Celtic Illumination, part 279, Back in blue.
From my reading and research I understood that I was now engaged in what was known as an apprenticeship. All writers must serve an apprenticeship and I felt happy that I was engaged in such a venture. I wasn’t impressed that it could take up to seven years, if not more, to get published, but of course those rules were for normal people. I also learned that I should have started writing short stories rather than leap straight in to novel writing. From writing short stories I would learn about structure and characterisation, but once again these rules or guidelines were for normal people. I needed to know if I could write a novel, that is what was driving me. First of all I needed to know if I could produce the full one hundred thousand words, and only then would I know if it was any good. The daily exercise of writing and trying to produce seven hundred and fifty words continued and was exhausting. I could see that my daily word count was increasing but I could never see the day when I would smash the magical seven hundred and fifty words.
I was quite happy to announce myself as a writer to people, most of whom would give me a blank stare. My family sort of accepted it but it was plain to see that my efforts were not understood at all. One uncle had written some cowboy books, but only as a bet, he was a brilliant man who was a leading surgeon and radiographer in Manchester. He even acted as physiotherapist for the local football team, Manchester United, but these were the days before football turned from being a game into being a business. Money wasn’t even important to me, at the time people like Jeffrey Archer and Joan Collins were getting advances in the tens of millions of pounds, I could see myself more along the lines of George Orwell, living in poverty in Paris.
I realised I was hooked when I read a quote from another old mate of mine, George Bernard Shaw, who wrote that, “The true artist will let his wife starve, his children go barefoot, his mother drudge for his living at seventy, sooner than work at anything but his art.” I hoped that I wouldn’t let things go that far but I was learning that the most important thing for me was writing. I was still focused on the daily word count but was learning that perhaps it didn’t matter that much. Writers like Stephen King produced ten pages a day, every day, which would put him somewhere in the region of two and a half thousand words per day. Ernest Hemingway wrote five hundred words every day, but for me my favourite bit of related nonsense was from the Irish writer, James Joyce, who was once asked if he had had a good day writing. Joyce replied that he had, but when asked how much he had written, Joyce replied that he had only written one sentence, but it was perfect. I was still writing freehand, I sort of loved the noise that the nib of my fountain pen made as it ran across the page.
People were being very helpful too, especially the adults connected with the air cadets, as all sorts of writing related articles were being given to me. I was still keeping to the shadows in the air cadets as I hadn’t really experienced anything like this before. It was strange seeing all the young people in their uniforms, some of whom took the whole thing very seriously indeed. Only two of us, Andy and myself, had actually been in the air force. The squadron was run by a committee which I found very strange indeed, civilians who knew nothing about the air force. Andy was the boss of the squadron, the commanding officer, and he wore the uniform of a Flight Lieutenant. There was another fellow there who like Andy was a civilian policeman and while with the air cadets wore the uniform of a Pilot Officer.
I found it quite funny that while in the air force people were stretching themselves to get promoted while here civilians were playing at being in the forces. We were part of a larger group known as the Merseyside Wing with our headquarters over at a place called RAF Sealand. I was asked one day if I could drive a bus over to Sealand where some sort of marching competition was being held. I didn’t mind and agreed to drive the bus. I was asked to report to the squadron building early on a Saturday morning where the bus would be waiting for me as would the cadets. I turned up expecting to find a minibus but in fact found a fifty two seater coach. I wasn’t sure what to do. I had never driven a bus before, well; apart from the times John Zamo and myself sort of borrowed buses in Cyprus and Denmark.
This was bright and early on a Saturday morning and all my bus driving experience had been at night time and usually after a good few beers. I couldn’t let the cadets down. I wasn’t even sure if it would be legal for me to drive the coach but Sealand was only about fifty miles away and most of the route would be on motorways so there was a good chance I wouldn’t hit anything. I loaded the cadets on to the coach, along with my two boys, and set off. It wasn’t a great start as I nicked the gate posts, as I was leaving the car park at the squadron building, and put a nice twenty inch gash in the side of the coach. The cadets expressed some vocal concern at my driving skills; or lack of as the case may be, bless them, so I tried to be a little more careful.
I managed to drive all the way to Sealand without hitting anything else and sort of enjoyed this new experience of driving a coach in daylight and sober. There were a lot of people at Sealand for the event and I saw one fellow I knew, who had been in the air force with me, but now was a Flight Lieutenant with the air cadets. I was already a little embarrassed that grown men were pretending to be officers in the air force but this fellow actually believed that he was now a real officer and suggested that I should call him sir rather than use his name. Well; he had been an air trafficker so constantly maintaining the low standards he would have no doubt set for himself would make him feel very superior indeed. There were people pretending to be Squadron Leaders and even one fellow who was pretending to be a Wing Commander. But what got me the most was the Warrant Officers.
In the real air force a Warrant Officer was the highest rank an ordinary airman could reach and it was a respected position. Some of these people actually believed that they were real Warrant Officers, I was thoroughly embarrassed, I mean they even went around saluting each other. I was certainly having second thoughts about the air cadets but I knew that as my children would hopefully benefit from the experience I would have to stick it out. I couldn’t believe that they were having marching competitions, the idiot Joe Pearson would have been in heaven with this lot. There was an awful lot of screaming and shouting and the cadets seemed to enjoy their competition. They were a nice bunch of kids and while not marching were being normal, falling about and having fun.
I even managed to return the coach and the cadets without incident. Thankfully I had been told to park the coach on an industrial site which meant that I had plenty of space to manoeuvre. After that I decided not to be so open with my volunteering in the future. Andy then asked me if I would like to be the squadron Warrant Officer. He then explained that as I had put on a little weight I couldn’t become an officer like he was. It was the sort of feeble excuse I had been fed all my life by useless air traffickers. I agreed to play the role of squadron Warrant Officer but I refused to wear the uniform. It did annoy me a little that, what was basically a management position, was not open to a fellow like me who had real life experience of the air force. Then I discovered what the actual credentials were for being an officer in the Merseyside Wing. Never mind actually attending and passing the officer and aircrew selection tests at Biggen Hill, never mind having been in the air force, in order to be an officer in the Merseyside Wing of the Air Training Corps you had to be a member of a Masonic Lodge.