My guest this week is A. W. Lambert who is a prolific Mystery and Thriller author from Wings ePress.
You can see how his background has given him the life experience to salt his novels with believable situations.
A link to his books is HERE.
Then and Now
I'm seventy five years old and there’s nothing I can do about that. Though there have been times when I’ve wondered where the years have gone and recall the words of the old song: ‘I wish I were a little bit younger and knew what I know now.’
But recently, looking around, taking in the state of things today, I got to wondering about whether that’s what I really do wish.
I was born in a small, ancient terraced house in a poor inner city district of London, England. My father was in the British army, fighting in the Far East and Hitler’s Luftwaffe was doing its best to obliterate my birth place; areas around us increasingly destroyed, our own windows and doors blown in, plywood replacing glass and doors hurriedly nailed back into position ready for the next onslaught. Indeed sometimes it felt we spent more time in the air raid shelters than in our homes.
Money was desperately scarce and I grew up, seeing nothing unusual in the sheets of cardboard stuffed into my shoes to cover the holes in the soles. My playgrounds were the grimy streets in which I lived and the surrounding bombed sites. Education was basic with further education available to but a few and frequently refused because work; bringing home the money, was the greater family priority.
It was all my mother could to hold herself and three sons together. Heaven knows how things would have turned out were it not for the utter determination of an incredibly close community, all facing the same hardships and not prepared to see any one of their number go under. Indeed, at no time did anyone believe Hitler would have his way. We would prevail; it was just a matter of time. And so it was, because six years after my arrival into this battered world the war came to an end and people again started to look to the future. But even then things were bleak. The bombing may have stopped but it would be a very long time before my country was back to anything like normal.
Here I feel I must pause, because it’s beginning to sound like I’m indulging myself, banging on about my impoverished, underprivileged background, maybe even craving sympathy. And nothing could be farther from the truth. Quite the opposite, because far from feeling hard done by, I consider myself privileged to have lived through those very austere, but also very informative, character building years. You see, when you have very little and there’s so little out there for you to have anyway, it instils a determined acceptance, a lifelong reality check within you: you can only have what’s available and, most importantly, only if you can afford it. And affording it is down to you.
So, sure, I had a poor education; I left school at fifteen with no thought of further education. But I never lost sight of reality; I knew very well, if I was to make a success of myself, it would only be due to my own efforts. I took whatever jobs were available until I was eighteen when I was conscripted into the British Army. Here, trained as a radio technician, I again found myself involved in a war zone: the EOKA terrorist conflict on the island of Cyprus.
On leaving the military I determined my future to be within the aircraft industry and worked my way into a position at the renowned DeHavilland aircraft company. I started as a lowly electrical technician - it was what was available and what I could afford. I worked hard, over the years taking advantage of every available hour and studying every course to be had, including acquiring my pilot’s licence. Thirty two years later, then an executive within the huge British Aerospace company, I decided to retire. I was fifty four years old and realised time was running out. If I were to pursue my two main passions to the full, it had to be now. And I was able to do this because for all those years I’d been able to afford reasonable contributions to a company pension fund. And more importantly, the company had matched my contributions culminating in a final salary related pension.
Over twenty years has passed since then and I continue to pray for many more to come because during those years my two passions; my love of playing jazz and, more, my dedication to my writing have been enjoyed to the absolute full.
So what, I hear you ask, is this other than a potted history of A.W. Lambert?
Well, yes, that’s how it was for me and thousands like me. But now run the clock forward to today:
Education is available to everyone, but at a cost. And what if you can’t afford it? Well that’s not a problem; just take out a loan which, after you have qualified, will take years to repay. And then hope like hell that, because you’ve chosen a course that may have suited you, but has no relevance to what is needed in the real world, there’s a job waiting for you at the end of it all.
And what about all that must have stuff that twenty four seven you’re constantly being told you can afford; the mobile phones, i-pads, i-pods, laptops, game consoles. There has to be a car in there somewhere, too, right? And all this before we even think of a wife, a family and heaven forbid the dreaded mortgage. Well none of this is a problem either, because – and here’s one of the major problems of the age – there is a bigger lobby out there encouraging us to enter into debt, pushing us to live now and pay later, than there is urging prudence and caution. So let’s just max out the old credit cards and worry about it later, eh?
Okay, I’m being over cynical. Well that maybe the case, but how about that reality check I spoke of earlier? To start with we’re living longer. That’s good news, but it means governments are already extending the age by which we will be receiving state pensions. 75, the age I am now, is not improbable and those pensions will undoubtedly only be sufficient to cover the basics of living. Which means a private pension is absolutely essential and young people are constantly being encouraged to start saving for their retirement as soon as they can. But, hang on; retirement is light years away, isn’t it? And there’s a need to prioritise here. There’s that university loan still hanging round the neck and those credit cards, miss a monthly payment on one of them and the percentage rockets. And even if there is enough left in the pot to put something by, those company, salary related pensions that benefitted the likes of me so much are now all but a thing of the past and already the existing annuities and available pension funds are being shown to be woefully inadequate, if not downright rip offs.
So, yes, I’m seventy five and it could be said heading for the last round-up. But I’ve had a good life with no complaints and once again if I were to ask myself do I really wish I were a little bit younger? Well, d’you know what? As I send my latest manuscript off to the publisher and pick up my trombone, ready to head out to another gig, I really don’t think I do.