Celtic Illumination, part 88, ♫ stuck the knife in the babbies head ♫
It was nice getting back to the mountain rescue section at Valley. Chris Burrell informing me that I had to buy his car, as it was the team car, wasn’t the only surprise waiting for me. We had trialists. In a way this was very good news for even though I had been promoted to the dizzy heights of Novice, Docker and I were still the lowest form of life on the unit. Trialists would take the focus off us for as long as they lasted. I wanted no part of it because I was still raw from my time as a trialist.
As no one would speak to, or about trialists, it was a good few days before I learned that one of them was Rod Shackleton, the valium chomping Corporal from air traffic control. Docker and I were given folders which contained one long list of every function we had to be trained in, complete and be assessed in. It ranged from a series of climbs where the difficulty grading increased, to abseiling, night navigation, endurance and survival.
Living with the team allowed me to begin to get to know some of the established members and of course to socialise with them. Mountain rescue was always ready for a party and the age old forces excuse of ‘working hard and playing hard’ was always brought out to excuse the excessive behaviour. Although most functions ended with a large group, sitting around, singing folk songs. I remember my first experience of this which I enthusiastically joined in with.
I started to sing a song and could only remember the first verse and chorus. It was the wee small hours of the morning. Most people were smashed off their heads. So the next day I was surprised to get a bollocking from Paddy Cross who informed me that I should never sing a song that I couldn’t finish, it was bad form. I couldn’t believe just how serious he was about it. He went on to advise me that every team member was supposed to know, word perfect, at least one song which they would stand and perform at a moment’s notice. I was then told to make sure the other fecking Novice knew this.
Paddy Cross was an established team member and like Pib had spent a lot of time running about deserts and mountains, so was held in high regard and his word was gospel. As a Novice you knew that you still had to impress the other team members, you may have survived the trial period, but now you had to earn their trust. One day I walked into the section house and checked the notice board. There was a small poster announcing an upcoming function. It was a meeting of the Royal Air Force, Valley, Mountain Rescue, Cheese and Wine Appreciation Society.
Paddy Cross was passing and I asked him about it. He explained that a select group of people would get together, taste various wines and cheeses from around the world, compare their findings and at the same time have some polite and interesting conversation. I asked if he thought I might be allowed to attend. He couldn’t see why not, so I inquired as to what sort of wine I should bring. I wasn’t sure if he was tired of my questions, for he told me to bring a big frigging bottle and when I asked about the cheese, he suggested a big frigging lump.
I made a note of the time for the function, noticing that at least it was being held at the mountain rescue section, on block two, so I wouldn’t have far to travel. I went into Holyhead, where the selection of available wines was restricted, to say the least. I wasn’t that educated in the world of wine so perhaps, as many people do, chose the wine by the look of the label. The cheese was an easier decision but rather than following my instruction to get a ‘big friggen lump’ I bought a selection of two, or three, medium sized lumps.
I was quite excited about meeting, what I hoped would be, like minded people and perhaps forming one or two new friendships. On the evening in question I gave myself a good scrub and, leaving my boots and jeans in a corner, felt quite comfortable in my jacket and tie. Even though I say it myself I probably looked quite spiffing. I collected my wine and cheese and went to find the cheese and wine appreciation society. I couldn’t find anyone in block two but I followed the noise and realised that I should have paid more attention to the information on the poster. The function was ‘on’ block two. This was mountain rescue; where else would you hold a function except on the roof of the fecking building.
Again, it was mountain rescue, so nothing like a ladder or steps would be provided. I was relieved of my cheese and wine and invited to join the chaps on the roof. They had positioned a table and some chairs on the roof, but they had also brought an old RAF bicycle onto the roof. I then learned that there was another Novice on the team, apart from Docker and myself, Bill ‘John Boy’ Walton. The building we were on was one of the accommodation blocks. They were about fifty feet long and maybe twenty feet wide. It looked as if they had been constructed from modules, as there were raised ribs, evenly spaced at about ten to twelve feet, along the length of the roof, where it looked like the prefabricated sections would have been joined together. In the centre of the roof the ribs were about ten to twelve inches high whereas at the edge of the roof they were three or four inches high. The roof did have had a slight pitch to it.
We were informed that if we, the three novices, could cycle one circuit of the roof without our feet touching the ground, or in this case the roof, we would not only be invited to join the RAF Valley, Mountain Rescue, Cheese and Wine Appreciation Society, but we would even be invited to drink some of the wine and eat some of the cheese we had brought.
John Boy was first to attempt the circuit and went as close to the edge as he dared. Unfortunately after crossing one rib, his right foot shot down to find something solid to steady himself, but all he found was air and so went off the roof. It was a good ten or twelve feet to the ground below. John Boy was congratulated on bouncing so well, when he hit the ground, and then warned of the trouble he would be in if the bike was damaged.
John boy slipped, on his way back up, and put a window through with his boot which he was told he would have to pay for. Docker was next and managed to complete the circuit and I have to admit having two attempts before I could successfully complete the circuit. It was just another stupid initiation ceremony that the guys had thought up, so we were allowed to relax and sing a few songs. I even gave a rendition of my song which I had learned faithfully. My song was the English folk song, Whiskey on a Sunday, which, perhaps luckily for me, many people thought was Irish. Later I would add the blood curdling Weile Weile Waile to my repertoire, and can happily say; they both were always well received, as I not only had a fine voice, but the legs to hold it up too.