Celtic Illumination, part 129, The Pheasant Plucker.
There are many more new members of the Illuminati to whom I would offer a warm and friendly welcome. For those of you now in mild shock, believing that you are now affiliates of some double top secret world governing cult, relax. The Illuminati are those who are following Celtic Illumination, the story of the world’s leading Master Candle Maker, the High Chief of the Clan O Neill and the true King of Ireland. It would be unfair to those who have read from the beginning to recap, but the newer members are asking questions. Why is the King of Ireland at Watton?
Well; when I was at Watton, I knew nothing about my real life. I had been told that my mother died giving birth to me in Belfast, my father had left the country to pursue his career and I had been given to the nuns. What I have recently discovered is that like the Dali Lama, there was a battle hardened snatch squad of Carmelite nuns who scoured Ireland for the next High Chief of the Clan O Neill; these are the nuns who spirited me away. Since then, unbeknownst to me, my life had been structured to prepare me for the important task of leading the Irish people. I promise you, there was a very important reason for me to be a Pheasant Plucker.
Most military units have nicknames. Eastern radar at Watton was no different, we were called Pheasant Pluckers. There were a couple of reasons for this, the first being that we were in Norfolk, the centre of the pheasant world. Secondly it would have been the popular ditty, The Pheasant Plucking Song, which starts, “I’m not a pheasant plucker, I’m a pheasant plucker’s son, I’m only plucking pheasant’s ‘till the pheasant plucker comes.” As you can imagine, this would prove a most popular ditty, especially after a few beers, when the proper pronunciation would be difficult, to say the least.
If you Google the first line, I’m sure you will find the complete words of the song, which you should make your family attempt to sing at Christmas after a small sherry or two. We just didn’t sing about pheasants. We worked a very strange shift system at Eastern, which was two days on, one day off, then two days on and three days off. Over an eight week period we would work an average of forty two hours a week so no great shakes. What it did mean is that we had long periods of free time and occasionally would go and work as beaters on the local farms for ‘a shoot’.
Many of the guys would look on this activity as either a pleasant day spent wandering about the countryside shouting at birds, others looked at it as a way of getting a few spare Shekels which could be converted into beer that evening. I, on the other hand, felt as if I was in a Thomas Hardy novel. I know I’m strange at the best of times, but the whole thing was so rural and English. The pheasant season runs from October to February so it’s pretty much winter and therefore bleak. The Thomas Hardy fans amongst you will know what I mean.
I however had greater things to achieve, I had to get back to aircrew so had my serious head on for a lot of the time. I also didn’t have a motor car which is a problem that needed to be addressed. Walking to work wasn’t much fun as you probably would just have had a meal. The cook in the Lodge was known as Chunky, because of the size of his portions, so we were always very well fed. On your way to work you probably felt like enjoying a cigarette, or strolling along in tune with nature, whereas the failed fast jet pilots would have a different idea, they thought we should march and look smart and wear berets.
Walking to work I found was most dangerous as I had to pass John Fellingham’s. This was a second hand car sales room and temptation loomed large. Along the front line of cars for sale, there were always a line of Jaguars, which called out to me like sirens. There is only so much a normal human being can resist, royal lineage or not, and eventually I found myself being drawn across the road to admire the motorcars. I’m not sure what it was about Jaguars, or why I was drawn to them. It could be the sheer power they have, or the fact that it was socially accepted that Jaguars were driven by young gentlemen, or the Sweeny. I was taken with one of the cars at Fellingham’s. It was British racing green, it had wire spoke wheels it had a 3.8 litre engine and it was a mk2 Jaguar.
John Fellingham saw me slavering over the car and came out, he encouraged me to take it for a spin and I did. I was in heaven. It was like sitting in a comfy leather armchair and when you pressed the accelerator, the front of the bonnet lifted, as the power went through the wheels and into the road. I was in love and on my return to Fellingham’s announced that I should buy it. It was hugely expensive. Five hundred and fifty pounds sterling. But it was mine. Not only was I acting like a young gentleman should, well; as far as the Wing Commander was concerned, but now I would cut a dash like a young gentleman should and in such an appropriate vehicle. By the way, that car today would cost in excess of twenty thousand pounds.
I pulled up outside the Lodge and leaving the car swaggered toward the Lodge. I expected the chaps to be suitably impressed, as raw power was something most young men idolised, however rather than be greeted by the ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ of impressed young men, I was greeted with the monotone whine of, “Is that thing registered on camp?” from the local copper. He had managed to snap me back into reality like the elastic on a new pair of shreddies. “I’ve just bought it,” I stammered, realising that there was a whole process I would have to go through, registering the vehicle on camp, which would mean getting it taxed and insured.
I drove into Watton and went to the insurance shop. I produced the paperwork and asked for a quote. I then asked them to check the quote and probably did so more than once. I had stretched myself financially to buy the car and was now in the position to find that the insurance was double the cost of the car. There was no way on God’s earth that I could afford the insurance. I was heartbroken but realised that I should return the car to John Fellingham and get my money back.
I’m not sure if cooling off periods, or consumer rights, even existed in those days but I went back to Fellingham’s and explained that I had discovered that I couldn’t afford the insurance on the car. Because of this I asked if he would take it back and return my money, after all I had only been driving it around for a few days, well; a week or two. He looked at me as if I were some sort of fool. He explained that this would be impossible and I should have checked the insurance out before I agreed to buy the car.
Eventually he agreed to take the Jaguar back, but, he would keep the money and when a motorcar, which I wanted to buy, and for which I could afford the insurance, came in, we could then work out a deal. I was still reeling from the cost of the insurance and wasn’t really aware that this fellow was a con man of the highest calibre. Tell you what I said, “You take the car back, keep hold of my money, but give me a part time job so I can keep an eye on the new cars coming in, and, be able to afford whatever the insurance costs.” He agreed and so I began being trained as a high powered executive in the motor trade, which, believe it or not, involved washing loads of cars and cleaning the insides out.