Flash of Silver…the leap that changed my world
Rite of Passage Seven –A Fate Worse Than Death–
(1951-1953) Age 17-19 years old
Q: What advice would you give your young adult children when they first leave home? Did you do that, or did you keep it to yourself?
When I left home for the first time it was to join the British Army for two years of National Service. My father had served during the war years and was deeply concerned about the ‘risk’ I faced should I be selected for the Army Catering Corps that he often advised would be ‘a fate worse than death’. In order to avoid this happening he arranged for me to work at a local garage, owned by a customer, so that I could enter ‘garage mechanic’ as my last employment.
I was sent for my basic training to the Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers (R.E.M.E) and earmarked as a Radar Mechanic and potential officer.
My father had put a good deal of effort into briefing me about my new life and his advice was truly wonderful: it eased my way and eventually opened up my earliest experience with success.
What neither parent were able to do was provide me with a word about…life, as a solo young adult. To have done so would have meant treading on thin ‘Victorian’ ice. Both of them were raised by parents who had strong biases against ever mentioning the word ‘sex’ let alone providing advice on the matter!
On my very last night of ‘freedom’ my dad had wanted to know how I might behave whilst drunk…that didn’t work out as planned because two beers were enough. So, I was released from that early experiment into the big bold world with only the bare bones of how to manage my immediate ‘working’ environment –not a word about my personal choices…or virtues?
So…what about now?
Just by observation I was aware that my parents were honest people, they were known and valued as such. This obvious ‘virtue’ was one that I have always tried my hardest to replicate; even when it was against my self-interest…especially so…as you will discover. I had to learn about sex from our Polish headwaiter Teddy who was increasingly concerned about my apparent unschooled innocence about young women. Honesty, for me, was found in the scrupulous handling of money; not one penny belonging to someone else would ever wind up in my own pocket.
Unfortunately that virtue did not extend to the ‘telling truth –honesty’. I had a fertile imagination added to my fear of failure and my concern with coming from the ‘servant class’. All of this led me into several highly complicated ’inventions’. How I wish my folks had sat me down and told me to be content with who I really was. It’s so good to be in that place today and be able to share who I am with you.
P.S. This week I read Treena’s poem Hands