Celtic Illumination, part 283, Banged to rights.
I was quite enjoying meeting loads of new people and visiting new places, thankfully most of them were not normal. One of the strangest offers I had was from the father of one the cadets who asked if I would like to come and spend a day with him throwing stones and bottles at policemen. Wolfie’s father, Harry Sadler, was the police officer responsible for riot training for the police forces in the North West of England. He suggested that I attend a training centre in Warrington with him and have an enjoyable day testing out the new equipment he had just ordered. Even Andy was trying to get me to attend the dog section in Warrington where he was sure the expert dog handlers could cure my aversion to dogs.
Andy was a strange old fish, a lovely fellow, but you were never sure if he was going to turn around and arrest you, if you were doing something wrong of course. I think his attitude to the letter of the law depended on which way the wind was blowing. He had actually made the rank of sergeant in the police force but had been busted back down to police constable. He had been on duty during the Toxteth riots in Liverpool and was in charge of a small squad of police officers. Some senior officers were doing the rounds, checking on the moral of the men, and women. When they came to Andy’s squad he was nowhere to be found. Unfortunately for Andy they searched about for him and found him, as they say, ‘in flagrante delicto’ with a very pretty female type policeman woman.
I once asked him if all his charitable work and devotion to the cadets and other good causes was a form of self-inflicted penance which he smiled at me and agreed that it probably was. There were of course many other members of staff on the squadron and quite a bit of ‘back scratching’ did occur. One fellow who really stood out was John Lydon. John was a tall, quiet, fellow who tended to stick to the rifle range on the squadron where he trained the cadets how to fire a rifle. He was a manager with a local training company but had taken a personal interest in one of the adults on the squadron. The guy was unemployed and had no real qualifications to speak of, but he was a decent enough fellow who gave up an enormous amount of his time for the cadets.
One evening they had a discussion in the office at the squadron. We all shared our experience and information to help each other so John asks this fellow what his dream job would be. The guy says that he would love to be an airline pilot. John was the sort of fellow who loved a challenge and he actually believed that he could take this fellow through all the required training and courses, have it all paid for by the government and eventually have him finish up as a fully qualified airline pilot. It was an interesting approach to government sponsored training. John seemed to know his stuff and did manage to break down all the required training for pilot and managed to get the government to pay for it all. The guy ended up flying for Royal Mail. I would hear him every night go over our house as he flew from Manchester to the Isle of Man, to Belfast, then Liverpool and back to Manchester. He even suggested that if I didn’t mind lying on top of some Royal Mail sacks, I could fly home with him any time I wanted.
I think he spent three years flying for Royal Mail before accumulating enough hours and experience to join an airline and fly passenger jets. I have to admit I was impressed, but I still felt that flying passenger jets would be boring so I was happy to continue trying to reach my self-imposed quota of seven hundred and fifty words per day, every day. One of the quotes I remember reading around that time, was from the American author Gene Fowler who said of the writing process, “Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” Sometimes it actually felt like that, and on those days your word count would be miserably low. I wondered if there were any courses or training that John could link me up with to help further my writing career.
So it was no surprise, or maybe it was, one Friday afternoon to find John at the front door of our house. He came in, his usual smiley self and asked if I would like a job. Without even thinking about his proposal or even asking what it was I said yes. He then suggested that I smarten myself up a bit as he was on his way to Preston to meet the people who would be sponsoring the course I would be running. I soon found myself in his car speeding up the motorway to Preston where we were to meet the directors of the charity Action for Blind People. So it was clear that this had not been organised within the previous hour. I wondered how he knew I would accept his offer, if indeed he did.
The course was quite a simple concept. Anyone who was registered disabled and unemployed was eligible to apply for the course. My job was to assess each potential candidate and determine whether they would benefit from further training, further education or plain straight forward employment. I was then to assist them forward in to whichever area we had decided would be best for them. There would be fifteen places on the course and each individual would have six weeks on the course. Having understood the basic concept of the course I went in to meet the directors who were both blind. One of the directors was from Northern Ireland and we hit it off straight away.
It was the first time I had real experience of blind people and I certainly found myself learning a lot of the associated protocol very quickly indeed. The meeting finished rather quickly and we headed back down towards Skelmersdale with me now being told that I was starting work on the Monday morning at nine o clock. I would have two weeks to plan and prepare the course and, I would also have to promote and publicise the course. It was all exciting stuff and I went along with the flow, hoping that in the very near future I would meet someone who actually knew what was going on and explain to me what I was supposed to do. The money they offered me was rubbish, but I welcomed the opportunity for a new experience. Who knows where it would lead me or what I would learn?
It was at nine o clock on the Monday morning when I began to discover that perhaps John wasn’t as clever as he liked us to think he was and that the training industry in the United Kingdom was in fact a chaotic shambles. There were four of us in an office, John, another fellow, who John warned was a Justice of the Peace and who didn’t like swearing. My observation that I didn’t like poverty fell on deaf ears. The fourth fellow had just started like me and also had two weeks to prepare his course. As each course was to last six weeks we were told to sit down and produce a timetable for the full six weeks. I immediately rejected the suggestion and explained that I could not organise my course unless I knew who the students would be.
John didn’t seem to be able to understand my point so I tried to explain it to him. What happens if I plan a series of talks or lectures based on audio visual aids and we end up with all fifteen people on the course blind? John thought about it for a moment. “What happens if they are all wheel chair bound or deaf?” I asked. “Each individual must have the course planned around them and we can only do that when we know who is on the course.” “Yes,” said John, as his eyes glazed over and he went into automatic management speak. “That may be so, but we still have to produce a detailed timetable for the six week period.” I could see that clear thinking was not going to help so I stopped discussing the matter with him. I drew a standard time table and filled in the blanks, pulling subjects out of thin air. Ten minutes later I produced my six week detailed timetable for the course and gave it to John who thanked me and went off to present it to his bosses.