The house was cold and dark and the key was unfamiliar to my touch as it slid into the lock. A new build house of about 15 years old, it had one of these new multi lever security doors that require not only the key to be turned, but also the handle to be held down to enable the double latch mechanism to release. I dropped my bag on to the wet, dark and cold doorstep to free up my left hand; the square concrete slab glistened and moved in opposition to my eyes in the orange hue of the nearby street light. The time was approximately 3am and it had been raining here all evening. As I pushed back the door my ears were greeted with a high pitch piezo electric buzzer, ‘Ohh bollocks! The alarm’ I thought to myself as I wearily searched my pocket for my phone while simultaneously trying to kick my bag over the threshold and not drop the keys. Stuart and Lisa had issued me with the alarm code some 10 hours earlier as I was now a legal squatter/security guard/DIY dude and guardian of their life’s savings. The alarm continued to pierce the cold, damp night air in this otherwise perfectly quiet street in a South Midlands town just off the A5. ‘FU#*ETY F*#K!’ – the piezo buzzer kept its frequency and noise level steady and rhythmical like a demented, electronic version of the clock in the TV program Countdown, but with a very different outcome if I’m beaten by it. With wet fingers I slippily re typed in my passcode to the glass screened phone and third time lucky, it opened. Now all I had to do was simply get to the notes app, open it and bingo – I’m in. As my wet, frantic fingers hastily punched the small glowing green, rubber buttons on the wall by the kitchen door, all Hell broke loose. WEE WAHH WEE WAHH WEE WAHH! I re typed the simple 4 digit code into the glowing box on the wall that I could have easily remembered, if of course I was paying any attention to Stuart that is, when I climbed back up into the cab of the HGV lorry we had hired to move the last of their belongings to Northern Scotland. Tchaikovsky I thought as I pulled my bag inside and stumbled to find a light switch in the pitch black hallway – I’ve never forgotten that code since.
I lit up the entire house like a Coldplay concert to signal to the now awake neighbours, that I was legit. The curtains at number 4 moved and a back lit figure of a well rounded female was briefly illuminated at the window before she turned around and swiftly instructed the invisible light switch operator to reverse his decision. The large, empty HGV truck looked awkward on the residential street outside, like an elephant in a queue of black and white flightless birds it stood out amongst the glut of Japanese, German and American penguins; The engine and brakes still clicking and ticking from the contraction of the metallic parts after a 10 hour slog through the evening rain.
I awoke on the dusty brown wooden floor of the front room still perfectly aligned as I had lay down. My Army issue sleeping bag was tight under my chin and the pillow was still secure inside the hood. I could see straight into the back garden as Stuart had removed the curtains from the patio doors. It was 10am. I now had somewhere to live for a few months while I battled with the search for a new job, in a new career. I had finally received my actual licence to work in September of 2017 some 5 months after completing and applying for it to be issued. 5 months where I could not apply for all jobs simply because technically, I didn’t have the licence in my hand, and part of the (online) application process was to enter your licence number… I had a roof over my head where I could think, work and where I felt safe, secure and not bothering anyone. My only income still came from my dole money, but I had a small savings pot of a few hundred pounds that I built from my work in Pablo’s pub back in North London. Without Pablo and Sian, and the work they gave me, I’d be really stuck right now as I need that money for interview travel and a new suit – Pablo had stepped up once again some weeks earlier with advice about what a new suit does for your confidence and image, not only that but over a pint after a long 16 hour shift one night, he stepped up with a fist full of £20 notes to ensure I would not buy a crap one. “Now you won’t have to miss an opportunity because of a few quid, will ya?” he slurred in his Southend born and bred accent, as he filled an empty pint pot full of rolled up £20 notes and handed it over. For a thoroughbred civilian, Pablo really is My Hero. Thank you Brother.
The trip down from Northern Scotland last night was pretty much uneventful. I decided to drive Southbound through Aberdeen City Centre rather than the bypass around it. I’m a sentimental idiot and my Ex’s Sister is at university there studying law, I drove through just gaining a small feeling that I was saying hello to her and wishing her well in her final year of studies. When I say uneventful, the drive was uneventful – but the journey turned out to be one that I am still on today, mid June 2020, 2 years later. Sitting alone as the greenery slid past at 60mph singing to a favourite song from the Counting Crows, my phone rudely interrupted me with a call just as I reached one of my favourite lines ……
“There’s things I remember and things I forget, I miss you I guess that I should. 3500 miles away, but what would you change if you could?”
As the phone automatically switched back to my preferred Spotify playlist (other music streaming services are available) I punched the air with delight and wiggled in my pants like I had live Eels down there. I spent a massive 2 minutes congratulating myself and shouting in joy before I gave myself a reality check. I then spent the next 6 hours reciting principles of flight formulas, turbine theory, meteorology, instrumentation principles, hydraulic and electrical theory and practicing those dreaded tread carefully, 21st century HR questions that now litter the modern job interview like those deadly, small plastic bastards in an Angolan field. The call is directly from the Director of Flight Operations (DFO) at an airline and after a conversation (telephone interview), I now have a full interview and simulator assessment on Wednesday at 5pm for a job I applied for a year ago before I was even qualified. I remember penning the letter in Marks flat days before I moved to Holly and Rons. It was an old fashioned mail drop application with a covering letter explaining that I was just about to complete my licences and that I was expressing an interest, albeit early. Looking back, I still have their initial email reply from 2017. Paraphrasing it, it read – Nothing at present but we are expanding our fleet and we’ll keep your CV on file.
Rubbing my eyes and unzipping myself from my green maggot of nod, I noted that the ceiling needed painting in the front room. Glad I got up early as I have to have the truck back to the depot by midday. I opened the zipper fully to air the sleeping bag out as I’ll be in it again later tonight, probably not until about 1am when I return from the job interview and simulator assessment. It is Wednesday and I have to be in Gatwick, ready to go at 5pm. No prep time and sleeping on a floor of an empty house for the night, maybe not the best start, but with Pablo and Sians money in my pocket and a new suit on my back, I set off Southbound again for the assessment centre just outside Gatwick International Airport.