I had always had a secret ambition to write for a living. Whether technical writing was quite what I wanted, I could not tell, but it certainly bore some relationship to what I did for a living and how I spent my spare time. I jokingly called our spare room my study and for the past year I had sat cooped up, writing. Well, trying to write. It wasn't easy in a box the size of a coal shed. How architects can produce drawings with rooms this size is a mystery to me. Anyway, the object of my effort was to produce an easily understood text book on Information Technology. This was then meant to compliment the course I taught at the local Technical College and make life easier for me. Whether the City and Guilds Institute would endorse it when I had finished was another matter, but I thought that I had a little more idea what was happening at the teaching end than someone sitting in an office in London; and anyway, I could use it for lecture notes, if all else failed.
God knows the colleges needed some help. The criteria for accepting students at ours seemed to be, if they could get to the college they were in. It kept the numbers up in the college, and kept the staff in their jobs. It made us look as though we were doing a good job and it would help the Principal get promotion.
Now you can see that this method of student selection presented some problems for the staff engaged in trying to put some knowledge into them. Hence my attempt at a text book. I did know a little about the subject, for I had been lecturing, if you could call it that, for ten years. Most of our staff had outside college interests, partly for the money but mostly to give them the satisfaction of doing something on a somewhat higher intellectual plane. As the summer term ended in the last week in June, and the vacation lasted until the second week in September, the most common out of college activities were connected with the holiday trade, or, as it is called today, the tourist industry. Some worked for other people, but most had their own business. Hotels predominated as they were a good, long term investment with capital appreciation, providing a nice little nest egg when they retired. That is, providing they had not overstretched themselves with the mortgage.
My misguided efforts at out of work stimulation had been directed at attempts to write articles for magazines and newspapers. But after a number of rejections I telephoned the secretary of Scarborough Writers' Circle. It was sheer desperation that made me telephone the enquiry section of the local library for the number. When I telephoned the Circle, a pleasant woman's voice told me to come to their next meeting, when someone was going to talk about "the plot". There would be coffee too! I went and that was when I really became hooked on writing. It was what I imagined being on drugs must be like. I was high on plots.
After that meeting, articles that I sent to magazines and newspapers began to be published. Not many, but a few. I noticed that the ones connected with my job were the ones that sold best. So that is what led me to start writing the text book. Twelve months of spare time had been spent on it already. I found the research and composition rewarding, and felt satisfied with my new approach to the age old subject of communication. So, when I saw the advertisement, I thought, this is it, now or never. It's all talk otherwise.
The job sounded interesting, writing about newly researched and developed products. It was writing professionally. It was a start. I had the experience of trying to put over complicated ideas to students who found all forms of learning difficult. Why not send for the application form I thought, after all, I didn't have to send it in if I had second thoughts.
The advertisement portrayed the company as being competent and efficient, but was that a shiny veneer? So much could be done with the skilful use of words. Words meant different things to different people. Was it worth giving up my position, lowly as it was, to take a chance in a new career in industry?
I tried to put the idea out of my mind over the weekend, but it kept coming back. Monday came, and I drove into work through a watery, early morning sunshine. Still the thought of a chance to write fought against the security of my career in education, but were the two incompatible? Was it just lack of conviction that stopped me? I drove onto the college campus by way of the badly planned approach road, and parked in the equally badly laid out, inadequate staff car park in front of the main building. A first year design student, set this test, could not have failed to solve these basic problems, but apparently the architects and planners did. You could not call it a campus by any stretch of the imagination.
Entering the foyer I fought my way through the uniform of bisexual jeans and jumpers, and made my way up the stairs to the technology floor. It was nearing nine o'clock, so I went straight to the room I was to use. Moving a few seemingly unused bodies belonging to students, I managed to open the door and enter the room. A group of first year engineering students surged in behind me.
I then knew what I was going to do about the application form.
After one and a half hours I managed to extricate myself from my class to take a coffee break. I walked across to the Common Room with Bob Charles, a stocky, jovial little man, who originated from Edinburgh, Apparently he had come for a a holiday some years before and stayed to teach computer science.
"Dreadful about that murder in York Friday night," I said, as it suddenly came into my mind as we descended the stairs and picked our way through the breathing bodies strewn at the bottom of the stairs. "Have you not heard," said Bob.
"Heard what?" I asked, easing myself up.
"Who the girl was," said Bob impatiently.
"No." I replied.
"One of the secretaries from the Radio Station at Irton Moor."
"How did she get there?" I asked, astonished.
"Apparently she drove herself over to York after work to visit her grandmother. After tea she decided to go to a disco at the university Students' union, intending to go back to spend the night at her grandmother's. She never arrived back, so her grandmother assumed she had decided to drive home after the disco."
"So no one raised the alarm?"
"Right. Apparently the girl always rung her grandmother at six o'clock on Sundays, so when she hadn't rung by ten, the grandmother telephoned her flat. Getting no reply, and having heard the news of the murder, she telephoned the police."
"Must have been a terrible shock for the old lady. Have they got anybody for it yet?" I asked.
"No, they think it's another one of those callous killings without motive"' replied Bob.
"We've had a few of those lately. I hope they get someone for them before long," I said, pushing open the swing door by the side of the student's canteen entrance, that led to the staff common rooms.
"Someone told me you were so frustrated with the teaching here that you were thinking of taking a degree course at Hull University to relieve the boredom."
"Only rumours. This place would get anybody down in time," I said, as I took my coffee.
"I wouldn't say it was that bad," said Bob reflectively.
Having taken possession of our coffee we entered the Common Room. Over the years it had divided itself up into departments. Engineering sat in one section of the room, with art and business studies taking the rest. Where Catering went I never found out, perhaps they sat in a larder somewhere.
We sat down.
The conversation as always slipped back to the students and I then knew what I was going to do.