For a variety of reasons I’ve had one of those weeks where the clock has barely moved its hands, then when its does it leaps forward through a wormhole in space taking me along with it. Working around irregular international hours is not recommended, occasionally I turn in at sunrise, more often not at all, as it is easier to crash in my reclining ‘eeeeasy’ chair (joined eventually by Nipper who squeezes in at the side comfortably). Yesterday having finished at 05:00 hrs, I patrolled the dogs, and then ablutioned ‘as a gentleman should’ after which I performed the ceremony of… ‘Friday morning breakfast’; scrambled eggs, grilled bacon, toasted bread, and a scalding hot pot of tea.
And there lay the error for the weekend. I had unwittingly prepared the ceremony on Thursday morning, my body clock was shot to bits. I had that great ‘Thank God its Friday’ feeling a full day early. For almost eight hours I was living a blissful lie. As the lie continued, so I lived through it, as I attended to the tedious chores required around the house (there is no Mrs. Ex Bootneck to assist, and as yet Nipper & Hannah can’t quite get to grips with the Dyson, or load the washer, etc, etc). Chores complete it was 10:00 hrs, the official hour for a mid-morning ‘stand-easy’.
Settling down with my cup of tea and biscuits I listened to the news in the background, and perused my Pad for the morning mail. The dogs were dozing on their couch-at the time of morning when the sun pops through the large glazed doors to cover them in a golden blanket of rays. The three amigos slowly blinked their eyes as they started to sink, Nipper yawned, Hannah yawned Joss yawned, which triggered my yawn as I stretched my limbs. Out of the blue a ‘weary’ hit me, the ‘eeeeasy’ chair was whispering my name like a siren from the shore calling a ship on to its rocks; the ship heard the call and responded. Off I went to steal a pair of hours in the near horizontal position; just as I started to sink into the abyss I heard the pitter patter of tiny feet, Nipper had followed and jumped up effortlessly to lay across my chest. My late morning snooze was soon to end, rudely.
After a long seven day patrol we reached the Lie Up Position close to the Landing Zone, it was still as black as pitch, dawn would start breaking within the hour. The LUP was perfect, it was on a high feature covered in large boulders, thick bush and scattered pine trees. It offered cover from view, as well as winters elements; it would be easy to defend if required. We could also watch and cover the relief patrol as they de-bussed onto the LZ, who in turn would role reverse and watch us en-buss. I loved this part, as it offered a chance few minutes to hurl abusive banter as we passed each other fleetingly. (Below) LUP on Slieve Gullion’s western slope, looking towards the village of Forkhill, South Armagh The evolution would have to happen twice to complete the change-over, the Lynx (above pic) could only bring in nine Marines with their heavy bergan’s to effect the switch.
Eight hours to push on Slieve Gullion before the first flight arrived. After first light broke I stood fifty percent of the patrol down for breakfast. My headset crackled as a metallic voice used my call sign; it was the Op’s room asking for a radio check-as well as asking a question I didn’t want to hear “what is your visibility to my location“? I could see straight across the valleyed landscape, to the little dot ten miles away that was our Security Base in the village of Forkhill (where mail, hot showers, hot food and clean bedding awaited). “I have you clear and visual“? Said I, firmly. Once again the reply was not what I wanted to hear “Buzzard reports his location as being heavily clagged in-with no foreseeable change for the next twenty-four hours; Sun-ray at my location has ordered you to go firm for a further twenty-four“! Such is life in a green beret, another night out under the moon and stars. The message was quickly passed throughout the patrol; each Marine went through their time practiced admin routine, with minimum movement, and no one breaking cover.
My relief stood-to as I settled into a small grassy hollow where I started to doze, my rifle lay across my chest, and with my belly full of boil in the bag breakfast, I was absolutely content with life. In the far distance I thought I could faintly hear chopper blades beating the air, then silence, then another faint beat, followed by silence, then a steady beat that grew louder, and louder; oh bugger… The buzzards were obviously clear and flying!Buzzard flight Op’s had a long history of canceling flight programs due to thick swirling fog, only to reappoint it when it cleared, without informing anyone. I tightened my grip on my rifle ready to call the whole patrol to stand-to-and prepare to move. Nipper growled? What was Nipper doing on this patrol? My rifle wasn’t a rifle? It was Nipper laying across my chest; I had my left hand under his chin with my right hand on the outside of his right hip, which meant my trigger finger was under the small of his belly, which meant there wasn’t a trigger guard, which meant my trigger finger was on ‘his’ trigger; Owahhhh!!! He continued to growl at some thing, and I could definitely hear the beat of of heavy military chopper blades. I looked outside of my office window from the comfort of my recliner, to see two Merlin choppers heading straight for me at tree top level. At two hundred metres they split, port & starboard of my home, the down wash from their rotors (supplied by six powerful Rolls-Royce Turbomeca RTM 322 turbines) rippled the inch thick pan-tiles on the roof, making them plink and tinkle like the ivories on an old pub piano. Fortunately for each Merlin and its crew the office windows were closed, as Nipper would have launched himself out and brought at least one of them down… The aerial display went on for at least twenty minutes, contour flying through the valley, one low, one high giving top cover, each time using my place as a marker point for turning. Grrrrrrrr…! I was totally confused? Why have the military changed their flying routines, it has always been; Mixture Monday (Fast jets morning, Trainer turbo afternoon) – Trainer turbo Tuesday – Wish list Wednesday (variety of every thing, including C-130K SF Herc’s) – Chopper thrashing Thursday – Fast jet Friday! So why on earth was the military flying its choppers on a Fast jet Friday… The solution was to make a pot of tea (having washed my hands first), then let the dogs out to stretch their legs.
Having once again checked my Pad for mail, I realised my error… It was Thursday! ‘Chopper thrashing Thursday’. Which means we are now reading this on ‘Fast jet Friday’, which also means I have had that great ‘Thank God its Friday’ feeling for two days running, as well as performed the ceremony of Friday morning breakfast, again. Even better news; there was no need for the tedious chores, as I cracked them all yesterday. Yours Aye.