Celtic Illumination, part 208, Tallest on the left!
I was looking forward to getting back home to our new wee house and having a bit of a rest before I would have to go to Hereford. I got back to find Irene living in the front room of the house. She was refusing to go upstairs and was convinced that there was a ghost living upstairs so before I could kick back and relax I had to perform an exorcism, which is second nature to an Irishman. In fact I would say that exorcisms, brewing poteen and smuggling are deeply embedded in the DNA of an Irishman. This wasn’t a full on ceremony from the Rituale Romanum, but more along the lines of prayers of deliverance. Although I have to admit that it has always amazed me just how many dead people understand Latin.
Having sent the resident spirits off into the either I realised that I was not going to get any rest at all that day for I had to get to Wattisham, twenty five miles away, and try to get some new uniform which I would need at Hereford. Normally a bit of bartering was no great problem but as I had not officially arrived at Wattisham I could see that the ‘Jobsworths’ would be having a field day when I showed up. Once again I was tremendously lucky as one of the civilian store men, in clothing stores, had been one of the SWO’s men at Valley so we knew each other and he helped kit me out ready for my course at Hereford. I had to leave on the Sunday to arrive at Hereford on the Sunday evening ready for the course to start on the Monday morning.
Despite the fact that I had sorted our little problem out at the new house Irene decided that she would prefer to stay with her mother for the fortnight just in case the ghosties came back, oh ye of little faith. I had no problem or objection with this but now found myself driving back and forth across England when all I really wanted to do was sit in a quiet dark room and get my head together. All I knew about Hereford is that it was where they trained the cooks and the SAS were based there. As long as I didn’t have to fight for my breakfast each morning they would be safe enough from me.
I was surprised to find so many people on the course. We were in huge twenty man rooms and were welcomed by various NCO’s who seemed to drift between being friendly and barking orders, indicating a most definite and interesting selection of personality disorders. Although the course wouldn’t officially start until the Monday morning we were informed that we would be undergoing inspections, so our lockers must be neat and tidy as would our bed spaces and bed packs! I’m sure many of you will have seen some form of military inspection on the television or cinema. Nutters bouncing coins off beds, finding enough dust under cupboards to grow spuds in and not being able to shave their faces in your belt buckle. Someone ought to tell them that mirrors have been invented for that.
It was quite disheartening to think that I was going to have to suffer a fortnight of this horseshit but the statement that this was not an attendance course kept running about in my head. We were all asked to sit down and write a short paragraph about ourselves, who were we, where had we served and what were our ambitions for our career in the air force. I felt stupid sitting down to write that I wanted to be aircrew, because the instructors, if from the discipline branch, would be even more stupid that air traffic controllers. But that’s when I began to realise that they were not from the discipline branch, they were from many different trades and were not really experts in leadership or man management training. This was going to be an interesting course or it was going to be a complete balls up.
The NCO’s wished us a good night, reminded us at what times the lights would be switched off and warned us to be lined up outside the accommodation block at half past seven in the morning so that we could march to the mess for breakfast. I don’t know if Argentina was aware of it but they were really starting to hack me off making me go through all this bullshit. And so the following morning I was stood standing outside our accommodation block along with perhaps another one hundred people waiting to be marched to breakfast. You civilians don’t know what you are missing. Some NCO, who seemed to be enjoying himself far too much, began shouting at us and even though we had lined up, three abreast, he had decided to put us through the whole ‘Tallest man on the left!’ routine.
This is where the tallest person, on the parade, is singled out and made to stand on a certain spot. The command is something like, ‘Tallest man on the left, shortest on the right.’ Everyone then positions themselves accordingly, in one long line. The person in charge now visually inspects the line and rearranges anyone so that they will have one long smooth descending line. Then everyone is given a number. The tallest person is number one and shouts this out and the counting out loud continues along the line. I can sense that the civilians among you are now so jealous having never stood in a line of people at half past seven in the morning shouting numbers out loud. You’ve never lived.
Try to imagine that you have a hangover, those pesky pillows again, and perhaps a drop of rain, a rumbling tummy and some crazed fecker marching up and down screaming at you and you will start to come close to how most of us were feeling. After calling out your very own number, at the top of your voice mind you, the next command would be, ‘Odd numbers one step forward.’ Now we have two lines, the odd numbers at the front and the even numbers at the rear. One line turns one way and that’s right, you’ve guessed it, are you sure you’ve never been in the military, the remaining line turns the opposite way. The next command has everyone now march forward into ranks of three, forming up on the tallest person. This whole process has now sorted out the parade so that the varying heights have now been organized out into a comfortable curve.
Next time you watch a military parade you will see that there will be a slight curve, in the height of the people on the parade, and that is how they do it. The final command is to ‘Right dress,’ where you make sure you are all lined up perfectly straight and separated equally from those around you. I was expecting to be turned one way or the other and marched off for my breakfast when the fecker in charge made the front row of people step forward and the rear row step back. He had opened the parade up for an inspection and unbelievable began to walk around inspecting us. People were getting picked on for their shoes not being shiny enough or for having some dust on their beret. This is where I thanked my lucky stars for having a new beret as I normally polished my shoes with my beret, as did most normal people.
I did get shouted at, for what I cannot remember as I wasn’t that interested in his inspection, all I wanted was my breakfast. And even when he had finished inspecting us and complaining about the crease in our uniforms he then began to give us a lecture on how we would be inspected every morning and that the standard of turn out wasn’t good enough. I can tell you that this was all a bit much for me and I wondered if anyone else was thinking along the same lines as myself. Eventually we were marched off towards the mess and I could see that his was going to be a frustrating couple of weeks. All I had to do was keep my head down and get myself though it. It would soon be over. That’s when I really cheered myself up when I realised that yes it might soon be over but what had I to look forward to, I must have done something really bad in a previous life, for after this wonderful course, if I survived it, wasn’t I being sent back to fecking air traffic control.