Celtic Illumination, part 311, A poke in the eye with a sharp stick.
I suppose that by now some of you may be thinking, hold on a moment, this fellow is having a fine old time on the Isle of Man, what about his wife and four children? There should be some sort of literary device that I could insert here to show you how much thought I am putting in to answering that charge correctly. First of all I would have to underline the whole process, once again, with a quote from George Bernard Shaw who said, “The true artist will let his wife starve, his children go barefoot, his mother drudge for his living at seventy, sooner than work at anything but his art.” Irene wasn’t starving, neither were the children, they were well provided for. I still felt that I was following a classical line in my writing career and that, in a way, Tony was my sponsor.
I know it sounds strange, but it was how I felt. Our existence seemed to fall in to a routine. I would get up early, complete my writing and then enjoy myself out on the farm with physical tasks, wash, scrub up and head to a local pub. I had no need for money as Tony paid for everything, if I wanted, I could use either of his two cars. I never actually asked him for money but I am sure if I had, it would have been forthcoming. It was an idyllic existence I found myself in. After three weeks Tony decided that he needed a craftsman to complete one or two jobs around the place so asked an old acquaintance from Shotley to come over and provide his services. Terry was a carpenter, with a very good reputation, so pitched up in his car with wife and dog. I can’t remember his wife’s name but the dog was a Corgi and called Gismo.
I knew Terry and his wife, still can’t remember her name, so the five of us settled in and had a very enjoyable time. Terry and his wife involved themselves with the more delicate jobs inside the house while Tony and I dealt with the more basic tasks outside. One was finding the septic tank, which needed emptying badly, and another was climbing up mature trees to trim limbs and branches that were scraping away at the roofs of some of the outbuildings. We decided that the roof of the barn should be replaced so set about removing the old corrugated metal sheets. I enjoyed it and found the physical work to be a sort of hypnosis; it kind of freed my mind and allowed me to think about what I would be writing next. Good news had come through from home, as in the publisher Viking, had moved my novel up and out of their slush pile.
I was one of twenty or so new authors they were considering publishing that year. It meant so much more than just getting a book published, it meant probably getting an agent and being allowed to settle down as a writer. I had been reading that many writers would have to take various part time jobs to bring some money in. I already had done this with TPT and the like and in a way it was an accepted method of surviving while writing at the same time. If you remember what George Bernard Shaw says, the artist cares about nothing else but their art. So the next time you see someone stripped to the waist on a warm and sunny afternoon, swinging an axe, or a pickaxe, just think, that could be the next Shakespeare you’re watching.
The barn roof was a big job and had the three men involved. I remember volunteering to get on the roof, once we had stripped the old sheets off, and having positioned the ladder, calculating that I could fit between the beams and get out and up onto the roof, ran up the ladder to impale myself on a rather long and rusty nail I had not noticed. Memories of a story that my aunt Billy used to tell me flashed through my mind. Billy was a nun who worked in Africa, Tanganyika to be more precise. Her proper name was Sister Paul but as she had been born on the twelfth of July we called her Billy. In Ireland some sections of the community celebrate the victory of King William of Orange, or King Billy, as he is more commonly known, every twelfth of July. She once told me that, the law where she was working was very basic and crude. If you were found guilty of rape, you would be held down, a six inch nail would be hammered in to your head and once released you would jump up and run off into the bondoo and your eventual death.
A strange thought to run through your head when you find yourself up a ladder and nailed to a beam, but then as you all know I can be a little strange at the best of times. I have to admit that my hair style was ruined with the amount of blood that came out and once again Mary was reaching for the telephone to call for an ambulance. Tony, as an optician, was a sort of medical man, so he took over and inspected the wound. He suggested that he would prescribe me one or two beers which should clear the problem up. If it was still bleeding after the beer then we would consider going to the local accident and emergency department, wherever that was. I have to say that the medicinal effect of beer is fantabulous. After the third beer I began to forget about my wound and concentrated on my research project which, with my new head injury, I expected to produce some interesting results the following morning.
I’m not a great one for dogs but found that I was taking Gismo for his evening walk every evening. The pair of us would wander around the fields singing and chatting. I think the cows enjoyed it, I know we did. The madness of it all both amused and encouraged me as I knew many great writers were like myself completely off their trolleys. My favourite would have been W B Yeats who would sit on the roof of his house drinking with his friends while trying to summon the devil, as they say in Ireland, just for the craic. Terry, his wife and Gismo were returning after a fortnight so I decided to cadge a lift with them as they would be passing Skelmersdale on their way to Shotley. I had had an enjoyable five weeks on the Isle of Man and thought it would be about time that I go home and show the children my face. I had collected an assortment of things while on the Isle of Man, mostly from Tony’s attic, but most importantly had found a large box full of reams of A4 packs of paper.
The strangest thing was that it was an MOD box, someone had liberated the paper from the Ministry of Defence, I couldn’t remember liberating it and Tony couldn’t remember where he had got a hold of it, not that we worried too much about it as it was now mine and coming home with me. I waved both Tony and Mary a fond farewell knowing that I would be back in as many weeks for John and Sally’s wedding. Terry very kindly dropped me at my front door along with my gizzits and box of paper. I couldn’t even sit myself down and have a cup of tea as I needed to read the paperwork from Viking. I had been given an editor at Viking who would contact me and lead me through the publishing process. I can tell you, life was pretty exciting and I was so happy that despite all the knock backs and rejections I had managed to find the fortitude to keep going. Normal job my arse, I was a writer.
The members of the local writer’s circle were over the moon and it was nice to see that they actually felt a part of my success. The cadets were still waiting for me to turn up in uniform and for someone who had gone off, “To help a mate move house,” they didn’t expect me to disappear for five weeks. A new man had been found who they were preparing to take over as Squadron Warrant Officer. I could see that he would do whatever they would tell him, so I didn’t have the heart to tell him that that is not the way it worked. No one tells a Warrant Officer what to do. John had no experience of the military or of outdoor pursuits so I agreed to take an expedition to Wales and show him the ropes. My enthusiasm was draining away and I knew that very soon I would be leaving the air cadets and I would concentrate on my own four children.