Celtic Illumination, part 282, The Hurdy Gurdy Man
I have to admit that my first ‘expedition’ with the air cadets was not what I had expected. If I had given it some thought beforehand I would have realised that I wasn’t there to enjoy myself but to supervise and manage the cadets. It was a pain having to keep an eye on them all the time, but as my two boys had a fierce good time, I decided to pass the whole thing off as a success, and we managed to bring all the cadets back alive too, with no major injuries, so it was a plus on all fronts. It was nice to get home too; Irene didn’t think so as James had been collecting ‘stuff’, without my knowledge. We had been told to dump our kit bags in the kitchen where Irene would deal with them. She simply began to tip the contents on the kitchen floor, from where she would sort everything out, but instead started shrieking. James had been collecting animal skulls which were now rolling about our kitchen floor spilling wriggling maggots out here, there and everywhere.
Things were going pretty well on all fronts. My daily word count was increasing to the point where I was producing about five hundred words a day, every day. I was very happy with my output, but still desperately afraid that I would never hit the goal of seven hundred and fifty words per day. I made great use of our local library and one day discovered that there was a local writer’s circle that met once a fortnight, in the library. I found out when the next meeting was and planned to attend it. I have to admit I was a little apprehensive as I would be meeting real writers and there’s me not even producing seven hundred and fifty words a day yet.
The writers circle or group, or whatever you wanted to call it was a small affair with about six or seven regulars. The group had a chair person who was an elderly Irish lady, Betty. People would turn up with whatever they had been working on and read it out loud to the group who would then comment on the piece. Like the air cadets, we were part of a much larger organisation, the Merseyside association of writer’s workshops. Now and again a group from Liverpool would visit us and participate in our workshops. We also had professional writers visit and talk to us and give advice, so it was quite an important little group, for me anyway. The Liverpool crowd brought politics into the group, with a thump, which had normally concerned itself with poems about bloody flowers, until I arrived.
Skelmersdale is an interesting place as you have the full range of society plus a little bit extra. Most people are quite negative about Skelmersdale saying that there’s nothing there, there’s nothing to do, there’s no jobs, no social life, it’s dangerous and drug riddled. I would have to disagree. There is even a suggestion; you’re going to love this one, that Skelmersdale was a government experiment in ADF, the Aspiration Dispersal Field. In the sixties when Skelmersdale was being constructed it is claimed that professor Nathaniel Butler, the lead scientist for the controversial Mind Reader experiments, Placed an ADF generator in a disused mine shaft underneath Skelmersdale.
Skelmersdale was then drenched in a sort of magnetic field which took away all aspiration from the inhabitants. This was so that the government could control the population at any given time, turning the people into zombies almost. There were large stone sculptures placed on the towns many roundabouts and it is claimed that the ADF was generated though these monoliths. One claim is that as the population of Skelmersdale was the dregs of society from the Liverpool slums that they had no aspiration in the first place. These days most of the population, not just in Skelmersdale, are turned into brain dead zombies by watching utter tripe on the television such as the X Factor or Celebrities Cooking food while dancing on ice in a jungle. It is even suggested that to this day, if you visit Skelmersdale, you will notice a low level background hum which is supposed to be the ADF still working away in its mine shaft.
I was associating with people who were full of aspiration, energy and drive, especially with the air cadets. The writers circle was full of great and interesting characters and when the Liverpool lot came to visit there was a great deal of energy about the place. There was also another community, just across the road from us who I found very strange indeed. A group of Transcendental Meditators had decided to set up a community in Skelmersdale. They even had a dome shaped building as their centre piece. The dome had some sort of fantastic name like The Maharishi’s Golden Dome Of The North, or the like, but was referred to by the locals as The Dome and the Transcendental Meditators as Meddies.
We were lucky enough to have one or two Meddies in the writers circle, this association evolved so that we would visit the Dome and attend certain functions they would hold there. I was really interested in watching their yogic flying which I have to admit I found an utter disappointment. I’ve seen better and more advanced flying in a rugby club after eleventeen pints of best bitter. They had their own companies and factories, where all the employees had to be members of the TM community. I found them to be quite dull, they all considered themselves to be highly intelligent and therefore naturally superior to all others. Once again I allowed my own personal experience to tell me what to think about them. An Irish girl, from Newry, lived across the road from us; they had two children who played with my three. One day her two children announced that they have to leave to go to the Dome for ‘conditioning.’ This is where you start taking one step backwards.
The second incident concerned a young man who was a TM and a member of the writers circle. He wrote Haiku poetry, or at least he attempted to. On reflection he only wrote one Haiku poem that I thought was brilliant, all his other attempts were quite run of the mill. A Haiku, in English, is a short poem written in a specific method. It can be three lines of up to seventeen syllables usually in five, seven, five form. Most people associate the TM’s with the Beatles when Maharishi Mashesh Yogi became their spiritual advisor. It was all about peace and love, so I was quite surprised when I asked why our TM Haiku writer wasn’t turning up for meetings anymore to be told that he had been banned from the library for beating up one of the female librarians.
As you may have expected the writers circle ended up with a bunch of people coming along to listen to what I had written. It was a little embarrassing and I tried to get them to join in more, even at one point suggesting we all pitch in and produce a novel. I was still scribbling away with my fountain pen and I think I spent more time counting the words than I did actually writing them. In those days my only aspiration was to get a typewriter and no ADF generator was going to stop me. The Merseyside group held a short story competition and I entered. I approached it in quite a different way to most others I think. I had been devouring books on writing and had come across an interesting piece on how to win short story competitions.
Normally short story competitions will say that entries have to be a certain length, sometimes they will give a subject but most competitions tend to allow you to choose your own subject. The first thing you have to do is find out who the judges are and then discover what they write or what they like to read. Once you understand what the judges write or like to read then you can use that as a basis for your story. I understood that the judges were all quite left wing, politically speaking, after all this was Liverpool, so I wrote a real leftie focused story, with a smattering of humour.
We were invited to some meeting rooms in Liverpool one evening for the presentation of the prizes. There was quite a good turnout of about two hundred people and the prizes were to be presented by some actor from a popular television series called Brookside. They had provided gallons of free white wine, which Irene was getting stuck into; I just sat there wondering if I had managed to get in to the top three. To hear that I had won the competition was fantastic news, so good in fact I think Irene had another drink to celebrate, I couldn’t as I was driving. It was strange standing shaking hands with someone, the local Liverpool Echo newspaper taking our photograph and I hadn’t a clue who it was or what they were famous for. I pretended that I knew who he was and smiled and shook his hand but I have to admit that I did feel a little exposed standing there in front of so many people. I nearly fainted when he handed me a microphone and asked me to take centre stage and read my story out. As I cleared my throat and clenched my buttocks, I promised myself that I would always read the small print in the future.