Celtic Illumination, part 224, How now brown cow.
Well; we had managed to make it, undetected from the church to the hotel. It was a lovely hotel that had been built in to the town’s defensive walls. I shall not tell you the name of it, for you will only go away and Google the name and see just how posh and decadent the place was. Just imagine Downton Abbey by the sea. And if you don’t know what Downton Abbey was, then let me explain. It was a bit of nonsense parading itself as drama for Sunday evening television viewing; it is what is commonly known as a soap opera. It was so close to reality it would have made the Brothers Grimm blush. There’s this posh Englishman, I know, aren’t they all. He is married to an American woman, this allows them to shoe horn in the story of the Titanic.
Every programme begins with a close up of a dog’s arse which is a tiny indication of what is to come. One daughter murders a Turkish man to death by sleeping with him; another marries an Irish rebel and then dies. The next daughter is up the duff by some writer type who is missing, presumed dead. And most believable of all, the next daughter, or cousin, or whatever flavour relative she is, has decided to marry a black man. Of course they are all so posh none of them are able to dress, or undress, themselves so they have slaves to do that for them and the slaves are even more posher than the posh people pretend to be. I tell you, it’s the best forty five minutes you can have shouting at a television ever. So; here we all were in the Welsh version of Downton Abbey by the sea, or as posh people might say ‘Downton Abbey sur la mer,’ which of course would be incorrect as it’s by the sea, not on the sea, it’s a fecking hotel, not a boat.
So, here we all were at Downton Abbey by the sea or as educated, posh, people might say, ‘Downton Abbey par la mer.’ We had the standard sit down nosh and drinks and speeches and perhaps one or two more drinks. I have to say the whole place felt very Noel Coward. There was a beautiful veranda and swimming pool and as it was a fine day most of us wandered out and sat among the palm trees, polishing our monocles and sipping our pink gins while puffing away on our silver cigarettes holders. Two of the navy guys decided to give the girls a bit of a show and stripped off to their shreddies. I think they must have planned this, for both pairs of shreddies looked relatively new. They dived in to the swimming pool and began to, what seemed like effortlessly, swim lengths of the pool.
Someone made a comment that this was how good navy guys were at swimming pity the air force guys weren’t. This as you may imagine had me thinking. I was trained in many things, my most favourite being desert and mountain rescue. To me swimming pools were somewhere you drove golf buggies into. There was a beach in front of me, made of sand, but nothing sprung to mind. There was a hotel behind me and I had noticed that on the top, five or six stories up in the air, was a flag pole, but there was no flag on it. As most people were now focused on the swimmers in the pool and the ribaldry and comments were flying thick and fast, I took the jackets that the swimmers had dropped, and started to walk toward the hotel.
Now, you are probably two or three steps ahead of me here. You probably think that I had studied the side of the hotel and was able to work out a route, using the drain pipes, to get myself on to the roof. Problem was, when climbing, you always need to have three points of contact and I’m sure I’ve told you that before, so start paying attention. If anyone thinks I was going to wear the jackets and then climb up the side of the hotel, or hold the jackets in my teeth before the climbing then you are all very wrong. I was a highly trained mountain rescue operative. I took the fecking lift to the top floor, found the access hatch, climbed through that and tied the jackets to the rope on the flag pole.
I don’t know what the people down below were shouting at me, probably complaining that I hadn’t saluted the jackets as I hoisted them up. I could hear the other fellow who was shouting at me but that was the hotel manager who was demanding that I got off his roof. Something about health and safety or slipping and falling, bloody civvies, what do they know? The two swimmers now had to negotiate with the hotel manager as to how they could retrieve their uniforms. Luckily the marines or cavalry guys didn’t decide to join in with the oneupmanship frolics. We retreated back to the farmhouse, again evading detection by the local constabulary, and settled in for a night of heavy drinking. Once again Tim’s father was the focus of the evening and I have to say the fellow certainly knew how to host a party.
At one point Alex Alexander and myself were stood standing chatting to various people. As far as all the fellows there were concerned we were all friends with Tim, that was the one common bond, so rank never came into question. Unfortunately, one or two of the naval wives thought that because they were married to a naval officer this made them posh. One of these girls, who probably dreams of living somewhere like Downton Abbey, was talking down to Alex and myself. I of course know my place as the bloody foreigner and poor old Alex was a non-commissioned officer, in the air force, probably someone she thought could clean her shoes.
This was a problem across all the services that the wives assumed the rank of their husband. Remember invites would ask for officers and their ladies, non-commissioned officers and their wives while the oiks and their women would be at the bottom of the pile. At one unit the bitching was so bad that the wives were invited to a function, female only, and asked to sit according to rank. After ten minutes of utter confusion, silence was called for and the statement, ’Ladies you don’t have any rank,’ was given. Of course Irene never had that sort of problem, for when people discovered that she was married to me they immediately felt sorry for her although they would probably recommend her for a medal.
Alex keeps reminding me, thank you Alex, that at one point I turned to the woman who still wittering on, rah, rah, rah, and asked in my thickest Irish accent, “Is it true you are wearing them tights,” for she was wearing thick woollen tights. “Is it true?” I says. “That you are wearing them tights because your legs are so fecking ugly that you have to cover up your varicose veins?” I know, not very cutting, or abusive, and expletive free, but it had the required effect. It was like someone had slapped her in the face with a wet trout. In fact she very nearly tripped over the fellow who was unconscious on the floor behind her, in her haste to get away from us. I think it must have been something Alex said. I hate pretence especially the, I’m better than you are nonsense; I wonder how she would feel now if she knew I was a King?
The guy on the floor was a cavalry officer. He was still wearing his best dress uniform and looked as if he was lying to attention on the floor. He looked as if he was wrapped very tightly and was still wearing his beret and his sword. But the funniest thing about him was that his feet were held four inches off the ground as he was still wearing his spurs. One by one we fell by the wayside and sleep or a state of unconsciousness took over and before we knew it, it was the following morning and we were all waving goodbye, farewell and adieu. There was an attempt at a bit of a swordfight between some cars as we joined the main motorway, where the three lanes allowed some skulduggery but soon we calmed down and met at the final motorway service station for coffee before we would all fire off to the different parts of the country.
John Clancy, Rick Stocks and myself decided to go to John’s family home in London where John would introduce us to the finer things in life, like pie and mash or was it pie and jelled eels? First off we would call in to Rick’s family home in Wiltshire and have some afternoon tea. Rick and I swopped cars because it’s not often you get the chance to drive a classic car, and it was heaven driving an open top roadster along the motorway where there are no speed restrictions, well; none that I was aware off. Rick had bought it from his brother, who was leaving the country, for the princely sum of one shilling, the smallest value coin that was regarded as legal tender. Both John and Rick are now secretly praying that I don’t mention what happened next. Perhaps tomorrow but, as they say, plain brown envelopes, stuffed full of used twenty pounds notes, have an amazing effect on people’s ability to remember stuff.