at lunchtimes, we had reputations now. I was aware that something wasn’t right, but I couldn’t find one specific problem to focus on. The first week went pretty quickly as it was a combination of practical and theoretical training. The job sounded great, no pun intended. I would be testing somebody’s hearing, then, if required, taking a mould of their inner ear and having a hearing aid made for them, which I would fit and monitor the progress off.
It was strange peering into someone’s ear, but I suppose it was one of those things that if you did it often enough you would get used to it. We didn’t have real patients, we practised on each other. When we were learning how to take a mould of the inner ear, someone asked how we would know if we had gone too far into the ear and maybe touched the ear drum, which by the way for us professionals is known as the Tympanic membrane. We were told that we would know if we went too far into the inner ear as we would be scraping the patient off the ceiling.
Friday was upon us and it was quite exciting. We were to be allowed to go home, in our little ‘executive company cars’ and spend the weekend with our loved ones. In my case I was going back to Irene and the children. The other good point was that we were to be given our first pay packet. Normally we would have been paid monthly, but as trainees we would be paid weekly, for the first month, in cash, and then by direct debit into our banks on a monthly basis. It was quite exciting for eventually we were going to learn how much we were going to be paid. Some of us had asked exactly how much the ‘competitive salary’ would be, but we were fobbed off as if it was a social faux pas to discuss money.
So come on, how much does the term ‘competitive salary’ mean to you? Let’s say that at the time the average salary across the United Kingdom was twenty thousand pounds per year. If twenty thousand is the average salary, what would you say would be competitive? Let me start. With the use of so many terms such as executive, or competitive or even sometimes professional, you would expect the salary to be at least slightly above the average. I would have said at least twenty four or five thousand, for you’re getting some of the best people, well; I can only speak for myself. So if we agree that twenty four thousand would be competitive, then over a twelve month period I would expect two thousand pounds per month. So that Friday I should have been paid about five hundred pounds.
The revelation that my executive company car was in fact a ladies runabout was bad enough, but now to be given sixty pounds cash, came in, as they say, a little below the belt. I can assure you that as I drove home I felt like a complete idiot. I didn’t have the heart to tell Irene that I might have found another nonstarter but I told myself that they, Scrivens, had a huge work force, they were known nationally, so a decent living could be made. I would just have to knuckle down and get on with it. I’ll now put my feet up at home and have a beer or two but have you worked out yet what the double top secret cabal wanted me to learn from this situation?