Celtic Illumination, part 98, The legs of Man
One base camp I remember visiting was in a field next to the, supposedly, highest pub in Wales. It was during the summer months and the traffic everywhere was quite heavy. Two of the drivers, in the convoy heading for base camp, decided to have a race. One was Stan Owen and the other Rick Mewes. If the vehicles they were driving were similar, then I suppose it may have been classed as a race, but one vehicle was a three ton truck, pulling a trailer full of jerry cans of fuel and water, while the other was a short wheel base land rover.
Good natured insults were being freely traded over the radio network and the two guys, because of the heavy traffic, were pretty much even. Of course the rest of the convoy had to try and keep up with them. I would have been tempted to put on the blue lights and siren and floor it, but to give them their due, they didn’t abuse the system.
We got away from the heavy traffic flow and were zooming along in the countryside. Arriving at the field, where base camp would be established, the short wheel base land rover pulled up at the gate and someone jumped out to open the gate. Not to be outdone, the three ton lorry which was twenty yards away put the truck through the hedge, and low earth embankment, waking up the trialists who were keeping the bags warm in the back of the truck.
I couldn’t possibly say who won, but Rick was in second place in the short wheel base land rover. We had been cleared to use pyrotechnics that weekend and so most of us were loaded up to the gunnels with all sorts of exploding toys. This was about the time my name was changing and I began to be known as the Newry Bomber. I enjoyed blowing things up. As we had to wait for the trialists to erect the tent, and Rick and Stan were fixing the gap in the farmer’s hedge, most of us wandered over to a hole in the ground.
Now you are probably far too intelligent to be interested in a hole in the ground but we were, I mean come on, there was water in it!
Someone wondered if a thunder flash worked under water. They do! And they create a wonderful plume of smoke. Then it was asked if smoke grenades worked under water, yes they work under water too. We were having a laugh chucking all sorts of stuff into the water. Despite the smoke and loud bangs we could tell that the approaching famer was somewhat irate. He was complaining that his cows wouldn’t be able to drink blue water. I have to admit that never mind the blue water, he turned the air blue with some of the language he was using, so we all sloped off and allowed Jack to handle that situation. Luckily the farmer didn’t see the working party, replacing his hedge, hidden behind the big blue truck and trailer.
The pub was a large building, on its own, in the middle of nowhere as they say. However about five hundred yards away from the pub, was the ruin of a huge house. We were told that there were another two houses like this, one on the Isle of Man and one in Scotland and on a decent night, with fires lit outside the houses, each house could see the other two. All three houses were owned by the same family and the fire routine was meant to act as some sort of warning or basic communication system.
It was decided, and I think beer had something to do with this decision, but it was decided that the house was haunted. The trialists and the Novices were told that we had to sleep inside the haunted house that night.
Having left the pub, and filled up in the cook shack on cheese butties, we collected our sleeping bags and made our way to the haunted house. I remember that the floor was missing, as was the roof. You had to jump down into the foundations and crawl under the remaining floor joists that would have held the floor boards. It was quite nice lying there watching the stars spin above our heads. It would be a fine night as long as the ghosts didn’t come a visiting, or rain came pelting down through the missing roof.
It wasn’t rain that came in through the roof, but all sorts of exploding projectiles. The more experienced team members had decided to practise with the pyrotechnics and were launching them directly into the house, through the roof. We didn’t get much sleep that night.
It was also around this time that we were to be made television stars. Well; that’s a bit of a stretch. On Welsh television there was a programme for children, sort of like Blue Peter or Magpie. This was the Welsh language version and I can’t remember the name of the programme. We were on the way to a pre-arranged spot to meet the director and camera crew, when we were asked by the North Wales police force to block the main A5 road, as there was a car with armed robbers they were searching for.
This was the only time that I was glad Tom Pritchard carried a shotgun in his rucksack, with which he would destroy rock formations and the occasional gate post. Although I have to admit, when arguing with a gate post, I would never let it get that far. The armed robbers never came our way and I often wonder what would have happened if they had. We moved off and joined the television people who had selected a small hillock where they would film us. It took all day and John Boy and I were bored, so we wandered off to a nearby cliff where we entertained ourselves with a bit of rough scrambling. When we came back to the main group we learned that the sound engineer, in order to show how powerful his microphone was, had shown everyone how he could listen to the conversation between John Boy and myself, half a mile away.
They had us walking this way and that and eventually we were ready for the close up mister Demille. The presenter was sitting in a sheltered dip with one of his legs folded in underneath him. He was talking away in Welsh and Chippy translated for us. Seems the story was that the poor fellow had slipped and fallen, breaking his leg in the process. What was he to do? Then they went through the process of activating the team and the troops were brought in to be shown assessing him and then transferring him to a stretcher, so that he could be lifted away by the yellow helicopter.
As the helicopter approached someone shouted ‘smoke,’ and I think it was Tom Pritchard who launched a smoke grenade into the hollow, where the presenter was sitting talking to camera, with the helicopter behind him in the distance. We were asked to stand a bit further back as the microphones were picking up noises of us breathing. Off went the presenter, as did the camera crew. We went back to being quiet little fellows running around the mountains.
It was a week or two later that we all gathered to watch the programme and had a good old laugh as all they showed were our feet walking towards the presenter. But I didn’t have the heart to tell the troops that in reality the whole thing had been a ploy just to get the finest pair of legs in Ireland onto Welsh television and show the wonderful Welsh people what they were missing.