It might have come from being read to as a child both at home and at school, but the real light bulb moment for me was at ‘O’ Level at school. For those of you that are too young to know what they are, just think GCSE – only harder.
Well that should have alienated most of the younger generation and cut my Blog audience down to about 4 I guess.
It was Latin ‘O’ Level that did it. I loved Latin, but was somewhat limited in my ability – “Marcus in horta est,” (Marcus is in the garden), “Romanes eunt domus” (People called Romanes they go the house) and “Quantum ille canis est in fenestra?” (How much is that doggy in the window?) is about the level that I peaked at. Therefore it was strongly recommended that I take Classical Studies instead of Latin going forwards. Sum vera irasci to say the least, but as soon as I started Classics I was absolutely hooked. We studied some of the best stories ever told starting with Homer’s Iliad – the story of the siege and eventual sack of Troy. Homer was a Greek poet and entertained the world with his classics, The Iliad and The Odyssey.
Classical Greek and Trojan heroes thrashing it out with the all-powerful Gods pulling the strings in the background, themselves warring against each other, and throw in a load of monsters too. I lapped it up. And then we studied Virgil’s Aeneid where Aeneas, the last surviving Prince of Troy escapes the slaughter and wanders the world and the underworld searching for a new pasture to set up his city, which somehow eventually becomes Rome? Figure that one out!! Basically, Virgil (a Roman writer and poet) was playing to the crowd. In ancient Greece and Rome, storytelling and the theatre were what passed as entertainments of the day. The Romans loved stories, and to think that they were somehow descended from those famous heroes and Gods…Wow! Ok the Romans also loved watching the gorefest in the arenas, but we all have a guilty pleasure or two. There is room in entertainment for Shakespeare and Jean Claude Van Damme isn’t there?
Speaking of Shakespeare – what a genius! His history plays were basically a sexing up of true stories. He took subjects such as Julius Caesar (in real life an amazing character and story) and the Plantagenets (murdering and frolicking with each other continuously whilst trying to claim the crown) and made his fortune by adding a few pithy lines such as “Beware the Ides of March,” “A horse, a horse my kingdom for a horse,” and “We few. We happy few. We Band of Brothers.” The amazing thing is that Shakespeare’s versions of these stories have mostly passed into history as being the gospel truth as well as giving us sayings that we still use almost 500 years later. How is that for the power of a story? Makes me wonder why I found Shakespeare so tedious at school. I suppose there is nothing like having to study a play or book to take all of the joy out of it.
So what about the most important story of all? Your own story. It is funny to think that all of us are making/contributing to history every day of our lives. Some people will make a huge impact on the world and be remembered forever. Think of Gene Cernan, who died recently. He was the Commander of Apollo XVII and is still the last man to walk on the moon. He wrote his daughter’s initials in the dust on the moon before leaving – now that is a beautiful story and he is one of the men that inspired me to fly fighters, and also to do as much for my own daughters as I could. Others will be remembered only in their tiny sphere, but that does not make their story any less important. Think of the midwife who saves the life of a premature child and how much joy they have bestowed upon that whole family for generations to come – that surely is a story that cannot be matched for power, beauty, joy and relief? The ultimate irony is that with every story we read or see or hear, we are desperate to get to the end and find out what happened. Yet the end is the one bit of our own story that we do not want to see or face or even acknowledge.
So that is why I love stories and why I tell stories. All of the Human Factors and Safety Training I and my facilitators deliver is wrapped around storytelling, and we have some brilliant storytellers on our books. So, if you have children, get them off their iPads and CBeebies and tell them a story. My daughters have heard all of my flying and Squadron stories ten times over and the look of wonder in their eyes each time I trot them out is a pleasure to behold. Of course they have to do that as they know that if they don’t, I will cut them out of my will once my own story finally comes to a close.
By the way sum vera irasci means I was very angry – look it up on the internet like I did.
Not yet – I’ve not quite finished…