Celtic Illumination, part 235, Behind you!!!!
Get off your knees, stop bowing and no; you don’t have to call me sir, not just yet. I must have re-read the two letters eleventeen times each. I had certainly overshot the simple target of getting promoted. First thing I had to do was get myself back on to camp and apologise to both the Station Commander and O C Operations. I felt such a fool as the pair of them would have known I was up for an award as I berated them at the ‘bring your boss’ function . I got to camp in double quick time and first of all went to the Station Commanders house. As I expected he took it with a pinch of salt as did O C Operations, but I still felt that I had let myself down. I only wish I could know what they really thought of me. Not something you usually find out but being me, I did.
A new Warrant Officer was posted in to air traffic and he had been allocated a quarter at Shotley. In fact it was directly opposite my house. He couldn’t drive so I would give him a lift in and out of work as and when our shifts came together. He was waiting for a quarter on camp, so wouldn’t be around Shotley for too long. He was a really interesting guy and loved a flutter on the horses. He told me that he once won the bookies shop but the air force wouldn’t allow him to keep his winnings. One morning he was complaining that his pillows had given him grief as he slept, and he now had a sore head. Of course it was nothing to do with the informal party he had attended. O C Operations was being posted so held an informal gathering at his home for most of the senior guys in air traffic.
He tells me that it was a very relaxed affair where they all sat around in the living room drinking and generally having a laugh. At one point in the evening they decided to go through and describe the key people in air traffic for the new O C Operations and subsequently came to me. He agreed to tell me what O C Operations said about me if I promised not to tell anyone. Of course I promised. What he said, when they came to me, was “If you want the Great Wall of China erected around the airfield overnight, then suggest it to him and it will be done. If you order him to build the Great Wall of China around your airfield overnight it will never get completed.” So I finally found out what O C Operations thought about me and in a way I was pleased.
I had called in to The Rose one day and discovered that my secret was out. The landlord was very pleased that someone who came in to his pub was on the New Year’s Honours list. He had laid out all the national newspapers on the long bar counter and circled my name, where it appeared on the front page, with a felt pen. Normally most newspapers print a list of people who receives awards on either the New Year’s Honours list or the Queen’s Birthday Honours list later in the year. Mike, the landlord, announced that I would receive a free drink for every newspaper that I was named in. Suddenly this awards thing was showing a positive return. I went along with the revelry as the local yokels seemed to feel that they had a celebrity in their midst. All apart from one.
Tony, the richest man in the village, had been quite quiet. The others were offering me congratulations and when it came to Tony’s turn he said “I think you’re an idiot.” It wasn’t an insult, or a challenge, or even a threat. I asked if he would explain himself and he did. “If you had put as much time and effort into a job in civvie street you would be counting pound notes now, not how many newspapers you are in.” It made sense, sort of, but I had no real experience of civvie street, so wasn’t really sure what he was talking about. “Tell you what,” said Tony. “I’ve a friend coming over sometime soon. I’d like you to meet him.”
I didn’t really think much more about what Tony said. Apart from the stress of all my secondary duties I was now being told that the Queen was coming to Wattisham in the April, and I would receive my award from her then. This was terrible news for I knew that the station would go into meltdown. I had seen it before, grass getting painted green, everyone getting inspected and polished, fecking nightmare, even Irene telling me that she wasn’t wearing long gloves for anybody. I concentrated on my secondary duties and thankfully still had some that were thoroughly enjoyable such as the pantomime run. This year there were two pantomimes for the children to attend. One was the professional, civilian, production in Felixstowe theatre.
It was great fun with the children and herding them from the coaches into the auditorium was the hardest duty of the night. It was a great atmosphere and a great night. The second pantomime unfortunately did turn into a pantomime. It was being produced by the station’s drama club and if felt more that we had to attend rather than choose to go. We got to the drama club early and poured the children into the drama club. The atmosphere was not the same as Felixstowe, but that was me, an adult, I hoped the children would not feel so. They didn’t appear to as they had taken over the front four rows of seating and were sitting on the back of the chairs, rather than the seat, which I took as a good sign. They were a little rowdy too, but this was a pantomime, it’s what they were supposed to be like.
I was asked to come outside and found myself facing a small group of people, men, women and children. One of the men introduced himself, he was some sort of Wing Commander. He explained that he and his brother officers, also Wing Commanders, had turned up with their ladies and sprogs for the pantomime and expected to have the best seats in the house. Would I go back inside and move the children away from the front rows and on to the rear row and ask them to settle down. I really couldn’t believe what I was hearing, that someone could be so pathetic. I realised that if this guy was sad enough to ask me to do such a thing, that if I had challenged him or refused his request I would be getting myself into an awful lot of trouble. I had no choice but to move the children and I can promise you I had never felt so angry in all my life.
A day or two later I got a call from Tony who invited Irene and myself over to his house to meet this friend of his. We had the standard meal and drinks and then relaxed in the living room. The guy, Tony’s friend, was Tim Hirschman. Tony had filled him in all about me and we spent some time swapping funny anecdotes. Tim explained that he would go abroad and visit spectacle frame manufactures. He would buy ‘end of the line’ products. So say for example Yves Saint Laurent produced a spectacle frame that was popular, or fashionable, they would continue to produce the frame until their new range came out. There would always be a few thousand frames remaining at the factory and these are the ones Tim bought.
I found the mark up quite interesting. An Yves Saint Laurent frame, then, would sell for upwards of one hundred and twenty pounds. Tim was buying the frames for five, quite a mark-up, and opticians were lining up to buy them from him. Next thing you know is that Tim offers me a job. Not just any job, he gave me ‘my patch.’ He would like me to represent him in Ireland, the whole island of Ireland was to be ‘my patch.’ It was interesting and so exciting to think that I could return home. I suppose the romantic in me had taken over and I had the old green tinted glasses on. Luckily enough Irene had her practical head on. She asked the killer question. Okay it would be lovely to have such an exciting and varied job, and it would be fantabulous to return to Ireland but how much was I going to be paid. Tim wrote a figure on a small piece of paper and handed it over. It was three times what I was earning and although I had probably never thought about money or salary before I actually fell off my seat.