Friday, October 29, 2010

Wings of desire

When I was about 8, I was unlucky enough to participate in an exercise with a group of other kids, both younger and older, where we were asked in turn what we wanted to do when we grew up. Bearing in mind that this was the antediluvian days of the mid-1970s, and despite the fact that these were the kids of my parents' friends, artists, hippies, musicians and the like, and perhaps should have been a bit more enlightened (having said that, from experience this often turns out not to be the case: people who pursue what they regard as an alternative lifestyle can often be surprisingly conservative), when I said that I wanted to be a pilot, peals of mocking laughter rang out. Clearly it was ridiculous for a girl to want to be a pilot, because that is a man's job.

One of the other kids played to the gallery with his answer which was "shoplifting, gluesniffing, stealing". This got the laughs he was after (although it may have been as accurate a prediction as anyone else's).

About 15 years later, having gone on an entirely different career path, I had a flying lesson from RAF Turnhouse, near Edinburgh. Despite the excitement of taking the controls for take-off and landing, speaking on the two-way radio, flying over my childhood home, and circling over the Forth road and rail bridges, it quickly became apparent that the career I had dreamed about would not have been a smart choice for someone who gets violently airsick.

A woman who had drifted around the edges of my parents' group of friends came to our house for the day, not long after the career path humiliation ritual. She was a bit of an old, sad figure in my view (horrifyingly, I realised on thinking about it that she was probably younger than I am now), a slightly bulky woman with bleached blonde hair, an oversized baggy mohair jumper, and a miserable expression on her face. She didn't seem to know what to do with herself. The porous clay mug from which she drank her tea was so throughly imbued with the reek of her perfume that it didn't wash off for months. My sister and I cruelly dubbed her "Shoplifting, Gluesniffing, Stealing" and the poor woman has no name other than this in my memory.


mancsoulsister said...

A pilot eh? At least you had feminist ambition.

Me? I wanted to be in 'Legs & Co',although I think I would have settled for the Royal Ballet as a back up option. My brother wanted to be a bionic farmer!

Needless to say...

LottieP said...

Legs & Co? Excellent!

I also wanted to be, at various times, a ballet dancer (too big-boned), a fashion designer (no talent as a seamstress), a writer and a teacher (I had a little register and would tick off "attendees" at my imaginary school - this I suppose is a bit like having imaginary friends, but lots of them and you can tell them off for lateness and spelling mistakes).

My brother is a biodynamic farmer. Which is much the same thing.