Celtic Illumination, part 127, Gizzit!
I received a communication yesterday informing me that one of the Illuminati, John Clancy, will be undertaking a pilgrimage to Watton, where he intends to capture on film any remaining sites that may be of interest to other fellow Illuminati. John lives on the Isle of Man where he is head of security for the Isle of Man international airport. I wouldn’t like to be an international bad person intending to attack that airport with John around.
As with many military units the local civilian youth would entertain themselves by beating up the occasional lone straggler, who, normally with drink taken, would be an easy target for them. John appeared at breakfast in the Lodge one morning sporting a collection of bruises across his face. John knew who his attackers were but wouldn’t entertain any suggestion that we returned to Watton village, mob handed, and return the favour. John was determined to bide his time and engage each one of his attackers on a one to one basis. If the local youth knew that John had applied to join the SAS they may never have attacked him in the first place.
John was quite a decent sportsman he was also a very good looking fellow. In fact he was almost as good looking as I was. It was often remarked that we looked quite similar, so John and I used to tell people that we were twins. As John had a strong London accent and I an Irish accent, you could see people begin to wonder how on earth twins could have such different accents. We would explain that we were separated at birth and had just met after twenty odd years. We got many a free beer with that story.
And it was one evening I was enjoying a beer at the bar in the Lodge when the rugby guys came in from training. The rugby team was captained and run by Jon Hampson. Jon was a lovely fellow; he had been brought up in South Africa. His father used to fly spitfires and his wife was Irish, from Downpatrick, so as you can imagine a very decent chap indeed. Jon was with a fellow called Paddy Coughlan who helped coach the team.
We began to chat and it was suggested that I should come along and join in with the rugby. I explained that this would be impossible. I had never played rugby before in my life, didn’t really know much about it, however if they would be interested in forming a hurling team I was their man. As is often said, a good story never starts with ‘I was having a cup of tea,’ so after a few more beers I agreed to join in with their training sessions.
As agreed, the following week I got my togs on and went to the rugby pitch for training. There was lots of standard running about and press ups and stuff but then we began to practise specific moves. The first was a line out. This is where both teams line up at the side of the pitch, at the point where the ball had left the field of play, and the ball is returned to play by being thrown between the two lines of men. They even had secret signals to inform their own men who the ball was intended for, this allowed the other players to support and protect that person.
I shall never forget my very first line out. I was with Gary Palmer and Martyn Bennett at the front. The ball was thrown and I jumped to catch it. Suddenly the world went black and became quite painful. Martyn Bennett, who claimed to be going for the ball, had thumped me. How he intended to catch a ball with a closed fist I shall never know. I was led off to the medical centre where my split eyebrow was sewn back together again. Rather than put me off rugby I began to like it. Not just the game but the social life that went along with it.
Tim Lort had come down from Valley as had Steve Underhill and the rugby club soon became the centre of all things social. We trained hard and played hard and socialised hard. Now I was one of the ones getting Wednesday afternoons off. We played for Watton, some of us played for Honington too and then some of us also played for the local town of Wymondham.
There was an old wooden cricket pavilion which was used as the rugby club. It had a great wee bar, run by Jon Hampson and where we spent many a happy hour. The club was decorated with road signs and gizzits from all over the country. A ‘gizzit’ is a short form of ‘give me it’. It was tradition, in fact throughout the air force, that if you went to visit somewhere, even for a game of rugby you would steal something from your opponent; this could be a road sign, a plaque, in fact almost anything.
I wasn’t very good at rugby, I was perhaps a mediocre player, but there were people like Tim Lort who was terrifying when in full flight. Tim normally held the number eight position, leading the pack of forwards. Jon Hampson would lead the backs and Jon was a very decent player but I have to say that John Hughes was one of the best players I had ever seen in my life. As you might expect from a Welshman, John Hughes was poetry in motion.
We slaughtered many brain cells in that club and were always upset when the cricketers would remind us that it was their club and not ours. Taff Pope was once so incensed with this attitude that, while we watched from the bar, he took the land rover and cut huge gouges in the carefully manicured cricket pitch by spinning the wheels and completing hand brake turns.
I can’t remember where we had been playing but a group of the lads were returning from a match in Tim’s campervan. As you might expect they were messing about and one was actually pretending to talk on a telephone that had officially been declared a gizzit. A policeman spotted this and decided to investigate further. I understand that Norfolk country council were very pleased to get most of their road signs back.
I do remember one day a couple of us had gone to play for Wymondham, I think there was Tim Lort and John Clancy and myself. We got changed and came outside. It was mid-winter and the ground was rock hard and covered in cold white stuff. We stood against the wall of the changing rooms to stay out of the wind when I had a great idea. I ran over to Tim’s campervan and stood in front of the grill informing the other two that by standing in front of the grill we could get some heat from the engine. I hadn’t expected my good idea to be met with jocularity and laughter. But that’s what John and Tim did. Having controlled themselves they sauntered over to the rear of the vehicle and my long lost twin brother, in his best London accent, informed me, “The engine’s in the back, you fecking idiot!”