Mac the Hack

‘That’s nice, a queue’,  I thought, as another person appeared to be standing in line close behind the rather boring ex-RAF chappy I was talking to. It was only twenty minutes into my first-ever book-signing at Waterstones in the lovely old town of Chichester in Sussex. I was feeling quite smug as I’d already signed and sold two books, and so I shifted my position slightly to get a better view. To my amazement I looked straight into the eyes of a plumpish ‘middle-aged’ lady staring intently at me with a strange look on her face – and I thought:

‘Oh my God it’s Jill!’ Men can only do one thing at once, can’t they? I quickly ended the previous tedious interview, at the same time my mind racing trying to remember what I had actually written about her in the book. From the look on my ‘old’ girlfriend’s face it seemed as though I might have some explaining to do…

Jill was one of a bunch of female telephonists we young airmen had dated in the late Sixties. Every month on a virtually all-male camp the RAF authorities sent a free bus to the local nurses home, teachers training college or similar female establishment like the GPO to attend a monthly dance on our base (discos were just about to start). So for weeks, months (and sometimes forever) we would be romancing such lovelies.

The telephonists were, in my words ‘a rum lot’ as they used to listen in to phone calls from the rich and famous. Indeed I tell of one true story in the book about the girls all listening in to the lead singer of the most famous rock band in the world – still Rolling along today!

Jill and I went out for a few months, but in those days our emphasis was on the ‘Bumble Bee’ syndrome, i.e flitting from flower to flower, distributing pollen wherever possible – I’m sure you catch my drift. In the book I described her as ‘petite, dark and attractive’ – phew! But I was ‘restless’ and wanted to move on, and had decided to end it. But before I could we were involved in a car accident and ended up in hospital together.

While being attended to I saw Jill’s notes, and was surprised to find out she was twenty-nine, although she had told me she was twenty-four. I was also lying though, as I was twenty and told her I was twenty-four – funny that. Although I took some flowers and chocolates round to her house the next day, I knew this was it, and I wouldn’t be contacting her again, though I told her I would ring her – and didn’t.

In addition, just to spice it up a bit, in the book I described her as a little ‘staid’ for me and said that she still lived with her parents. There is another bit to the story, but you’ll have to buy the book to read that part.

Now all these years later at Waterstones Jill stepped smartly forward. I noticed she was clutching a well-thumbed copy of my book in her hand. I wondered if she was going to throw it at me – or maybe just ask me to sign it?

‘Hello, John,’ she started grimly. ‘I don’t suppose you remember this ‘old maid’ do you? You remember, the ‘staid’ one, who still lived with her Mum and Dad?’

‘Of course I do, Jill’ I chuckled nervously, giving her a peck on the cheek. ‘How could I forget?’

‘And this is my husband, Peter’ – I swung round to see a large miserable-looking man, he looked as though he’d been thrown out of the Gestapo for cruelty as he glared down at me through knotted eyebrows. We shook hands grudgingly and Jill and I began to chat about those great times, what had happened to our old mutual friends from that era and she began to thaw out.

After what seemed like hours, but was probably only a few minutes, another old (male) familiar face appeared and I gratefully acknowledged him. Jill saw this and summarised;

‘Well, John – we’re going now – and I hope you’re going to sign my book for me?’

‘Of course I am, Jill’, I gushed.

‘And I hope you’re going to write something nice!’ Well, I was hardly likely to risk any more trouble, so I wrote:

‘To Jill – how lovely to see you again after all these years! All the very best in life, yours very sincerely, John’ – what else could I do?

So Jill and I parted as friends, but the incident really threw me. It taught me the lesson to ‘Bee careful’ – the sting being that if you write about anyone, just be prepared for the fact that you just might run into them again – and like me, have a little explaining to do. My only worry now is what will happen if I run across the bloke I described as a ‘w****r’ – well, he was.

Oh, and then there’s the one whose petrol tank I weed in because – no, sorry, you’ll just have to buy a copy to read what happened. I’ve sold well over 2,500 copies now, and have had some great reviews and comments about it. Everyone seems to enjoy it – and it makes a great present!

‘FAIRY TALES OF AN SAC’ 2009 John McGregor – Amazon or Woodfield Publishing.