Celtic Illumination, part 75, Janker Wallagh!!!
Many of you are aware that one of the most stressful things you can do in life is to move house, another is to change working environments. So as you can imagine, moving to a new station was quite stressful. Of course being as highly trained as I was, I didn’t find the move in any way stressful. I had a bed, in a twelve man room, still temporary accommodation or as it was called, transit accommodation. It was quite a simple journey to walk from the mess to work. In fact for me the most stressful thing was getting used to the new local beer and I wasn’t going to let it beat me, I was determined to master it.
Despite the fact that most of military life is based around beer consumption the two don’t mix. Beer causes you to sleep longer than necessary and this means that you would be late for work. With my fondness for beer I was late for work quite often. The military have a sliding scale of punishments to combat most incorrect behaviours. The first time I was late for work I was introduced to the process of being charged.
Nobody ran at me, nor did I have to face a raging bull at close quarters, although I have to admit to a fondness for Hemmingway. A charge, or being put on a fizzer, was the military formality to award punishment. It was all quite new to me and quite embarrassing in a strange way. Not that I was ashamed or embarrassed about being late for work, it was the absolute pantomime that surrounded the whole affair.
First of all I was given an escort. Not a car but two fellows, one either side. I was told that should I lunge at, or try to attack, the presiding officer these two were under orders to restrain me. Within three seconds I could see a number of ways I could effectively disable the two fellows, but thought I should wait to see what coming next before taking such drastic action. A sergeant inspected us and then brought all three to attention. I always found people shouting orders to be most ridiculous but when they do it inside a building it was so annoying. We were in the corridor outside the Satco’s office. We had a distance of ten to twelve feet to cover, yet the sergeant insisted on shouting left, right, left, right, left, right, halt!
The sergeant then turns all three of us to face the Sacto. And of course I don’t mean he physically turned us to face the Satco, he screamed something military at us, like, about turn or turn to the right, right turn! The Satco was looking very official. The barrack room lawyers tell you to listen very carefully because if there’s a mistake in the preamble that he reads out, the whole shebang has to be thrown out. He got my name right, my service number right he even got the date and time I was late for work correct, so I guess I was going to have to go through with it.
In fact it didn’t take long at all. You were late for work last Tuesday. Correct. That is basically what was said, but try to imagine that this was the military, so it was expanded to pretend that there was some legality behind what was going on. I was fined five pounds and the sergeant marched us out. I was then taken into the admin office and it was explained to me that this charge would remain on my file for ever and would follow me around where ever I went in the air force.
I didn’t really think about it. I was already being followed around by other people and I don’t mean the double top secret cabal who were organising my training to become the leading Master Candle Maker in the world. I was being followed around by people who wanted a fight. I know that this was the military and we were being trained basically to kill people, but to arrive at a new unit and have someone creep up to you, out of the shadows, and ask you for a fight seemed strange to say the least.
It seems that the fellow at Locking who taught us Taekwondo was some sort of Olympic champion and he kept a check on all his students, linking them to other instructors throughout the air force. So people were not actually wanting to fight me, well; they were, but they were really asking me to continue training with them. I unfortunately, for the fellow at Locking at least, wasn’t a purest and was more interested in the advice Bruce Lee gave where he advocated a mix of skills rather than follow one pure path. Bruce thought that you should be able to choose the most appropriate set of skills for the situation you faced.
Anyone looking at my discipline file now might think that I enjoyed being put on a fizzer. I didn’t really, I couldn’t care less about them actually, which may have been a contributing factor to getting charged a second time. The Corporal in charge of the shift was a fellow Irishman and was told to place me on a charge, which he did. We went through the same rigmarole again but this time I was fined ten pounds. I could see the air force’s reasoning.
Paddy was very apologetic and insisted that I go to his house that evening where he would entertain me as a sort of apology for having to charge me. He said that he didn’t like having to charge a fellow Irishman. It was a very friendly gesture which I naturally accepted. Paddy’s wife was a fantastic cook and it was such a pleasure to sit down and eat a home cooked meal. Added to this was the fact that Paddy himself was a keen home brewer and had produced quite a stunning beer.
On top of that Paddy had two beautiful daughters who insisted that I should accompany them to the hot spots of Holyhead, which we did, with Paddy’s blessing I may add. I had a fantastic night so unfortunately was late for work the following morning and this time Paddy seemed quite happy to charge me as he wanted to make sure there was no further developments in the relationship between me and either of his two daughters.
For those of you out there with a fully functioning brain you will have worked out that for this charge I was fined fifteen pounds. I was able to calculate how many charges I could handle at this rate of inflation before I would run out of money. But this was the military. The next time I was late for work I was stood standing there, expecting to be fined twenty British English pounds sterling, and I’m sure many of you would expect the same fine too, but we would all have been wrong.
I was given Jankers! Now, Jankers is a form of punishment meant to embarrass and humiliate the offender. I was already embarrassed and humiliated at having to work in air traffic control, but this was a new form of punishment. Not only was I to be embarrassed and humiliated but I was also to become a visual deterrent for everyone else in the camp. And how would they do that you ask, well quite simple really.
They gave me a toothbrush. Not very embarrassing or humiliating, that is until you are taken outside the guardroom to the main gate of the camp. This happens at shift change over so the maximum amount of people, going in and out of the camp, are exposed to the punishment. I was then encouraged to get on my hands and knees and begin cleaning the white lines on the road with the toothbrush. While performing this task I was encouraged, and by encouraged I mean a huge disciplinary Sergeant stood over me screaming insults at me.
Most people going in and out of work would initially see the Janker Wallagh and smile, for this was an age old form of punishment in the air force, their next thought would be to remind themselves not to do anything wrong, or at least get caught doing something wrong, for they could end up cleaning white lines too. Of course as a Janker Wallagh you just didn’t scrub the white lines with a tooth brush. One evening I was encouraged to paint the coal, in the coal bunker behind the guardroom, one lump at a time.
Did it work, was it effective, I hear you ask? What do you think? This is me we are talking about, the leading Master Candle Maker in the world, the High Chief of the Clan O Neill and the true King of Ireland. Of course it didn’t work.