Saturday, 28 August 2010

There will only be a limited blog for the next 6 days because...we are off to Amsterdam. I say limited because I think that I will struggle typing it out on my iphone with one finger, but I will try. You'll get to hear the radio recordings before me so please warn me if you think I shouldn't re-enter the country.

Great party last night at Ann & Alan's, what lovely hosts and was good to catch up with Sylvia & Tom too. I have to confess that it was me who made the nappy out of toilet paper and fitted it to the statue of the Greek God in the toilet!

Thought I would share this photo of Beverley with you. What a cool hippy, and she still is.

Talking of Hippies, no I'm not going to Amsterdam because I want a spliff, I just wanted to go somewhere nice without having to board a plane. I hate flying! I've been to the city once before with my daughter Maria. We went to meet Bridget, Sasha and Sofia coming back from Guatemala, but Maria was only about 3 then, so my site seeing was limited. I'll never forget going through customs. The guy on duty just wanted to check that there was nothing hidden inside Maria's teddy, but she would just not hand it over to him, or anyone. They tried to coax her at first but in the end, I had to say to the customs officer, "you'll have to take it off her by force, she'll hate you forever but that's better than her hating me forever". So he wrestled with 3 year old Maria as she screamed back, even spitting at him. He finally got the teddy, searched it quickly and offered it back with a smile and an apology. She snatched it from him and threw it back in his face whilst screaming,"I haaaate yooooouuuuu!" The poor guy looked ashamed of himself but, he had a job to do.

I joined the Army on 9th May 1967 along with about 100 other unsuspecting 15 year olds. Why?

Well it started 6 months before when my Dad saw me throwing a piece of scrap brass around the garden. I was pretending to be an Olympic shot put thrower and hey, they didn't have video games then. He told me that I had 6 months to leave the house, he suggested I start looking around and made it clear that staying was not an option. I applied to the Police, the RAF and the Army. The Police wrote back straight away telling me that I had to be 19. Then the RAF invited me in to see them; raising my hopes that I might be lucky with this one. In reality they couldn't write what they were about to tell me and nobody had a phone in 1967. They said that to join the RAF, at least one of your parents had to be a member of a Commonwealth Country. My Dad being Belgian and my Mum coming from the Irish Republic was a problem. He said, "funny thing is, if your Dad had been Pakistani and your Mum Indian, there would have been no problem as they are both Commonwealth countries". It was a lucky escape for the RAF really, because I didn't know then that I was dyspraxic, so the low level bombing raids over The Falklands might have stretched me. Well that left the Army and they had to take me, because otherwise I was going to be homeless. Joining the Army would also help me to keep my Belgian Nationality, as I was obliged to do National Service in that country. They eventually agreed to accept my service in the British Army as having fulfilled service in Belgium. I applied at the same time as the school bully, a complete dribbling psychotic who just wanted to punch everyone. I was sure that he would be just right for the Army as killing people would not only come easy to him, he would enjoy it. I was accepted and he was declined; I still think they got the papers mixed up. Not just accepted but told that I could train as a Radio Technician; only the brightest could do this! Before I left the house my Dad gave me a few words of encouragement. He said, "listen bastard, you are leaving now and you owe me nothing. Don't ever come back and ask me for anything and I will never trouble you again". My Mum took me to the station, I don't remember seeing my brothers or sister before I left. I was heading for some life changing experiences; some of the best and worse times that I would ever have!

I went on the train, it was one of the new diesel engines and seamed so fast compared to steam. I got to York Station where I was greeted by dozens of young boys, suitcase in hand, looking as lost as me. The train from platform one was full of us on the way to Harrogate. We were herded into 3 ton lorries at Harrogate station, nothing new to me, I had spent years being transported this way to the fruit picking fields in Essex. We had all our hair cut off, and because it was the 60's, we all had plenty to shed. We were then processed through the medical centre, sitting on a chair whilst a nurse inoculated us in both arms at the same time against everything from Anthrax to Zebra Flu. Our civilian clothes were taken from us immediately and put in store; taking our identities took about a week longer. At least we would get our clothes back 6 months later.

Thanks to the Internet I am in touch with about a dozen guys who joined on the same day as me. Well we just take each others word that we are who we say we are, because we sure as hell look nothing like we looked like back then. It's interesting to hear everyone's story, all so different. I think of that song by Mary Hopkins....'Those were the days my friend we thought they'd never end'......

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