Friday, 28 May 2010

A first look...

So here I am fresh from a year in Gibraltar now just arrived at my next port of call - HMS Osprey, Portland.  This is were I was to meet and marry Sue (29 years on and going strong).

Many a happy night would be spent in the Flying Fish, Osprey's club - all establishments have something similar.

On this evening I was eyeing up the local talent on bop night- Weymouth's finest would often visit.

On this  particular evening I was making a fool of myself on the dance floor with a striking blonde bit.  OK, OK! It was the Babysham girl!  And - Yes!  It was a cardboard cut out - damn it I was desperate!

Well, a charming new baby wren, who I had not noticed, seemed to have found me interesting and, I later learnt, was a bit miffed I had ignored her charming self.  Poor deluded girl!  To cut a long story short.  I treated this poor deluded girl for an ingrowing toenail.  Wooed her at a party with a hidden bottle of Bailleys.

Many years later we are still happily married.  All I can think to explain this is that she must still be very deluded indeed!

Thursday, 27 May 2010

A beach god!....


One last Catalan bay story.

I was, of course, a bit of a beach god - rippling muscles, golden tanned body - the works!  Um, well, not quite.

In reality I was a bit on the thin side - not an ounce of fat on me.  Being fair haired and fair skinned meant that the sun and I were not the best of bedfellows.  In fact, we had a pretty poor relationship truth be told.

So, a draft to Gibraltar for a year would pose a few sunny problems for me.

Obviously, one of the main attractions for most was the sun and beaches of the Rock.  My light skin did pose me difficulties - one look at a hot sun usually meant redness, pain, peeling and quickly back to a bright white finish again.

A strategy was called for.  For the first few weeks of hitting the beach I would lie for the most part completely covered in towels, occasionally breaking cover for a swim and a cool beer.  I could often be seen with the local seagulls standing on me, seemingly not bothered that the towelled rock was rising and falling with my breathing.

I was able to ditch the towels in favour of copious quantities of sun screen.  After a year on the rock, I returned home with a slight, very slight tan.  Impressive.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

A Catalan Dip..


Another day at Catalan Bay.

I had just done a 12 hour night duty in the hospital, a quick dash to my flat, a fried breakfast and then off to spend the day dozing on the beach.  Never a wise approach whilst on nights...

So, having had a bottle of Rose, half a white, a few Calamaris and fries it was time for a quick doze in the sunshine.

One quick doze later - time for a dip.  Another bad idea.  Bottle and a half of wine and I'm in for a dip.  Of I merrily (literally) paddle.  Around the end of the bay, about 50 yards or so out, is a large rock.  About 20 feet below the surface is an archway in this rock.  Excellent.  Down, I go to swim through it.  Another bad idea.  I go into the arch and promptly rise with my back against the jagged top of the arch - a little bit stuck.  As I have mentioned before, one of my strengths is not holding my breathe, I'm bloody hopeless.

Could this be the end of Shiner (my naval nickname) then!  Not, bloody likely!  I manage to scramble out with a slightly cut up back for my troubles.  I get back to the surface and back to the beach.  It still remains a mystery to me, to this day, how I managed to get out of that little predicament.

However, a very good lesson learnt there - don't drink and dive!

A Catalan picnic...


Catalan bay is the main beach on Gibraltar - a very popular spot.  Particularly with the locals.

On a particularly warm, sunny afternoon I was sitting on the sea wall, surveying the scene below, drinking some Rose and munching through some Calamaris (squid) - still the best I have eaten.

I digress.  below me was a crowded Catalan bay beach - the locals were out in force.  Now these people could seriously picnic.  The beach was crowded with tables, chairs, families, all tucking in to impressive looking spreads of food.  A great day out.

To my surprise, I saw a fairly significant wave gathering, not quite a Tsunami but impressive nevertheless.  The wave swept in from one end of the beach and engulfed the happy campers - sweeping picnics and people before it. It was very funny indeed (nobody was hurt), the wave just decimated every picnic in sight!

I couldn't help but laugh from my perch above the beach - shame on me!

A Spanish hike...


Whilst in Gibraltar in 78 I shared a flat on Main St with my mate Pete Wright, another branch member serving at RNH Gib.

We had a weeks leave due, so we took of to hitch hike around Spain for a bit - armed with sleeping bags and a few squids!

We took the ferry across to Algeciras and thought we'd kip on the quayside for the night.  A couple of armed Gendarmes turned up and persuaded us that this was not a good idea - onwards then!

If my memory serves we followed a route that took us via Cadiz and back again.  During this time we managed to drink copious quantities of Sangria and slept in a variety of peculiar places under the stars.

I remember a bar in some small village where we drank Sangria out of pint glasses, having not been impressed with the jugs with glasses as was tradition.  As we got progressively drunker I am sure a couple senoritas were taking a positive interest in us.  To drunk and language challenged to respond, we made our way back to where we had decided to kip for the night.  We crawled into our sleeping bags in the pitch black site of our choosing.

A particularly uncomfortable night was brought to an abrupt end in the morning with some foul smelling vegetables landing on us, having been lobbed over a fence from the camp site on the other side.  My discomfort was due to having pitched my sleeping bag onto a mess of animal bones lying in the rubbish tip we had been sleeping in!

We also managed to sleep in a large pipe of some sort or other and under a hedge, I think, in Cadiz city centre.  Now that's what I call roughing it!

I'm sure if Pete ever sees this he'll put me straight on any facts dimmed over time!

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Rugby - a star is born?

HMS Osprey, Portland, 1980.

Now an LMA (Leading Medical Assistant), serving at the Royal Navy airbase that is Portland (another since closed, sadly).
I have always been a keen sportsman and have played many sports over the years - some more enthusiastically than others.  I used to be a winger in the school rugby team, being a bit nippy back then.  It was never really a game that excited me too much, seemingly a little pointless.  I, of course, also lacked any desire for communal bathing a bawdy songs with boozed up giants!
So it was, that I found myself drafted into the HMS Osprey rugby team.  Don't ask!  I have no idea how this came to pass.  Nevertheless, I found myself cast in the role of nippy winger again. Hopefully I could manage to keep broken bones to a minimum.
Sitting on top of Portland was the borstal, full of various hard cases, I think.  Now the powers that be thought it was a great idea to play rugby against the borstal guests.  So, sometime during a cold December, the Osprey rugby team of men set off to conquer a few kids residing at Her Majesty's pleasure.  Should be easy the team thought.  Yes - right!
The team of 'kids' looked like they be more comfortable in the scrubs.  No matter, us men would prevail.
I found myself, hurtling down the wing, ball in hand, heading towards the byline.  Ah, glory!  A certain try for the team and me.   20 yards to go, I'd make it - no problem.  Why, oh why, did I choose this moment to glance to my left.  A particularly bad move.  Hurtling towards me was what I can only describe as a human shaped block of granite with, murderous intent in his eyes. Always a quick thinker, I assessed the situation rapidly and took immediate action.  To my undying shame, I threw the rather ridiculous shaped ball to the granite block, thus avoiding, surely, serious injury!
Surprisingly, that was my final rugby game of a short lived career. And, yes, I can live with it!

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Where the hell are we?

So here I am - at HMS Raleigh leadership school, some time during 1975, I think.

Leadership school, does what it says in the title. Creates leaders of men - right then - here we go!
14 days of manly fun, marching, running, climbing, classroom leadership lectures, assault courses - fun, fun, fun!
Oh, I forgot to mention - the outward bound bit. You've probably all seen this on the TV by now. Take a bunch of service type people, drop em in the middle of nowhere.  Their mission, if they choose to accept it (no choice here, of course!), is to yomp (in our case - meander) around Dartmoor looking for a few way points, and then to our final destination - hot meal, pat on the back, etc!
Pretty straight forward it would seem.  Well, on this particular leadership course, we were blessed with a particularly mouthy and cocksure stoker (marine engineering mechanic of MEM in navy terms). This guy new it all and wasn't given to taking much advise from his team mates.
As these things often go - this fool was designated leader for my little group.  Oh joy!  This was going to be fun.  Being the leader, he wasn't one for delegation, he would covet the compass - he was an expert in all things remember.  Pity map reading and orienteering weren't really part of his extensive skill set.
To cut a long story short, we spent many cold, wet hours going around in circles, totally lost because of the outstanding leadership of this fool.  Following a minor mutiny (swabs!) we managed to get back to camp tired, wet, hungry and very pissed off!  another glowing example of leadership in action.  This fool probably went on to be a senior officer!