The Dream Of The Life That Never Was

24 Dec

The Dream Of The Life That Never Was

Regret is a terrible thing and hindsight is the clearest form of vision, this much can a glaucoma patient tell you.

Some of you may know I served in the Royal Air Force as a clerk on the same station for my whole career. I made good friends there, the people made it a better place because the job was quite frequently terrible but no more frequently than how terrible I was AT the job.

Yes dear friends, I was in fact, a bloody AWFUL clerk. Constantly put into jobs where I could cause no damage or serious harm to the rest of the RAF and only relocated when the need absolutely demanded it. I attribute my failure to not getting recoursed during my trade training at RAF Hereford.

I should have been put back at least a week or even two and made to retake my end of course exams and actually pass most of them instead of failing all but one.
Let me set the scene.

My father was ill, he had a bad heart amongst other things.

Our relationship was hardly the best, in fact I hated the man. He threw me out of the house I’d called my home for my entire life up to that point after a massive argument started by the smallest of things. So I went to a sister and slept on her sofa that first night.

My mum was convinced that it would blow over and I’d be back within 24 hours. But I wasn’t. I’m as much of a stubborn bastard as my father, a trait I inherited from him no doubt. So I got a couple of days max on the sofa of my sister before my welcome was overstayed and I looked for another roof over my head. This time with my brother, his wife and my nephew.

So I slept in a downstairs back room, I went out and looked for work every day, I found, started and left the worst job of my life all in one day (as a cleaner in a nursing home) but it was clear I couldn’t stay there long. So off I went again and looked for another place to stay, which turned out to be several months with another sister (I have 6 of them, by the way) and I worked on and off until I had some money and got my own place.

This was a flat above a butchers shop, just 1 room with a shared toilet & shower, and I struggled to find work and earn money. The situation became desperate and I looked at my life and examined the alternatives, the greatest of which was death.
Oh yes, I was suicidal.

There was a very a tempting bridge I used to run over ever day, ‘One day’, I thought ‘I’m just going to chuck myself off it, it’ll be over in a flash.’ And that was my life, if you could call that living.

Then I had a REALLY stupid idea.
I’d see if I could join up.

I had some skills, I was fit, I could cope in the military. But which branch?
Not the Army, I didn’t fancy being cannon fodder.
Not the Navy, I’d never sailed and wasn’t a good swimmer.
And I already had friends in the Air Force, so why not use their insider knowlege to get an easier ride?

So I wound my merry way to the RAF Careers Information Office and asked about joining.
“What would you like to be?” asked the nice man.
“An air cartographer please!” One who makes aerial maps from photographs, it sounded cool and undangerous.

So I did the medical. And didn’t make the grade. My colour vision wasn’t good enough.
“Did you have a second choice?” asked the nice man.
“Data Analyst please?” says me, knowing it sounds computery.

So I took the aptitude tests. And failed by half a percent according to the nice man.
(I’ve since discovered after requesting my RAF documents that he lied to me.)
“I’m sorry, was there another trade you wanted?” asked the nice man who I still trusted at the time.
I was unsure.
“There’s Personnel And Administration Clerk, that’s like Data Analyst?” suggests the nice man.
So I say yes please and they do the background checks that are required.

A few months go by into a new year and my landlord tells me to call my mum. Who tells me I’ve been accepted!
So I sign the form, 6 years of my life on the line for Queen, Country and the chance to get away from the shit existance I am currently living. I take the oath and am off to recruit training the next day for 6 weeks.

Or not.
In week 5 I hit a stumbling block, the rifle range.
I fail my 3 attempts and am reflighted back a week.

I get the miserable kick in the teeth of seeing my mates pass out as I prepare to take the range yet again.
Week 5, version 2.
Again, 3 attempts, again I fail. Again I am reflighted back a week.

I am now in week 7 of 6.
I pass, not by my own skill but at the order of someone with more power.

We do our real week 6, pass out and I get to go home for the weekend.
The first time my father and I have spoken since he kicked me out.

On the Sunday I travel off to Hereford to start trade training.

I am now the furthest from home I have ever been. I am alone.
But determined to do well.
As my course progresses I make frequent phone calls home, I don’t go home much because it’s a long trip and it’s expensive.
My dad is in and out of hospital with his heart, my poor mum sounds scared and I feel like a complete shit because I’m not there to help or support her. Every day I am convinced I will get the phone call from my mum, that dad is dead.

But this is not to be, at least not for another five years. I told you he was a stubborn bastard, didn’t I?

Anyway, all this distracts me to the point of failure and I am sent eventually to my unit where I am unprepared and scared witless.

But my career could have been very different. I was offered a choice, to go to a different unit.
And this is the dream of the life that never was.

The LAC Daley who chose Support Command, who had a nicer SNCO and who eventually thrived to the point of promotion from Corporal to Sergeant.
But he never existed.
Except in my head.

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