Celtic Illumination, part 225, With nothing up my sleeves.
For those of you who have come along today to read a tale of destruction, drunkenness and debauchery when Rick Stocks, John Clancey and myself got together, shame on you. We stopped off in Wiltshire, at Rick’s family home and had afternoon tea. The worst thing that happened there was that his mother put the cream on the scones before the jam. I know, but it’s all right, I didn’t say anything, except leave a perfect, hand-written, note to suggest she read Debrett’s. It’s just not good form. In London we had a typical evening that most Londoners would have. John and his father put on their pearly suits and entertained Rick and myself with rather rude versions of ‘Knees up mother Brown,” “Where did you get that hat?” “Down at the old Bull and Bush,” and of course the timeless “Any old iron?” It was all quite refined and polite, although, and I hate to mention it, but those pillows John, please do something about them for I can tell you I didn’t half have a sore head on the drive back to Ipswich, and by the way, yes, the envelope did arrive this morning.
It was really nice to meet up with old friends at Tim’s wedding and that seemed to be the way of things in the forces. After four or five years you would bump in to someone and spend an enthralling hour or two, or day or two, laughing and reminiscing and then depart, not knowing if you would ever meet again. One person I didn’t not never want to meet again was Joe Pearson, the idiot admin sergeant at Wattisham. But I didn’t really have a choice. As I said before, I did, and if you were not paying attention, that’s not my fault is it, especially you Rogers, yes you Colin Rogers, mister Sure Enuf himself. He keeps sending me pictures of himself in the nip. A fine figure of a man, but a little bit forward for my tastes. I suppose I’m an old romantic at heart, candles, wine, soft music and loud explosions.
And talking about romance Irene was still pregnant. It was getting close to the date we expected our second child. Someone was ill so I found myself in the runway caravan. Irene telephoned to say that she had gone into labour and was waiting for the ambulance to take her into Ipswich hospital. I rang air traffic and told Joe Pearson that my wife had gone in to labour and would he get someone to relieve me so that I could go and be with her. Joe informed me that as his wife had produced a couple of children, his ex-wife by the way, he would consider himself to be an expert in all childbirth related matters. According to him Irene, who he had never met, would be in labour for probably two days, I shouldn’t panic, I should stay where I was and do my duty. There were two, sorry there were three slight issues I had with this, one, was that he was a fecking idiot and knew nothing about anything. Two, Irene was a fine healthy woman with a decent pair of child bearing hips who didn’t mess about when it came to producing offspring. And thirdly, I was beginning to enter panic mode and I mean real panic mode.
Time and time again, in Ireland, I had been told that my mother died giving birth to me and rather than go in to a maternity ward hoping that a healthy bouncing child would appear, I would go in simply hoping that my wife would be alive at the end of it. And as I have said before, despite the fact that all the rif raf, bad boys and defaulters, were on my shift, they were some of the best boys around. My driver turned up at the caravan and said that he, not Joe Pearson, not any of the superior air traffic controllers, he, a plain bog standard airman had arranged for someone to come in to work and relieve me. He then suggested that as there was a slight break in flying I could nip off there and then and he would fill in for me in the caravan till my relief arrived. I could have hugged him, but of course this was the armed forces and we didn’t do such things, well, not when the lights were on.
I raced away from Wattisham and got to Ipswich hospital just in time for number two son, James, to be born. Many people say it is one of the most joyous times in their lives but I hated it, apart from the fact that I was standing there expecting my wife to die at any moment, I hated the fact that there was nothing practical you could do to ease her discomfort and pain. As number two son entered this life, I departed and fainted again. I understand that the midwife noticed I was on my way out and slid a chair under my back side so that I ended up slumped on a chair beside Irene, who says that me passing out took her mind off the actual birth. So perhaps it wasn’t all that bad. Had the idiot Joe Pearson got his way, I would still have been sat sitting at the end of the runway at Wattisham.
When I returned to work I knew that Joe Pearson wanted to have a go at me and I also knew that he could dress my departure up in all sorts of fancy terminology, like deserting my post and so forth. But I think the man also knew that I was an Irishman and, if pushed enough, would physically harm him. Our relationship soured after that and I think he stayed out of my way more than I stayed out of his. Irene came home but my new son James had to remain in hospital as he had a bad case of jaundice, I don’t know about you but I never touch Italian white wine. It was at times like these you wish you never had so many stupid secondary duties, however you always had to keep your eye on the long game and a vacancy had arisen at the Families Club for deputy bar manager.
I didn’t even have to consider if I wanted to do it or not, I simply volunteered. Because I had been accepted into the clique, in other words I was aware of the wife swapping but didn’t join in or comment, I was considered an acceptable sort of person and was given the post. What I wasn’t aware of was that the post had perks. Where we lived at Shotley Gate had been an old royal naval training establishment, HMS Ganges. Now, as a senior member of the committee, I was entitled to a huge house, one of the houses that a senior naval officer would have been entitled to. Ching ching. It was great to have a huge big house and a massive garden, even a garage where I could blow things up. That’s when I received a letter.
Dave Magee was coming for a visit. He, his wife and two children were coming over from Germany and would be plonking their caravan in our garden, he hoped I didn’t mind. Of course I didn’t, it would be nice to see him again. As promised, or threatened, Dave Magee turned up and set his caravan up in the garden at the side of the house. It was a Sunday so we went over to the families club which Dave had been a founder member of. I was asked to serve behind the bar for an hour, which I did, and continued to have a bit of a session with Dave. The women were at home admiring the new born so, when the club closed, Dave and I made ourselves comfortable in the caravan as he had quite a selection of duty free booze he had brought over from Germany and we began to get as relaxed as a fart.
Al, another wife swapper and Families Club bar manager, turned up at Dave’s caravan with a serious look on his face. Someone, his wife we later found out, had noticed me slip a couple of twenty pound notes into my pocket while operating the till behind the bar, could he have the money back please. I promise you it was like getting hit across the head with a lump of two by four. I had been accused of being many things, but a thief! I really didn’t know what to say, but Dave did, and told Al where to go. Not only could I lose my position on the committee but rumour control would spread the nastiness around and there wouldn’t be many posts I could fill with a reputation for being light fingered. Thankfully Sunday afternoon was stock taking for the families club and at tea time Al came back over to say that he had checked everything and could find no discrepancies. His wife now only ‘thought’ she had seen me pocket some money but could have been mistaken, it might have been a handkerchief. He was very sorry and hoped we could forget all about it. I didn’t think I could forget about it and for the second time I felt that I could never go back into the Families Club, ever again.