Celtic Illumination, part 218, Swings and roundabouts.
I was quite aware that my plan would not happen overnight. It would take quite a lot of hard work and determination. The actual trade of air traffic control was changing too. From the rank of sergeant upwards people would become controllers, however, the air force realised that there were people like Joe Pearson about so everyone would have to undergo a form of assessment at Biggen Hill. Those who were successful would become controllers and those who failed would work on the admin side. It was good news, however, had they said that those who failed were to be culled, and they would start with Joe Pearson, that would have been better. We were being sent off to Biggen in pairs, to be assessed.
I suggested to Joe that as I had just been assessed successfully by Biggen, for aircrew, that I might not have to attend. Joe Pearson assured me that he knew what he was doing and that I would still have to go. I went off with a WRAF from Wattisham, Sandy. She was quite nervous about the assessment and as we drove down I tried to convince her that she would breeze through it. We would only have to sit some multi choice papers and I told her about the ones I had completed previously. We were in a classroom full of air traffickers and about to start when the instructors asked if anyone had been through Biggen before. I explained that I had.
They took my service number and went off to check their records but said that I could continue with the tests anyway. Not long after they came back and told me I didn’t have to sit the tests. Had I bothered to telephone them and explain my situation they could have told me that I didn’t have to attend and I could have saved myself the drive down and wasting their time. Once again Joe Pearson had proved to me that he was probably the most useless man on the face of the earth. Of course I now had to sit twiddling my thumbs and wait for Sandy to complete her tests. Unfortunately she failed and it quite upset her, in fact the drive back was much quieter than the drive down.
I still had to load up with secondary duties which would involve joining various committees and giving up my free time. There were not that many committees actually running that I could join so I would have to start my own. I started a silver fund for the airmen of the tower. Everyone paid fifty pence a month so on leaving they would be presented with an engraved tankard. This was standard practise in most units but hadn’t even been considered at Wattisham. They didn’t have an entertainment committee, so I set one up. Summer was approaching so I decided to organise a barbeque. Before anyone knew it posters were appearing, informing people that an event had been organised by their entertainment committee.
It was as some bloody foreigners say a ‘fait accompli.’ I had been talking to one fellow who had been posted out and he jokingly asked me if I would like to take over his secondary duty which was to be in charge of the Q sheds. The Q sheds were where battle flight was held. Occasionally one of the squadrons at Wattisham would have to provide cover for the air defence network and they would use the Q sheds, parking up two phantoms in the sheds, while the ground crew and air crew stood by in the adjoining buildings. Why someone like me should become the inventory holder for the place was beyond me but I agreed to take the duty on.
Things were going well and not only was I adding to my list of secondary duties but I had a fabulous place to hold a barbeque. Naturally I made sure that neither of the squadrons were providing air defence cover when my barbeque was to be held and as I was in charge of the buildings, all I had to do was ask myself for permission to use the place, which of course I very generously gave. I’m such a nice fellow. This allowed me to control every aspect of the barbeque and I don’t know if this indicates that I would have been a control freak, but I knew if I was in charge then it would be done right. I now upped the odds and decided that I would produce one of my treasure hunts. This wasn’t going to be another party; this was going to be the social event of the year.
It would be a fun day. Starting with a timed treasure hunt around Suffolk and then returning to the Q sheds for a barbeque and party. If I didn’t get a handful of smarty points for this event then something was wrong with the system. Once again I produced a story, mimicking the language used in the bible. I made O C Operations, Moses, and gave most of the major personalities in the air traffic tower some function in the story. They had to drive around Suffolk, solving clues which would lead them on to the next clue. It was quite a clever piece of work actually. Unlike Valley, Wattisham did not present me with a certificate when it was over.
As the barbeque was a real success there was no question that the entertainment committee was my committee. You have to understand that other people would be after secondary duties and predators were always waiting in the shadows. I still needed more duties and although it would have been quite easy for me to volunteer to join the rugby club committee I felt that it was too far away from Shotley for me to join, but I did hold in at the back of my mind just in case. I then turned my attention to the Families Club at Shotley Gate. They had a committee, but from what I had already experienced I knew that they were quite a pretentious lot.
I made some enquiries and found out that the committee that ran the Shotley Families’ club was quite a serious affair. Not only was it viewed as quite an important body by the senior management on Wattisham but they took themselves quite seriously as well. This was not a turn up and volunteer sort of affair. They had specifically designed positions which when vacant could be applied for. When they asked for volunteers to run the youth club I jumped at the chance. If I could work with Joe Pearson without reacting violently there was a good chance I could suffer this lot.
I was accepted for the position I don’t suppose anyone thought that running a disco for the teenagers from married quarters on a Friday night would be much of a laugh. The only other established duty was to take two coach loads of children to the pantomime every Christmas and that actually sounded like fun. It was quite obvious that I was the underdog of the set up. The Americans were represented on the committee which I found interesting. It was a guy called John Lansafame, a dental technician from Bentwaters. What I did find interesting was that there was a definite pecking order for committee positions. I was at the bottom, and I suppose I was used to being there.
Above me was the entertainments guy who organised various functions at the club. Above him was the treasurer, then the deputy bar manager, the bar manager and the top guy was the chairman. Despite the fact that these were the only fixed positions there were a lot of hangers on, who because of their time at the place had established themselves as ordinary committee members. Even more bizarre were the wives who actually believed that their husband’s position on the committee reflected on them in some way. More than once I would have been tempted to tell one or two of the wives what to do with her opinion.
There was quite a lot of pretence in the way that certain people presented themselves. They would have to have a special glass, sit in a specific seat, be addressed by a certain title and of course, no swearing. I beavered away every Friday night swearing my head off at teenagers who would have been to the local off license, drank all their pocket money and then turned up drunk at the youth club disco in order to cause trouble. When the grown-ups arrived I would be mister niceness himself. I did an awful lot of watching and listening and it wasn’t long before I could see the huge cracks in their world of pretence open up. They were all involved in a huge wife swapping circle and the first fellow I had met there, the air trafficker who had considered whether or not to let me back in the club for swearing, was the leader of the pack.