Sunday, 25 August 2013

Whoosh! There goes another target.

Hello and welcome to my blog.

Y'know I wanted to complete my next chapter before the end of the summer holidays? Well, as my Grandma used to say, "Who wants, never gets! So guess who didn't get it done?  Worse still, our internet coverage is playing up, (I blame the Footbridge), so I'm fearful that I won't have time to publish an original blog, before the line goes down again.

So, as Shoreham Airshow is next week, I thought I'd re-publish a 2009 blog on my brief, but meaningful, relationship with the ATC. I hope you enjoy it.

"The RAF appealed to me because it always seemed so romantic. All those young handsome Battle of Britain pilots fighting to save us from imminent invasion. Whilst I didn't have a burning ambition to fly, I did, to join the Air Training Corp. I rocked up to Hove 176 in the certain knowledge that this was the beginning of a glorious military career. The thought lasted as long as it took to explain the rules of membership. The problem? You had to ask permission if you wanted to take a week off. I translated that as, "permission to skive Sir?" and the potential response perplexed me. However, whilst I pondered over that, more immediate problems surfaced.

I could not, (and still cannot), tell my left from my right. Whilst this is not normally a major handicap, it is when you are being drilled. It wasn't the done thing to stare blankly at one's hands in response to an order to,"right turn," so I turned sharply to whichever side took my fancy. To say it occasionally worked would probably be over-stating it, but anyway, my incompetence on the Parade Ground was shortly to be trumped by that on the rifle range.

I squinted down the sights of my .22 rifle like the best of them, but was never too sure which eye to shut to improve the aim. In hindsight this should have been obvious, but to an eager beaver like me, it was not. So I decided to take it in turns, closing one eye and then the other as I tried to focus on the target. I was delighted with my 30% hit rate, unlike the rather sour officer in charge.

Now it wasn't all Dad's Army for me. I excelled at the 10 mile sponsored march along Hove Prom. My regimental shoes were half a size too small but did I complain? No. I kept up, took charge and boosted morale. Officer material written all over me, I thought, right up until the moment I saluted the Commanding Officer. As he sat comfortably behind his desk, I marched up, and snapped to attention. With a ram-rod back I gave him my best Top Gun salute. At that moment I had forgotten that our salute was more Benny Hill than Tom Cruise. Unfortunately the CO had not, and took an obscenely short time to remind me.

Well, as I nursed my bloody heels that night, I started to reflect on my time in the ATC. Not wanting to hurry the process, I skivved off a couple of weeks to reflect some more. It was with a heavy heart that I concluded that the RAF may not be the right place for my unique set of talents. So I returned with my uniform in a plastic bag and they tried to entice me to stay with promises of night time orienteering. Clearly they had forgotten my track record on the Parade Ground sooner than I had. Thus my romantic dream of becoming a much loved and respected RAF Officer was dashed and I became a lawyer instead. C'est la vie."

Well, the summer holidays are drawing to a close, so normal service will shortly be resumed and I'll have time to set some more unrealistic targets.

Thanks for dropping by and see you in a fortnight.

Ta-ra for now.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Bill's book.

Hello and welcome to my blog. It's nice to see you.

It's always tricky trying to write during the summer holidays. Routine's abandoned and finding forms of entertainment becomes the new priority. So, whilst Tom is at his intensive swimming lesson, I've got just enough time to tell you about my current project, a non-fiction book.

I'd never written a book before, so I've made lots of naive errors.  However, those frustrations are in the past, and I've now nearing the end and will shortly create a dedicated Facebook page to see if anyone is interested in it.

The book is a mixture of a soldier's war memoir, and a record of the Field Ambulance in which he served from 1940 - 1945.

This is the soldier.

His name is William Earl, and this is what he looked like in 1943.

I call him Bill, and this is him now.

It's taken four years to write and research Bill's book, and in that time, countless other projects have been shelved. Periodically, I've resented that. My heart lies in writing original drama and I've wanted to develop a feature film idea and extend my short play into a long one. I've had to withdraw from Wordfest because, as Bill gently reminded me, at 98-years-old, you're on the Grim Reapers' to-do list. Besides, Bill has been very patient.

So, this summer, I am determined to write Chapter eight, from Egypt to Rome, which deals with the aftermath of Bill's evacuation from Anzio, an afternoon of pleasure in Rome, and his departure for the next stage of the Italian Campaign.

Chapter eight marks Bill's final transformation from a civilian to a soldier. Although the Field Ambulance is still of the Army, not in the army, the final fragments of Bill's trusting and optimistic nature are blasted out of him in Anzio. From then on, life's goals are simplier: to help save as many men as possible and survive along the way.

The Italian Campaign was bloody, bitter, and, on occasion, fought in conditions worse than Stalingrad. In such circumstances, he's forgiven for losing his self- control. It happens when he was working alongside a doctor at an Advanced Dressing Station on the Adriatic Coast. The troops engaged the enemy and only light casualites were expected. However when they arrived, the men's injuries were far more severe than anticipated. The function of the two treatment tents, A and B, were quickly revised. A tent became that in which the men were to be treated, and B, for those who would be made comfortable and left to die.

As a Nursing Orderly, Bill's role was to put the unsuspecting men where ordered. For hours Bill shuttled between A and B tents, helping the doctor save lives in the former, comforting the dying in the latter. He spent most of his time with the dying, wondering what their families would think of it all. He only left them when a new batch of wounded men arrived, and the whole process was repeated.  It's under these circumstances that Bill furiously rants at God; how could He let this happen? How is this good? What is the point of this?  It's one of his blackest moments of the war, and one he shared only after many hours of interviews.

My stories are fripperies compared to his, so that's why I'm going to write the best book I can. After that, I'm going to list all my earlier errors in a book called, "How not to write a book," but for now,  I'll balance writing chapter eight, with carefree trips to see Circus Wonderland at Adur Rec and The Selfish Giant  Maze at the Royal Pavilion.

Thanks for dropping by. Have a great week and see you soon.