We coasted through the first couple of months of 1972 reflecting on all the happenings that had recently taken place. Actually, if I am honest we needed time to lick our wounds, take stock and re- group. I know we have nothing to do with the Services but we felt as if we had been on a very tricky outward bound course for which, on occasions, we were sadly ill-equipped.
No wonder we were feeling a little worse for wear, do I dare tell you that we recently received 34 party invitations in one month and attended them all! Sure was a challenge to keep going, but we managed it! Now that’s what is called having stamina, after all, it would have been rude not too!
We are gradually surfacing and cracking on with life. Me with my sailing and dotting off to the Airport each morning and Mike with his golf together with looking after his Bitumen Supply Company which, also entailed travelling around the Gulf.
My mornings were never short of surprises and they were always made especially memorable when the ‘boys’ from Masirah pitched up. To put you in the picture Masirah is an Island in the Indian Ocean, just off the coast of Oman and was used as a staging post for the RAF, consequently, it required troops on the ground, in the form of RAF personnel.
As Masirah was plonk in the middle of the deep blue yonder, it was necessary to carry out a weekly ‘shopping run’ up to Dubai to purchase anything and everything, which also enabled the ‘boys, to let off a little steam. Initially, I really didn’t take too much notice when these chaps used to boisterously cascade through our Office door, their handlebar mustaches twitching in anticipation of the delights they might just be about to sample downtown.
As these visits were on a regular basis I soon became acquainted with the antics of this happy crew, they always seemed to be game for a laugh and their enthusiasm was infectious. They were certainly never backwards in coming forwards.
It didn’t take them long to register that they could possibly have a very good stooge in the form of little old me, if they played their cards right. Maybe ready to run an errand or two for them in their absence. I wasn’t in a position to refuse their bizarre requests, or, at least, I didn’t think I was, too polite really, but I should have known better!
Actually, it was a wonder I didn’t get the sack or at least be sent to the Empty Quarter because they really got me in such a fix this last time. Just shows how bored they must have been whiling away their days on Masirah with little to do except sun bathe and, I think, play the odd game of Cricket against the locals, using oil drums as wickets!
This particular day I should have known something was up as the door was slowly opened and being wheeled in behind the first chap was a bloody great motor- bike In retrospect, it was a wonder he wasn’t riding it and tooting the horn at the same time such was their irreverence. A breath of fresh air if one was needed!
I looked up wondering what was happening. All was then revealed, one of the chaps had recently purchased said bike in the Souk and shipped it back to Masirah and it now wouldn’t go, possibly gunged up with sand, but who was I to state the possibly blindingly obvious.
They were on a mission and were taking it back from whence it came to see what could be done to rectify the situation. Off they went, having arrived through one door they were now sallying forth out of the other. I might add straight through the Boss’s office motor bike and all, well that was par for the course!
Didn’t think any more about this little meeting but latter that day there was a rat on our front door and much to my surprise there stood all five of said RAF personnel looking very sheepish indeed. What now, yes, I know they wanted a beer, and Apartment 6O3 was their best bet, they shuffled in, slightly nervously, what is going on? As they were so quiet and even their moustaches were motionless they were most definitely up to no good.
I was right, oh my goodness, I suppose I should be flattered being treated as one of the ‘boys’ but sometimes it became a little too much. I was about to find out this was definitely going to one of those occasions when I would have preferred to be just one of the girls!
Once they had found their voices, their opening gambit was would I, could I, possibly do them a big favour and get them out of a real jam, yes, I was the proverbial sitting duck! Then all was revealed, did I recall that they had had a motor- bike with them this morning, well, something was very wrong with it and it had to be left at the motor bike hospital to be resuscitated. Yes, well, it won’t be ready for five days and then it will have to be collected, so what I said!
Actually, this is where, please dear Jan, you come in, but I don’t know how to ride a motor- bike, no you don’t have too. We told the chap in the shop to deliver it into your care at the BOAC Office in the Airport. I must be hearing things, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry was it cheek or was it an enormous compliment. What- ever I seemed to be part of this escapade, whether I liked it or not!
They explained that the shop wasn’t in a position to store the bike after it has been repaired and, as I knew, they wouldn’t be back in town for seven days, consequently, a resting place was required for just two days. They couldn’t think of anywhere else for the wretched bike to be tethered other than the front Office of BOAC which, unfortunately, just happened to be the Boss’s office too!
I went as white as a sheet and nearly fainted too boot, I know I’m a brick, but this suggestion was quite outrageous and also totally out of the question, after all, I have got to conduct myself with a modicum of decorum, my reputation is at stake and also my job. What to do?
It was quite obvious that before they had even ratted on the door I was a goner, the plan went like this. Today is Wednesday the bike will be ready next Sunday but we won’t be around until Tuesday. We have told the chap to go to the Airport on Sunday morning around about ll am, after the VClO has departed for London, knock on the door and ask for you.
Yes, once you have been located, they will wheel the bike in, hand you the necessary papers together with the ignition key for safe keeping. I suppose I must be thankful for small mercies, thank god they don’t mention riding it in at full throttle. Then hopefully, you don’t mind, do you, keeping it under wraps for a couple of days? Be a sport, please?
Seems I have no option, how could I be a party pooper, but I was just a little apprehensive to say the least, think any normal person just might have been!
I was on tenterhooks, Sunday duly arrived, actually I hoped it wouldn’t and yes, there was a knock on the door. This was answered by one of the young duty Airport Managers, naturally they were in on this dirty deed, they were always game for a laugh!
I will never know who fell about laughing first but there sitting in front of my Boss’s desk was the biggest bloody motor- bike you could ever have imagined and I was in charge of it for two days! The boys thought it was totally hysterical but what about Ken our Boss, what did we do? Boys being boys, they shrugged and wandered back to their flight plans, leaving me in a total panic.
All I could do was vainly hope that Ken, our boss, might be taken ill for the next two days, obviously that was to be a pipe dream as it wasn’t too long before he flung open his office door, looking at us all in blank astonishment. He then asked, so very politely, as to how this obvious piece of lost property had found its way into his office, did I/we have any ideas? We all looked around sheepishly and then as one collapsed in merriment, dear Ken, had clocked us many moons ago and had long since given up on us all and it wasn’t even April’s Fool Day!
I was first in the firing line spluttering and whimpering that so sorry but what could I do, my hands were tied, naturally in the name of Queen and Country. I had to help the RAF, maybe the bike was being used on secret missions around Masirah, not very convincing but what else was there to say.
The boys tried their best only, making matters worse, in the meantime, to add to the confusion, a plane was heading in from Bombay and a flight plan had to be detailed pronto for the onward leg to London. Please God, they don’t reroute the plane via Outer Mongolia, in the confusion
There was silence; obviously the only thing I could do was to say sorry, but also said I was quite sure he wouldn’t mind sharing his office with a motor- bike for two days, as between us we would surely be mentioned in dispatches. I was also certain that a letter of thanks would already be winging its way from the Air Vice-Marshal concerned, offering thanks. A vain hope!
Two days can be a very long time when you are in the dog house, but Tuesday eventually arrived, with once again the boys bouncing through the Office door moustaches swiveling, as usual. They were very solicitous naturally knowing they were in for a good hiding but still had mischief in their eyes, only a few hours, dear Jan, then we will ay off!get that bloody machine out of your hair. Thank God it was Ken’s day off!
With that they dashed downtown with their usual urgency but thank goodness, as promised, they were back rather smartly, asking for the key to the front Office to enable them to wheel the bike through and off towards their transport.
Wonderful, amazing we are all still alive and I still have my job, but it didn’t quite end there, one of the chaps, said Hi Jan, how about riding pillion down the whirligig over the apron and up to our plane, it will be a bit of fun.
Golly gosh, I’m nothing if not totally daft but game for a laugh all the same. Off I went and yes, I did ride pillion down the whirligig, over the tarmac right up to their waiting plane and no I didn’t get the sack and wasn’t even threatened with being sent to the Empty Quarter – Now that really was a very close shave!
Hope this little tale has amused. They were amazing happy, carefree days!
I will be posting Essay 49 on Tuesday 26th January 2016, hope you will enjoy that read too!
PS I would really love to hear your thoughts and views on my musings, it would make my day!