Celtic Illumination, part 201, Dementia pugilistica.
It is normally during times of great stress, when people are under enormous pressure, that certain individuals will have an ‘eureka’ moment. I, as you will remember, was being interviewed by a Squadron Leader and a Wing Commander at the Officer and Aircrew Selection Centre at RAF Biggen Hill, OASC. I was under so much stress and pressure that I had my very own ‘eureka’ moment. You are probably aware of just how lucky you are being a member of the Illuminati as you are constantly being given information that destroys most things you have been brought up to believe, such as the fact that pillows cause what is normally know as hangovers, not alcohol. Well; stand by for another revelation.
I know that the two officers were probably sitting there saying to themselves that this fellow, me, was absolutely perfect for the air force and that they should probably just make me a Wing Commander and give me my very own Spitfire there and then. Of course as a fully paid up member of the good ol boys I could only have a Spitfire with a go faster stripe, a sixteen foot long whiplash aerial and an eight track in the cockpit. They probably thought I looked super cool and relaxed but what they were not aware of is that world war three, four and five were raging away inside my head.
You’ve probably heard various scientists and eminent professors’ blether on about how the brain has two sides, well; they’re wrong. And I shall now prove it. They say that every person has a left brain and a right brain. The two different sides of the brain control two different types of thinking. The left brain is the “logical” side while the right brain is the “creative” side. Perhaps if they had said every ‘normal’ person has a left brain and a right brain, there may have been an ounce of truth in their statement. Logical thought is supposed to come from the left brain while creative thought comes from the right brain and whichever side you favour, determines the type of person you are.
Well; I was sat sitting there being interviewed and the right hand side of my brain was very pleased with itself, as it had heard me answer certain questions in a most creative way. My left hand side however was quite upset that I couldn’t even answer the simplest question such as what do the letters NATO stand for. Unfortunately an argument started and the two sides of my brain were kicking lumps out of each other. So; if both the left hand side of my brain and the right hand side were engaged in, what we could call, cranium to cranium combat, who was answering the questions, for I was still talking while all this was going on in my head? Ergo, that’s Latin by the way which roughly translated means to prove, in a conclusive and scientific way, just how correct I am, there has to be a third side to the brain, there may be a fourth, I am not sure. So; if we have left and right, why not add front and back to the categories? And please let’s not have any comments along the lines of me talking through my back side.
Perhaps this is not the place to discuss serious scientific topics so I’ll write a proper paper and submit it to Warrenpoint University after tea. After forty five minutes the interview was over and I was led away from the interview room. I was punched drunk; I really was stunned, caught in the proverbial headlights of, ‘What the feck just happened there?’ I returned to the reception area and sat myself down. Everything was grey; I was unsure how I had performed. There was a mixture of wishing I had said certain things differently, of being pleased with some things I had said and of total disbelief at how fecking stupid I had been in other cases.
They had to shout twice when they called me for my medical. I was measured and prodded and pulled and poked and weighed. My eyesight was checked, they were very thorough and before I knew it I was sat outside waiting. There was one number prominent in most people’s heads and that was if you were successful, with the first part of the selection process, you would be invited to stay and undergo the second part. This would be approached in groups of six or as they called them ‘syndicates’. I didn’t concern myself with how they could be so number specific with their results, but could see that they had a target to meet and some people would, or could, be very close to the success or failure line, if they only selected in multiples of six.
I was told that the president of the medical board wanted to see me and I hoped that I wasn’t going to be one of the borderline casualties. I went in to find an old duffer in a charcoal grey, pin striped, suit. I sat down before him. “We would prefer people to be spot on with their weight,” he began, only glancing at me. The old alarm bells were ringing away, on every one of the sides of my brain, as he wouldn’t establish nor maintain eye contact with me. “You are at the upper end of the weight range we would be willing to accept for aircrew training so I am a bit concerned about you. I mean do you think you would be able to lose half a stone before your aircrew training would begin?”
“You haven’t even looked at my file, have you?” I said, wondering which side of my brain had come up with that. It was a logical statement and it was also quite creative, as he would now have to look in my file. There was also an Irish flavour to it, as in a challenge, looks like I was talking out of my back side again. The president of the medical board opened my personnel file that sat in front of him on his desk. He drew his finger down the first page, closed the file and signed my form. “As far as I am concerned,” he said. “You are air crew fit, you have passed the medical.” I wandered back to the reception area. I knew I had passed the medical. I was still at Biggen Hill, so there was a good chance I had passed the tests and a decent chance I had passed the interview, but you could never tell.
The reception area was a large room. In one corner high on a wall was a television that had been playing a continuous loop of air force promotional adverts, a bit like preaching to the converted if you ask me. The television was now showing some cricket match. The chairs were arranged in an oblong or square formation. I knew that everyone in the room, every candidate, was counting how many people were in the room and dividing that number by six. I stood behind a line of chairs and let my mind unwind. There was just so much going on in my head I didn’t notice a fellow come in behind me and walk up to stand beside me.
“What’s the score on the cricket?” he asked, and I turned to see the person I detested most in the world. It was Wing Commander Brown from Watton. One of the useless air traffickers who had messed me about, the one who had eventually passed Andy Swetman for aircrew, the one who had told Tim Lort he wouldn’t promote him to Corporal, never mind allow him to be assessed for aircrew. This was the rugby referee who would warn me, and me alone, before rugby matches, that he would officiate at, that he was watching me. We both looked at each other and understood exactly what we thought of each other. “What are you doing here?” he asked, then added, while holding out his hand. “Sorry that’s a stupid question.” He went on to explain that he was in room ‘F’. That’s ‘F’ for failure.
Anyone who failed, at whatever point during the assessment, was sent to room ‘F’ where this Wing Commander Brown would inform them that they had failed and what bus they should catch. The perfect man for such a horrible job. We both faced toward the television set standing in silence, we had nothing to say to each other. We heard the double entrance doors behind us swing shut and we both turned to see who had entered. All I saw was a pair of shoulders with so much rank I froze. I turned back while the person who had entered came and stood on the other side of me. It was the guy in charge of OASC Biggen Hill, Air Commodore D L F Thornton. God himself was standing next to me.
The Air Commodore leaned forward and said to Wing Commander Brown, while nodding toward the television. “What’s the score?” “Sorry sir, I don’t know,” said Brown. “I’ve just come in.” “Oh,” said the Air Commodore, adding. “Well, there’s no point in asking Paddy, he hates cricket.”