Celtic Illumination, part 126, driven to drink
The setup at Eastern was quite strange, quite unlike anywhere else in the air force. One duty, which you either loved or hated, was to man the tea bar. It was basically a kitchen; on one side you had the officers and civilian controllers, while on the other side you had us, the oiks. The Corporals had their own crew room. When manning the tea bar you would make tea and coffee, on demand, and toasted tea cakes which everyone loved. Can still taste them sweet, and warm, and dripping with butter. I liked manning the tea bar because you could spend all day listening to the radio.
They had a training team at Eastern so you would be taken through each position and ‘trained up’. At the beginning you would only be trained on height finders, so you would spend your time either asleep or bored silly on heights, or else snapping out smart salutes on the main gate. Another decent position would be duty driver. Here at least you could get out and about, sometimes heading over to Honington.
As we were young and stupid, well, I will admit to being young and stupid, we would have a bit of fun on shift change. Sometimes we would use the land rover to change shifts, picking the new shift up at the Lodge dropping them at Eastern then taking the old shift, your shift, off. I can remember that if I saw anyone walking to or from work, while driving along, I would take the land rover over to them. I wouldn’t offer them a lift, but as Mick Elsegood often reminds me, I would chase them along the narrow paths, rearranging the shrubbery as I went. Mick is now a thespian air trafficker at Inverness international airport. So will you all please turn towards Inverness and wave to Mick. He says he still looks nervously over his shoulder any time he begins walking along a path.
Peter Browne, he of the ironed underpants, was at Eastern. The pair of us had been ordered to attend court, don’t worry, we often did sit on each other’s bed, but I can assure you, all of our feet remained firmly on the ground. It would have been January or February time. I will apologise now for I know I have a cine film of this escapade up in my loft, I’ve been meaning to get it transferred to DVD but haven’t got around to it yet. We decided that we would drive over to Valley and we would use my car, the Vauxhall Victor I had bought from Paddy O Reardon at Valley.
Being young, Peter and I thought that an overnight drive would be no problem at all. We should have clear roads which would encourage faster speeds and therefore a smooth and quick journey. Unfortunately the heating didn’t work and as I said it was winter time. It was late in the evening and it was dark and we were spraying de-icer on the inside of the windshield. Eventually it was so bad and so cold we found a layby and using everything available in the car wrapped up warm and slept.
I can’t really remember where about in the country we were, apart from a lay by in the middle of nowhere. But that was no problem as I could of course ask the policeman who had pulled up behind us in the lay by. Peter and I climbed out of my car and came to meet the copper who was standing at the rear of our vehicle. He saw our uniforms on the back seat and asked where we were off to. We explained that we were on our way to court at Valley and quickly added that we were witness for the prosecution and not the fecking guilty bustards your honour.
He pointed to the passenger side rear wheel which was flat. I opened the boot and rummaged about for the jack. Being Paddy’s old car this had two jacks neither of which fitted the Vauxhall. The policeman suggested that he get his jack from his patrol car. He jacked the Vauxhall up and removed the old wheel, which he advised should not have been on the car, as there was not much tread on it. I passed him a replacement wheel which he declared was worse than the one he had just taken off. I have to say he was brilliant. Peter and I were leaping, about trying to warm up and jump start our bodies, and the police man changed the wheel for us.
Soon we were on our way and I knew that when I returned to Watton I would have to seriously think about changing my car. We had a wonderful time meeting all the guys at Valley. The police had charged the ring leaders of the Viet Taff who had attacked us at the Trearddur bay hotel. There were three of them and I don’t think any of us had been in a court room before, so we all found it very interesting, especially when the list of previous convictions were read out. We couldn’t believe that these fellows were allowed to walk the streets. They received a very light sentence and we sent on their way. The whole exercise felt like a waste of time.
Peter and I returned to Watton, this time driving in daylight hours. I had learned my lesson about night time driving, almost. I was duty driver for a night shift. This meant that after ferrying the shifts to and from work, you could really curl up in a corner and go to sleep. I had curled up in a corner and was snoozing away when my shift Corporal came in. He woke me up and told me that I had to drive to RAF Marham.
A signal, that was far too secret to come through over our network, was waiting for me at Marham. I had to go and collect it and bring it back pronto. I was so highly trained, I marched straight out to the land rover and drove off, still wiping the sleep from my eyes. Norfolk is one of those areas that encourages huge banks of fog to come along and sit on the countryside. I remember driving through Watton village quite fast as the street lights gave me a bit of decent visibility, but once back out into the countryside I really had to slow down. I got to the main road, turned right and continued to drive.
I was concentrating so hard on staying on the road that it hadn’t yet occurred to me that I didn’t know where Marham was. Not only did I not know where Marham was, I didn’t know where I was. I was lost. I crept along the road for miles and for those of you accustomed to the Norfolk roads you know that many of them are almost single tracks with huge water filled ditches on either side, add to this the dark of night, and fog so thick you could knit a jumper with and you get some idea of what I was faced with.
Luckily I found a telephone box and was able to have Eastern pin point my location and give me directions to Marham. I got there and collected the double top secret signal and brought it back to Eastern. I was so chuffed not to have completed the journey, but to find that the signal had actually come though on our network so in fact there was no need for me to go to Marham at all.