A215 – Life Writing – Working in the Dark

From the two pieces I’ve already posted, Early Memories & Initiative at Night and another I drafted this piece as part of the life writing tutorial for A215 Creative Writing. It has summarised the original freewrites and linked them with a through-line.

Working in the Dark

“How many civil servants does it take to change a lightbulb?”
“None, they prefer to work in the dark!”

As a small child I play with lego by candlelight, a power cut. I sit beside the glass door to the balcony, the rest of the room is dark and impenetrable. The multicolour swirl pattern on the carpet is vivid. The thick green base tile and the red and white lego bricks forming into a house. In the dim Scottish winter night I can’t play for long before it is too dark.

Almost twenty I spend a night navigating between bases on the Pentlands to solve puzzles with a group of fellow officer cadets. After a day at university we are flung unexpectedly onto the hills. A psychological trick when we expected to spend the evening drinking in the mess. In the dark we find inventive solutions, much to the chagrin of the Directing Staff. A land rover rolled to change the wheel without a jack. We run a stretcher casualty through a minefield. This carries on all night. We are disqualified, the solutions we found in the dark aren’t approved.

Almost thirty I set up the Climate Change Levy Administration. My first day is greeted by a dark, empty office, no furniture, just a carpet. My new boss thinks the task is impossible in the time. No-one in our Department has ever run an operational case-working team, so there are no ideas about how to set one up. Less than a fortnight later I have begged, borrowed and scrounged facilities for twenty-two people, and recruited twenty people, built an IT system and got the process going. We finish two weeks early.

By forty I understand that I am at my best when working in the dark, improvising and adapting to overcome issues.

 

 

 

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About Author:

James has a keen interest in military history, backed with experience as a TA reservist and a 17th century re-enactor. He has designed and run several face to face social games and is the editor of MilMud, the journal of the CLWG game design group. He is currently working on a book on the aftermath of the Glorious Revolution.

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