MY PASSWORDS TO BLISS
It was a weird twist of fate, back in the eighties, that got me started in this writing game, at a time when I was quite long in the tooth, and certainly no spring chicken. But it was a God-send, because, as the young brood were leaving the nest to broaden their horizons, I was finding extra free time, and smelling around for something to do with it. A number of extra curricular activities and pursuits began to attract my attention – golf, photography, travel, etc. – but writing books didn’t even form a minuscule speck in the mind or the imagination. Of course, I was always an avid reader, and although I loved and admired all the literary icons like Hemingway, Yeats and Wilde; that was it. It never crossed my mind that one day, I might dabble in it myself.
It was one of those miserable winter evenings, and in the warmth of the house, I was passing the time browsing my local weekly newspaper. A tiny advertisement, caught the corner of my eye, and having turned the page, it refused to vacate my vision. Reverting back, I read that it was announcing a ‘Creative Writing Course,’ starting the following week in the community hall of our local village. Something about it pricked my imagination, forcing me to read it a few times. Isn’t it amazing how these things emerge out of the blue, commandeer your brain, and for no logical reason, trigger impulsive decisions that can change your life. I was convinced, there and then, without a shadow of a doubt, that this was for me, and the answer to my ongoing search for whatever it was that I was looking for. It reminded me of the old truism; I don’t know what I’m looking for, but when I find it, I’ll know.
Anyway, without a second thought, I picked up the phone, rang the number, verbally enrolled, and having replaced the receiver, took a deep breath, and asked myself: what possessed you to do that? I turned up on the day, to find myself in the company of two other men – both retired – an assortment of six women of various ages, shapes and sizes, and an attractive young tutor, that didn’t look a day over twenty-five. We sat around a large table with pens and paper at the ready, anxiously awaiting our gentle introduction to the basic mechanics of writing. I, for one, hadn’t a clue what to expect. But we were in for a bit of a shock, a beginning that no one expected, it jerked us out of our complacency, and concentrated our minds.
With a mischievous smirk on her face, our shapely mentor planted a large brass candlestick on the centre of the table with the order: “I want you all to write a page of prose about this”. Well, everyone stared wide-eyed at each other, and judging by the looks of apprehension it was obvious that we were all on the same rung of the literary ladder – the bottom one. Write about a candlestick! Was this for real, or a joke to lighten up the atmosphere? No, it wasn’t a joke. We had to do it, and when all was completed, and after the compulsory read-out, I got the gist of what our clever tutor was about. It was a master stroke – an early appraisal for her of the aptitudes and abilities of this motley crew, and for us the clearest possible glimpse into what creative writing was all about.
It was the dead of winter, and although at times we collectively shivered in the ice-cold hall, we stuck it out – one day per week for ten weeks – received our certificates at the end, and went our separate ways. I can’t vouch for the others, but for me, it was just magic. Looking back on it now, ten published books later, I’m eternally grateful to ‘Fate’, or whatever abstract phenomenon inspired me on that winter’s evening. It was my passport to heavenly bliss, and I often wonder since, what did I ever do to deserve it?.
From ‘It’s a Long Way to Malta’ (An Irishman’s Gem in the Med)
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