Welcome to the cupboard of broken toys — Part 14


I am having a low self-esteem day. Everything I do is wrong and feels hopeless. I get permission to visit the MO. He is prepared for this and gives me some meds to help deal with it. I get a chit to take the rest of the day off. The Quartermaster and Chief Clerk are both fine with it. They had been briefed that this sort of thing was likely.

I sit in the NAAFI with my note-book, trying to express how I feel in written words. It is not easy. One of the bikers comes to sit with me. Geoff Davies, a REME corporal.

“Still talking to yourself?” he says, “What’s this?” he demands and snatches the book away.

“Hey! Give it back! It’s personal.” I am not happy to let anyone else read the contents.

He opens a page at random, “Today I am really, really nervous,” he recites in a poncey imitation of my accent, “I have been hanging around with the bike gang. I like them and everything but I don’t think I will ever be able to open up and let them know the truth about myself.”

He stops reading and puts the book down. He looks at me searchingly.

“I told you it’s personal,” I mutter.

“You’re fucking nuts.” He says and shrugs to leave

I start having my internal dialogue. This is something that has developed over the last few months. I know it must look weird for people to see me muttering and gesturing but I can’t help myself. It’s like I am accusing myself of something or other and then denying it, complete with hand gestures and shrugs.

Later, some of the other bike gang come in. They glance at me but go to the other end of the bar to avoid me. Word has got around. It is depressing, but I realise I will have to get used to this sort of thing. They are Them and I am, well, Me.

Preparing for the big show is a massive undertaking. Someone has arranged for the construction of a big arena for the bands and other displays. It has seating for over 2000 people, so they are expecting crowds to attend. They have also taken over the firing ranges for fire-power demonstrations. They have even had to install a temporary stables, tack-room and farriery to accommodate the King’s Troop. The cost must be astronomical.

There will be all the bands. Three regular bands, one Territorial Army band, the Junior Musicians band and my old lot, the Junior Leaders Band. Totalling 280 musicians, trumpeters and drummers. There will be the musical ride of the King’s Troop, a display by the RA Motorcycle Display Team and a display by the Junior Leaders Gymnastic display team. There will be dog-handling and other entertainments.

I am still wrestling with all the ration returns and nominal rolls. It is a real headache. What we are trying to achieve with all this, is to suit the size of the groups to the different transit block sizes. For example, we can’t have Boy soldiers and adults sharing the same accommodation. Plus, we need to have space for them to keep their dress uniforms properly stored.

I am fed-up, so I go out for a ride. I stop at a country pub for a shandy and hear jingling and wheezing coming from the garden. It is Morris Men. Being starved for distraction, I go out to watch. I don’t realise it at the time, but this is the start of big changes in my life.

Friday evening there is a knock on the door of my bunk. It is Clever-Trevor, one of the bikers.

“Can Andy come out to play?” he asks in a sing-song voice.

“Are you sure you want to be seen with the likes of me?” I ask in a sour tone of voice.

“Hey! No need to be like that.” He is defensive.

I have completely mis-read the situation. They haven’t been giving me the cold-shoulder. They have been giving me some privacy so I can try to keep myself on track. But in their own, cack-handed way I mistook it for hostility. I can see my life being made up of these sorts of misunderstandings in the future.

I join them in the NAAFI but I’m not really in the mood. My meds and alcohol don’t really go very well together. Also, a couple of them are shrieking at each other in imitation of the Python Pepperpots. It’s one of the things that puts me right on edge. I start to cry and feel embarrassed. I go out quickly before anyone notices.

I have to go back to Woolwich for assessment. They are surprised to see me on a motorbike, albeit a small one. I have been set a whole battery of psychometry tests that seem to take forever. Over 1000 questions. Many of them are the same question but worded slightly differently. I aim for consistency but can’t remember how I answered them earlier. This is worse than trying to do the ration returns.

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