Celtic Illumination, part 290, Doing the Duke.
It certainly was nice to get back home again. The day hadn’t been too bad, sitting around in a car park for four hours you might think could be rather boring, but remember I was in the middle of North Welsh Wales, surrounded by mountains and rivers and sheep, let’s not forget the sheep. The cadets and children handled it pretty well, but it was the following four hours, in a mini bus, that was a little tedious. There was no rest for me when I got home for I was now on double top secret standby; Irene was pregnant and about to give birth to our fourth child. The whole thing did cause us some concern as we had, after some detailed scientific research, put the cause of pregnancy down to me being on detachment for six or seven weeks.
We could never actually pin point the exact cause, but we knew that there was some sort of connection between long detachments and pregnancy. This time I hadn’t been on detachment, I wasn’t even in the air force anymore, so I would have to reopen my research and run it alongside my continuing research on how pillows caused hangovers. Apart from my scientific research projects I was determined that someone’s head would roll for the mistake with the camp site, however, my presumption that the senior positions in the Merseyside wing of the air training crops, were being handed out to members of the masonic lodges and had nothing to do with ability or commitment were confirmed as no one was interested.
I can remember cornering the wing commander and demanding an explanation. I told him that someone had not updated the maps. “Oh, is that what the problem was?” He said, before he walked away. I could see that they had no concern if it happened to anyone else; I would have expected an assurance that the map would be checked and updated, but no, nothing. In fact the only reaction to that memorable weekend was that we should have a car wash to raise some funds to pay for the recovery and repair of the coach. It was as if it was more important to talk about something rather than do it. I could see that there was no point in me getting myself worked up about it. I had mentioned that I had used the Duke of Edinburgh’s award scheme as an excuse to get the cadets out and under canvas; this was now brought back to me.
Every air cadet squadron was part of a Wing, and each squadron competed against each other, using a points system. Various points would be awarded for positions gained in marching competitions, or swimming competitions. Points were awarded for the number of cadets on the squadron and for a number of other activities and levels gained in them. One of the activities where points were awarded was the number of participants each squadron had on the Duke of Edinburgh’s award scheme. The scheme is open to anyone between the ages of fourteen and twenty four. There are three levels, Bronze, Silver and Gold. For each level participants select and set objectives in four areas, volunteering, physical, skills and expedition with an additional fifth level at Gold being residential, which involves the individual staying and working away from home on a shared activity.
Andy told me that we needed to score some decent points from our Duke of Edinburgh’s participants that would ensure we were placed high up in the squadron rankings. Apart from bringing points to the squadron the cadet’s would use their participation in the award scheme on their CV’s if they were applying for jobs or courses, so it was regarded as quite an important activity. What I was really being asked to do was falsify records, you may think that in such an unequal society I would have no problem in helping my cadets with a few little white lies, I wouldn’t, what concerned me is that I was being asked to do this by a policeman. The problem was much greater that a handful of cadets on a squadron, it affected every news story you might read in the newspaper.
The cadets were already at a disadvantage, if they moved anywhere outside the Merseyside region because of their accents, and who should know more about that than me. I had no problem falsifying their records, I wasn’t that interested in whether the squadron got extra points or were rated higher than some other squadron, if I could help one cadet in their search for a better job or higher position then I was happy. I find it strange these days that most people accept that most CV’s are exaggerated, and no one does anything about it. The cadets didn’t even question the fact that their handbooks contained write up’s of activities they hadn’t completed, they had achieved their awards and were given their badges. Not one person complained.
The only people who were complaining to me at the time were TPT, where I was working. I was used to being told that I didn’t understand things, such like when I was a publishing executive in advertising, I didn’t understand business, I did it was called blackmail. In the world of insurance and investments, I didn’t understand achieving personal sales targets, I did, it was called lying and cheating, or basically theft. In audiology, it wasn’t being successful; it was called being a confidence trickster. Seems now that I didn’t understand the world of government sponsored training schemes. I was amazed that I was being told off for getting people jobs.
One person joined the course, he was male and in his mid-fifties. He had suffered a massive heart attack and now, with limited mobility, was classed as disabled and also unemployed. I began talking to him and discovered that he had been a member of the REME, the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, a highly efficient unit of the British Army. After talking to him for a while I could see that he had the correct attitude, in that he loved working with mechanics and the like and he didn’t want to be unemployed or disabled, he wanted a job. There was the hard fact that physically he was restricted but it would be a shame to lose all those years of experience.
That evening, even without the use of a bath, I had a eureka moment and couldn’t wait until the following morning. I took a leaf out of the book of fellow who had started TPT, the priest with the truck full of unemployed parishioners, and went around to a local garage who offered MOT tests. These are the mandatory tests that every vehicle over three years of age must undergo and pass to legally drive on the roads of the United Kingdom. After a brief discussion with the garage owner we agreed that my fellow could come around for a two week trial as an MOT inspector and if they liked him and he liked them, oh and he was good at the job, then he would be offered a full time job. I was happy, Action For Blind People, who sponsored my course, were happy and the fellow himself was very happy, for he was no longer consigned to the human scrap heap.
TPT on the other hand were not so happy. I had fifteen places on my course with each place lasting six weeks. Great that I had found this fellow a job, but I should have kept him on the course for the six weeks, before passing him on to the garage. It was all my fault, I didnt understand; again. I agree, but what I didn’t understand, up until then that is, is that TPT, as are all training establishments, paid per pupil per day. Each course or trade received a certain level of payment and the disabled category, my course, received the highest payment of the lot. So by all means, get people jobs or secure them courses but keep them on the course for the complete six weeks so that TPT would receive full payment.
Action For Blind People agreed with me, so I knew I was right, people came first, not profit. The managers at TPT were getting quite angry with me as were the local social workers, so I knew I was doing something right. I knew I had been quite successful in getting people jobs and placing them on to training courses. Action For Blind people were very pleased with what I was doing so I typed a letter explaining that I needed a pay rise, as you do. This was no ordinary letter asking for a five or ten per cent pay rise, as I was doing so well and so many people were now queuing up to get on the course, I asked that my salary be doubled. I know it might be considered a little bit cheeky but it would only bring me in to line with what other people, doing the exact same job as myself, were being paid elsewhere and I have already said that the money TPT was paying me was rubbish.
I was dithering about looking for the best time to drop the letter on the general manager’s desk when the decision was made for me. Irene had gone into labour and was on her way to the local hospital. I went to the general manager’s office and gave his secretary the letter, explaining that I was immediately taking the two weeks holiday we had discussed as my wife was about to give birth. I left TPT and, carefully observing all the local speed and traffic regulations, made my way to the local hospital. Once again I was smothered in fear as I had always been told that my mother had died giving birth to me so not only was I hoping that any child produced would be alive and healthy but that Irene would too. I knew I would probably faint, again, but that really didn’t concern me. I arrived and found that Irene was already in the process of giving birth. The midwife refused me entrance to the delivery suite so I sat outside waiting and worrying. I don’t know how long I was there, I know it wasn’t long but the doors opened and the midwife poked her head out. “Mother and baby are doing fine,” she said, with a big smile. I was relieved, but had a question which she knew I had, and she answered before I asked. “Irene said to tell you it’s a Charles.”