Celtic Illumination, part 229, Doppelganger
Although my cousin Paul had a lovely house and was a perfect host the weekend was claustrophobic, to say the least. I hated being the odd one out, not on familiar soil, unable to really relax. I knew my cousins but had never met their partners or children. I had never been told that they were getting married or producing offspring, although it appeared that they knew all about me. It was Saturday evening, after a procession of relatives had come to visit, that I saw a gap and bolted, using my need to buy cigarettes from the local shop as my excuse. It was nice to simply wander along, on my own, and talk to myself in English. I’ve nothing at all against the Irish language and in fact am quite embarrassed that I cannot communicate in it more effectively. I knew the area quite well and had used the shop as a youngster to buy sweeties. As I stood in the queue at the counter I suddenly felt that I shouldn’t be there.
It hit me that I didn’t know anybody in the shop and that with the way I held myself, was dressed, even my haircut, would have me stand out as a Brit. I hurried back and knew that if I had been informed that I was to stay in Lurgan rather than Warrenpoint I would probably not have bothered, especially with the rigmarole at Aldergrove. The following day, the Sunday, I said my farewells and was driven to Aldergrove by my cousin. Paul filled me in on most of my old school chums from the Lurgan area and was able to tell me not just what prison they were in but how long a sentence they had been awarded, that’s the lucky ones, the ones that were still alive. I kept to the shadows when I got to Aldergrove and made my way to air movements.
I went in and wasn’t surprised to see a few hundred paratroopers lolling around waiting for their flight. I saw a desk manned by some military police, red caps, army flavoured police. I reported and gave my name, rank and number. I turned as I heard a Hercules take off and thought it strange as I was supposed to be on the lead aircraft. I wasn’t the only person who thought it was strange as I was asked for my identity card to back up my claim as to who I was. The last thing I expected was to be arrested but sure enough I now found myself wearing a pair of handcuffs made from the finest steel that Sheffield could produce. At least the pongos now had something interesting to watch. I, as usual, was just an observer.
Whoever was in charge of security had come over and double checked my identity card against the aircraft manifest. “Who are you?” he asked, and I repeated my name, rank and number. “You can’t be,” he insisted.” Which I can assure you had me thinking. One of the downsides of being so clever is that some mornings I have woken up and not known my own name, and I don’t mean in a drink related way. I was pretty sure that I had given my correct name, rank and number. I wasn’t playing the old squadron game of giving false details or the like. Each and every one of the red caps inspected my identity card while the guy in charge informed me that I couldn’t be who I said I was as I was on the first Hercules that had already left. I saw a gap in their logic and bolted toward it.
“I was supposed to be on the first Hercules,” I explained. “But for some reason it has left early, and I’ve missed it.” I thought that even a buck eejit could grasp my explanation, but this was a military policeman, the normal rules of the universe didn’t apply. “Look,” he sighed. “You are on that aircraft.” I was certain that I wasn’t, but said nothing; it might have been impolite to interrupt him. “Someone claiming to be you, is actually on that flight, and if it isn’t really you, then who is it.” Suddenly the problem was quite clear to me. They had messed up. They had allowed someone claiming to be me to get on the flight. So rather than admit their cockup, it would be easier to say that I wasn’t who I said I was. It suddenly became quite clear that it wasn’t me on the lead aircraft; I mean it couldn’t have been me, could it?
As I could quite clearly establish exactly who I was and that the lead aircraft had left early, I was released and sat myself in a corner hoping that trouble would stay away from me. Perhaps the firemen at Valley were correct when they called me Jonah. As we began to load I stayed with the pongo’s and hid in the rear of the aircraft. I didn’t mind two hundred paratroopers staring at me as I was the only fecker on the aircraft in civvies. We would have been somewhere above the Isle of Man when the captain came on the intercom and announced that as it was snowing at Wattisham, there was a chance we might have to land at Manchester and takes busses to Colchester. I promise you I was at my wits end. After three days I had squeezed in more adventures and scrapes than many people would have throughout their whole air force career.
I had had enough and just sat back to see what would happen next. My main worry was that I would be late back for work the following morning and another round of stupidity would commence. I think the big fella upstairs heard me and made sure that there were no air traffickers on snow clearing duties at Wattisham. The airfield was clear and we could land there. I walked away from the aircraft and glanced about to make sure there were no Rock Ape laden land rovers screaming toward. I threw my bag into my car and checked in with the guys in air traffic, showing them that I was back and would be in work the following morning. I was tempted to get myself around to the Families Club and sink a few beers, but I was sure if I had to engage with any more idiots that weekend I would explode.
I settled back into the routine of things and one day on my way home had been asked by Irene to call in at the doctor’s surgery to pick up her anti natal report for James, who had been born six weeks earlier. Although we lived in a small village called Shotley Gate, there was another village, closer to Ipswich and slightly larger called Shotley. I called in to the doctor’s surgery in Shotley and as I waited saw a notice that appealed to me. It was gold dust as far as secondary duties were concerned. There was a sort of prominence or pecking order for secondary duties, depending on your position and amount of time and effort you would have to put in. To really excel at the secondary duties game you had to find something involving civilians. Although this would just be another committee function requiring you to give up some of your spare time, working with civilians was viewed as promoting the good name and nature of the air force.
I noticed that the local amateur dramatic society was planning to produce a play and were asking for interested people to get in touch. It would certainly be a real feather in the cap if they would allow me to join in. I took the contact details then reported to the reception desk, asking for the anti natal report for Irene. I wasn’t sure what they were playing at as they were saying congratulations. I thanked them and explained that James had only been kept in hospital for about a week with his jaundice and that he was now safe and happy at home. No they said, “Congratulations, your wife is pregnant.” I know I was capable of defending myself against most aggressors, but against a woman with a bread knife I wasn’t so sure. My mind now juggled with my two great problems. Firstly how to tell Irene she was with child, again, without getting stabbed and secondly, as an actor, with the loveliest legs in Ireland, should I wear a cravat or a bow tie?