Celtic Illumination, part 109, All in a spin
As you might imagine I was not impressed and it didn’t take long for me to be standing in front of the senior air trafficker wanting to know why I had been chosen for this detachment. The SATCO explained that the situation was out of his hands, he had not made the decision. It would appear that Cranwell had put in a very specific request and it was Innsworth who had produced a list of names of people who would have been suitable for the job. Muggins was at the top of the list.
I was given four days warning. I had certainly been thinking about my future and as you all know was aiming for a Victorian red bricked mansion, with a turban wearing Indian man servant and the obligatory Rolls Royce parked outside. I knew that the system was slow so I filled out an application to be considered for sergeant aircrew, again. I hoped that when I returned from Cranwell the application might have been wherever it had to go and come back again.
This was a career decision that I had actually made rather than leave my future to chance. I do remember one discussion we had on mountain rescue about trades and ranks and the age old question came up, ‘What would you do if you were about to join up again but knew everything that you know now?’ Some interesting observations were made, the most interesting for me, was from Paddy Cross. Paddy said that everyone wanted to be a fighter pilot, but he said imagine that you were a fighter pilot. You would be ranked alongside other fighter pilots, chaps and chapesses who were just as good as you, just as able and just as keen to get promoted. It would be hard work.
So, suggested Paddy, imagine if you were capable of becoming a fighter pilot but instead became a steward. It was an interesting proposition as steward was officially the lowest trade in the air force, intelligence wise that is. Paddy’s theory was that by doing this you would get promoted extremely fast. Actually a few years later I was talking with a chap who told me that there was a genuine, official, pecking order for trades and that yes, the thickest set of chaps in the air force were stewards, the next were drivers and the next air traffic control. I felt so good when I heard that.
I did see the argument for Paddy’s suggestion but I preferred the notion that the sergeant aircrew, air electronics, branch was a relatively new branch within the air force so after a year or two, as sergeant, promotion would be available. Plus, the upper echelons of the trade would be wide open, so gaining a commission and clambering up the officer ranks was a very possible scenario and one which appealed to me.
As part of my leaving interview the SATCO accepted my application but said that he wouldn’t submit it yet. He wanted me to act as a young gentleman would for six months and after that, if I had stayed out of trouble for the six months, he would submit my application. Some of you may remember that I explained that there are only two positions in the air force, fast jet pilot and failed fast jet pilot. Well; all air traffic controllers are failed fast jet pilots and they carry a huge chip on their shoulders for the remainder of their careers which is why they pretend they are refined, educated and of course better than everyone else. I had already been through the Biggen Hill officer and aircrew selection centre and passed. I had been classed as a natural leader, why was I being forced to play this fellow’s pathetic game?
I wasn’t in the best of moods when I arrived at Cranwell. I arrived there on a Sunday afternoon ready to start work on the Monday morning. Work! Answering a telephone and writing stuff down. I ask you. I was put into a twenty man room. Thankfully I was the only person in the room. I found the mess and had some tea. I was pleased to hear that there was an electric piss up that evening in the club, so half a dozen beers and chasing a few pretty girls might take my mind off things.
Unfortunately the beer was quite nice and I got hammered. I even met a young lady and we decided that we should go outside and enjoy the evening air. The club was part of a small complex. There were telephone kiosks, a NAAFI shop, a post office and even a laundrette. As we came outside we decided that it would be nice to find somewhere quiet and secluded so that we could have our wicked way with each other. As it was my first night at Cranwell I didn’t know the area, so we wandered around the complex looking for a suitable dark corner, or open door.
I pushed the door of the laundrette which opened and we went in. I think there was a bit of a chill outside so it was nice to get inside and have a bit of privacy. As you do, we moved away from the main door and went to the furthest corner. We began to check each other for lumps or bumps and then, as a joke, discovered that the young lady was well positioned and quite comfortable, sitting on a washing machine, while I remained standing. Please understand that the pair of us had been drinking heavily and were young and single. As a joke I put ten pence in the washing machine, she was sitting on, and started it up.
It was interesting despite being slightly noisy and we continued with our canoodling.
Please do not think that I am trying to portray myself as being some sort of lothario or stud. As I said before we were both drunk, which is of course no excuse, but I am no prevert and would not wish to go into details or have an audience. Despite this, we did have an audience and because of our inebriated state we hadn’t realised that the lights had flicked on and the station guard were stood standing watching us.
As a civilian the young lady was released and allowed to re-join her friends I however was escorted to the guardroom where the guard commander wanted to know why I had forced entry into the laundrette. Had he noticed the guard members giggling their friggen heads off, he may have had a clue that I wasn’t a hardened criminal.
I managed to convince him that the door was open when I came to it. It would appear that the guard commander knew that there was a time lock on the door and that it should have been locked at the time I was there. After an inspection it was announced that I wasn’t lying and that the lock had malfunctioned. It was now working perfectly and the launderette was secure. I was then allowed to return to my room and my pit. Little did I know that the following morning, the latest gossip would arrive at air traffic control, half an hour before I did.