Yes, I know the title's a bit odd, but WTH, it's my blog.
As I've mentioned before, there have been a few times when I suppose I should have been scared, but wasn't.
The first I remember was being taught to abseil down a 300 foot cliff in Wales (Army again).
I saw the ropes being attached to a rock anchor, threaded the ropes through a figure of eight adaptor, checked the carabiner and body harness was secure and walked backwards, over the cliff. Slight thrill of excitement, but no fear. I was in complete control.
Kicked out and let the lines run freely. This was magic. Descending at a fair lick down a vertical piece of rock. When I reached the bottom, I couldn't get back up fast enough to do it all again. I managed to do it three more times, each one more enjoyable than the last.
Quite honestly, it's the most fun I've had with my clothes on.
Then there was the time in a snooker hall in Glasgow.
I had wagged off school, and I was in The George snooker and Billiard Hall in Byres Road. My friend Garry and I couldn't abide another lesson in PE, so we'd nipped out to The George.
In those days each table had a coin-operated meter which controlled the lights over the table.Without the lights it was too dark to play. Garry and I were into our second session when about 7 wee nyaffs crowded in.
"This is oor table" "Leave now or we'll do ye"
I had just put in a half-crown for another 40 minutes and I had no intention of giving my money to this wee shit, no matter how many guys he had with him.
I just reversed the snooker cue in my hand and swung the weighted end into my palm with a slap.
"Get lost" was my reply. I was aware of Garry trying to back away and leave me (the cowardly wee weasel) but he was stuck between the wall and the gang, and so he had no choice but to stay with me.
The wee nyaf just stared at me for a few seconds, then backed off with his wee bunch of mates.
I think it was because I had absolutely no fear in my eyes or body language that he backed off. I was about the same size as him, but I had the lead-weighted cue, and he knew he was going to get it first.
I found out later that this gang of toughs had beaten up quite a few kids of our age, but I'm sure it was the toal absence of fear that had let us get away. (We did get away, but I made damn sure I finished the game first. Garry won, the wee sniveling cowardly bastard that he was)
Sometimes ignorance is bliss.
Then there was the time I was acting as a safety officer for an Artillery shoot in Otterburn. Unexpended propellant had to be safely disposed of, and as we had been shooting most of the weekend at charge 2, it left about 400-500 charge 3 propellant bags.
I t was my job as safety officer to dispose of them in the regulation manner. Luckily I had a Field Artillery manual with me, and followed the instructions to the letter.
I laid out the bags in a huge triangle, the bags themselves criss-crossing each other.
I broke one of the bags open and laid the resultant loose propellant (it looked like loose spaghetti) in a fuse train to a safe point.
I nonchalantly lit a cigarette (I smoked about 40-60 a day in those days) gave one to the (rather nervous) gunner who had been helping me, and used my trusty Ronson to ignite the propellant train.
With a sound like a subdued rocket engine ...sort of like wwwwwwwwWWWWWHHHHOOOOOOOSSSHHHH the propellant ignited and fired off the main triangle.
The now shaking gunner asked me if it was supposed to sound like that . (Look, I can understand his nervousness. We were disposing of about a ton and a half of explosive. And I was in charge. Me. A newly commissioned Second Lieutenant. There is little that will cause fear in a British Squaddie, but a new Second Lieutenant will do it every time)
I replied that I wasn't quite sure, as this was the first time I'd done it.
He just stared at me for a few seconds, then sort of whimpered and buried his head in the ground.
I didn't quite see what he was worried about. I had followed the instructions to the letter, and Army instructions are very detailed and NEVER wrong.
After the main burn had finished (and quite exciting it was, with huge flames shooting up to 20-30 feet in the air, and little burps of flaming gases adding a certain frivolity to the whole affair) we (actually I, as Mr scared-shitless-shining-example of the British Army refused to come out of his self-dug pit) checked for any unburnt or semi-burnt charge bags then set off to the local pub for a quick pint.
In the Redesdale Arms, I met up with my fellow officers and the senior WOIs (IG) and WOIIs (AIG) who had been involved in the shoot. One very pleasant WOI (who shall remain nameless, but whose surname was an English county, and who later became the first ever Royal Artillery WOI to be court martialled for cowardice in the face of the enemy (not guilty) asked me how it had gone. I told him it went just as the manual had said, and waved the booklet under his nose.
He went white, then a deep brick red.
"Where the f*ck did you get that Sir?" (No-one can infuse the word Sir with such incredibly vitriolic contempt as a WOI, talking to a subaltern who has cocked up)
"From my battery library Mr. W-------e, what's up?"
"That manual was out of date by 1945 Sir" "It was replaced because too many soldiers were being fried by sudden flare-ups from the propellant chain"
I remembered the pretty little burps.
I remembered the scared look in the gunner's face as he cowered in the dirt. (He was OK, he was fast asleep in the back of my Land Rover with a large shandy and a packet of crisps)
My knees went a bit weak, and I had to sit down.
"Oh" I said
"Did you use the triangle method Sir?"
"Yes IG, just as it was laid out in the man..."
""Have you ever done this before Mr TSB?"
"No IG", "This was the first time"
"Come and see me again BEFORE you do tomorrow's burn Mr TSB, and I'll make sure you have an up-to-date manual and a quick introduction to the new safety procedures"
"Thak you very much IG, can I buy you a pint?"
"No sir you may not, but you can buy me a very,very, large brandy to settle my nerves"
"DO you know how long the court of enquiry would have gone on for if you had fried yourself and that idiot of a gunner in the back of your truck?"
"IT WAS A RHETORICAL QUESTION SIR" "Now just go over to the bar like a nice little gentleman and buy me a quadruple brandy, and all will again be right with the world"
"Thank you IG"