I suppose it's because I have so much time on my hands these days, that all these memories come flooding back to me.
Here And Now
The amount of times I have tried to write one of my short stories is unbelievable really, I've opened up a blank screen and just stared at it, with nothing coming to my mind as to how to start.
It's been a couple of years now since my wife passed, and my art of writing seems to have gone along with her.
Well, here I am in Holland spending Christmas and New Year with my sister, who I only got back in touch with a few months after my wife died.
We had a long spell of a few years of non-contact, over which I thought was about the divorce from my first wife, but it turned out later that my late wife had progressed that silence, by writing a nasty letter to my sister that I knew nothing about until later. I don't really want to go into that in detail, suffice to say we are back together now, and in truth she is all I have left now, as my own two daughters cut me out of their lives at the time of the divorce, some twenty odd years ago now.
Over my lifetime I have had two lives, really: the first one of my younger days, when I was married to my first wife Jane, and two lovely daughters, Tracey and Hazel. I had just left the Royal Navy and after a couple of local jobs, including bar work and taxi driving, to keep our mortgage and bills paid up, I ended up in full time employment in a local oil construction site, where I was earning good money, and we were all living the good life back then in the seventies.
After five years of this, I had been promoted to a welding instructor at the sites training school, when I was made redundant! This was the first redundancy of a few more, which followed later. I wasn't alone in this, there were about three thousand other men in the same boat, but as they had not worked anywhere else in the industry and never had the inclination to work away, a lot of them just signed on the dole.
This meant that I was one of the ones who had to leave home and look for work elsewhere, after all, that was all I could do now, I was a coded welder, promoted to welding inspector, after sitting examinations and tests, then to the training school as an instructor, this was after I had completed and passed a government training course on instructional techniques.
The only work I could do was within the oil industry, so it was not long before I found myself working offshore on the rigs in the North Sea, and further afield. This was in the early days of course and things weren't, well, let's say, quite as nice and comfortable as they are now, and leave it at that.
The hours were long, the work was hard, and in the winter it was wild and so bitterly cold, we used to have rub Vaseline on our eyes and lips to stop the water from your eyes freezing on your face, causing your skin to crack. It was definitely a young man's game, and just the thought of doing that now makes my body ache.
I did return to that same site a few times during the following years, but as a sub contractor, even ended up in my old job as a welding instructor in the school, which was surprisingly only a few years after the big pay off, when they let the majority of the work force go. This was due to the lack of orders at that time, but things had improved since then. Some of the men I trained were from the early days before that big pay off, so they were easier to teach, as it was just a refresher course for them, really.
It was funny how I got my old job in the training school, I was waiting for my flight back to Stornaway, where I was working at that time, and met the personnel manager from that site. He was waiting to meet some big time manager from a perspective customer, so we started talking and before I knew it, I was offered my old job back in the training school. Of course I had to return to Stornaway first and work out my notice.
When the work offshore dried up for me, and there was no work at the other yards I had worked in, I found myself working overseas, in places like Russia, Turkey and Egypt. One of the jobs was away out in the desert at an oil refinery, where I felt so remote, it was living on another planet. I ended up having to go to the factory where they made the pressure vessels, due to the poor quality of workmanship. It was supposed to be for one week, where I was working alongside an engineer from Japan, but we both ended up being there for a month.
The work was made even more difficult as we couldn't speak each other's language, but just as I did in Russia, I got past this by using sign language and using sketches, the job still got done.
While all this was going on my trips back home became rarer and shorter when they did come. This of course lead to us living separate lives, which inevitably ended up in divorce.
I only wish we had today's technology back then, with the internet and face time, which would have enabled me to at least see and keep in touch with my distant family, so far away, but as I still say, if only?
It was when I came home from my last job overseas, where I was sent by the oil construction yard I was working at the time, they told me that I was due to be laid off as soon as the present modules we were building were complete.
This meant I had at least two months to find other work, and give notice to the landlord who I was renting my current flat from. It was during these two months, when I met Diane, who later became my second wife, and at the age of forty, my second life began, a long way from here and now.