Celtic Illumination, part 66, London is full of horse shit
I had two bolt-holes at Locking. One was another course member’s car, down on the student car park. We would nip off to his car and sit and listen to David Bowie and ‘The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars’ album. The volume was at eleven and the windows were open. It was difficult to enjoy music at a decent volume when you shared a room with three other chaps. My other bolt-hole or I believe as they are called these days, safe or panic room, was the camera club. It was a very serious affair as you may guess. At Violent Hell I had only worked with black and white photography, now I was introduced to colour. I know, stop the world I’m dizzy.
It was great to have somewhere private where I could escape. Simply lock the door and switch on the red light and know that you could have peace and quiet for an hour or two. Our training was moving on at a fair pace. We had been told that we were to participate in a parade in London and would have to start practising for it. If you have ever seen the Trooping of the Colour you will know what a spectacle it is, the bands, the horses, the fellows with the bear skin hats, and we were to be a part of that. Knew you would be impressed.
Of course we would not be doing the old left, right, left, right, bit accompanied by a band, we would be standing still. We had weeks of preparation for standing still. First of all you line up in a single line. Tallest on the left and the shortest on the right. Then you ‘Number off’, that is, everyone shouts out a number, starting from the person on the left. Now please do not think this is like a gang of fellows with Tourette’s, screaming out numbers willy nilly. This is a controlled military exercise.
The fellow on the left starts at number one; the fellow next to him is two, the next three and so on. See, you thought standing still was easy. I bet you even thought you could do it yourself, all on your own, with no specialist training. Well; think again. Once you have ‘Numbered off’ the odd numbers take one step forward and the even numbers one step back, fun isn’t it. Then the front row, the odd numbers, turn right and the even numbers turn to their left. And now they can form up into ranks of three.
So now you are in your standard military three ranks and off you go, but this is the tricky bit, as you are moving along certain orders are called out, very, very, secret, I couldn’t possibly tell you what they are or I would have to come round and kill you. Once the secret order is given, the left, right, left, right, combination is interfered with. Some people start to do the oaky koaky and shake it all about a bit, but after twenty or thirty paces, you now only have two rows of marching people. Yes, I know we already had that at the beginning, but this is the military, why do something simple when you could make it much more difficult and have someone shouting at you while you do it.
Now both lines would open up, so that they were on either side of the road, near the pavement, and you would peel off, I don’t mean that you would strip off all your clothes and race down the Mall in London flashing at the Queen. No, you would peel off, move away from the main body of men, at the appropriate moment and stand by the side of the road with your gun. Then on the word of command we would all turn and face the centre of the road. We would guard the road. I have to say that during all the times that I guarded roads, even at night-time, and in the rain, when you couldn’t see the fecking road, not one bit of road ever got hurt. But once you’ve done it, you never speak about it.
I know, highly trained electronic engineers, armed to the teeth with guns and trained in Taekwondo, guarding a road. Well it was called the guard of honour, or honour guard, whichever you preferred, but busloads of service people would be coming in from training establishments all over the country to line the roads so that dignitaries could drive past and know the road was in safe hands at least. All you had to do was look at the faces of the military personnel as they got off their buses to see the sheer excitement and enjoyment eight weeks of intensive training for standing still had led them to.
Not only would there be all the marching about and synchronised counting out loud but the inspections and the insults. Get your hair cut; stop breathing so fast you’re stealing air from the rest of society, you are as much use as an ash tray on a motorbike, or you are as much use as a chocolate teapot. It was as we often called it pure unadulterated bullshit. Which reminds me as for the standing still malarkey I was often tempted get a wheelbarrow and fill it up after the horses passed by, it would have kept mums roses going for some time.
The only known and effective antidote for marching, or the more difficult standing still, is disco dancing. No one in Weston Super Mare knew how to jive, how advanced was that! Being a popular seaside resort there were quite a number of hotels and clubs providing dancing opportunities. We were only allowed to go to Weston Super Mare in groups of three or more. The local yobs loved to catch a trainee, on their own, and give him a hiding. Once, they took a trainee to the top of a multi-story car park and threw him off. After that we never travelled alone, or at least tried not to.
My hand to hand combat training at primary school in Belfast had given me an extra sense and I could feel trouble coming, although, in my case it would be more frequent that an average person experienced. At the time the most popular tune was Van Mc Coy and ‘Do The Hustle’. I hated it, didn’t even think it rated as music, however I quite like it these days. Wonderful how tastes change, although I still prefer a decent tune that you can jive to.