Ups and Downs of Lockdown by Mike Croucher

I miss books

Being mostly confined to home for the last eight months has been tough. Like everyone, we miss seeing our kids, our grandkids, and the grand pets (3 dogs, 1 cat). We have good days and bad days. Fortunately the bad days are short-lived. We keep busy. It’s easy to get down at times though. We’re social creatures, for God’s sake. We’re not meant to be cut off.

We got through the first wave. Now we’re bracing for a second go-round. But we know what to expect. This time we’ll venture out a bit more with a good understanding of how to protect ourselves and our loved ones. Hope it goes well.

Writers are loners, stand-offish creatures by reputation. We crave human contact. Though we rarely get in people’s faces, we need to be around them for entertainment, inspiration and appreciation. The absence of those things feels especially bad for those of us who are dragging our backsides into dotage.

There were some silver linings to the lockdown: more time to write, more time to think, more time to reflect—start new projects. I’ve dabbled with memoir. Not to publish, just to write. I’ll create print-on-demand copies for loved-ones and friends. I try to be honest, revealing my warts to all. There has been an offsetting bonus to writing memoirs: great ideas for my fiction. I’m happy to share a piece of a memoir on this blog:

Motorcycle Training

I enjoyed school. I was never a good student. Far from it. I got in the odd scrap, but didn’t start them. In those days, you stood up for yourself or you kept paying the price. I was a restless kid, didn’t apply myself to subjects I had no interest in. My attitude was another concern. Eventually I was shown the door.

It was 1961. I joined the RCAF with my parents’ consent. They had to sign for me because I was under 18. They were both ex-military (my dad RAF, my mom WAF). I went to boot camp in St. Jean Quebec; three tough months, but I really enjoyed them.

Things went downhill from there. After boot camp and the graduation parade, they lined my group up in a hangar, separated us, and assigned half to electronics school at RCAF Clinton and the other half to radar school at Falconbridge. No aptitude testing that I remember. Another parade, and we were on a train to Clinton.

My military career lasted almost a year. When I flunked electronics—no aptitude for technology then or now—I was sent up to the Commanding Officer for an interview. He offered me a trade switch: bartender, cook, or air force policeman.

John Diefenbaker was Prime Minister then. He’d just introduced an austerity programme to cut military spending. When I turned down the transfers, the C.O. said he would discharge me If I went back to school. I said I would. I didn’t.

Within two months I’d been accepted as a Police Cadet in Toronto and was starting my motorcycle training. I was in a better place.

Thank you, Prime Minister Diefenbaker. I did go back to school as a mature student, took business courses at the University of Toronto whenever my shifts allowed.

Throughout the pandemic, I’ve applied the air force motto. Per Ardua ad Astra—through adversity to the stars. That, the company and support of my wife of 52 years, enough space in the house for both of us, and my writing, have kept my spirits up.

John G. Diefenbaker

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