We moved off, as noisily as we approached the overlook. The pick up point was at the T-Junction, the other two teams would be bustling into the van as soon as it parked up. The moon was low on the horizon, clouds drifted past it and I casted my mind back to college. I used to write a lot, I wasn’t very good at it, but I wrote. I’d look at scenes and think up of ways of describing them in words. The fulgent moon banished from its earthly bonds….
“Come on you fucking fuckhead. I’m gonna fucking spark you out, y’little shit,” someone said flat panned in the darkness. I knew it was directed to me. The red rear lights of a van were stark in the jet of night. I moved over the wooden fence, clambered over a bush and untangled my Bergen from a barbed fence. I felt a pair of hands wrench me from the fenceline and I could hear a tear. In I was stuffed into the van like the victim of a kidnapping. The wind forced out of me by the force of a punch to my chest. The interior of the van was a like inside of an animal breathing. I felt legs and barrels of guns. Nothing more was said, but I felt the weight of pairs of eyes.
Back in Bessbrook we’d step out in to the lit park area of the Mill. It was 01:43hrs. Most of the guys would be asleep apart from the sangars and control room.
“We got egg banjos if any of you scruffy cunts want some?” A tall dark man in fatigues said. He was a chef on duty that evening.
We unloaded our weapons in the bays. The bays were breeze block built, filled with sand, lined with sandbags. An iron bar crossed over the centre, horizontally and you’d put the barrel of your weapon under this. And the mantra would go:
Point your weapon into the sand. Set your safety catch to ‘S’. Change lever to ‘R’ (up position). Engage magazine release catch. Remove magazine. Tilt weapon to the right. Engage working parts to the rear. Check inside front, rear and soon to be into the space where the magazine was. The section commander would pass by, touch your shoulder if he was happy. Then you’d press the button to the left side of the rifle – the working parts would go forward with a clatter and you’d flick the safety to ‘F’ (right finger engaging the forward button in) and squeeze the trigger.
When our guns were unloaded we headed off to the cookhouse. We dropped our bergens off outside and sauntered in to the harsh light of the kitchen. You could hear the eggs being fried and bags of bread being ripped open in earnest. Some of the lads wouldn’t take it lightly if the food wasn’t ready when we tipped up.
“Fuckin’ ‘ell! Egg fucking banjos. Fuckin’ banjos. My fuckin’ favourite,” muttered Bunjees. He was from another team and would punch you in the chest, as a way of greeting you – no malice in it, but it hurt all the same.
Egg Banjos. Now, where the fuck did they get that name from? You just couldn’t make it up? An egg banjo was basically a fried egg sandwich. If the chef did the egg right, then you’d tip the sarnie up to eat and within one bite, the yolk would burst asunder and be dripping down your combat jacket. So the theory is, you wipe away the yoke with your free hand and it looks like you’re playing the banjo.
On another note, I remember having a double take on a female chef. She looked familiar. I asked where she was from and it turned out she went to the same primary school as me back in the early 80s. Talk about a small world.