Celtic Illumination, part 165, Video killed the radio star.
A letter arrived. It had been sent to Watton and had been forwarded on to me in Germany. It was quite obvious from the hand writing and the post mark that it was from my mother who hadn’t spoken to me since my father’s funeral. In fact none of my family had bothered contacting me. My sister Carol, down in Trento in Italy, was getting married and they wanted to know if I would give her away. It was to be a big affair. It was to be held in the oldest chapel in Trento and officiated over by an Italian monk and the two uncle priests. Both auntie nuns were coming as well, there would be two choirs. The service was to be in Irish, Latin and Italian. It certainly gave me something to think about.
It wasn’t the sort of thing you could speak to someone about. It would be very hard to admit that your family were a bunch of religious lunatics, not that they were my family, but you know what I mean. There was plenty of opportunity to chat when running the squadron during the evenings; it was quite a relaxing time. One evening Derek Aldous, that’s Squadron Leader Aldous to you, Derek was chatting away when he asked if I had ever tasted the Dutch beer Grolsch. I hadn’t and told him so.
One of my duties was to manage the aircrew driver. This was a MT driver with a minibus who would be used to pick up and drop off aircrew, or items that would relate to aircrew duties. Derek told the driver to go to the officer’s mess where he was to collect a package for him, but the package was to be taken and placed on the back seat of my car. Off went the driver as Derek telephoned the officers mess and told them to put a crate of Grolsch on his bar bill and give it to the aircrew driver who was on his way up to the mess.
Derek then told me that I was to drink the Grolsch and if I liked it I could pay him for it, if I didn’t like it then fair enough. At that time we enjoyed an exchange rate of four deutschemarks to the pound sterling. A crate of Grolsch contained twenty bottles and cost twenty deutschmark. Yes, five quid for a crate of premium beer. It wasn’t that much of a big thing for I remember getting home and setting the crate on our balcony and not really thinking about it again.
Then one evening Derek really freaked me out. He brought in his latest toy, a Sharp video camera and recorder. This contraption was referred to as portable and it was, although the word cumbersome may have been left out of the description. I was taken with the equipment and realised that this technology would be replacing my cine camera. No more visits to the chemist to have the film developed. I was so impressed that the following day I went to the largest NAAFI about, which was at RAF Rheindahlen, the main headquarters for British forces in Germany. It had a huge NAAFI complex so I knew they should have them in stock.
They did, well there was one on the shelf, so I asked the sales assistant if I could buy it and was saddened to hear her say no. Seems that they were so popular they had sold out and she couldn’t sell the one on the shelf as it was for display purposes only. The video camera and recorder cost four thousand deutschmark, which for those of you who can remember the exchange rate we enjoyed, and are good at mental arithmetic, realise that that’s a lot of money. I was quite annoyed but used to the poor service from the NAAFI, which always did live up to the name we had for it which was No Ambition And Feck all Interest.
The manager of the NAAFI shop at Wildenrath was a friend of mine and a member of the rugby club so was duty bound to fix this small favour for me. I drove to Wildenrath and went in to see him. “I want one of those Sharp video camera and recorders,” I said, holding the four thousand deutschmarks out to him. I know; I can be very forceful when I want to. “We don’t have them,” he says, adding. “You can only get them at Rheindahlen.” “They’re out of stock!” says I, wondering how I could get around this little snag in my brilliant plan. But as usual someone would come along and burst my little bubble of self-content. “Why do you want one of those anyway?” asked my friend, the NAAFI manager. “You don’t even have a television set.”
It was a fair point I suppose. Up to then we had a music centre that combined a record player, a cassette recorder and player and a radio. We simply listened to the radio, or music, and read books. I suppose it was time for me to join the modern world so I drove my little Beetle home with boxes poking out of the sunroof and windows. I ended up buying a television set, a video recorder and player, a stacking hi fi system and two units to house the lot. Luckily enough I learned that the station education centre had bought two of the Sharp portable video recorders, which could be hired out for a few deutschemarks a day and that could fill my needs until I could get my very own.
Next thing you know is that the people, who lived above us, knock at the door one Friday evening. We had never met them but had heard them plenty of times. He was some sort of Sergeant and offered me five video films, explaining that they had seen me carry in all my boxes and knew we now had a video player. He explained that they had a very busy social life, which was code for piss heads, and were also members of a local mobile video service. So every Friday, as a part of the contract they agreed to, they would be given five, what the service considered to be, popular videos. Would I be interested in looking at the movies and telling them which ones were worth watching. I accepted but my only request, in return, was that they try and get me the Blues Brothers on video.
Irene and I decided that we would go to Carols wedding and we invited my old rugby buddy from Watton, Pete Chidgely, and his wife Gail, to join us. It was great fun sitting at the dining table with an aeronautical map planning our journey. The plan was to drive down through Luxembourg and into France. We would travel south through France and into Switzerland. I would cross Switzerland into Italy and go down to Milan, across to Verona and up to Trento. Once I had given Carol away, unless I could get a few bob for her, we would head north into Austria from where we would cross back into Germany, Bavaria and back home. I could rent a video camera from the station educators and record our trip. It was all so simple and straightforward, what could possibly go wrong.