Celtic Illumination, part 100, the memsahib and me
Catherine and I had been writing letters to each other. What do you mean ‘Who’s Catherine?’ Part 86, I’m walking backwards for Christmas, that Catherine. I had just received a letter from her saying that there was a chance she might be working in North Wales for a week. She wasn’t sure if this trip was going to happen, and if it did happen, she wasn’t sure how much, if any, time she would have off. So I had the old emotions put on standby. As luck would have it she contacted me to say that she was in Wales and could have a day off.
As I said before, what do you mean you were not listening? Catherine worked as a geriatric nurse. One of the female patients at the hospital she worked at, in Rochdale, wanted to travel to Conway, in North Wales, to spend a weekend with her boyfriend at his house. The pair of them were eighty five years old. Sort of gives you hope, I suppose.
John Boy was having some time off as he was romancing Jim Matthie’s sister, and was at Valley etching, as if there were no tomorrow. I contacted John Boy and asked him to bring the team car down to base camp, which was at Nant Gwynant. Conway was about thirty miles away so the journey would take half an hour with clear roads, quiet roads and we could get that down to twenty minutes. The team car may not have been in showroom condition, but as the good ol boys would have said, ‘she could motor!’ John Boy, plus one, arrived with the car and decided that they would accompany me to Conway. So off the three of us went.
It was so romantic to walk into a hotel bar and see Catherine sitting there nursing a pint of Guinness. We had fantastic fun and she then decided that she would like to see Louis. We came out of the hotel and she asked for the car keys, she was driving. So, off we went to base camp where luckily enough Louis was duty cook. We lay around and had a laugh then headed back to Conway to drop Catherine of at her place of work.
Well; having navigated the drive up to the house I have to say I was mesmerized. It was a real remarkable pile of Victorian brick. Little turrets and crenellations, all that was missing was a drawbridge and portcullis. We parked well away from the Rolls Royce in case any of the naughty rust on the team car leapt over to the shiny monster. John Boy and I were impressed with the roller however Catherine informed us that the pair of them, the old fellow and the girlfriend, wanted to go to church and set off with Catherine driving the Rolls Royce, which ran out of fuel. Catherine had to go back to the house and get the manservant to come to the car and push it to a garage.
Yes, manservant. Seems that the old duffer was some sort of senior, military, officer in India and had brought back a manservant with him, as you do. I was overly impressed with the house as it would appear that he brought back most of the antiques in India with him too. We were sitting outside the front door of the house, having tea, when the manservant appeared. He was a fine figure of a man, and the turban added an extra eight inches to his appearance. I remembered having seen my first turban at Heathrow, do you? A very smart fellow, very dignified as well, as he allowed Catherine and myself to remain undisturbed as we practised some wrestling moves in the living room. Needless to say, the day had to come to an end, but we agreed to make more of an effort to see each other and we parted.
You may be thinking to yourselves, and I wouldn’t blame you if you were, but you may be thinking why on earth is this fellow telling us about this? We want more stories about Docker and the good ol boys; we want more swashbuckling and ribald behaviour. Well, as most young fellows who take a fancy to a young filly, I started to think wouldn’t it be nice to have a house like this, with a Rolls Royce and an Indian man servant and perhaps someone, say, like Catherine to share it with. Now do you understand?
Well, it was a nice idea at the time but after an enquiry or two I discovered that a tent and the team car were more within my reach, home wise. Mountain rescue novices didn’t get paid very much. But by being a good chap, working hard and not embarrassing the team, I could get promoted, earn more money and buy a bigger tent. This needed thinking about.
It was in fact one day when I was duty cook that the team suffered one of the most embarrassing incidents that could happen to a search and rescue team. We had established base camp outside Barmouth, a lovely little seaside town on the Welsh coast. We were spending time on the nursery slopes with Pib giving us expert instruction in stretcher work.
Our store man, Des Cowap, celebrated his twenty first birthday. I do remember that we were in the Royal British Legion club and as I came in I saw Des. He was smiling like a fool who had just peed himself and didn’t mind, and he was holding a pint of vodka in his hand. In fact he was having great difficulty finding the hole in his face where he wanted to pour more vodka.
I thought no more about it. Some local girls had wrapped themselves around Des and we allowed them to care for him, we had much more important things to do, like drink beer. Well; the next morning came around, as mornings tend to do. I was duty cook but was up at sparrow fart to make the tea, fire up the radios and shout at the sausages for spitting at me.
I took the tray of teas and coffees around the tents and woke everyone up. I suppose it was after most people had eaten that it was recognised that Des was nowhere to be seen. After a quick search of the tents, and the vehicles, it was established that Des was missing. Des was missing and the clock was ticking. Jack now had to go and begin telephoning the police to see if they had Des in one of their cells. No. Then telephone the hospitals to see if he had been admitted during the night. No. The route between the British Legion and base camp was checked and we agreed that Des was nowhere to be seen.
Jack then had to initiate a call out for Des. We asked the police to keep it low key and had to search the town for Des.
Luckily enough people, driving along a road close to Barmouth, complained to the police about the naked man walking along, trying to thumb a lift. Des was found and returned to base camp. I called the remainder of the team back and I have to admit that although the police were happy that Des was back with us, safe and sound, and had pulled some clothes on, they made no objection to the fact that he was now being tied up and dropped in the river we were next to.
Des, apparently woke up naked in an old caravan that a farmer used to store feed for his animals, he had no idea how he had got there and was happy that the gold chain, his mother had bought him for his birthday, was still in place around his neck.
I of course performed miracles in the cook shack. I was cooking beef. I’m afraid the quantities can only be described using the Paddy Cross method of weighing stuff. It was a big lump of meat. I kept looking at it in the oven and felt that there was not enough gravy. I wasn’t a gravy person, but I knew many were. The only gravy I could find was a small bottle of Camp gravy browning. I could see that the quantity within the bottle would not be enough to provide the gravy for all, so I poured the contents of the whole bottle over the huge lump of meat.
As I lay at the bottom of the river wondering how I could improve my cooking skills, the guys were slicing the black, tarred, meat off the outside of the joint of beef hoping there would be something edible in the centre. Seems that you mixed one teaspoon of the Camp, gravy browning, stuff to a pint of water. Ah well, acquiring culinary skills wouldn’t matter that much to me, for in the future I was going to have a manservant, who would do my cooking for me.