I’ve been retired, on a government pension, for 24 years. I was in fact made redundant at 59 in a government money-saving drive. I was given a ‘Golden Handshake’ of 48 weeks’ pay in addition to my superannuation pension to sweeten the parting.
I had known people who dropped dead withing six months of retirement, either from overwork on the job, or from terminal boredom at its ending. That saved the government a lot of money, since they didn’t have to be paid any more, unlike me, paid for not working. I am quite sure that I have not only got back what I put into my superannuation, but am well ahead in the total so far paid to me. I have hopes of going on for another ten years, or I wouldn’t be planning another marriage.
With my basic pension guaranteed, and regularly updated to compensate for changes on the official ‘cost of living’, I was able to invest some of the available cash surplus. What I chose to invest in were two new high-tech companies which looked as if they might have a good future. Neither was an Apple, alas. One of these companies had developed a new kind of engine for cars which was going to be cheaper and lighter for the same power output. Ii worked all right; I actually had a test drive on a race circuit of one of their demonstration models, and it went well. But the company collapsed, and the shares I still own are almost worthless. There is really no market for a competitive new kind of engine, with so much invested in conventional ones. The other company was in the water purification business, using a new kind of molecular filter. I’m not sure whether it could also even turn sea water into drinking water. Anyhow, after a couple of years, they were bought up by an American company, and I had to sell my shares – for twice what I had paid for them! I had invested the same amount in both the engine company and the water filtration company, so I ended up neither losing nor winning. I took this as a gentle lesson from the Universe that playing the stock market was not for me, and I never tried it again.
That may point to one of the reasomns that explain why I’m still going strong as I near 84 – I am one who actually learns from my experience, whether in marriage and relationships, or the use of my limited resources. As a result, I have lived a comfortably long and successful life, even though never rich or ambitious or the best in anything I tried. That didn’t matter; I almost always enjoyed what I was doing. I didn’t have any ambition to drive me, except for the childhood wishes to be a film actor, a pilot, a writer, a military officer, a journalist, an astronomer, a poet, and a few other things. Unlike most people, I achieved all of these aims, with enough success to satisfy my lowish levels of ambition (I was never going to excel at any of them) and more imporantly, I was PAID for all those occupations.
Mine is not the usual kind of autobiographocal stuff about how with hard work and talent one rose to success. My success is barely visible to anyone else, yet to me it has been a source of very great and lastiung satisfaction. It seems to show me that I fit no stereotype, and am in fact one-of-a-kind. I have never met anybody else like me; the closest being the younger lady to whom I recently proposed marriage (my fourth).
The Muse has not been giving me much attention in recent months. but then this evening the feelings were so strong that she relented enough to let me write a slightly odd poem about a current episode unfolding in my life. Now, to keep my compact with the Muse. I have to post it here, even if it makes me look a fool. That’s life, and, after all, without the unexpected happening from time to time, it would get rather boring. That’s one thing I can’t complain about!
Romance is a rocky road
that looks quite smooth at first.
The way ahead is clear to view,
the suface much as you expect.
It’s only later that you find
all is not what you hoped
in the naivety of your full grown love.
Unseen hazards, unthought of
in your simple dreams, take shape
in front of you. Each one is
no surprise, but has good reason
to be there. Slowed down by them,
you have to change your plans.
To start they seemed straightforward
leading inevitably towards the
‘right true end’, but now,
before you get to ‘c’ you find
that ‘b’ must be completed,
and that one can’t even make a start
unless the ‘a’ is dealt with –
something you’d never thought of!
They spring up like some magic forest
conjured by a demon, a host of problems
each depending on a previous one,
or bamboo thrusting up new spears.
With effort, you maintain your cool,
facing each new barrier with a smile
that weakens when there’s no one there
to appreciate the dauntless strength
that sometimes feels as if its wearing thin.
© Malcolm Miller 2013
I went to all boys’ schools. Apparently they don’t exist in the public systems in America any more, but they did here before the concept of co-education and the socialisation of older children was recognised as important. The boy culture was one of primitive barbarity overlaid with the thin film of civilisation the education system tried to apply to it. One of its most obnoxious features was the crude ‘might is right’ ethic, which was unaffected by the war against Fascism which raged during my schooldays. Boys desperate to be men were certain that to count for anything, a male had to be bigger and stronger than the other males, and certainly bigger and more powerful than any female of any age. It was the fallacy of sexual dimorphism carried to a reuctio ad absurdum extreme.
There’s a well-known march tune called ‘Blaze Away’ which, like many military tunes, had its own set of vulgar words known to soldiers and many schoolboys. One line went: ‘The poor little bugger will never play rugger, he won’t be sufficiently strong…’ This summed up the childish version of might is right, which is still festering among us as worship of rugby players and other over-muscled footballers. The fact that they are regularly shown up as drunks, liars, druggies and cheats matters not at all to their followers. The pictures of them being carried off the field crying after their leg being hurt in a game hasn’t changed this perception.
In war, the immature part of the male population hasn’t yet caught on to the fact that, once inside a war machine, physical size becomes not only unimportant, but often inconvenient. They are horrified by the idea of women – female persons! – becoming combat pilots, sailors, and even combat infantry. They still believe that if they are strong enough to overpower a smaller woman, they are the natural ones to rule the roost, much like the feathered bird with a fancy comb in the henhouse. Even the Elizabethans had a word for them : “Coxcombs”. Show-off roosters!
I have always been smaller and lighter than many women. Yet I was accepted as a trainee pilot in the Air Force. Physical strength took second place to intelligence and ability here. The service never doubted that size and strength didn’t count in the cockpit, though some sportsmen succeded in this field. Nobody can tell the size of the pilot of a jet from below…
Hello, Readers! Or maybe I should say, Reader, since there was only the one yesterday!
I am going through a bit of a writing drought or hiatus. I”m writing lots of comments for the Erotica Readera and Writers Association (ERWA) but nothing for this blog, since the Muse has not inspired me to write either essay or poem. This year so far I have written only about 10 poems, and the last was in March. One year I wrote more than 150!
I simply want to say that I am still alive and will, I am sure, be writing more in this space. I’m just not sure when! I get inspired by odd things – the sight of some ducks on the lake, an odd news item, a stray thought. Then words come.
Don’t forget me! I’ll be back…
My first time in a light aircraft was a familiarisation flight, perhaps to find out if I was going to panic, or be an impossible pupil pilot. I’d joined the University Squadron hoping to fly, and had passed the physical exam, the most impressive part was a sergeant holding my nose to encourage me to hold my breath for one minute. It was in 1952, during the now almost forgotten Korean War, and things were still a bit old-fashioned. I was 23 years old. I passed the tests, anyhow, and a few days later I turned up at the Aero Club, where I was to learn to fly in the De Havilland DH 82a, known as the Tiger Moth. Most of our WW2 pilots did their initial training on this little wood and fabric biplane, wiuth its four-cylinder inline engine built under licence in Australia by General Motors.
I was shown how to climb into the rear open cockpit, wearing my flying suit, leather helmet, and goggles, and how to fasten the straps. My instructor climbed into the front cockpit. It was possible to see much better from the rear cockpit, but pupil pilots needed every advantage, while instructors had to put up with the inferior visibility with a lot of their view blocked by the wings. We took off and climbed to a few thousand feet. It was cold up there, even on a summer day, and the view was amazing. I could see the airfield, the Swan River, the city of Perth, and further away, the sea and Rottnest Island.
We flew around for a bit, and then the instructor told me, through the voice pipe connected to my helmet, to take the controls, which up to then I’d kept my hands and feet well away from. I was taking control of a plane!
When you fly a plane, the important thing is to fly, not the controls, but the aircraft. You as pilot need to be one with the plane, in harmony with it. It’s all very well to know what the controls actually do, but quite another to use them as a pilot should, rather than a nervous pupil. Yet some people have an innate ability to ‘fly by the seat of their pants’, coordinating their own vision, balance, and muscles to synchronise with the plane, which can to some degree fly itself. The pilot is there to tell the plane how and where it is to fly, which the aircraft already ‘knows’ how to do, only needing guidance. I’m not saying I was a natural-born pilot, but I found that I could make the plane turn, the nose moving smoothly aroud the horizon and neither climbing nor descending as ity did so. Without being told things I learned later in Theory of Flight classes, I automatically applied ‘top rudder’ to keep the nose up, and ‘holding off bank’ to stop the plane rolling. I did these things, not because I knew they had to be done, but because they made the aircraft do what I wanted it to do without leaving the course I wanted it to fly. I was really flying the plane and not the controls, as kids might have done years later with a ‘Flight Simulator’ on their computer. The plane was respond ing to my wishes, and I was moving the controls so as to meet its needs in response. That’s the basis of flying.
It’s many years since I flew. The Korean War ended, and the Air Force didn’t need any more pilots. But years later I joined a gliding club, and began to learn a different kind of flying. I don’t think I would ever have been a brilliant pilot, only a mediocre one. I had too many other interests.
Go to Google and find ERWA, the Erotica Readers And Writers Associiation. Under the heading ‘Gallery’ you’ll find two works of mine, one under stories and the other under poems. You might also see an interesting bio of me.
Erotica is slowly becoming more acceptable, though still far from the ‘mainstream’ of writing. It’s not pornography, even though it’s often about sex. And which of us doesn’t have an interest in sex? Many ERWA members are published authors, and others use the group to try out experimental writing and to obtain advice on publishing and publishers. It’s a fun group of members, and there is no fee or special conditions for joining, apart from an interest in erotica and a wish to write and read it.
They built a lake a hundred yards from my house. They don’t call it a ‘lake’; it’s officially ‘the Lyneham Wetlands’, and it’s intended, by using reed beds and other plantings, to be a natural water purification plant for irrigating nearby sporting fields in summer, rather than using our precious drinking water. It’s not fully established yet, but the ducks came long before it was completed. The lake’s about a quarter of a mile long, and over a hundred yards wide, with curving shores and a scenic bridge crossing it. Quite a good addition to our otherwise staid suburb.
There could be more than two species of ducks – I’m no duck expert, but there are differences of plumage and colour that seem more than just the difference between ducks and drakes. There are also coots, those smallish black water birds with a white flash on their heads. I have seen herons and once a pair of black swans, though I think the latter are too snobbish for our little lake.
The area’s been developed as a public park, with footpaths, varied plantings, and rock features, as well as some comfortable lakeside seats, where I often sit on my daily walks and watch the birds. In the surrounding trees, there live a crowd of Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos, perhaps as many as a hundred. These fly about in squawking flocks, looking very busy, but their purposes a mystery, except occasionally, when they practise what I can only call ‘strafing attacks’ on the ducks.
We all know what is meant by ‘strafing,’, but not many know that it comes from a German expression originating in World War One, “Gott Strafe England!’ meaning ‘God punish England’. The word was soon picked up by airmen, who before long were calling the attacking of targets on the ground, ‘Strafing’.
The cockatoos now and then practise strafing the ducks swimming harmlessly on the water. They seem to especially target the ducklings. Their attack is skilled and spectacular. Flying fast, they pass the duck targets at a height of about six feet, and then bank steeply into a 180-degree diving turn, to flash past just over the duck’s head at about six inches. Sometimes the cockatoos’ wingtips touch the water before they pull out and speed away straight and level.
It’s very rarely that a duck panics and starts to flap its wings and try a running take-off. Most of them, even the duckilings, are quite nonchalant about these avian top guns doing their stuff, as if they know it’s only a game. Fly-boys love to buzz an easy target. Ducks just get on with their swimming.