Pontefract Squadron ATC


Thank you for the days
Those endless days, those sacred days you gave me
I’m thinking of the days
I won’t forget a single day, believe me

Ray Davis 

Approaching the final years of school there was time tabled ‘careers advice’ which generally involved meeting someone from the job-centre, already bitter with what life had given them with a list of Job’s available at the National Coal Board. They would sit and work out where you would best fit in this list of trades, probably by how much they liked you and not by your academic achievements. By and large any exam results meant absolutely nothing, you were going to leave school and mostly follow your father, uncle or older brother in the same job as they do.

My father had a disability (not just being married to my mum) but a very bad speech impediment which meant mainly that he had difficulty holding down any job for any length of time. He also had a skin disorder which caused tumours, this was set off by coal dust as discovered early in his working life. His neck was badly scarred by the removal of these. So fortunately I think, a life in the coal mines was not an option. He trained as a mechanic and by all accounts was a very good one. 

Well before the ‘careers advice’ sessions had commenced I had already worked out my escape route. For a couple of years I had been an active and enthusiastic member of the Pontefract Squadron of the Air Training Corps (Squadron 2460) A very enjoyable time of my childhood and following a number of interviews and tests I had a conditional place as an Air Radar Technician in the RAF. With this knowledge at just over 14 needing just six passes in my O’levels and easily on track for these I started to enjoy myself.

I was soon to start touring with a local band helping look after their technical requirements. They were playing mostly the club and university circuits nationally and it meant some very late nights and consequently some missed school. I was also getting involved in some school drama stuff.

The next year I passed all the exams with the exception of Mathematics (my top subject) I was at a loss to know what had happened however it was clearly obvious really. I stayed on in the lower 6th to retake and study a little more. 

A new teacher, an ex-pupil at Minsthorpe High School who had lived round the corner from me was back teaching drama (whilst incidentally writing episodes for Grange Hill – the irony!). A lot of my friends were acting in a play he was writing for the National Student Drama Festival and John Godber asked me if I would like to do the lighting for it. Anything for a laugh, and it certainly turned out to be. 

I was in a new world of creative people having fun and thoughts of going into the RAF seemed a world away. As much as I was learning and having fun though I wasn’t sure how this would get me away from this small town, but it did appear to be a slightly more tolerable place.

I got involved in everything I could and after taking a play with the Wakefield Youth Theatre to a Festival in London I had a chat with a man who was, in some way, involved with the youth theatre. I believe he worked for Wakefield Council, maybe a councillor. I am really not sure. What I do know is that following our chat about possible direction I got a letter inviting me to an interview with the council about a grant to pay for a course at Paddington College in Theatre Electrics. 

In this dim and distant past there were only two technical theatre courses in the country, both at Paddington College, one in Theatre Electrics and one in Sound Design.

Not only had this amazing man got me this interview but he had helped apply for the course on my behalf! He was also present at the interview and gave me a character reference. 

I not only got offered the place at College but the fees were paid for and I got a small maintenance grant to help me re-locate and get started. 

I was on my way to live in ‘that there’ London, the first of many great adventures. 

I am a huge fan of Radio 4’s Saturday Live and I think of this guy every time I hear the ‘people say thank you’ section. You see I simply never said thank you to him. Many people have selflessly helped me in my life but no-one had the impact in changing my life for the better with an act of kindness than this man. I am and will be eternally grateful. 

34 days into treatment and the inflammation response I have been experiencing is beginning to wear off. My diet almost totally consists of anti-inflammatory foods. I have less pain in my joints but the spots are still very obvious. Ive taken to wearing a hat which reduces those second glances from strangers. I’m pleased to be over the Norovirus that laid me so very low last week, that was very grim to say the least. My drink of choice is a cup of hot water with a couple of slices of fresh ginger, a slice of lemon and a spoonful of honey. I am resting a lot but have also been out seeing people a bit more this week. I hope to include some exercise into my routine next week even if only some gentle stretching. 

See you soon, take care, be kind…