Celtic Illumination, part 255, We’re The Sweeney, son, and we haven’t had our dinner yet.
I was still in the air force, I wasn’t demobbed until my thirtieth birthday, a birthday present I was actually looking forward to. I was on leave and thought that I had finished with the air force that everything had been sorted out. I should have known better, the air force had other ideas, for on arriving at the office one morning, having refused all offers I had received on my way in, I found a letter waiting for me. The air force wanted me to extend my adult service by one day. Yes, that’s exactly what I thought and probably said out loud to myself but I read on. According to the air force I had spent one day in jail therefore had not completed the contract we had and therefore was not eligible to receive my gratuity.
The gratuity was not very generous it was about three and a half thousand pounds but it would cover all my legal fees, valuation fees and survey on the new house I was buying at Pin Mill, so I wasn’t in a position to tell them to stuff it. Also I wasn’t happy at them saying I had been in jail, as I hadn’t, and as far as I can remember I hadn’t gone through any formal disciplinary procedure, but rather than argue the point with them I telephoned Wattisham and agreed that I would turn up for one days extended service, the day after my birthday. I wasn’t looking forward to it as I had already handed in all my uniform so would be pitching up in civvies. I had been told that I had to report to air traffic control which reminded me that the marching idiot Joe Pearson would be in his element.
The Forces Master project was about ready and I had to give a presentation to a selected group of senior salespeople and the office manager to test my presentation out and get some feedback. There had been a lot of talk about my ‘team’ for the Forces Master project. It had been suggested that I should have a team of six, all ex members of the armed forces. I was dragging my heels over this because I wanted to do it on my own. I could see that perhaps I might need one assistant and I had hoped Irene would take up that post, but as the whole ethos of the project was to stop members of the armed forces getting ripped of I didn’t want anyone on my team that I didn’t know and trust. It was my project, my idea, my reputation and it had to be above reproach.
Graham had already decided that he was on my team, in fact he probably thought he was in charge of it and it wouldn’t have surprised me if he had been telling people that it was all his idea in the first place. It was just like being back in flight planning. I had a group of about twelve people, some I knew, some I didn’t, and I had my notes and a slide projector. I launched myself into the presentation and tried to keep it as real and as believable as possible. It felt good and the experience I had gained from the air force allowed me to work my way around the audience, focusing on certain people for certain aspects. Timing was good too and I landed on the forty five minutes slot like a pro.
After, there was a question and answer session which took about another forty five minutes and then the senior team would get together and discuss the project and agree whether or not to give me all the support I wanted. Graham and myself shot off for a few beers. This time we stayed out of the pubs and clubs in Soho and headed for the city of London, the square mile. We went in to a pub, I can’t remember the name of it, but people were buying jugs of beer. And I mean jugs, large copper jugs that must have held half a gallon of beer. This was not a pint of beer and packet of crisps pub. In fact they served hors d’oeuvre, which mainly seemed to be smoked salmon on a tiny piece of bread. People were leaving their credit cards at the bar and telling the bar staff to ‘add it on’, as they ordered drink after drink and plates of finger food.
It was so strange; most of them wore shirts that would have cost more than my suit and were garish in the extreme. But the strangest thing of all was that there was sawdust on the floor. Not a wisp of sawdust that a jobbing carpenter may have left but handfuls of the stuff, scattered all about. The accents got me though, all talking Received Pronunciation through their noses and all talking shite. Graham was rubbing shoulders with some aristocrats and wanted to meet more of them as he could smell money and wanted to invest it for them, he was so caring. It was a really interesting afternoon for me, and expensive, but if they had inflated prices to keep the hoi polloi out then I was quite happy to be kept out of any establishment they populated.
We got back to the office and I knew I would have had rosy red cheeks from the beer which had been quite nice. I was stopped by my direct line manager Peter, who informed me that the Forces Master project had been given the go ahead by the big bosses. Hearing that put me in the mood to head off to a decent pub and celebrate but Peter continued. He introduced me to some fellow who had been in the Royal Marines. We shook hands and then Peter explained that until the Forces Master project was up and running properly this fellow would be in charge. I had been used to underhand tactics in the air force from the air traffic controllers and it had never crossed my mind that civvies could be as useless or as devious as air traffic controllers.
When I find myself faced with people who claim to be doing the right thing for the right reasons, for me, but really are doing exactly what they think is right for themselves and couldn’t give a monkeys about you, I tend to clam up. My head turns into a tumble drier and I simply have to get away, sit in a quiet corner and think my way through things. So many words like, sly, deceptive, dishonest, sneaky all could have been said with just one punch, but it would have been the end of my career with Abbey Life. I went in to my little office and sat down. Forces Master was an idea, I had had plenty of good ideas before, so I knew that this wasn’t the be all and end all of my life. It would be nice to see the whole thing through but I wasn’t going to be precious about it. In the air force there was nothing I could do about the underhandedness of the air traffic controllers as I was controlled by military law, but this was different. I didn’t have to take it anymore.
Graham came in and sat down. He explained that he had heard what had happened and told me not to worry. It was all for the best. Stephen who was at his desk joined in and the three of us began to discuss options available to me. Stephen was telling me to go with my gut feelings; Graham was telling me not to rock the boat. I decided to tell my boss to stick his team leading Royal Marine, Forces Master was my idea, it was my baby, I didn’t want or need any fecking Royal Marine on my team. The project was mine and mine alone. If he wouldn’t accept that then he could stick it all where the sun didn’t shine. Graham still kept advising me not to take this route, but I was angry. I stood and buttoned up my jacket, nobody was going to tell me what to do, apart from the fellow who came in to the office and told me to sit down.
From the three of us sitting chatting in the small office, to the office being full with a dozen people, most who had guns, and were shouting, took seconds. Graham, Stephen, and myself were all arrested and escorted from the building. We were all off to help Scotland Yard detectives with their enquiries. Even those who lived on the edge of society in the shadows of Soho stood and watched as we were led from the main building and encouraged to get into police vans. My head was still spinning, I wondered if Graham had actually been involved, I knew hadn’t, but the police had other ideas, seems that I was accused of being the master mind behind what was becoming known as the robbery of the century, the Knightsbridge Safety Deposit robbery.