Celtic Illumination, part 262, The end of the line.
Well; it had to come, my last day in the air force, plus one. It was the day after my thirtieth birthday, I had to report to Station Headquarters at RAF Wattisham at nine o clock in the morning and extend my adult service by one day. I was beginning to think most civilians were pretty useless but my reception by the air force made me think that the civilians had some pretty serious competition. First of all no one knew why I was there, then, when someone finally worked out why I was there, despite me repeatedly telling them, they wanted to know where my uniform was. Apart from the humiliation of people asking me what I had been in jail for, which I hadn’t, I was embarrassed at the unprofessionalism of the air force.
People have an image of the air force being a professional service, when in fact it’s a wonder any aircraft ever get airborne at all. Most multi million pound aircraft are held together with bodge tape and para cord, and I’m not joking. It’s a combination of the engineer’s ingenuity and the pilot’s professionalism that keep an aircraft airborne. It had been bad enough in station headquarters and I was not looking forward to going back in to air traffic control. I knew that the mindless idiot Joe, I can march, Pearson would have a field day with me, and I wasn’t wrong. When he asked me what I had been in jail for, I told him that I had been in possession of an illegal eighteenth birthday. The one thing I do remember about Wattisham and Joe Pearson was on my very first day there I had glanced at the first aid book, where any incident requiring first aid in the work place would be recorded. One of the earliest entries in the book stated that the recipient was Joe Pearson and the medication was fifty thousand volts. I still smile when I think of that and actually think it may have done him some good.
Eventually people began to leave me alone in the corner with my cup of tea. Now that they had stopped asking me why I had been in jail I could relax and think about who actually was in jail, or at least on his way there. Graham. Luckily I was only held by the police for a brief interview and then released. Ginny was distraught, Phillip Howard was nowhere to be found, as you might expect from a member of the British aristocracy. It had taken a day or two but eventually I got the full story and it all came about because of the council house tenants wishing to exercise their right to buy and purchase their council house. At that time in the UK it was pretty standard for anyone wanting to buy a house to get a mortgage. Normally the buyer would stump up ten percent of the total value of the house as a deposit and the other ninety percent would be covered by the mortgage. The only drawback was that the maximum amount you could borrow, as a mortgage, would be three times your salary.
Because greed was so rampant and the increase in house prices became ludicrous, the base calculator increased, it went from three times the highest earner plus the other earner, to five times the highest earner, out of a couple, plus the others salary. Even so, sometimes five plus one would not be enough to buy a house. These were working class people doing normal working class jobs. So if I remember correctly the average council house was approximately one hundred and twenty thousand pounds. That would mean the prospective purchaser would need twelve thousand as a deposit, and to borrow as a mortgage one hundred and eight thousand pounds. This would mean that the main wage earner would have to earn at least thirty six thousand a year. The average salary was around the twenty thousand mark so most people were outside the existing parameters before they even made their initial enquiry.
That was until Graham came along. He was not pleased seeing so many people wanting to buy yet unable to, so he decided to shift the balance. Had this been an altruistic motive I may have been impressed but unfortunately it was pure greed that motivated Graham. Graham would ask the prospective purchaser to supply him with at least one sheet of headed notepaper from their place of work. Graham would now type a letter on the headed paper stating that the person in question earned a certain amount of money every year, which of course meant they could now qualify for their mortgage. The letter along with completed paperwork was now submitted to the local manager of the building society along with a fifty pound note. She knew all about the scam but as her bonus was based on the amount of business she attracted to her branch she like Graham was motivated by greed.
Even the solicitors who would do the conveyancing knew it was a scam, I think the only person who knew nothing about it was me. As mortgage interest rates began to increase, meaning the amount someone had to pay out each month increased; people eventually began to default on their mortgages. Because the building society in Wallingford had so many defaults they were investigated and arrests were made. Phillip Howard, got his father to bring in his Queens Council mates and get him a slap on the back on the wrists, which is quite funny because if you Google him you will see that the little shit presents himself as a business consultant now. Graham was not so lucky, he got six months in Brixton prison. He took it well as I wrote to him to try and cheer him up. He seemed to be on good form as he had been given a job in the prison library, although I shuddered when he announced that he had made some new chums and had a few ideas for us when he got out.
Ginny was grateful that I contacted her as all her other mates had abandoned her and wouldn’t speak to her because of the shame. Poor Ginny, she had enough to contend with just being with Graham. I remember one night Ginny was out with her girl fiends in a wine bar in Wallingford, Graham and I had gone to bed. I slept up in the attic room, Graham and the children were on the middle floor. One of the children began to cry and rather than get out of bed Graham began to telephone around the pubs and bars in Wallingford, looking for Ginny so that she could come home and see to the children. I got out of bed and attended to the children as Graham lay in his bed shouting at the shadows on the ceiling.
So here I was, my final day in the air force and already a couple of careers had hit the wall and were over and done with. I was happy as I looked about and listened as I wasn’t a part of it anymore and I knew my time was up. It had been a laugh, well; most of it, and I had learned a lot, all I could hope for now is that I could put what I had learned to good use. I arranged to meet Tom in a local pub for lunch and we shared a few beers and had a laugh. I came back on to camp and decided not to go back to air traffic control. Joe Pearson would try to create trouble for me but I couldn’t have cared less. I went to station headquarters and asked for my papers. The chief clerk had come out from his office and was dealing with me himself. He sat typing my discharge papers as I glanced at my personnel file. The only day while in the air force that you could actually look at your file and your assessments.
It was so disheartening to see that for most of my career I had been lied to by spineless air traffickers. I felt quite sad that I had allowed these people to mess me about as much as they had, but I suppose I had in turn given as good as I had taken. The chief clerk placed my demob papers in a tacky little blue plastic folder and handed it to me. I open it and looked at the paperwork. “This is all wrong,” I said, as I glanced over the paperwork. The Chief Clerk and I had both taken and both passed the O Level economics course over one weekend. It wasn’t mentioned on my papers as were none of my education qualifications or even my award on the nineteen eighty five New Year’s Honours list. “This is bollocks!” I said, handing him back the paperwork. “I thought it wasn’t right,” he said, passing me back the documents. I could see he had no intention of changing anything.
My one thought was of my cow of a sister Carol. When she graduated from Trinity in Dublin she had achieved the highest marks ever recorded in the university and at a special award ceremony had been given a certificate to mark the occasion. Carol, took the document, read it and then dropped it into the fire stating, ‘I don’t need fancy pieces of paper.’ It must have been the only time I ever agreed with my sister in my life, for I dropped my demob folder on the Chief Clerks desk and told him to stick them up his arse. I left station headquarters, I left Wattisham and I left the air force. I was quite angry with them but told myself that perhaps one day I would sit down and write a wee story about them and show them how they really are. I smiled to myself; can you imagine it, me writing stuff? I drove away and tried to look forward to the evening; it was a special evening for me for Tony had arranged strippers and beer, a fitting end to a glittering career.