Celtic Illumination, part 241, Flash, bang, wallop, what a picture.
I have to admit that the Shotley drama group must have thought I was wonderful and I’m not just talking about my thespian skills. The air force were now providing most of the equipment for their productions. Mind you the air force didn’t know they were involved, but I’m sure I could have convinced them it was all in the interest of public relations. You would even see certain individuals walking around Shotley in brand new air force shirts and shoes. Tony and I were still flying as often as we could so I arranged a little bonus for him and his son and managed to have them fly the phantom flight simulator one evening on Wattisham.
Please don’t think that I was the only person involved in this type of shenanigans. I do remember one guy who had left the air force and had bought a house in Shotley. He very proudly showed me around the inside of his garage one day and he had two, yes two, full sets of air force tools. In many workshops you would see large wooden tool boxes attached to walls. Once opened, a whole range of tools would be displayed, ranging from screwdrivers and wrenches through hammers and pliers to chisels and knives. To even attempt to have one complete set of air force tools was something even I wouldn’t have considered but two full sets was a bit much. There did seem to be a lot of ex-military people floating about the place.
Because The Bristol Arms was so close to the old HMS Ganges site the ex-military types seemed to congregate there. Of course as the landlord didn’t like serving members of the forces, he had no time at all for ex members of the forces. One day I had a brain wave. It was a Saturday afternoon and the Families Club would not have been open. A couple of us had been working hard all morning trying to convert the garage into a temperature controlled beer cellar, I was determined to serve real ale. I had applied for permission to knock a couple of walls down to start the conversion and was still waiting for permission. I wasn’t a great one with the waiting around for permission lark so had started the conversion during the week by creating a new entrance to the garage through one of the little sheds attached.
I was concentrating so hard on what I was doing that I hadn’t noticed the Station Warrant Officer standing behind me. He probably admired the way I handled the sledgehammer so he suggested that I should consider positioning a look out, in case anyone saw me knocking a wall down without permission, then left me to it. On the Saturday we sat around the bar having a well-earned beer when someone suggested that we should open the bar every Saturday afternoon. I wasn’t convinced that it was a good idea, yes it would have increased sales for me but it would also create more work for me. Some evenings, especially midweek, you might only have one or two people visit the club, and unless I could be guaranteed a decent number of people for the Saturday afternoon, I didn’t want to proceed. There was also the fact that you would be recovering from the Friday night and preparing for the Saturday evening.
Saturday afternoon was always quite busy at The Bristol Arms where there was a sort of informal British Legion gathering. That’s when it hit me. I would offer the ex-forces guys the club as a British Legion meeting place. They would love it as my drinks were less than half the price they were paying in the Bristol. Three or four of us jumped in our cars and raced down to The Bristol Arms. We went in and wandered around the tables asking the chaps if they would like to come to the Families Club for a decent session. Within minutes the cars were full and we managed to almost empty The Bristol, much, I am glad to say, to the displeasure of the landlord. I could now see that there could be a reason for opening every Saturday afternoon. I decided to give it a try for a couple of weeks and if it showed promise to probably apply for permission to open on Saturday afternoons.
I was always interested in the fact that there was never any trouble at the Families Club. Normally where there is a huge amount of alcohol consumed you expect a certain amount of trouble but there never was any, well; almost never, any fisticuffs. I suppose the clue was in the name, it was the Families Club so there were no individuals with rampaging hormones on the prowl, especially after we got rid of the wife swappers. It was one night; I was at home safe and sound in my bed. I think it was shortly after midnight and someone was hammering at the front door of our house. I went to the bedroom window opened it and leaned out. “What?” I shouted. “It’s me,” came the reply. “Wayne.” It was past midnight, I had been roused from my beauty sleep, not that I needed it, so as you can imagine I began to quiz the caller, as I couldn’t remember knowing any person called Wayne.
The conversation continued, although as I was shouting questions at the caller I doubt if conversation would be the correct term for it. Irene by now had woken and is asking me who is at the front door and who am I talking to? I explain that it is some fellow called Wayne. “Oh,” says Irene. “That’s your brother in law.” Wayne was married to one of Irene’s sisters, while Tommy was married to another. Tommy was in the van. We brought them in and settled them for the night. They had been working in London and had decided that rather than go all the way back to Liverpool for the weekend they would come and stay with us.
On their first evening with us I brought the pair of them over to the Families Club and insisted that they settle in and enjoy themselves, there was no need for them to pay for anything; the whole evening would be free. Well; I assumed that is how you treat family. Wayne was a strange fish, he still is by the way, but he didn’t exactly embrace the situation he found himself in. Tommy seemed to react as I would have expected any red blooded male to react who is told they could drink for free all evening. Of course by evening I mean way into the wee small hours of the morning. There was the usual crowd of boozers and we were having a bit of fun.
It was one of those evenings you never forget, and I shall never forget the driver who had joined us. He was a young fellow, but once again when you come across someone strange you tend to never forget them. He began to show some photographs around, nothing strange in that really until you understand that the photographs were of his wife dressed in all sorts of exotic lingerie. Now I know one of the laughs we used to have was with a certain men’s magazine which had a feature at the rear of the publication featuring what was known as the ‘readers wives’ section. Although the magazine was extreme and disgusting, you would always have a gander at this section, not to ogle the women, but to check out the furniture, because sometimes you would recognise the furniture as being forces issue and then look at the woman to see if you knew her.
So for me I found it so strange that this young fellow was passing around photographs of his wife in various stages of undress. I mean it’s not the sort of thing normal people do, is it? There was an initial buzz of, I will not say excitement more incredulity, after which things came back to normal and we resumed the serious business of drinking. Next thing you know is a fight has started. Someone has stolen the photographs. It was the first and only fight I have ever seen in the Families club. I ran around from behind the bar and I can only say it was as if we were all in a Burt Reynolds movie. Punches were being thrown left, right and centre. People were crashing over tables and chairs and I have to admit it was a great bit of fun. Thankfully no one was hurt and the photographs appeared again, it all sort of brought a new meaning to the phrase flash photography for me.