Celtic Illumination, part 95, blowing in the wind
I suppose I should start telling you about my partner in crime, the other Novice, John ‘Docker’ Games. Docker wasn’t a wild man, far from it. He was a pleasant young man from Liverpool. My first recollection of Docker was when I came into our accommodation one tea time. It was quite normal to stretch out on your bed and leave the door open so that you could have a chat with anyone walking past. I came in to the block and saw Docker lying on his bed, or pit, as we called them.
I dumped my kit in my room, then went and stood by Docker’s door. I shook my car keys at him, yes the illegal one under the tarpaulin, and said.
“I’m nipping over to the mess for some tea, want to come?”
Docker didn’t move. He lay there rigid, on his pit.
“I can’t move he said, and don’t ask why, because you wouldn’t understand.”
“Try me?” I said, given him the quick visual once over, looking for something relatively simple like a huge metal spike that may have caused this immobility. It wasn’t a shock, or a problem, as we were all advanced first aiders, a course which we had to complete on the climbing wall at Bangor University. I’ll tell you about that later, anyway, back to the casualty.
There was no blood; in fact there was no indication of something physical that could be causing his immobility.
“Stop fecking about and come to tea!” I said, thinking that this could be some ploy on Docker’s part to pull a fast one on me.
“I can’t walk,” he said.
”Why?” I asked
“You wouldn’t understand. You’re Irish.”
This of course was now a challenge. “Have you hurt yourself?” I asked, ignoring the Irish comment, aware that he could have an injury on his back that I couldn’t see, impressed eh? Told you I was an advanced first aider.
“Okay,” I asked, coming in to his room and sitting down. I was of course getting closer to him and able to get a better look about his person. “Can you at least sit up?”
“No!” said Docker. “I told you I can’t get up, I can’t walk and I can’t move.”
“Why?” I asked, feeling that I either needed the actual reason, or the punch line.
“Right,” he said, as if talking to a six year old, an Irish six year old.
“I’ve just given blood.”
“Okay.” I said. “What do you want, a fecking medal?”
“Told you that you wouldn’t understand.”
This was a new one to me. Normally after you donated a pint of blood they gave you a cup of tea and a biscuit and let you go on your way.
“Why can’t you walk, or move?” I asked, preferring the direct approach.
“Look!” he says. “Blood carries oxygen to the brain.”
“Okay.” I said, I sort of already knew that. He continued.
“If the brain doesn’t get oxygen then you can get brain damage.”
“And?” I asked, wondering if someone in the room was already exhibiting signs of advanced brain damage and it wasn’t me.
“I gave a pint of blood, so when I stand up there’ll be a gap at the top of my head,” he says, while holding the thumb and forefinger, of his right hand, by his forehead, to give me a visual representation of the gap that he thought would be in his head.
“Are you taking the piss?” I asked, which I think is perhaps the only question that can be put forward at this point.
But no, Docker was deadly serious.
“Okay,” I said, thinking I had found the Achilles heel of his argument.
“Where did you give blood?” I promise you if he pointed at his arm I was going to scream, but he didn’t, instead he said.
“Over at the NAAFI.”
“Aha!” I said. “If you gave blood over at the NAAFI, how did you get back here?”
As far as I was concerned this was game, set and match to me, but no.
“I jogged,” said Docker. “That way the blood would sploosh about my head and get the oxygen to my brain.”
At this point you start to think of old quotes like ‘A little learning is a dangerous thing.’ John Boy was walking past and I called him in. The pair of us tried to convince Docker that he could stand, but his mind was made up, he couldn’t stand or walk , he wouldn’t even consider jogging to the mess, for once there, he would have to lie down again. I promise you that is not a word of a lie.
It wasn’t the only incident that Docker will be remembered for on mountain rescue. One of the supervised situations we had to perform in, and control, was managing an actual call out. One evening we were called out and the whole convoy was hammering along the A5. Docker was in charge, don’t worry this was an internal exercise we were having. Jack, the team leader was actually driving the land rover we were in. It was quite exciting with the blue lights and sirens on going full pelt.
We knew where the incident was, so Docker had to pick a place where we would establish base camp. During a call out the duty cook takes over as coordinator. He would coordinate and control everything. If necessary he would take the comms truck and position himself at a convenient high point where he would be sure he could maintain communications with all the team members
Docker had chosen the spot for the base camp and as we neared it someone, in the rear of the land rover, shouted that they could see a helicopter coming up behind us. This was great news for us, for we could jump in the helicopter or taxi as we called them, and be dropped off close to the incident. It wasn’t that we were lazy it just meant that we could get to the poor injured person as quickly as possible.
We can all see that Jack is getting frustrated with Docker who has his head buried in a map. The helicopter is now flying alongside us and Docker still is looking at the map.
“Oi!” says Jack.
Docker looks at him.
Jack points at the big yellow helicopter taking six inches off all the tree tops alongside the A5.
“Talk to him!” barked Jack, at which point the proverbial penny dropped and Docker lifted the microphone. We were a couple of hundred yards away from the area we were aiming at, yet Docker was giving the helicopter crew a grid reference. Jack snapped the microphone away from them and told them, in plain English, that it was just up ahead, on the left, by the five bar gate.
“What else should you tell him?” asks Jack, getting really furious with Docker. “He’s about to land, what do you tell the pilot?”
“Wind!” shouted Docker.
“Well tell him what way the wind is blowing!” shouts Jack, who we can all see is very close to losing his temper.
Normally someone would throw a smoke grenade out and let the wind itself show the helicopter pilot which way it was blowing. Not Docker, he slid the window open, licked his forefinger, and held it out the window. With us travelling at seventy miles per hour, Docker says to Jack, while pointing backwards with the thumb on his right hand. “It’s blowing that way Jack. It’s blowing that way.”