The NAAFI was a tiny affair. It had a pool table, a football arcade game, a load of slot machines and a section where you could watch the MTV on the Telly. Lots of tracks on and fuck all else to do in your spare time but listen to them. We had Enigma, Betty Boo, Seal, Terence Trent Darby, and a whole load of others who had an impact on my time in the sangars at night. Near a side door there was the counter where you could get your 2 pints that you could get.
I got drunk on my 19th birthday. I was drinking snakebites and ended up going out on patrol 3 hours later to PVCP Bravo. I was found slumped near the Jimpy when one of the lads came to rotate sangars. It was touch and go whether the ‘full screw’ (Bombardier) was going to charge me for that. I’d have had 28 days in prison under the Black Watch. Rossy wasn’t my team commander that time, he’d have battered me for sure.
I got to sending off for things for other people in the papers. There was one which was for slimming. I thought of a guy nicknamed ‘Sloth’ – he was called Sloth because that’s what he looked like. He was sent a promotion pack stating that the company would help him change his shape and make him look fantastic. He was incredulous, mystified and there was a hint of anger in his voice. He began to laugh, holding up the colour photographs of ‘Before’ and ‘After’ shots. “Was it you?” He looked directly at him.
I looked back, smiled. “Why would I do a thing like that?” I asked him.
He got up and put the handful of paperwork in the bin.
I later sent off for a ‘hair restoring’ wonder potion for another ‘colleague’. I also sent a pack that dealt in ‘Funeral Arrangements and Choose Your Own Headstone’ to a school friend. Whilst on R&R I’d had a meal with him and his wife in the Half Moon in Easington Village. Mark, that was his name, recounted the story of him being sent the pack and being sent reminders until he finally had the courage to phone them up. Heads turned as I coughed up my steak. They even said they’d give him a discount if he kept it on, despite his age of 20 at the time. I nearly fell off my chair at this point. I was still in touch with my old school friends back then. Later when people changed and their circumstances moved on, we stopped.
I joined ‘Dateline’. It cost me just over £100 and that was a lot of money, dare I say it? In those days. I got some strange people aligned to the criteria I’d put in the questionnaire they send out. Not a good idea. One was from Chard in Somerset and after ascertaining that I was a Soldier in Northern Ireland she wrote back saying she wanted to protect her family and that she didn’t want to write to me. Strange??? One thought, because I was on ‘tour’ that I was in a band – a fucking pop band! If only. I remember telling her over the phone that no, I wasn’t the lead singer, the guy on strings, the drummer, but usually the twat in the back with the Jimpy and White Sifter; the twat who could seldom be seen being chased by cows and being electrocuted by sadistic farmer’s fences. I got sick of one girl who wanted to be a Vet Surgeon and had a surname called Trim. I just asked her if she was built like a ‘brick shit house’, drank pints of ‘scrumpy jack’ and liked to listen to ‘The Wurzels’ – she never wrote back to me. Perhaps the nearest I got to true love was from a girl in East Anglia. We were to go on holiday together when I got back from tour and go on the Norfolk Broads, then she pulled out at the last minute. I didn’t really get anywhere with ‘Dateline’ and continued to get post from them for another 8 months after I lost interest.
In the back of one paper there was an advertisement for Mensa. I gave the little puzzle thing at the back a go and thought it was pretty straight forward. I sent off for some information and four days later I got an A5 envelope with the Mensa logo on the front. Apparently I could get my IQ test done and apply for membership. I didn’t have a clue who Mensa were and was vaguely away of that bird from that word puzzle game who was in it and that fucker who invented the Spectrum 48k (fucking loved the Spectrum 48k); Clive Sinclair. For the IQ test, I’d need a person with a prominent position and background, somebody who had status. I spoke to my Troop Commander Captain Torrents and he agreed to conduct the test for me. In his room, he had the test papers out. In his hand was a stopwatch and I began the test. It was nothing like ‘What’s the Capital of Finland?’ – it was more like ‘The Moon is to the Earth’ like the ‘Tennis Ball is to the….’ then you’d have a list to choose from. There were a lot more different questions than that. Eventually the questions got more difficult – it got to a stage where I didn’t have a clue and just guessed at what I thought the right question might be. He sent it off and two weeks later I got told I’d passed and scraped through with 133 – the pass mark was 132. I was pleased with that – I wasn’t too intelligent that it would be a hindrance for normal social interaction.
The Battery Commander congratulated me on my passing the test and I naturally thanked him. I can’t remember his name… I know he became the Commanding Officer of 26 Regiment Royal Artillery in Gutersloh in 1995. Nichols? That might be his name.
The NAAFI also had a section where you could have a read of the latest books. Everywhere you went, a welfare package went with you and it always included books. Not many of the lads read. In the sangars you’d get the usual ‘Sun’, ‘Mirror’, ‘Star’, ‘News Of The World’ etc and obviously the porno mags like, ‘Fiesta’, ‘Razzle’, ‘Men Only’. The porno mags would have pages stuck together and some of the readers’ wives would have moustaches scribbled on them, or other guys’ wives names above them.