In the October edition of the Newsletter:
Our next Regional Wayzgoose will be on Saturday 27th October in Middlesbrough. The venue is Teesside University Students' Union. Access by car to the Students' Union car park is via Borough Road, Woodlands Road and Victoria Road.
We shall start at 10:30 am and there will be the usual free lunch if you book with Chenda Appleyard by 21st October.
There will be planned activities during the morning and optional informal explorations of the area in the afternoon. Please see this list of possible activities some of which need booking in advance.
I'm sitting in the railway station in Edinburgh, (not to the tune of Homeward Bound but to the accompaniment of live classical piano, as it happens), wondering if my train back to Horsforth will show up, possibly even on time. I'm hoping for better luck than last time.
I usually drive wherever I'm going, because I quite like driving, and I have proved beyond all reasonable doubt that I am considerably more reliable than any of the alternative forms of transport. I would have been driving this time, but son 5 wanted to do a bit of work on my car and decided my two-week absence in Shetland and Orkney would be an ideal opportunity for him. He's probably crammed in a couple of camping trips and a few trips to the tip, as well. My car is considerably bigger than his, so is often in demand for trips involving larger quantities of stuff.
Last time I attempted this journey was when I'd forgotten to get my car MOTd, so I left it with my sons to sort out while I was away. The train was fairly late arriving into Edinburgh, so I missed my connection at Carlisle. I should have been enjoying a scenic trip on the Settle/Carlisle line (in reverse order).
Instead, I joined the queue to confer with the man in Enquiries. He was leafing through a large volume, about the size of the Complete Works of Shakespeare. It turned out to be that other well- known work of fiction - the train timetables. (This trip pre-dated online timetables). He patiently and fairly quickly re-planned my journey. I guess he was quite used to it! I was directed to get a train to Carnforth, then one to Skipton, and then another to Leeds.
The Carnforth leg was fairly painless, but then things started to deteriorate (again). We stopped several times, in the middle of nowhere, admittedly very scenic nowheres, between Carnforth and Skipton. Eventually we made it to Skipton, and in due course got on another train with a tendency for unscheduled pauses. By this stage my four-hour journey had taken about seven hours and showed no sign of ending any time soon. As we approached Shipley, which is not all that far from Leeds, we were informed that the train could not go beyond Shipley because there was work on the overhead cables in progress between Shipley and Leeds. We were assured that a replacement bus service would be on hand to take us on to Leeds. Guess what? It wasn't.
I kind of suspected that even if the replacement bus service did eventually turn up, I wouldn't get to Leeds in time for the last train of the evening out to Horsforth. It was a glorious sunny evening, so I sat on the grass verge outside Shipley station and had a little despair. Then I had a little brainwave. I rang my sons and asked them if they'd got my car legalised. They had. So, I had a little whinge about being stranded on a grass verge in Shipley, and they offered to come and rescue me - in my car, of course.
It's another glorious summer afternoon, but I'd still prefer not to spend it sitting on a grass verge outside a railway station.
Look forward to seeing you.
I'm Chenda Appleyard
The Role Of Intelligence In A Random Life By Lizzie
I didn't know I was clever. I became a Mensa member when I was 57. I only took the test because my friend was doing it and there was a two for the price of one offer. I was startled to find I'd passed.
In the 1950s and 60s, the average school didn't spend much time assessing pupils' intelligence. There was plenty of work around, and teachers assumed everyone would find their own pathway to some sort of living. I passed exams effortlessly, but no-one told me I was intelligent and nothing much engaged my attention. My main ambition at 16 was to become a commuter. It didn't really matter what the job was - commuting was what grown-ups in London suburbs did, and that is what I wanted.
And so, within a week of leaving school, I was travelling to Central London to work as an office junior. My subsidiary ambitions of owning a leather jacket and a crocheted mini-dress were fulfilled courtesy of my first month's wages.
Within a year I'd left the job in favour of hitch-hiking round Europe with my boyfriend. This was 1967 - the Summer of Love, but also the Summer of Yet Another British Financial Crisis. UK citizens were allowed to take out of the country only £25 to last them an entire holiday (and there were no credit cards in those days). It certainly wasn't intelligent to set forth under such circumstances; we survived various disagreeable and occasionally downright dangerous experiences by luck rather than judgement!
Returning hungry and flat broke after several weeks, I wandered into a random office block and asked if there were any jobs available. There were, and within a couple of days I was a lowly Clerical Assistant, writing giros at what turned out to be the local Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance (MPNI). It never occurred to me to mention the scattering of GCE 'O' levels I possessed - but someone found out and, within 6 weeks, I had passed the written and oral examination to progress to a higher grade. Posted to the Ministry of Social Security (MOSS) as a Clerical Officer, I had great fun flirting with the middle-aged ex-servicemen who then formed the bulk of the staff. The idea of a Civil Service career did not cross my mind, because within a year my boyfriend had persuaded me to get engaged - another idea I associated with 'being grown-up'.
Despite parental objections, I became a married woman the day after my 18th birthday, moving to a tiny flat which cost £3,000.
That wasn't very intelligent, but I believed the 1960's propaganda that women achieved happiness through home and family. Pregnant, I had to resign from the Civil Service. By the time I was 20, I worked in the local chemist shop, and was part owner of a semi-detached suburban house and a screaming baby.
The propaganda was wrong - I didn't feel happy at all. Life was horrible. We were too young for sensible marital discussion; fists and furniture became the way of settling arguments. Amusing to look back on but devastating at the time.
A year or two later, Women's Lib was in the air, and I knew I needed liberation. I could see this required more educational qualifications. So, in 1971, despite derision from the husband, I enrolled for evening classes at the local college. Much to my surprise, I achieved within one year the two simultaneous GCE 'A' levels then required for (a) enrolment at a Teacher Training College, or (b) a chance to take the examination to become an Executive Officer in the Civil Service.
Teacher training was out, because the grant offered was pathetic. I knew I'd been happy as a Civil Servant; I knew the salary as an Executive Officer would enable me to pay a childminder. I passed the examination and returned to what was now the Department of Health and Social Security (DHSS) on 1 January 1973. (It was a difficult morning - I had to get myself and my daughter ready in pitch darkness because the husband had turned the electricity off in a bizarre attempt to stop me going back to full-time work).
Wonderful as it was to be back in the Civil Service, life at home got worse. Attempted reconciliations failed, food, artefacts and insults flew around and my eyes were perpetually swollen from crying. Eventually, I departed. My parents were neither pleased nor helpful at this turn of events, and Enfield Council offered only a two-year waiting list. But I found a tiny bedsit in the house of an Italian family and borrowed a bed to accommodate my child. I had a record player, one record, a toddler and a job - and my freedom.
The Civil Service proved gentler and more generous than the husband. I had no particular ambition but was happy to be trained as a Social Security Visiting Officer, roaming the streets of North London with duties that enabled me to collect my daughter from school and write up the casework at home. More prosperous, I rented a whole house, and sublet rooms to Civil Service colleagues. House-sharing was great - there were always colleagues around to mind my daughter if I was busy. And after two years, I finally got my council flat.
I carried out a wide range of duties in various North London DHSS offices, and in those days, the Civil Service believed in educating its staff. I was sent to University College in London on day release to study psychology and sociology; I was filled with management-speak, assertiveness and alcohol at the Civil Service College in Sunningdale. Gradually the modern me evolved.
In my early 30s, I learnt to drive, and was then offered a post as a Regional Reserve - part of a team which was sent anywhere in the Home Counties to cover DHSS local office vacancies, backlogs of work or unusual events. I loved the gypsy nature of this job - never knowing where I might be working, getting to see parts of the UK I'd never had a chance to visit before. A couple of my postings involved working for DHSS Headquarters (HQ), carrying out national surveys. I must have impressed someone somewhere because I was soon promoted to a permanent HQ policy job at Higher Executive Officer level. HQ work was intellectually stimulating - for the first time ever I was fully engaged by my work. There was a degree of autonomy I had not experienced before - each of us had our own area of expertise and was respected for it.
A transfer from Social Security to Health landed me a job carrying out efficiency scrutinies within the NHS (ha-ha - I don't think it got more efficient!). Then, as the 1980s came to an end, the Government decided to move half the DHSS workforce to Leeds. I was drafted onto the relocation team and spent a couple of years trying to ensure that the 2000 staff moving to Leeds got suitable office space, furniture and services.
Once we were successfully relocated, my job ended. So, I was sent to fill a long-standing vacancy, dealing with policy work relating to European Directives governing medical training. Wading through the backlog of papers, puzzled by the Directives, I initially hated the job. But the obscurity of the European mumbo-jumbo came to fascinate me. I enjoyed travelling to London and Brussels, I got promoted, and as long as I kept the Department out of court, and out of trouble, my bosses seemed content.
And so, my years passed happily, until the long-term illness of my partner. At the age of 54, I took an early retirement offer in order to care for him - but (inconsiderately) he died a couple of weeks later. I dare say I could have rescinded my early retirement, but, armed with my pay-off and all the knowledge I'd acquired during my years in the Civil Service, I decided that it would be interesting to find out what life was like in the private sector. It was amusing - and, whatever the Daily Mail would have you believe, private is certainly not more efficient than public!
Looking back on it all, I can see that my (admittedly well hidden) intelligence carried me through some very rocky patches in my life and enabled me to adapt rather than sink when things went wrong. It was chance that took me into the Civil Service, but without the experience and training I received there I would not have become the confident person who dared to take the Mensa test in 2007.
I'm not the only Mensa member to find out late that they had hidden potential. No doubt things would have been different if someone had spotted my intelligence when I was at school. But I don't regret the way my life turned out - it's all been very interesting!