Now because I’ve decided we need more pictures in here, these are two statues in Vienna, but sadly I can’t tell you anything about them.
I thought I would be really mean and pop up a couple more pics of the scrumptious cakes they have in Vienna. Austria is renowned worldwide for its cakes and hot chocolate.
Saturday, we got up early and walked to Karlsplatz and got on the underground for a trip out of town to visit the Schönbrunn (beautiful spring) Palace.
This is the tiny country cottage that Empress Maria Theresa inherited and then extended it a little (as you do). She enlarged it to 1,441 rooms in the Baroque style making it one of the most important monuments in Austria. It’s been the summer holiday home for the Habsburgs, and it’s very sad they couldn’t play on the beach or swim in the sea as Austria doesn’t have a seaside.
These days, in fact since the mid 50’s they let any old people wander around it, so we were let in too. The palace reflects 300 years of history, reflecting the changing tastes, interests, and aspirations of successive Habsburg monarchs.
Over 500 years earlier in Spain, in the castle of Avila, the Dowager Queen constantly tells her young daughter “If your stepbrother Henry dies without heirs, then your younger brother Alfonso will be king. If Alfonso dies, you, Isabella will become queen.” This is a little daunting when you’re only 6, but the really scary thing is that the Dowager Queen is terrified that the new king is out to harm the little Princess Isabella. Don’t forget she is mad.
So, she whisks the kids off to the lonely castle of Aravelo to keep them safe. Princess Isabella has lessons and, under instruction from her mother spends an awful lot of time praying. She spends hours and hours each day on her knees. Court etiquette is rigid, it’s more nunnery than a royal court.
I thought that as all but one of my books is set in Africa I would try and include an interesting fact that you might not know.
Ask anyone which animal is the most dangerous in Africa and they will probably quote one of the Big 5 – lion, Cape buffalo, leopard, rhinoceros and elephant.
However, many local Africans living in rural areas will tell you it’s the Honey Badger.
Many Africans will tell you they are the fiercest of all the animals. They’re not really badgers and though only 28 centimeters high, they’re notorious for their strength, ferocity, and toughness. They have been known to savagely and fearlessly attack almost any kind of animal when escape is impossible, even repelling lions. They will also attack horses, cattle and Cape Buffalo and their skin is so thick that bee stings and porcupine quills rarely penetrate it. When they attack they are virtually tireless and urban legend has it they will jump up and grab a large animal by the testicles and refuse to let go.
I scripted a video for National Geographic a few years ago, where a couple hand reared a cub before releasing it into the wild when it was old enough to fend for itself. It was one of the best projects I have ever worked on.
Finally, a quick reminder about my books with this advert.
So, we are still in Vienna. I’ll have to drag this out a bit as we don’t really travel all that much though I would love to go away more. The problem is the difficult people you meet that demand money to cart you about and let you sleep in their hotels and houses that stop us traveling more.
One thing that really struck both of us while in Vienna were the reminders of the last great war. For example, there were these memorials.
We also visited the Jewish Museum which had some excellent videos and I was riveted to the presentations – living history, people talking about their personal experiences. We spent a good couple of hours there, reading letters and stories about the resistance fighters and the concentration camps many of which were located in Austria. (No photos allowed).
This is another reminder for the Victims of Holocaust. Under this square are the excavated remains of a Jewish Synagogue from the Middle Ages, which had seen the tragic end of the Jewish exhaustion during that time.
When we got back to the hotel, this was waiting for us on the table. I thought it was a really nice touch.
If you remember we are in Spain in the town of Avila population at the time 1451, with 1,285 inhabitants in the province of Avila, Castile and Leon. Now I hope you’re not going to be difficult and ask me how or why it was in 3 provinces – that’s what the book said.
It isn’t an easy or a happy childhood. Little Isabella’s mother, Queen Isabella is mentally unstable. She has periods of hysteria, and her husband and her children are afraid of her. Her madness is an inherited trait from the royal house of Portugal. (Apologies to the Portuguese – that’s what the book said).
When little Isabella is only 3, her father King John II dies, and he is succeeded by his son Henry from his first marriage. He becomes Henry, or Enrique IV. It all gets very complicated doesn’t it, but the NHS at the time was not as efficient and people kept dying all the time. (Have you noticed Disney never mentions this fact).
THE LAP DANCING EPISODE
Now I promised you the story of the lap dancing club this week. Besides writing scripts for radio and television I was up for hire for anyone daft enough to pay me to write anything – as you can tell I’ve no morals at all. Hunger and shelter win out every time. But I was a little taken back when I was asked to write a radio ad for a lap dancing club.
I decided to raise the stakes a little here and it went something like this:
“Come to XYZ club and meet Mandy, who is working hard to provide for her poor granny who needs an expensive heart transplant. While she dances close to you (very close) you will be contributing to Help the Aged and making a beautiful girl very happy at the same time.”
“You can also get to meet Veronica, currently putting herself through post-grad school in micro-genetic bionics. She will be happy to chat with you over a bottle of champagne. Make it soon, as she will be leaving once she has been awarded her PhD.”
“You may be able to help Annette, who has no family at all. Sadly, they were all butchered in the revolution in her home country and now she is building a new life for herself. Come along and give her some love and encouragement.”
All lies, of course, I never got to meet any of them, and a guy who frequented the XYZ club told me none were a day under 40 and they’d all been around the block a good few times and looked very much the worse for wear.
I sighed and shamelessly ran all the way to the bank.
Since this is not the first Monday of the month I am a week late for my usual post when I have a little rant or I talk about books and marketing. (You are probably surprised I think about writing about books and marketing – yes?)
Sadly, I now know that I will never be the first person to visit Las Vegas and not put a single coin in a betting machine. It’s been done, but my point here is that I never waste money, and no one on this planet will persuade me to pay for something that I don’t need and don’t want.
I’ve always had to be careful of the pennies, and I’m tough and unmoved by sellers of any kind. Those who have read my autobiographies will tell you I am super-tough.
That said, I am wary of all the training and ‘tip orientated’ (not the rubbish kind) emails that drop into my inbox, promising me #1 in all genres within 10 minutes if I only cough up a couple of hundred (You can afford it! We offer monthly payments!).
I understand that some gurus, probably in the US have spent weeks, months, years, decades working out the very, best, persuasive selling techniques. Very few of them work with me. Why?
Firstly, in their excitement and enthusiasm they often treat me like an idiot. OK, so I am an idiot but I keep that a huge secret.
Secondly, I like to know up front exactly what this is going to cost, then tell me the benefits.
Do they? Not a chance. I am treated to a long winded (especially if you add in the ums and ahs) story about how they were broke and in debt before they had this amazing, brilliant, failsafe epiphany and now they’ve just bought a second Maserati for their 3 year old.
By now I’m shuffling my feet. Tell me the cost then tell me the main features of the product/wisdom/information.
Not a chance. They waffle on and on and on, often two at a time if they are podcasting and they still don’t get to the point.
I’ve watched videos on line for all kinds of products and it’s always the same. A lot of them last a full hour by which time I’m screaming up the walls and swinging off the curtains in frustration.
DH and I got caught once, you know those guys in the street offering a free bottle of bubbly to attend the presentation? Seven times I interrupted the hyperventilating salesman to try and speed him up.
“How much are the units?”
“I’m coming to that just now.”
Several more minutes pass as he waxes lyrical.
“Can’t we just jump to the price right now?” He ignores me and babbles on.
“Look, please.” (This is me being patient and polite). “If it’s above a certain figure there is no way we have the spare cash, and so, we are not able to buy one however nice it is.”
“I tell you in a minute.” He rabbits some more. He is not deviating one milimetre from his prepared script.
“But if you jump straight there it will save our time and your time when you could be talking to a prospective customer who does have the spare cash.”
“If you’ll just listen to …”
By this time, I’m ready to jump over the desk and strangle him and it’s building up my resentment to buy big time. I’m getting to the stage where if he offers me a whole condo for $5 I shall tell him it’s too expensive.
And then there are the book blurbs – and we all know what we should put in those.
“As Carin is stalked by an unknown …. Can Matthew save her in time?”
“She yearns for love but could this be the one saviour she has been waiting for?”
“Can they discover the murderer before he throws them on the bar-b-que and eats them with a crunchy green salad like he’s done with his other victims?”
I just want to scream “Of course he/she/they will or no one would be left to tell us about it!”
OK, so I am really strange, it’s true that modern selling techniques just don’t hack it for me. That said I’ll simply put my Amazon author page address and you can visit it or not as you please.
We were drawn back to the Hofburg like moths to a flame. Looking at the size of it, I was amazed to read later that the Royal Palace in Madrid is even larger, though it certainly didn’t look like it to me. The Hofburg is also home to some very special horses, the ones that perform in the Spanish Riding school.
The ancestors of the Lipizzan horses can be traced back to AD 800 when Barb horses were brought into Spain by the Moors. In the 16th century, both Spain and Austria were ruled by the Habsburgs and Emperor Maximillian II brought a few of them to Austria and his brother established a stud to breed them. All Lipizzaner horses are descended from 8 original stallions and are very good at haute école or ‘high school’ classical dressage movements, with stylized jumps and other movements known as the ‘airs above ground.’ (They jump incredibly high and seem to float around in the sir waggling their hooves).
One other interesting fact is that Lipizzaner horses are born black and go a lighter shade each year. (In horsey language you never have a white horse, it’s always called a grey).
They stable the horses and have a full-sized riding school within the Hofburg building complex.
We didn’t go to the show, as we’d seen the performance several times before near Johannesburg where they also have a stud and give shows to the public on Sunday mornings.
They look so angelic, but one bit me while touring the stables in South Africa, we’d been warned they can be very bad tempered, even if they can hop and jump around very nicely.
Over many months I have posted about every king and queen of England starting from the very first king whose name I’ve quite forgotten. I’m a little nervous that if I say the wrong thing then I might be had up for treason – although there have been some amazingly critical programmes on television recently which ‘lift the lid’ on the nefarious activities of the royals and their bad behaviour.
However, they have not found any fault with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II who at 66 years is the longest living monarch in the world. What is most amazing is that not once, in all those years have we seen her cough, sniff, scratch an itch in a personal place, pick her nose or do anything that wasn’t 100% ladylike. I wish I knew how she does it. Does she have special underwear that never wrinkles? Or special medicines that ensure her nose doesn’t run or allow her to sneeze in public?
She must be the nearest thing to a perfect human to ever grace this planet.
Next week in the history section I shall be telling the story of another great Queen. I have a few to choose from, any preference? Leave a comment.
I just wanted to share with you the fabulous news that Unhappily Ever After was the solo medallist in the New Apple Literary Awards for Excellence 2017 in the humour category. (Love that excellence bit!)
the third book in the Amie series Amie: Stolen Future was the solo medallist in the New Apple Literary Awards for Excellence 2018 in the Action & Adventure category.
A huge thank you to all their kind judges whoever they are 😊
As regular readers may have noticed every Thursday I host a guest blog. I am fully booked for March but no one earmarked for April. No publicity is bad publicity, so if you would like a feature, please email me email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org or you can pm me on Facebook.
Since we had purchased a 24 hour ticket for the Vienna HOHO bus next morning we made for the bus stop and got on the wrong bus. We hopped off and while waiting for the bus we wanted, we visited the Votive Kirk.
This was built following the attempted assassination of Emperor Franz Joseph in 1853, by his brother Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian to thank God for saving his life.
The next bus took us past the Burgtheater and then out into the countryside.
It was a pleasant drive, through Grinzing as far as the Klasterneuburg monastery. The weather was cold and overcast and no one got off at any of the stops, possibly because they were unsure when there would be another bus back to the centre of the city.
A third bus drive took us out of the city in the opposite direction, the north east, to Donauturn, which is the park area enjoyed by the Viennese. There is a huge tower there a restaurant and a fun fair. We also passed over the Danube with many cruise boats plying to and fro and tried to work out the where the Danube splits into 4, the river, the tamed river, the canal and the lagoon overflow.
We wandered round the city centre for a while found a great Italian restaurant and that day, despite the bus tours we walked 9.5 kilometres – a gold medal level for me.
By 1944, the eldest princess, Elizabeth had also joined the army, mending trucks and teaching drivers to drive and teaching driving instructors how to teach driving to people who couldn’t drive. I know this is true, because my mother was in the same section and she had pictures of them.
The second of my career memoir sees me returning to South Africa and once more writing scripts for video production. Eventually, I founded my own small production house and made dozens of movies for international conferences, awards ceremonies and … for heaven’s sake I made programmes for anyone who would pay me. Over 15 years I traveled Africa shooting (camera kind) in deep rural areas, meeting chiefs, witchdoctors, celebrities, politicians and ordinary folk. The tales are both heart-warming, sad and educational (did you know some animals are gay?).
More Truth, Lies and Propaganda
Caroline died last night. It was a long, lingering and particularly nasty death – just as I had planned. I had originally decided to kill her by chopping her to pieces under a combine harvester, lots of blood and gore flying everywhere. I could see the birds flying up in protest, small insects bombarded by pieces of her, and the cries of the crowds gathered to stare at the miniscule remains of what had once been a beautiful, young lady. But then at the last minute I changed my mind. Why destroy the peace of the English countryside?
I promised at the end of my last book (Truth, Lies and Propaganda) that I would tell you how I finally got rid of Caroline, so I have described her demise at the end of this book.
Are you curious to know what Caroline had done to deserve a vicious and torturous death? Quite frankly I haven’t the faintest idea. Perhaps she is the heroine in a book I’ve not written yet. She is a marvellous example of how you can do exactly what you want to do if you are a writer, as long as you don’t put it into practice in everyday life.
As authors we control the lives of those we create, it’s one of the perks, but we have a lot less control over our own lives. What was I doing, sitting in a small front room in London, my feet freezing despite the thick woolly socks and furry slippers, my fingers numb as they pecked at the keyboard?
I glanced up at the grey, leaden sky and shivered. I could hear the swish of the cars passing by as their tyres skidded over the wet tarmac and the slap, slap sound from wellington boots as people walked past the house. Years earlier I hadn’t even heard of SAD, the syndrome where you get depressed by bad weather and lack of sunshine. Here in London, I had not seen the sun for several days. I remembered my first airplane trip when we rose above the clouds, and there, to my amazement, was the sun, throwing its beams over the top of the fluffy white pillows in the sky. It was still there, of course it was! How stupid of me to think the sun had deserted us, but that’s the feeling you get when you don’t see it for days and days.
What was even worse, this weather was destroying my creativity. I battled to put words on paper, even though I had a contract to write a series of radio programmes for the South African Broadcasting Corporation. (I shall refer to them as the SABC in the future as I’m far too lazy to type it all out each time).
I had recently returned from living in Durban, a city on the east coast of South Africa, fronting the warm Indian Ocean. There, the words flew straight from my brain and magically appeared on the screen, well sort of if you get my drift, I’m using a little poetic licence here.
I began daydreaming about the work I had done in the past, the fun I had with the amazing people I had met. I remembered the excitement of working in the SABC radio studios in Johannesburg, the friends from the Communications Department in Durban and all the wonderful experiences out in the African townships with the crew, while filming a wide variety of programmes.
But that was all over. I had just finished the last SABC programme and I doubted they would ever give me another series, I lived too far away. The classroom beckoned a return to the profession I had trained for decades earlier.
I was not looking forward to it one little bit. I had heard tales of the modern monsters who now inhabited the hallowed halls of learning. If it was bad 30 years before, it was even worse now, ‘Health and Safety’, and ‘I Know My Rights’ had seen to that. It seemed to me that a black belt in judo and other martial art qualifications prepared you better for the classroom these days, than the three years they offered you in teacher training college in the 1970s.
What was worse, I was not living in the best area of London either, so I was expecting the worst if they even considered offering me a job. I’d not graced a classroom for years, and I was just a little bit out of touch. No, I was a lot out of touch. The kids would make mincemeat of me.
Now I’m cheating a little here because in October I had Adrian as a guest in my newsletter, but I just adore the way he strings words together and I didn’t have enough space to include everything – so, here he is again 🙂 Making no excuses!! We all need a good laugh, especially on a Thursday morning. 🙂
Adrian Sturrock is a writer, occasional musician, teacher and ethnic minority (except when in Wales), specialising mostly in observation and unconsidered opinion. He currently lives in Buckinghamshire UK with wife Natalie: his travel companion, best friend and the person responsible for keeping him out of trouble on social media. They have three children between them.
Adrian has been published on www.dcpolitick.com, and excerpts of his poetry/lyrics displayed alongside those of Benjamin Zephaniah in Luton Town Hall (though it is very unlikely that Benjamin is aware of this). He has been smiled at by Madonna and once spent an afternoon watching Ace Ventura, Pet Detective in Barry Gibb’s living room, where David English remarked on his shoes.
He is the founder member (singer/songwriter) of the highly unsuccessful band, God of Small Things, with which he recorded two studio EPs. (There are rumours that some of these songs even sold on iTunes.) His solo sets include the highs of playing to an audience of thousands at Lord Rothschild’s 82nd birthday bash and the lows of having to endure an audience of three elderly women eating soup. Tony Visconti once said of his songwriting, ‘Sorry, not my cup of tea’. Adrian intends recording again in the near future.
I had originally intended to lie to you. I haven’t had a change of conscience on this issue. It’s just that I realise that I probably won’t get away with it. That’s the problem with the general public; they tend to eventually work things out. So I’m afraid that you are now stuck with the truth.
It was never going to be a dramatic lie. I wasn’t about to try to sell you a dodgy time-share or claim to be a kidnapped Nigerian prince in desperate need of your bank details. It was more about the timescale of events in this book. I was going to lead you to believe that this road trip was one single linear journey, a grand forty-day adventure across some of the best roads, towns, cities and mountain regions in central Europe. In reality, the trip was completed in three sections. This is due to the fact that I have a day job to factor in. Life is indeed a cruel mistress.
Between road trips one and three, the Syrian crisis happened, Brexit divided the UK pretty much down the middle and Prime Minister, Theresa May, declared herself the personification of ‘the will of the people’. There have also been a number of terrorist attacks across Europe, including Paris, London, Brussels, Istanbul, and Nice, allegedly born out of perceived cultural or religious differences but really due to a lack of respect between peoples.
Since this book was written, Donald Trump has become the US President and Mike Pence his Vice-President. Not even Mr Disney himself could have anticipated that one day Donald and Mickey would be running the White House.
What had prompted me to buy a sports car—for those who care, the car we used was a Mazda MX5 Roadster Coupe Sports 2ltr Graphite Limited Edition—was a sudden threat of redundancy at work. Yes, I know! One would have thought that I might have opted for quickly consolidating my financial position. I thought I might have considered this too. Instead, my feelings of insecurity led me to a surprise epiphany—it struck me that one can play safe all one’s life and still be screwed over; that good guys neither come first nor last—mostly because nobody is really watching.
Sometimes, the best way to stick a finger up at ‘the man’ is to defiantly indulge in something that excites you. Then, even if you lose, you win. So I bought the car—though I didn’t speak this train of thought out loud to my wife at the time. (Actually, I probably did. A few large glasses of pinot noir can make me a prolific and uninhibited orator. My dancing gets better too.)
As things turned out, while there were a whole series of redundancies at work, my own position remained safe. My first reaction was, ‘Woo-hoo! I’m still standing.’ My second reaction was, ‘Shit, I’m still standing … here!’ But that’s a conversation for another time.
Having bought the car, my mind then moved on to the question of how I could make best use of it. I felt that only using it for the ten-minute journey to and from work and for grocery shopping didn’t really cut it. I needed a proper reason to own a car like this.
‘I was thinking,’ I said to my wife one Sunday morning over breakfast, ‘how might you feel if I was to take off into France for a few days, you know, to get to have a proper drive of the car?’
‘If you want to,’ she said. ‘You not inviting me?’
‘I didn’t think you’d want to come,’ I said, surprised by her response. ‘For me, it would be an exciting drive. For you, well, I thought you’d see the idea of it as just a “bloody long time in a car”.’
‘I can do a bloody long time in a car,’ she said.
‘Okay,’ I said.
So I began to map out our bloody long time in a car.
“Adrian takes you on a journey of story, introspection, and wit; a journey well worth taking”
– Lane Belone, Founder of Increase Freedom
“This read is a lot of fun, especially for travel-lovers and adventurers! I came out admiring how the author communicated the culture of the places he visited through an original voice, portraying his own expertise as an artist. Would definitely recommend to other travel enthusiasts!”
– Casey M. Millette, Author of the Cursed series
Keep up to date with all things Adrian Sturrock by subscribing to his rather lovely website: www.adriansturrock.com Here, you can find out more about the locations in this book, and explore, amongst other things, photos taken during the road trip, together with information about routes and even a selection of hotels used.
Also, follow Adrian on social media, including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram
His second book, RANDOM: a collection of articles, will be published in early 2019. Well, that is a while to wait, but in the meantime, this one is definitely going on my TBR list. Thank you, Adrian.
Hidden along the Stephansplatz in the centre of Vienna are several little arcades, and I wanted to explore them all.
and then, much to my surprise there was this huge screen outside the Opera House showing an operatic performance. We stood and watched for ages until …
DH spied a Hop on Hop off bus and there was no stopping him – there is no shortage of them in Vienna which is geared up for tourists. We took the complete circuit of the Red route to get our bearings and got off a stop early to visit the Theseus Temple. It’s a rather strange place, even if you ignore the statue of the naked man outside, but what this uh, sculpture represents I have no idea.
By this time we had walked 8.2 kilometres, so time to find food – schnitzels of course and make for bed.
King George and his queen were very brave and stayed in London during the war instead of running away. They did send the princesses to stay in their holiday home in the countryside.
While my first memoir Walking over Eggshells focused on my relationship with my Narcissistic mother (thank you, Donald Trump, for explaining this condition to the whole world) and the effect it had on my life, my other two memoirs focus on my career in writing for radio and television. The first is called Truth, Lies and Propaganda – and I’m a master in propaganda, in fact, I deserve a Ph.D.in the subject.
Truth, Lies and Propaganda
I have decided that tomorrow I am going to kill Caroline. I’d like to squash her flat under a road roller, or push her off the top of the Empire State Building, but I’m not sure how I could get her there, and I suspect Health and Safety have got it securely enclosed by now. I can’t shoot her as I’ve no idea where I’d get a gun, and a knife means getting up close and personal and I don’t want her blood all over me. I could poison her, but then I don’t know very much about poisons, and I really should dispose of her in a more interesting way. I’ve grown to hate her, and I want her death to be lingering and painful.
For months she has caused me unmentionable pain and heartache. I’ve sat up all night worrying about her, and if I give up and go to bed, her very presence has caused me to toss and turn until the early hours. I have to put an end to this. She’s got to go. So, how am I going to dispose of her?
A combine harvester, that’s the answer!
I will mash her to pieces in a peaceful and idyllic cornfield, while the birds sing and the soft wings of the butterflies barely disturb the air. Her screams will resonate as she is dismembered into bite-sized chunks between the rotating blades and her blood spurts metres into the air turning the ripened, golden maize a brilliant red.
Yes, that’s what I’ll do tomorrow.
For as long as I can remember I have wanted to be a writer. In those early days, it seemed such a glamorous occupation, I so admired those people who could transport others into a land of fantasy, take them back in time to another world or forward into the future on another planet. What was more, you, the writer, were in control! You could give your characters a headache, or better still, break their legs or pop them into a wheelchair, and you could kill them off in so many different and exciting ways.
How about leaving them to be gnawed to death by rats, or drowning them in a vat of vintage wine, or poisoning them with their own birthday cake?
Of course, you can be nice to your characters as well. You can present her with a loving, rich, faithful and successful husband and four adorable children just like those in ‘Little House on the Prairie’, and make her stunningly beautiful at the same time. Now she’s beginning to sound nauseating, and you hate her already don’t you?
It’s time to make things go wrong. Enter the nymphomaniac, blonde secretary with the very, very, short skirt barely covering her knickers, legs that start at her armpits, big boobs and a predatory nature. Now, that’s more exciting isn’t it?
As a child, I had very little control over my life so writing was extra important to me. It was the only way I could escape from the misery of everyday life. I would sit in my room and scribble silly little stories in an exercise book and then run and show them to my mother. She was not kind and sneered at my earliest attempts to influence the world of books – although my grandfather, a reluctant writer himself, was more encouraging.
A huge influence on me in those days was Jo in ‘Little Women’. I can’t remember how many times I read Louisa May Alcott’s story. Jo began writing when she was young, and I cheered for her when she sold a story and bought a carpet for the house, and then another story which helped keep the family comfortable in difficult times while their father was away fighting in some war or other. (At least that is what we were told. He wouldn’t have run off with another woman, would he? Or been serving time?) Jo was the heroine of the family for me, and I dreamed of making a fortune by writing such wonderful books that everyone wanted to read them.
Of course, life isn’t like that, and the usual questions came up as I reached the last of my school years.
“Do you want to be a secretary, a nurse, or a teacher?”
Frankly, I didn’t want to be any of them. My vision of secretarial work was being a lackey to some overbearing, loud-mouthed man in some dingy office. I would be sent to collect his dry cleaning, sharpen his pencils and spend hours thumping away at a typewriter making thousands of mistakes. I would never make a good secretary. Even today, I’m ashamed to say, I can’t touch type, my eyes are constantly glued to the keys, and even at my advanced age I still make thousands of mistakes.
Nursing was a definite no-no. I fainted at the sight of blood, not a prerequisite for a medical career, you’d agree. Even in primary school, they sent for my mother to come and take me home after I had fainted in class. The doctor was called, and I was put to bed for the rest of the day. And what had been the cause of all this? It was the human nervous system. The teacher had told us to open our biology books at page such and such and there, in bright, luridly coloured pictures, we could see what happens when you prick your finger. They showed the path taken by messages as they sped to the brain along the nerve highways and back again, armed with the new information that ‘Ow! That hurt!’
I even feel a bit queasy now just writing about it.
I collapsed several more times in high school, each time they decided to rip open a heart, an eyeball or some hapless animal’s lung. But the results were less dramatic and I was no longer in the spotlight for my disgraceful behaviour. The teacher simply instructed two of the biggest lads to grab me under the armpits, drag me through the door, and prop me up against the outside wall of the biology lab.
So that left teaching. I agreed to become a teacher as it seemed the least daunting career that could possibly be suitable. Not that I had any experience of children, they were about as foreign to me as the pygmies in the Congo. However, I convinced myself that teachers had nice long holidays, and they finished work early at three o’clock every afternoon.
I tried one more time, but my last few whines about wanting to be a writer were firmly ignored, and that was that. Dickens, the Brontë sisters, and Shakespeare would never have to turn in their graves worrying that I would pose any threat to their sales revenues.
As the obedient daughter, I would attempt to pour information into the heads of unwilling and recalcitrant children and earn a proper and respectable living.