calm Weather

Ray Bradbury is dead

I was eighteen and working in a factory near Bournemouth. It was a summer job and I worked at a bench preparing components for electrolysis which required precision handling. It was no place for day dreaming as a flawed component would ensure instant dismissal. A book of short stories by Ray Bradbury provided the escape I needed during the lunch break. I remember thinking I could write this. The poignancy of one tale in particular, In A Season of Calm Weather, remained with me. It described the forlorn hope of a tourist watching Picasso drawing pictures in the sand on a French beach while the tide was out.

The monotony of these repetitive hours was softened by an open doorway and the view of scrub land and distant line of conifers shimmering in warm sunlight. The mystery of what lay beyond those trees brought day dreams which I eventually explored. Alas the imagination is often more beguiling than reality.

A former summer job in a bottling factory required me simply to transfer empty bottles from one conveyor belt to another. There I could dream as much as I liked and only the occasional sound of crashing glass invaded my faraway habitat. These were occupations that paid for adventures although the real money came with overtime after the eight-hour day was fulfilled. The desire to explore drove the will to endure monotony. If only I had recorded those day dreams manufactured from dreary occupations. I might have become a writer before I became a student?

The possibility of writing manifested itself shortly after beginning an apprenticeship. I signed up to a creative writing class meeting one evening a week and science fiction presented itself. My protagonist ventured out on a journey into space and it wasn’t long before the group was asking to hear the next chapter in the celestial sojourn and it became another production line. The spacecraft may have had a destination but I had no idea where the story was going.

Nevertheless the visiting lecturer introduced me to a city centre group of writers who met in Newall Street near Birmingham City Art Gallery. I was warmly welcomed and might have made progress but the security of an industrial occupation seemed more financially attractive to an inner city youth than the prospect of paid day dreaming. 

Salad Days

It struck me then that the more monotonous the job the better it paid, especially once overtime kicked in and the soul was screaming. When I attended fulltime technical college I managed to secure holiday work operating the side curtains and making theatre props at Birmingham’s Alexander Theatre during the summer and Christmas seasons. Whereas a few years previously a damaged aircraft component showed me the door out of the factory this knock on the door opened the way to a season working backstage in Ivor Novello’s Salad Days and Brandon Thomas’ Charley’s Aunt and a Christmas season working with Ronnie Corbett and Ronnie Barker. I was in heaven. I simply knocked on the door and it opened. Alas while there were stars in my eyes there was little money in my pay packet. And metallurgy seemed to be my future.

Fast forward to June 2012. I was working as a freelance writer from my office in Reading and happened upon an obituary. Ray Bradbury had died. I was curiously sad. Ray’s In a Season of Calm Weather had sown a seed in my imagination – a long time ago.

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