Celtic Illumination, part 71, Howzat!
The local town for RAF Innsworth was Gloucester and when Mister Swagger and his two sidekicks returned, having been laughed at by every jeweller in the high street, they kept a low profile. To have been humiliated by an Irishman was more than Mister Swagger could handle and he never spoke to me again, with a bit of luck he would never try to make fun of Irish people again, but I could be wrong. There were quite a few characters passing through Innsworth one fellow amazed me as he thought he was an American policeman.
He had tried to straighten the edges of his hat; he always wore reflective sunglasses and had all sorts of bits and pieces hanging from his belt. I was always getting shouted at for being a scruffy oik and would probably always remain so, unless they provided me with adequate tailoring services, so I am sure that he would be receiving positive suggestions about his state of dress on a daily basis.
The jobs were coming at me thick and fast. One day I was sent to clean the extractor fan above the servery in the airman’s mess. It was a horrible job but I suppose someone has to do it. The ultimate task for any aspiring TAG was blanket stacking. To be able to remain in the bedding store was the goal, you were alone and had the facilities to make tea or coffee and you had a radio. Heaven. There had been some flooding in Gloucester so we were sent off to help the elderly folk of the town. We spent a good few days emptying houses of destroyed carpets and furniture. It was sad to see so many people in such a state of distress.
Then came the day that saw the fellow in charge of the TAG’s become almost apoplectic with pride. We needed a guard. I of course was quite experienced in guarding bits of road. I could stand still for hours on end, unsupervised, and I could even hurl insults at myself therefore allowing the man in charge to concentrate on synchronised counting out loud. Added to this the fact that I was fully trained in the use of pick axe handles encouraged me to volunteer for the duty.
I was accepted and was then informed that I had to go and guard a cricket match. Yes, that’s exactly what I thought. A cricket match! I put on my best uniform and marched myself over to the cricket ground, making sure to call myself names at the appropriate moments. They had started without me and I wondered if they knew just how much danger they were in playing cricket without a guard? I could see that all my military training would be brought into play on this task. First of all where would I stand? Should I try to find cover? Should I march myself round and round the pitch? Although the screaming and shouting at myself might put the cricketers off.
Sometimes guarding stuff can be too much for one man to handle. I saw that they had a shed, or as they called it a pavilion and went there to gather more intelligence. I love cricket pavilions, have done ever since Belfast, there’s a sort of dusty damp smell, which I find very satisfying. This pavilion was no different from the others I had been in before. Although I did notice that this one had a bar, which was open. I introduced myself to the barman.
We agreed that the best place for me to establish and maintain a guard was at the bar. Because I was putting my life on line, willing to place myself between any threat and the cricketers, we decided that I should have at least one pint of beer as a thank you gesture. After the first pint of beer I wondered if another wouldn’t go amiss and as you probably guessed woke up the next morning asking myself a series of questions and once again determined to catch that fecking gorilla.
I had been summoned to headquarters and wandered over. I was meeting with a young girl. I know, I know, normally I would be doing that sort of thing outside working hours but this was a female officer. I promise you, I still knew absolutely nothing about the air force. I knew that the uniform was a blue grey affair and that was about it. I don’t know what this girls rank was, or her name, or position, but on refection I would say that she was a sort of recruitment consultant. Now recruitment consultants to me are like estate agents without the snake oil. They are even more useless than social workers.
This young girl started chatting to me and asked what I would like to do. A few beers in a nice pub down by the river would be a start I thought but I don’t think she had romance on her mind. What job would I like to do in the air force? Ah! Says I, the proverbial penny having dropped.
“I would like to go back to sergeant aircrew,” I said, without thinking. Then I thought about what I had said and believed that it was a decent enough request.
“No,” she said. “You can only re-muster down, you cannot re-muster up.” I didn’t understand either. She explained that all the trades in the air force had been placed in a sort of scale reflecting the intelligence and ability of that trade. So the top trade in the air force was sergeant aircrew, next was ground radio and radar fitter and then would follow other technical trades moving into the more general trades such as cook, or driver, or clerk.
I understood, so she asked me what I would like to do, I said sergeant aircrew and once again she reminded me that I could only re-muster down, not up. I couldn’t understand that if I was now a Tag, officially the lowest trade in the air force, there was nowhere else to go. The only position below TAG was civilian.
For this exercise I was being treated as ground radio and radar, therefore I couldn’t go up to sergeant aircrew I could only choose one of the trades below. She began reading through every other trade in the air force. Policeman, regiment gunner, driver, cook, motor mechanic, air traffic controller, clerk.
“Whoa!” I said. “What’s an air traffic controller?”
I think she knew as much about air traffic control as I did, although it sounded the most interesting of what she was offering me, so I accepted. Next thing you know papers were being shuffled and double stamped. I was handed a travel warrant and told to report to RAF Shawbury the next day where I would begin my training as an air traffic controller.