Blast From the Past

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

When I was a boy I used to have this recurring dream. Well, a nightmare, I suppose. I would dream that I was floating in space, unable to move, looking down on earth. Somehow I knew that despite no food, water or oxygen I would remain alive forever.

Forever looking down on earth, knowing that my family were living their lives and growing older and I had nothing to look forward to except an eternity of loneliness and immobility.

Mrs Mac is into dream analysis and I suppose she might suggest that the dream tells of a fear of isolation and estrangement from my family. Either that or an early realisation that I was to become a complete space cadet.

A few years later my nightmare was realised in an old instalment of The Twilight Zone involving an astronaut about to embark on a sixty year mission to Mars. He was to be placed in a cryogenic state for thirty years and woken when he reached Mars. Then he was gonna mince about a bit on the red planet and come back, again in a cryogenic state, to awake back at home sixty years later but no older.

Then he meets this burd and falls immediately and madly in love. Both are tortured by the idea that when he gets back she’s gonna be a wombling old coffin dodger in a house coat and blue rinse and he’ll be the same picture of youth and vitality that left sixty years previous.

So off he goes to Mars, frozen in time like the solitary fish finger you find at the back of the freezer. While he’s gone his burd convinces the cryogenic dudes on earth to freeze her too so when he gets back she’ll still have pre-GILF status.

So, sixty years later they wake this burd up. She has a shower and gets herself ready for some hot lovin’ and makes her way to the landing pad and awaits the return of her fella.

The spaceship lands, the door opens and a ladder descends.

You can feel the tension right?

Then down the ladder hobbles this old geezer, all baldy slap-head and wrinkles. He walks up to his burd and explains that after leaving earth he couldn’t live with being so much younger than her so he woke himself up.

And spent sixty fuckin’ years on his own in a tin box.

That edition of The Twilight Zone terrified me and transported me back to my boyhood. Then, fuck me, just the other night I had a nightmare that was equally as terrifying.  

I was locked in a barn with Mrs Mac and our children while outside lurked hundreds of flesh eating zombies trying to get in and devour us.

I don’t know if I’ve told you before, but I’m a former member of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces and so I did a good job of keeping the living dead at bay.

But I had to leave the barn to deal with a pressing matter. I can’t remember what it was but it was important. And I knew that after leaving the barn and dodging and outrunning the zombies, they would get in and kill and eat Mrs Mac and The Brady Bunch and I would return to a barn of emptiness.

Again, an analyst might say that the dream demonstrates a fear of abandonment. But there’s a good side to that dream. You see, if I were the only living person on earth, surrounded by moaning, slow moving zombies, I’d kick some proper arse in a race. I’d even give a recently despatched Jez Bragg a run for his money.

But, of course that dream contained the sort of shuffling retro-zombie you get in older films like The Dawn of The Dead.

Now I live in absolute fear of a dream containing the more modern zombie like the ones in 28 Days Later. You know the ones that move like shit off a shovel. Oh well, at least that dream will be a return to running normality for me.

The Gun Room

Friday, 11 May 2012

Among my metaphorical hat collection I have one with Close Protection Officer written on it (I also have one which says 'runner' but I rarely wear it).

Well, my mobile phone rang a few days ago and the name on the screen said 'Boris.' Excellent, thought I; Boris is the provider of casual close protection work and I envisaged myself donning aforementioned hat and hearing that satisfying 'ker-ching' sound when someone deposits a sum of cash in your bank account/wallet/sweaty mit.

After a brief conversation with Boris, who is an ex-Parachute Regiment soldier and former colleague in the London Fire Brigade, it became apparent that the close protection officer hat was gonna stay on its peg and I was to witness the world of close protection work from the other side of the fence. Boris had asked me to be the Principal for trainee close protection officers, four of whom would comprise my personal escort squad. They were to escort me to Harvey Nicholls, Harrods, lunch in Kensington, and the Victoria and Albert museum.

My brief was as a successful middle-aged businessman; fit; not believing he needed protection but recent events in his personal life suggesting otherwise. From this brief I could relate personally with only one of those traits and it's the one I have the most problem with in my own description- middle-aged (I still fail to understand why I'm never asked to prove my age when buying alcohol).

Anyway, the following afternoon I found myself sitting in the foyer of the Holiday Inn Kensington, reading The Times and sipping a capuccino. I was clad in black trousers, a smart but casual shirt and some fucking expensive shoes that I got for a song from TK Maxx. A fella built like a double-wardrobe came through the revolving door; he had a curly wire leading from his earpiece into his bulging collar and made his way purposefully across the foyer toward me. This was either my bodyguard or I was about to have two low calibre bullets inserted into my cranium in an ironic case of mistaken identity.

'Mr Waterman?' asked Double Wardrobe in a gruff voice.

'Hi,' I replied, wondering if a successful middle-aged businessman would have such an unmistakeable south London accent.

'My name's Timothy and your car is outside.' Somehow I thought Double Wardrobe might have had a name like Bruce, Frank or Karl but Timothy it was.

Once outside I was met by a gleaming black Range Rover. The door was opened for me and I climbed inside next to a man mountain sat behind the driver. These fellas certainly weren't at the back of the queue when God doled out 20 inch collars. In the driving seat sat Boris. Behind the Range Rover was a Mercedes containing four other gorilla-like men. This was the back up vehicle.

I'd had my instructions earlier and we were to proceed to Harvey Nicks where I would peruse the store before moving on to Harrods.

I walked through the door of Harvey Nicks and entered a territory that I'm guessing you're aware I'm not entirely familiar with. But I walked around the store as if I'm used to considering the purchase of £260.00 shirts and socks costing £9.00 a pair. Behind me Timothy was my shadow and lurking in my near vicinity were three other close protection officers ready to eradicate any threat to my person. On any other day in Harvey Nicks I suspect I would be also followed about by individuals in suits but they would be store detectives expecting a pair of £9.00 socks to be shoved into my pocket at any given moment.

After about half an hour of enjoying the curiosity of the shop assistants and hearing whispered exchanges of: 'Who's the guy with the bodyguards? Is he off the telly?' I'm out the door and striding off toward Harrods. En route I decide to look in the window of a jewellers to marvel at the watches that cost more than I earn in six months. This may have been a mistake because the reaction of the instore security officer suggested he believed the gaff was going to be turned over by a team of jewellery thieves.

Onward toward Harrods and once inside I decide to take the stairs up to the fifth floor where the sports department is situated. Timothy and co may well be able to bench press 220lb but the flight up the stairs proves their cardio ain't so great. If an assassin awaited my arrival, luking behind a treadmill on the fifth floor, I suspect he might have had a good minute or so free reign while my bodyguards picked themselves up off the floor.

Let me tell you something about Harrods and its sports department. If you've got the money to spare go there for your sports gear because the female sales staff are all contenders in the world's most beautiful woman with big breasts stakes. If however, like me you've had a pay freeze for three years and regularly shop in the chav kingdom of Asda, don't bother because everything costs significantly more than it does from Wiggle.

Anyway, as I walk about the sports department admiring the subtle lighting, expertly arranged displays and big tits I see the gun room. Now if there are two words that should excite any red blooded male, and 'free blowjob' is out of the running, 'gun room' should be it.

I walk toward the gun room like George Michael approaching a public loo. Behind me Timothy follows. Around us three other suited behemoths lurk. It's fair to say that the poor fella in charge of the gun room probably saw his life flashing before his eyes intermingled with the scene from Terminator where Arnie relieves the gun shop proprietor of 'Uzi 9 millimeter.'

Just before I cross the threshold of  the gun room Boris appears like the Fez-wearing shopkeeper in Mr Benn and announces 'Endex.' Endex is the military term that signifies the end of an exercise. It's a term that is universally met with joy and relief following days or weeks of living in the field and eating composite rations; of shitting into a bag and keeping it with you to remain tactical; of snatching an hour or two of sleep in a stinking doss bag under the stars. Both myself and my security team are more than familiar the term but I suspect the prospect of five fellas masturbating in the gun room of Harrods had more to do with Boris announcing it than any exhaustion or completion of mission.

My time as Pricipal is over and we're all off to an inexpensive cafe for a coffee and debrief. I give my input and praise Timothy and the guys for their good work. They slag me off for not taking the lift to the fifth floor in Harrods and for looking at the psychadelic shirts in Harvey Nicks. The debrief breaks down into a jovial, military-learned slagging session and all is good in the world.

I doubt I'll be going back to either Harrods or Harvey Nicks soon but if I do the fifth floor in Harrods will be getting a visit.

Guns and big tits, what more could a person ask for?


ps I did a Google search for 'guns and big tits' for a cheeky picture to accompany this tale. Beware doing the same and note well that it's definitely NOT safe for work!!

Walting on the Way

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Among the military fraternity there are individuals commonly known as 'Walts.' The term is a shortening of the name 'Walter Mitty,' the fantasising fictional character created by James Thurber, and refers to people, usually men, who create a military past for themselves involving deeds of derring-do. The basis for these individual histories can often be found in the scripts of our favourite war films or in one of Andy McNab's literary efforts. I know of one particularly sad fella that tells of red hot round casings falling down his collar from the chopper above that was firing on the approaching Taliban......yeah, pal we've seen Black Hawk Down too....I don't recall the bit in the film involving a bedding storeman and if there were one I don't suppose it would loosen the knicker elastic down the pub so effectively.

The term 'Walter Mitty' (and by association I guess, the British, monosyllabic shortening 'Walt') has now entered the American Heritage Dictionary and is described as: 'an ordinary, often ineffectual person who indulges in fantastic daydreams of personal triumphs...'

I now shamefully have to tell you that this past weekend I indulged in a bit of 'Walting' of my own. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't bigging up my own army career and winning a Military Cross for doing battle with a well-armed and determined enemy (although there was that time we had a bit of a dust up with the neighbouring regiment down the NAAFI); nope, I was a participant in the Hoka Highland Fling, a 53 mile trail race along the southern-most section of the West Highland Way.

The key word here is 'participant.' You see, I had flirted with the idea of my participant status involving standing on the start line alongside some of the great and good of the ultra running community. But in a rare attack of common sense I decided my lack of training might better prepare me for a support role (a bedding storeman, if you will).

An invitation for a sweeper runner was made public and Yours Truly leaped on the opportunity like a tramp on a biscuit. If you're not familiar with this particular role it involves setting off behind the back marker in a race and moving at a speed that will ideally result in crossing the finish line at the cut-off with the back marker just ahead. Often it involves cajoling and bullying said back marker into making some attempt to make forward progress. Depending upon the individual concerned, this cajoling and bullying might take a variety of routes. For instance, if that person is a lazy lard-bucket and general oxygen thief, or a particularly unattractive woman, it might be done thus:

'Come on Fatso, move yourself, there's a pub near the finish line with a pint on the bar with my name on it. If you actually get to the end without me doing the world a favour and leaving you here in a shallow grave I'll buy you a calorie-free slimline tonic.'

If, however, that person is tall, heavily muscled and liable to kick your arse at any given moment, or a very attractive woman, it's more likely to be:

'Well done, you're doing fantastically well, we're nearly there and there's a pub where I'll buy you beer for the rest of the evening and send you a friend request on Facebook.'

Anyway, the beauty of the invitation to sweep the Highland Fling is that I was to take over from another sweeper at Beinglas Farm. For those of you with limited familiarity of that particular part of a far away land where men wear skirts and women have a hierarchical system based on the number of their remaining teeth, Beinglas Farm is only thirteen miles from the end. Result.

Another result was that I was to be joined in my role by a fella called David Ross. Now David is tall, heavily muscled and liable to kick my arse at any given moment. You won't be surprised to learn that our friendship began with me buying him beer and sending a friend request on Facebook. David is running the 95 mile West Highland Way Race in June and this was to be a dabble on the route for him.

Anyway, after seeing my fellow blogger, runner and Irish pal, Richard Cronin, through at Beinglas Farm, David and I prepared to undertake our roles as sweeper runners. This involved David performing his own version of Man v Food in the pub where he chowed down on enough burger and chips to sustain a Third-World nation through a particularly long famine.

Then we were off.

When I say we were off it kinda paints a picture of two well-honed athletes leaving at the sound of a starter pistol. Think more two fellas who probably shouldn't be allowed to own running shoes shambling along following another fella (the back marker) who definitely shouldn't be allowed to own running shoes.

And this is where the Walting came in.

The poor fella, feet in bits, exhausted having travelled forty-odd miles, honestly believed that David and I had swept from the start and were so supremely athletic that it appeared we had just started.

Who was I to shatter this illusion?

If he had stopped wittering on about all the races he'd done in the past (maybe he was the Walt,) two things might have happened:

1. He might have been able to put that energy into moving forward more quickly, thereby not keeping David and I out into the hours of darkness.

2. I might have got a word in and told him a story about being in Afghanistan and red hot shell casings falling down my collar......