Celtic Illumination, part 292, Arvon calling.
Despite the fact that I had effectively told TPT to shove their job I was still very committed to the participants on the course. One of my initial wishes was answered and a deaf fellow joined the course. It was great being able to communicate with him using sign language. He was a fully trained and qualified carpenter but couldn’t get a job anywhere. I suppose this was the part of the business I really loved, because just like the priest who had started TPT, I would actually go to places and ask people for jobs. When it’s not for yourself it’s so easy. My guy lived in a local village so I made a list of firms that used carpenters and set off in the Wobblie Waggon. My sales training came into play as I structured the conversations, so that the people I was dealing with never had a chance to say no.
Little did they know it but if I turned up at their place of work they would be giving someone a job. My first call was with a window frame manufacturer, I allowed him to give me the usual guff about filling out an application form and submitting it through the normal channels, before I told him to wise up and give this fellow a trial. I left fifteen minutes later with a promise that the fellow would be given a fortnights trial and if successful he would be given a full time position. Once again everyone was happy, apart from the management of TPT, who only saw my success as a loss of money for them. I was sad because I knew that after I would leave they would simply put someone else in my place. I also knew that this time they would choose someone who couldn’t really do the job, but at least they could guarantee fifteen bums, on fifteen seats, for six weeks.
I really enjoyed the job as it required me to really extend myself and my abilities but my focus was still on becoming a writer and for those of you Illuminati who have read this blog you will know that I wouldn’t be settling just to be any old writer. I was still devouring books by the shelf load and I had managed to find that there actually are one or two recognised or established routes to becoming a professional writer. You still ended up at the final hurdle of trying to secure the services of a literary agent or a publisher but it was a proven method that had worked for others. The route I chose was to go through the Arvon Foundation which I am sure all of you are aware of. For those heathens among you who do not know about the Arvon Foundation I shall explain.
The Arvon Foundation is a charity that was established by professional writers to help and encourage up and coming writers. At the time I became interested in them they had three centres in the UK, one in Scotland, one in Devon and one in Yorkshire. They offered week long residential courses which had two professional guest writers as tutors. During the week you would undertake writing exercises, talk and listen to the professional writers. At the same time you were also encouraged to bring some of your own work along, which the professional writers would read and assess, giving you feedback on how you could improve your writing and or your chances of becoming a professional writer.
For me the most important fact was that if you managed to impress either or both of the professional writers on the course they could recommend you to their own literary agent. This was viewed as one of the better, or more positive, ways of trying to secure the services of a literary agent. Up until now I was, like many other aspiring writers, getting letter after letter from a long line of literary agents who would say that they were very sorry but they simply did not have the time to take on any new clients. I applied to the Arvon Foundation to attend a course at their Yorkshire centre, Lumb Bank. All I could do was sit back and hope that I would be successful and get on one of their courses. Meanwhile I had my own course to attend to and I wanted to try and help as many of the guys of my course before I left.
I walked in to my classroom one day to see two young ladies sitting at the back. I went over to have a chat and asked them what was going on. They told me that they had applied to be trained as nursery school assistants, but were told that, as there were no actual courses for such a position, they could join my course for six weeks. I was incensed that people could be treated like pawns. Here were two young people who wanted to improve their lives, who wanted to go through training and achieve something, being used in the ridiculous game of look how many trainees we have on our books. If I had been a young person and had been treated like that, I would have been quite angry, so it was no wonder that many of the young people in Skelmersdale had lost interest in the system that was supposed to help and encourage them. The system was not fit for purpose.
In order to maintain standards in the scientific research field, I would highly recommend to Professor Nathaniel Butler, the lead scientist for the controversial Mind Reader experiments in the UK, that rather than placing an Aspirational Dispersal Field over Skelmersdale to control the population, just make sure that every town has a useless training facility, like TPT, and you will soon drain the young, unemployed, youth of any and all aspiration and ambition they ever had. Oh, sorry, you already have, carry on. I know you think I was probably being a little bull headed in my approach but I wasn’t. Constantly being told that I didn’t understand did actually cause me concern because I wasn’t daft enough to think that I had all the answers. But to tell you the truth the only conclusion I could come up with was that either I was one hundred per cent correct or else I was totally off my head.
In fact I was so off my head with not understanding that I put the two young ladies in the Wobblie Waggon and drove off. I went to a local primary school, walked in and asked to see the head teacher. She was a lovely woman and ten minutes later I left having secured two training places for the two young ladies starting on the Monday of the following week. TPT were quite angry as they had planned on the two girls staying in my classroom for the full six weeks. It was a scam. I soon recognised that even the local college was involved in this fiddle and once again I shall give you an example. If you remember I told you that a blind fellow had asked to join my course. He had told me that he wanted to become a disc jockey and became quite emotional when I agreed to try and help him. I have to admit I was completely lost but I had been working away at this problem for a number of weeks. I had the full backing of Action For Blind People so this one fellow was going to succeed whether he liked it or not. This was long before the internet so research involved scanning newspapers, telephoning people and a lot of leg work, but then with legs like mine, not only was I working, I was giving people I came in to contact with an enormous amount of pleasure.
I found a company in Liverpool who dealt with disco equipment, but they also provided mobile discos. I went along in the Wobblie Waggon to have a word. I had no fixed idea of how they could help me and probably went to see them just to get some local information from them. As we began to chat, the guy in charge told me that they not only hired out mobile disco equipment and DJ’s but that they had a permanent gig at a hotel in Liverpool. They hosted a disco every Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening. Suddenly this guy took over on the enthusiasm front. If my guy didn’t mind they would use the fact that he was blind as a promotional tool, in that they would claim to have Liverpool’s first blind disc jockey. But more, they also had contacts in Radio Merseyside.
He suggested that my guy begin to attend the Thursday, Friday and Saturday events where he would be trained in how to use the equipment and encouraged to create a bit of a performance for himself. Once he was up to speed they would not just get him some exposure on Radio Merseyside but they would try to get him a weekly show. Don’t get me wrong, I understood this was all linked in to promoting the event so that the company would be making a shed load of money. I didn’t mind that for I could see that my guy could actually achieve what he wanted. I contacted Action For Blind People who reacted as if I was walking on water as a party trick. To say that they were over the moon would have been an understatement.
Action For Blind People said that my guy would be picked up by taxi, which they were paying for, and taken to and from the event every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night. They then asked if I would give him some one to one support until he felt comfortable enough to go it alone. I too would be picked up by taxi and given a little cash something every week to compensate me for my efforts. I agreed as I wanted this fellow to achieve his dream. It was about the third week when he felt confident enough to go on his own so I left him to it and asked him to keep in touch and let me know of his progress.
It was a good number of weeks later; I was walking past the local bus station when I noticed him at a bus stop. I went over to say hello and asked him what he was up to. He told me that he was learning to walk from the bus stop to the local college. Working three evenings a week and studying, I was impressed, but I should have known better. His social worker had told him that if he was to become a disc jockey he would be self-employed so in order to be able to organise his life and business, he should attend the local college and complete a two year business administration course. Once he had successfully completed this course the social worker would help him get a job, somewhere, as a disc jockey.