Celtic Illumination, part 301, The windmills of your mind.
There’s two things you can do when you are down, one, is to stay there, and perhaps sometimes that is the correct way to react. The other thing you can do is get up and fight back. Dealing with literary agents and publishers really is like wrestling oiled snakes but I wasn’t giving up. As far as I was concerned I had followed one of the classic routes to becoming a professional writer, and I had succeeded, well; almost. I couldn’t be sure if some sixteen year old intern had been put in charge of rejection letters and I had simply been rejected without anyone using a functioning brain looking at my letter. I decided to research Carol Anne’s agent and present myself once again, but to make sure that I was communicating with the agent and not the person who wipes the organ grinders brow.
Rejection is a huge part of a writer’s life and from the beginning you are warned to be ready for it. My first rejection letter affected me for about three weeks. I kid you not, if you have worked on a project for a year or more and someone says no, we don’t even want to read it, I promise you it hits deep. It’s hard to say exactly how I felt, yes I was angry, with everyone, even myself, I was hurt, embarrassed, afraid, I think it would be fair to say that I experienced almost every negative emotion possible. My second rejection hurt just as bad but not for so long, by the tenth rejection I was building up quite an immunisation against them. I read somewhere that you should wallpaper the walls of the smallest room in the house with your rejection letters rather than hide them away in a file. It would be like displaying your battle honours on your ensign. And so I did actually begin to plaster the walls of our downstairs toilet with my rejection letters and I honestly do think it worked. Every time you went to the toilet you became more determined to succeed.
I was back at work at TPT and only had a week or two left before I would leave the course. I was asked to have a meeting with the two directors from Action For Blind People, who were coming down to see me. They asked that no one be told of the meeting and that we have the meeting in a public house next door to TPT. A very strange request as TPT would shrivel up and die if it thought any member of staff, or student for that matter, was consuming alcohol during the working day. Although I have to admit I sort of broke that understanding one day. It was the build up to Christmas and it was announced that the staff Christmas function would be held one lunch time at a local public house. So now that you know they were holding the staff Christmas function one lunch time, will probably tell you what sort of fun loving people they were.
I would spend meal times and break times with the bricklayers, motor mechanics and carpentry instructors, the real people. It was generally accepted that not one of us would attend the Christmas function as there would be no mistletoe and no photocopiers, there would be no fun either. Just a bunch of people, sitting around, telling each other how fantastic they were. The senior managers and one or two wannabee staff had signed up for the Christmas function and this was accepted as the status quo. On the morning of the function I brought my RAF number one hat in to work, the peaked cap type of headgear. I wore it on my morning run and pretended to be a chauffeur which the Wobblies loved, but at lunch time when we had all finished our meal I brought the Wobblie Waggon around to the dining hall and suggested to the guys that we go and join the Christmas function for a game of pool and a beer or three.
Once again, with my chauffer hat in place, I drove a Wobblie Waggon full of cheering bricklayers and carpenters, with the odd motor mechanic thrown in, and we set of to join our staff Christmas function. The staff and managers already there, were surprised to see us, well; horrified would be closer to the mark. I of course was driving so couldn’t drink alcohol, so I didn’t, I just stuck to beer. We had such a giggle and actually did enjoy ourselves in fact we enjoyed ourselves so much we arrived back at TPT forty minutes late. I explained that it was all my fault as I had misplaced the keys for the Wobblie Waggon and therefore was unable to return the staff on time. They couldn’t really say anything to me, or punish me, as I was leaving, so the matter was forgotten about, no more was said.
And as for the meeting about which nothing was said I wondered what Action For Blind People were up to. I wandered over to the pub and waited. The two guys arrived in a taxi and I was amazed at how easy they made walking in to a pub look, for a blind person who had never been there before. They sat down at my table and ordered lunch and beer, did I say they were nice guys. We talked about the course and my successes and they were very pleased with what I had done but concerned as to why I was leaving. I seemed to be happy in my job so what was the problem? I explained that I had done a little research on the subject and discovered that TPT were only paying me fifty per cent of what I should be getting paid. I further explained that I had asked that they increase my salary to what the current market rate was and they refused so I had no choice but to leave, I wasn’t anybody’s mug.
The two guys were a bit taken aback as they assured me they had given TPT enough money to pay me the full and correct salary and they thought I was getting paid appropriately. I then explained that TPT were simply money grabbers playing at being businessmen, they had no interest in the individual only in showing that they could make a profit. The two directors assured me that they would not allow the course to run again with TPT. In fact they already had their suspicions about TPT and were considering using the local college to promote and host their course. I explained that in my opinion the local college was just as bad as TPT, in fact they both, for me, fell under the NAAFI banner of No Ambition And Feckall Interest.
We continued talking and it was nice to hear them say that they didn’t want to lose me as they thought I was a great benefit to the disabled community. It was very nice of them to say so and I thought that the meeting was just a simple way of saying farewell and thanks, but there was more. The senior director then tells me that he has a job for me, if I would be interested. How would I like to go to Northern Ireland and represent them as Head of Operations? This is one of those situations where you are looking for the Candid Camera stunt team. The question encouraged the standard response from me of, “Are you taking the piss?” I now found myself being presented with a perfect job. Action For Blind People had no presence in Northern Ireland, I was to go there as Head of Operations and set up a base.
Any person in Northern Ireland who was registered unemployed and disabled was mine. I could meet people through their local job centre or unemployment office. I was to be given a budget of five million pounds but would be expected to raise another five million, the salary was nudging towards the obscene and once again I was sitting wearing a smile like a dozen village idiots who have just peed themselves and are enjoying the warmth. I accepted the job offer there and then and the three of us went back to TPT. We were in the office I used when John, a friend from the air cadets and a manager at TPT came in. John began to say how sorry he was that I was leaving but the two guys stopped him in his tracks. His face dropped when he heard that they would not be running the course again and all the colour drained from him when they explained that I was off to Northern Ireland for them as Head of Operations.
It was nice to see his disappointment, especially now that I knew that they could have paid me the going rate for my job, and should have paid me the going rate, but instead were playing at being businessmen. John left us and we began to discuss some of the options I would have in Northern Ireland. Once I had established a suitable base they would pop over and offer me support now and again, so although I would initially be on my own, which I was looking forward to, I wouldn’t be that alone. Of course I should have known how sad and pathetic TPT would be about the whole affair. John came back in with the TPT general manager, informing us that they have had a quick chat about the situation and they felt that they should coordinate and control the Irish operation; they could provide me with complete admin and managerial support. Unfortunately the two blind guys couldn’t see the look of horror on my face, and I do not think it was any surprise to them that I explained that if TPT had anything to do with it they could forget me. I think TPT took my suggestion as an opportunity to make a profit as they could employ some other person for less money, so it was lovely to hear. “No. Peter’s in charge and what he says goes.”