Celtic Illumination, part 144, Manly tears.
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As no one at Eastern Radar seemed to be interested in my return, I took my time coming back from Mervyns’. I got back to Watton in the late afternoon and organised myself. I spent far too long in the shower but believed that I should reward myself with a little luxury. Chunkie lived up to his name in the mess, and at tea time I had a feed fit for a King, which of course at that time I didn’t know that I was. After tea I went back to my room, I stretched out on my bed and just relaxed. I must have dosed off, for when I realised the time I saw that the bar would be open.
I grabbed my last bottle of grappa and went to the bar. I was pleased to see that there was only one other person in the bar. I sat down with Rick Stocks and enjoyed a beer or two. Rick was the most wonderful chap. He spoke with a received pronunciation accent. He told wonderful stories of life in Peru and I think Brazil, where he grew up. His father was an engineer, but a very important fellow. In fact I think Rick’s dad held some strange title like Knight of the Outstretched Lily and Guardian of The Fish.
Rick would tell tales of how he and his brother, at the age of seven or eight would drive a car while sitting on the roof. He told wonderful tales of long empty roads and a childhood that was thoroughly enjoyed. We finished the grappa thus ensuring we would both have a decent night’s sleep. I remembered a statement above a door, in a remote bar high in the Dolomite mountains, where Marissa had taken me. It was something along the lines of ‘Drink makes you sleep, sleep encourages dreams, in dreams we meet angels, so drink your fill and cheers to the angels’.
I reported for duty the following morning and was surprised that no one actually cared that I was a few days late. Most bizarre, but I wasn’t going to complain. Not many of the chaps at Eastern enjoyed going to work, and I was no exception. However many thought it strange that for a good number of days, on entering Eastern, I would have a huge smile on my face. I never told anyone why, but they all knew that something was up. The reason? The guard post at Eastern Radar was almost exactly the same as my superb accommodations at Venice airport, namely the ticket collectors office at the car park.
I checked my post and saw that there was a letter from Carol. I wondered why on earth she would be writing to me. I couldn’t believe that she might have cared about what had happened to me, although as I read it realised that I should have known better. My first memory of Carol was one Christmas when we had both gone home from boarding school to our house in Belfast. It may have been my first year at Violent Hell. It was Christmas Day and we were both outside. I think I was trying out my new shoes and not at all interested in the other children who were whizzing around on bikes and scooters.
Carol asked me if I had learned any swear words at school and I proudly admitted that I had. She asked me what words I had learned so I told her. What I hadn’t expected was that she would run into the house screaming ‘Mummy, mummy, he’s swearing at me!’ She then repeated the words to mum and dad and I got another thrashing. So I never really trusted her since then. I had expected that she would have told the parents every slight detail of my time in Italy and I’m sure she embellished her version of the story too. Now she had written to me and was asking for fifteen pounds to cover the cost of the electricity that we had used while in her flat.
I had put my films in to get developed and was happy to find that Irene was pleased to have me back. I couldn’t of course show her any of the movies as Images of Karen and Marissa might be hard to explain away. Even though they were silent movies I didn’t think I could cover that one up at all. I seemed to be spending a lot of time with Irene so my social life changed. I still played rugby and socialised with the guys, luckily for me Irene liked rugby, not the game; she liked the fact that the bar opened on kick off, so would quite often be squiffy by the end of the game.
Irene, along with the other wives and girlfriends certainly knew how to have a good time. However once, after quite a rough and brutal encounter, I found myself prostrate on the ground, unable to move. The medics attended and declared that I had ripped all the muscles along the left side of my chest and suggested that I should be stretchered off. I was quite surprised to hear Irene, along with the other girls, have massive fun remonstrating me and suggesting that I ‘man up’ and get back on the field of play. I would have been happy enough getting back on my feet never mind the field.
Martyn Bennet and I were on the same shift pattern so one day Martyn approached me and suggested that we both apply for a part time job at an onion factory. They were quite happy for us to work as and when we could so the flexibility appealed to us. Martyn and I pitched up and were surprised to discover that we were the only men in the factory, well on the factory floor.
Small onions were peeled at the factory so we were shown our work station, presented with a huge crate of onions, given a knife and told to peel. I was standing opposite Martyn and we set off. The ladies around us were whizzing through their onions while Martyn and I were proving to be quite the ham fisted pair. I can remember thinking that I would never succeed at this and I glanced over at Martyn who was standing, peeling onions, with tears streaming down his face. It was so funny and most of the women were having a fine old laugh at the pair of us, who were, when it came to peeling onions quite useless.
The manager came around and had pity on us so he suggested that we decant the onions from the trailer into the crate, weighing out equal amounts and deliver the crates to the women at the work stations. We accepted this task and told ourselves that we were weight training for rugby. It was such a relief to spend a day lifting heavy things rather than crying your eyes out.