Celtic Illumination, part 353, Just say no.
I suppose it would be safe to say that it was around this time that everything started to come together. As had happened before, the double top secret cabal, preparing me to take back the throne of Ireland, were going to make me work for it. Perhaps it was a final test, or series of tests, so that they could be sure I was ready to lead my people. I would say that the underlying theme they wanted me to completely understand was the fact that all men are equal, and the second principal is that most of them are eejits. Even myself, who had proved himself in so many ways, at various points on the spectrum of humanity, could be a right fecking eejit now and again.
It was the middle of the night, and I mean middle, somewhere around two or three in the morning. It was a great time to be out and about, driving, as there were no other drivers on the road, you could really fly along. I had dropped some passengers off in Southport and was about to go home, another half an hour’s drive away. Lugga Bus had employed a night controller to run things from the office. We had had a bit of fun over the airwaves throughout the evening and when I checked in to say I was clear, my passengers were home, the controller asked me to pop around to the office for a coffee and an introductory chat. I was tired and I wanted to go home but I knew that it made good sense to try and stay in favour with the controllers as when work was scarce you always wanted to be at the top of the proverbial pile.
I got round to the office and called in. I can’t remember the fellows name but a cup of coffee was waiting for me and it was welcome. He was an English fellow but said that he loved the Irish as he had spent so much time in prison over there. The guy was a petty criminal and so happy that someone had actually given him a job. It was interesting listening to him as he had no shame about his past, being a serial offender to him was the same as having ginger hair. There was nothing he could do about it. To celebrate and cement our friendship he decided that we should share a joint. I refused, explaining that I still had half an hour’s drive in front of me but I didn’t mind if he sparked up and enjoyed the spliff himself. I assured him I wouldn’t tell anyone but secretly wondered how long he would last.
The one thing about marijuana that always gets me is the smell, it always takes me back to London, and Finbar, and Jimmy the Link and smoking a spliff on the Queen of England’s front lawn at Windsor Castle. I gave in and shared the spliff with him, threw down the remainder of my coffee, shook his hand and got back into my bus to head for home. I set off again driving along the empty roads and I do remember that I started to smile and wondered what on earth was happening as such a strange feeling was coming over me. The remainder of the journey was a bit of a blur but I do have one crystal clear memory of driving along at about two miles per hour, thinking that I was going far too fast. It amused me to think how daft I had been but it also scared me. I had a feeling that what we had smoked was not just marijuana, there may have been something else in it but I never got the chance to find out as the fellow never came back to work, I think it had been his first and last evening with the company.
Arthur then asked me if I would like to be the night controller, on the busy nights I would control all the drivers from the office in Southport and on the quieter nights I would control everything while on the road. I didn’t mind at all as it meant that for the nights I was in the control room in Southport I could have my typewriter and produce a full days writing and editing while still controlling the drivers and coordinating the passengers. It was a couple of extra quid for much less work so I would have been daft not to accept, plus, now I had everyone wanting to be my friend. One driver asked me if I would like a load of Brazilian mahogany. Someone he knew worked at a window manufacturer and had given him a stack of offcuts. I accepted his kind offer and watched as they brought the wood into the control room.
It would be unfair to say that they were planks as they were only the thickness of a lollipop stick, but were about eight feet long and eight inches wide. For some strange reason I thought I could cut each large plank into small lollipop size pieces, from which I would build a sailing ship. All small boys love sailing ships and I was no different. I actually managed to find a hobbies magazine that sold plans for building your own sailing ships so ordered some plans. Which ship of type of ship to make was an easy decision, I would make the biggest. When the plans arrived I was not that impressed as the finished model was to be twenty one inches long. Luckily for me Lugga Bus had a photocopier in the office which had an enlarger function so many nights when not writing or reading I would be cutting huge strips of Brazilian mahogany into tiny little strips and photocopying plans for my ship. Of course now and again I would answer the telephone and deal with irate passengers who wanted to know where their driver was.
One of the drivers noticed my ship plans, which wasn’t hard to do as I used to spread out all over the office every night. He told me that his uncle owned the model shop in Southport and that he was seriously in to making sailing ships, a meeting would be arranged. One morning after my controller shift had finished I was invited over to the Southport model shop and taken through the shop into the owners living quarters. We sat down in his dining room and I was so jealous as he must have had at least fifteen different models of sailing ships all around the room. They really were fantastic and the sort of stuff that makes you want to become a burglar. He took me through the various ships and sizes and then took me to his work shop where he showed me the selection of miniature tools he used to cut wood. I did think that it was all a bit over the top, a bit close to trainspotting, and with each model there was always a price.
When the tour was over he asked which model I was thinking of building and I don’t think he was impressed when I told him, ‘A fecking big one.’ I explained that I didn’t want to buy anything from him but that I had been given some Brazilian mahogany from which I wanted to make a sailing ship. ‘Oh no,’ he announced, ‘You’ll never be able to do that. Your best bet is to buy a pre cut model and assemble it.’ Sort of defeated the object of the affair in my mind but he had said those magic words to me, he had told me that it couldn’t be done, that was all I needed to get me going. To all the blokes out there, if you have always wanted an aeroplane, or a sailing ship, and have been put off by the crazy prices some companies charge for their kits please do not be put off. Go and buy the plans and start from scratch, don’t even buy bits and pieces from model shops, make your own. It is so satisfying not to mention exciting when you see the whole thing come together.
I made everything for the ship myself, for the ropes, or rigging if you are in the loop, I stained some standard parcel cord with tea and coffee, the pulleys were all cut from one long piece of dowel and the metal fittings were all made from copper earth wire. It was so exciting to see the sails actually working when you pulled on the appropriate rope. It may not be as glittery as a shop bought model, but it was a hugely satisfying project. A lot of these model ships are placed in a glass case and admired or envied, mine, when children come around, is placed on a coffee table and they are given paint brushes and asked to dust it before they start playing with it. So what has all this got to do with Nancy Reagan, I hear you ask, well; you just did didn’t you? During the 1980’s Nancy Reagan championed the anti-drug campaign that tried to discourage children from engaging in illegal recreational drug use. The strap line they used was ‘Just say no’ and in a way that sums me up exactly. On some occasions I was going to have to learn just to say no, but for other occasions if you really wanted me to do something then all you had to do was ‘Just say no.’