Celtic Illumination, part 89, crying in the rain
I stayed away from Rod Shackleton for as long as I could. Inevitably I would bump into him and wasn’t sure how I would treat him. As long as there was an experienced team member around, I would be okay, for he would probably shout at the trialist for talking to a team member. I was told to be a part of a group that would take the trialists out for a bimble. Rod of course was there. Thankfully he kept his distance.
Once again we set out to tackle Moel Siabod. The going was just as rough and the ground as boggy as ever. My fitness may have improved dramatically but the boggy ground still sucked the energy out of you. That evening we were in a bar, I know, who would have expected that? The trialists were seated at the table next to mine. I was at the table for Novices. The trialists kept to themselves. I stood to go to the gents but knocked a pint of beer off the table.
Without thinking, I leaned forward and caught the beer before it exploded all over the slate floor. As I set the beer back on the table I was aware that all the trialists had been watching me and were gasping in amazement. Once or two of the team members had seen me however their comments were more along the lines of “I’d like to see you do that again!”
When I returned Rick Mewes instructed me to tell the trialists my life story. This was something we had been joking about with so, as I had been told to speak to the trialists, I began to recount my military history. It was much different than what I describe here. I explain that having been accepted for training for Special Forces I had been left in the artic, completely naked and told to get back to camp in the UK.
There was an urban myth going around that SAS chaps would be dropped off in a remote area in the Highlands of Scotland, mid-winter, wearing nothing more than a ragged set of coveralls and some footwear. They would then have to make their way, without getting caught to a station in Cornwall. Only those who survived this combination of survival and evasion would be accepted.
I explained that I had spent time with the Marine commandos and the Para’s. Rod’s lower jaw was nearly touching the floor. I explained that the reason I had lightening reflexes was due to the martial arts training. There were two martial arts trained chaps on the team myself and Tom Taylor. It was a good story and a good night was had by all.
The following day I was detailed again to join the party that was taking the trialists out. We went deep into the mountains, something I really enjoyed, for we seemed to always come across little villages that had been abandoned and I just loved sitting down and imagining what the place may have looked like, wondering where the people went to. We stopped for a scran break in what would have been the front garden of an old cottage. I can still see Rod sitting on the front step of the cottage.
He spoke out loud to the other trialists saying that he wasn’t sure if he could believe me or not. One of the more experienced guys then told Rod to give me a challenge so that I could prove my skills. Rod asked how this could be done. I said that one of my skills was the ability to focus all my energy into one spot so I could break a rock with my fist, or rip a rock in half, just using my hands and my mind.
Rod was dismissive of the idea but then chirped up.
“That rock there!” he shouted, pointing to a football sized rock that was lying close to me. I took off my rucksack and went over to the rock. Even the experienced team members were cheering me on. As I picked the rock up it began to split in two so I had great difficulty in keeping it together. I then held it close against my chest and was actually pushing the two halves together rather than ripping them apart.
After a period of grunting and gasping I pulled my hands apart and allowed the rock to crumble. Everyone took a step back. I jumped into a Taekwondo position, then stood straight and bowed. No more questions were asked and my military credentials had been established.
At the time the television series Kung Fu was quite popular and that evening when we returned from the pub we made our way to the cook shack as normal. When we would leave the cook shack at night, we would leave a Tilly lamp burning so that the place wasn’t in total darkness when we returned. The Tilly lamp which would have been burning for three or four hours would be white hot.
Far too much beer had been consumed, for a school night, and I’m sure it was Rick Mewes who initiated events that evening. He stopped everyone from entering the cook shack. In the television programme Kung Fu, Cane can be seen moving the cauldron full of red hot coals with his forearms, from one pillar to another, this is to allow him to leave the temple. Rick now decided that the Tilly lamp would be our cauldron, so if anybody wanted to enter the cook shack they would have to move the Tilly lamp from one table to another, using only their bare forearms.
Because of my Martial arts training I was invited to go first. The pain was terrible, but I was determined to do it. I know it was stupid but then I was young and drunk and stupid. With the Tilly lamp moved I was then able to say to Rick Mewes, “Okay now it’s your turn.” Rick had to move the lamp, because I was only a Novice, he couldn’t let the side down. I was pleased to have got him back for some of the stuff he made me do during my trial period.
I had couple of nice blisters the following day, but as these injuries came under the ‘self-inflicted’ category no one cared. I still have the scars on my forearms as a reminder of how stupid young people can be. We were back in the wilderness and enjoyed another fine day in the Welsh mountains. That evening after our meal, with the trialists scrubbing the pots and pans, some of the more experienced guys decided to swim Rod and the other trialists. Unlike my trial where I was encouraged to jump in the river, to be swum, meant that you were tied up and thrown in the river.
This practise was normally reserved for a duty cook who would produce a meal that wasn’t up to scratch. I felt sorry for the trialists who were called into a group to observe some knot tying exercises. A rope would be extended out and laid on the ground. It would be doubled over, the bend, or the centre point of the rope would them be taken and, with the victim held on the ground, it would be secured around his feet. Then each strand of the rope would be taken up either side of the body and tied to the hands.
The victim would not have noticed the team members moving to the far side of the river. The victim would be carried to the edge of the river and one end of the rope would be thrown to the team members on the other side. The victim was then thrown in the river and by pulling and lowering both ends of the rope the victim would be raised and lowered in the water.
Rod didn’t do too well in the river and when he eventually was removed from the water he stumbled across to me and before bursting into tears asked that I make sure he was taken back to Valley and safety. He didn’t want to join the team any more.