Celtic Illumination, part 121, Left hand down a bit.
Any new person, on any unit, or squadron, was going to get stitched up. There were the standard ploys of sending someone for a glass hammer, or a bubble for a spirit level, or for a long stand. You would always telephone ahead and say ‘I’ve just sent such and such over for a long stand.’ Some people could be left standing in a corner for half an hour without realising that they in fact had been set up. We had a special one for drivers in air traffic. For those of you not familiar with military land rovers, they are simple, straight forward, machines. Normally they would have two petrol tanks, one under the driver’s seat and one under the passenger seat.
On the front of the driver’s seat, at the base, was a lever. It leaned toward whichever petrol tank you were using, or diesel if you were a tree hugging freak. By placing the lever in the dead centre, the land rover would run for twenty or thirty yards and then cough itself to a stop. The new drivers would be radioing for help and panicking in case they had broken the thing, whereas the hairy arses would just reach down and switch it to the tank with the least fuel. We were lucky in a way that if we broke a land rover you just took it back to MT and got another one. MT were not impressed, but as Winston Churchill once said to the house of commons, tough titties.
We had two land rovers at Valley, one for air traffic and one for bird scaring duties. Now as I‘ve said before, this was not creeping up behind a pretty young lady at the electric piss up and shouting ‘Boo!’ This was scaring the feathered variety off the airfield. But there was a third land rover that was used for the daily, Mona airfield, detachment. This would be left at Valley overnight. Sometimes we would take the Mona land rover and disappear into the sand dunes.
There was a young fellow at Valley who was so full of life, and enjoyed living it to the full, in fact he made a point of it. I am surprised that he is still with us. We have met him before, Tim Lort. Tim was a lovely fellow; he was very tall, about six feet six. He was physically a standard build, but his hands were like shovels, and his knuckles like golf balls. He always wore a wide smile and was great fun. Tim and I had a game we played which we called chicken. Now I’ve explained about the bird scaring so don’t make me explain about ‘Chicken’, you should already know what that implies.
The pair of us would go into the sand dunes in one land rover. The passenger would have to sit, without seat belt, and place his hands on his knees. The driver would have to catch a rabbit or a hare. Now I don’t mean that the driver would leap out of the land rover and try to entice a rabbit, or a hare, with a juicy carrot and pounce on the thing when it got close enough. No, the driver would try to catch a bunny with the land rover. He would try to run the fecking thing over. If the passenger flinched, he was a chicken.
Rabbits, and hares, are quite fast little creatures, so speed was off the essence. And sand dunes are not known for their straight and level features so as you can imagine, there was always lots of revving, and swerving, and sliding, and crashing, and swearing, mustn’t forget the swearing. I do remember coming out of the dunes one evening, it was just getting dark and Tim was driving the Mona land rover. I got in to the Valley air traffic land rover and we were driving back to air traffic when Tim called me up on the radio, saying that his headlights were not working.
A list of suitable excuses began shooting through my head for MT, if we couldn’t fix the problem ourselves. I turned to go back to Tim and almost fell out of my vehicle with laughter. Tim was sitting there, checking his switches and controls but I could see that his head lights were on. We had given the land rover such a hammering, that the two head lamp units had popped out of their casings and were dangling in front of the land rover, swinging away like the lenses on a pair of joke spectacles. Thankfully it was something we could fix ourselves, so MT didn’t have to know anything about it. However not all our escapades went unnoticed.
Tim was driving, I was the passenger. I hope all you members of the Illuminati have read enough of my words to understand exactly what I mean. I know there’s this awful tendency to say one thing and mean another. When I say Tim was full of life and lived it to the full, this was a polite way of saying that he was a raging lunatic. I can’t really say that, because he does read this blog, is very rich and successful and could afford nasty lawyers, but let’s just say I can’t call him a lunatic because he wasn’t certified. Although he probably should have been; well; if I’m being truthful I suppose I should have been as well.
Take for example a long night shift. A night shift would run from five o clock one evening until eight o clock the following morning. By the time you finish you have probably been awake for twenty four hours. You come out of air traffic as Tim and I did. The Heavens have opened and the rain is lashing down. What do you do? Okay, let me rephrase that, what does a sensible person do? Correct, they go to their accommodation, get into a nice warm bed and get some sleep. Okay what would we do? ‘Fancy some skateboarding?’ asks Tim, and me being the sensible young fellow I was, agreed that this would be an excellent idea. Tim had found this remote road with a perfect hill, so in thunderous rain, Tim and I spent an enjoyable morning skateboarding up and down a very wet hill. Told you we were lunatics, but happy with it. And do you know, I think those four hours skateboarding, were far better for us than four hours of sleep.
So here’s the two of us in the sand dunes. The beautiful little bunnies are scattering everywhere, as we rearrange the ecosystem in the sand dunes, and at speed may I add. One little fecker executed a wonderful side step, but I don’t think it knew that Tim was an accomplished rugby player who pre-empted the bunnie and aimed the land rover at a spot where he knew the furry little fecker would end up.
Now to see skilled sportsmen execute a calculated play is wonderful. To actually be involved in it, was something else, however I felt that I saw a slight chink in Tim’s armour, for although all his side stepping rugby calculations were correct, they would have been correct on a flat rugby pitch and not on a sand dune with a forty five degree slope. The land rover now sat perilously balanced, for a second or two, and in slow motion, honest, ask Tim if you don’t believe me, in slow motion it began to sink onto its drivers side.
Being alert young airmen we recognised the implications of this action and reacted accordingly. Tim jumped out, closed the driver’s door and put his shoulder under the land rover in an attempt to stop it falling all the way over. I however was creased up with laughter. Tim saw the funny side as well but the firemen didn’t. I have never heard anyone moan so much. Oh no, it’s Jonah. What are you doing in the sand dunes? We lied; we couldn’t say that we were chasing bunny rabbits. We probably came out with some horse shit that a faulty bird scaring cartridge had fallen in to the dunes so we went to find it and make sure that it wouldn’t cause a fire.
Tim and I left the dunes that evening with sore faces. I hadn’t laughed so much in a long time. And yes, we did learn our lesson. We wouldn’t be rolling any more land drovers in the sand dunes. Oh no, we now knew not to employ so much left hand down on the steering wheel in the future, when traversing a sand dune at speed.