A Bloody Week!!!

You might wonder at the meaning of the title of todays blog? Well, its all about blood, my blood. I did learn one important fact , don’t joke about your blood in a hospital situation. Yesterday I attended the Queen Elizabeth Hospital to see my heart doctor. Entering the elevator I was followed in by a young nurse pushing a trolley with the equipment for doing blood tests. Jokingly I said, hope you don’t want me to roll up my sleeve in the elevator? She just smiled that knowing medical kind of smile we so often see in hospitals but said nothing.  During my doctor visit I was sent for blood tests, and you have probably guessed, the nurse waiting to take my blood was the same one I’d met on the elevator! I expect by this point you are wondering why I’m making such an issue of a wee blood test.  Well, let me explain , I was seeing my doctor because I’m anemic and my body is approximately short four pints of blood. Not sure of the cause yet and still have myriad of tests to do. However, every test seems to include taking blood, and I’m not talking a couple of small test tubes. On average each test has required six or seven tubes of blood, Both my arms look like bruised pin cushions. By now you are probably saying ,what a wimp, blood tests are almost painless!. I’d agree, expect in the last eight days I have had seven blood tests,  When the nurse says which arm, I’m at a loss and wondering if she could use a leg! My last test required nine tubes of blood and I have another scheduled for this coming week.  I’m beginning to wonder if they will find the cause of my blood loss, before I run out of blood. What a bloody week!!!!

God Bless and keep reading.

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Who To Choose???

Kevin O’Leary was on the island yesterday and interviewed on compass last evening. I have to agree much of what he said made sense. Don’t panic! I’m not about to vote for him. Nevertheless, he did make me think, especially about Trudeau? Trudeau sailed into power quite unexpectedly, he suddenly was popular with the young people. Selfies became the rage, nice hair and good looking became the talk of the town. When we think about it he does indeed attract the young voters. He is very good at town hall talks, says all the right things (mostly) open neck shirt, sleeves rolled up, just the right image to attract the youth of Canada. Add to this his name, Trudeau, not a bad way to start a career in politics. However, we need to take a closer look at him, never mind the hair the smiles and the shirt sleeves. How is he doing as Prime Minister? not so hot I think. We have a massive and growing deficit, we have already seen a reversal on election promises. Not the least of which was the blatant reversal of promised election reform. For me this was quite unforgivable and I believe will come back to haunt him in the next election. I see the major issue in politics today as “TRUST!”! who can we trust anymore?. Does any politician ever do as they say they will do once elected. Not from where I’m sitting, not Federally and certainly not Provincially. I believe all that Trudeau achieved was a new and popular image, but under all the glitz, he is just another politician doing what he does best. Telling the voters what we want to hear but never intending to actually follow through.  Now I see the next election as entering the Dragons Den, no matter who we elect we, the electorate will end up getting burned! Just my views from snowy Abram Village. But wait ——————- Maybe there is hope?

God Bless and keep reading

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Canadian Values???

There has been much talk lately of Canadian Values? Especially so when speaking about new immigrants. I suppose much of this talk has derived from the Conservative leadership race and in particular Kelly Leitch. Bye the way she is on PEI today, are you excited? I’m trying to understand what these ever so important Canadian Values are. I have always respected the laws of the land, I keep myself presentable, polite and always ready to help others. I respect other peoples opinions, religions, and political views. However, where I have a problem with these values is when it involves our leaders and politicians.

I have posted a few photos of politicians most of us know well.

So where are their Canadian values?????

Ghiz ran off rather hastily after the E gaming scandal broke and Sheridan was quick on his heels.  Then we have the new premier who promised to do business differently, he almost immediately ignored a democratic vote on election reform among other things.

Wayne Easter MP??? not sure if I can apply any value here?

 

But the biggest blemish on our so called Canadian Values was committed by the leader of the nation, Prime Minister Trudeau! He clearly promised to end the first passed the post during his election campaign and a majority of voters believed him. Guess what? he lied too!!! no intentions of ever reforming the election system.

Where does this leave these ever so important Canadian Values that are being hyped up by eager politicians wishing us to elect them. I think it leaves us with egg on our faces again, we have once more been fooled by these less then honest men and women aspiring to high office.

So to summarize, Canadian Values are for new immigrants, honest and hard working Canadians, they should be taught in schools and practiced by all citizens. But of course they do not apply to politicians, they have no values beyond getting elected and lining their pockets.

God Bless and keep reading

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No No!!!! not that Male Cycle with a Cross bar

The Male Cycle finally explained
When I was 13, I began to notice girls and hoped that one day I would have a girlfriend with big tits.
When I was 16, I got a girlfriend with big tits, but there was no passion, so I decided I needed a passionate girl with a zest for life.
At high school, I went out with a passionate girl, but she was too emotional: everything was an emergency—she was a drama queen, cried all the time and threatened suicide. So then I thought that I needed a girl with stability.
When I was 25, I found a very stable girl but…she was boring. She was totally predictable and never got excited about anything. Life became so dull that I decided I needed a girl with some excitement.
When I was 28, I found a very exciting girl, but I couldn’t keep up with her. She rushed from one thing to another, never settling on anything. She did mad impetuous things and made me miserable as often as happy. She was great fun initially and very energetic, but directionless. So I decided to find a girl with some real ambition.
When I turned 30, I found a smart, ambitious girl with her feet planted firmly on the ground, so I married her. She was so ambitious that she divorced me and took everything I owned.
I’m older and wiser now and looking for a girl with big tits.

God Bless and keep reading

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A little Sunday Humour

Butch the Rooster

Sarah was in the fertilised egg business.    She had several hundred young pullets and ten roosters to fertilise the eggs. 
She kept records and any rooster not performing went into the soup pot and was replaced.
This took a lot of time, so she bought some tiny bells and attached them to her roosters. Each bell had a different tone, so she could tell from a distance which rooster was performing. Now, she could sit on the porch and fill out an efficiency report by just listening to the bells.
Sarah’s favourite rooster, old Butch, was a very fine specimen but, this morning she noticed old Butch’s bell hadn’t rung at all! When she went to investigate, she saw the other roosters were busy chasing pullets, bells-a-ringing, but the pullets hearing the roosters coming, would run for cover.
To Sarah’s amazement, old Butch had his bell in his beak, so it couldn’t ring.    He’d sneak up on a pullet, do his job, and walk on to the next one.
Sarah was so proud of old Butch, she entered him in a Show and he became an overnight sensation among the judges.
The result was the judges not only awarded old Butch the “No Bell Peace Prize” they also awarded him the “Pulletsurprise” as well.

Clearly old Butch was a politician in the making.  Who else but a politician could figure out how to win two of the most coveted awards on our planet by being the best at sneaking up on the unsuspecting populace and screwing them when they weren’t paying attention?
Vote carefully in the next election. You can’t always hear the bells
( If you don’t send this on, you’re chicken    ……    no yolk! )
God Bless and keep reading
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Health Care on PEI

I was already planning to write this blog before reading this mornings paper. However, the front page article on the closing of hospital beds during the March break fits well with my topic. Regarding closing beds, well it might sound reasonable and fair, after all medical staff need their time off too. However, I wonder how the person suffering pain and awaiting elected surgery feels about this as his/her surgery is cancelled once again. The opposition health critic states, this not about staff holidays, its the budget. Closing these beds save money and help reduce budget costs.  I suppose it depends on who we believe, and of course the opposition will take every opportunity to make the government look bad.

I think this is just the tip of the iceberg, Island health care along with education has been deteriorating for some time now. How could it not, after all the misappropriation of our taxes by the passed and the present Liberal governments. The cover ups and ongoing scandals of PNPs and Egaming, rising salaries for politicians and rising HST for the rest of us. The health situation came home to me with a bang this week. My doctor prescribed physio treatment, so off I went to the PCH to arrange an appointment. Sorry, it is a ten month to one year waiting period! and apparently that is the same at the QEH. Of course I have the option of going to a private clinic and pay. All very well if a person can afford to pay, but it also raises the question of why my taxes are so high?? health care maybe???? I have also been waiting for over a year for cataract surgery. Perhaps my ailments are not too serious, but what about the person in a critical situation, can that person wait for ten months or maybe a year? So it appears to me we have a growing crisis in Island health care but the government says and does nothing. We are short of doctors and now, apparently many other health professionals which politicians fail to mention. It is time we either pressure this government to do better or we kick them out of office. Just my frustration and inability to receive needed medical care.

God Bless and keep reading

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Happy Saint Patricks Day

A Touch of Blarney (A True Story)

My story is what is called in Ireland  a long short story, its a bit long for a short story, but its Irish and an Irish mile is about three miles long!!! Enjoy my tale and please feel free to tell me if you believe it happened.

The Blarney Stone – Myth or Legend?

The Blarney stone has woven around itself a unique tradition of myth, legend and
Romance. It is said that the secret of the holy stone was given to Cormac MacCarthy, King of Munster by the local witch whom he saved from drowning in the lake behind the castle. It is also said that the stone was brought back from the Crusades and that it was made into two halves. One is the Stone of Scone also known as the Stone of Destiny, the other half was given to Cormac MacCarthy by Robert Bruce of Scotland in gratitude for the Irish army of four thousand men which was sent to help him at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. Whatever its origins, through the centuries the stone has succeeded in strengthening the mystical romance and legend that reaches to the four corners of the world as is evident by the thousands of people who visit Blarney Castle every year just to kiss this mysterious stone in hope of receiving the gift of eloquence or perhaps to capture a little of the mystique that is the Blarney Stone

—————————————————

Many readers will dismiss this story as mere coincidence, but those of you with a touch of Irish may well believe it, as do I.
————————————————————————————————
In order to tell my story I must first relate an event that occurred one year earlier. My name is Frederick Rodgers I’m a twenty year old Able Seaman and as yet unmarried. I have served happily for three years in the Silent Service. During the summer of 1962 in Plymouth, England I was serving aboard the Royal Navy submarine HM/SM Taciturn. On weekend leave I suffered a severe head injury as a front seat passenger in a shipmate’s car. Three weeks in hospital and thirty stitches later I was sent home on sick leave. Whilst on leave my brother-in-law suggested I claim damages and took me to a solicitor. I recounted what little I remembered about the accident and gave the lawyer a newspaper clipping, the only real information I had
When sick leave expired I was posted to HMS Dolphin, the submarine base in Portsmouth, I remained there until declared fit for sea duty almost one year later.

A Touch of Blarney
****************
In May 1963 I was declared fit to return to sea duty. I reported to the drafting office for my next assignment. I had long since forgotten the solicitor or any hope of receiving compensation.
The submarine base maintains a complete spare crew. If a submarine found itself short a crew member due to health or such, a replacement was readily available. It was to spare crew I now find myself posted. I’m given several forms to complete and deliver to appropriate departments. It was important the pay office knew my whereabouts if I expected to be paid. It was equally important the post office had my new address if I hoped to receive mail. However, the first priority was to transfer with my kit to the spare crew accommodation. By the time I moved to my new billet it was already late. I decided the forms could wait until the following morning. That night I turned in and quickly fell asleep.

Suddenly a blinding light is shinning in my face. Behind it, someone was shouting “ you Rodgers?” You’ve got ten minutes to get your ass aboard the submarine Totem, she’s about to sail.

I landed aboard as they were about to remove the gangway. I was unshaven, unwashed and now underway. The boat was heading out to operate in the Irish Sea with a visit to the City of Cork on the weekend. Thursday at sea being payday everyone was paid. Everyone except me that is! I was almost broke with maybe five shillings to my name. The chance of borrowing from a shipmate was nil. Not a permanent member of the crew, loaning me money was high risk. I could disappear as quickly as I had arrived.

Saturday morning, alongside in Cork City I was free to go ashore. Opposite the gangway was a pub. It didn’t open until noon. However, a discrete tap on a side door my shipmates and I are quickly ushered inside.
The interior was dim blinds still down. We ordered pints of Guinness and headed to a table by the fireside. As our eyes became accustomed to the gloom we saw a Garda (Irish Policeman) standing at the bar.
“Tis British sailors breaking the law I’m seeing here?” he says. We froze on the spot. After a pause he continued. “Ah well! Sure tis breaking the law to let salty young seafarers like yourselves go thirsty.”

A few pints later and my funds reduced by half I returned anboard for lunch. Levity in a seaman’s mess usually increases after the daily noontime issue of rum. This was the case aboard Totem. Someone suggested we head out of town to Blarney Castle to kiss the famous stone.
Having imbibed a tot and two pints of Guinness, kissing the Blarney Stone seemed an admirable idea.

The bus fare depleted a further sixpence from my dwindling funds. Arriving at the castle we were directed to climb a circular stairway to the top of the tower. Here we found the Blarney Stone and an enterprising photographer. For one shilling he would take our photograph kissing the stone. We readily agreed we surely needed a record of our lips touching this famous stone. After paying the photographer I couldn’t afford return bus fare and had to walk the five miles back to town. I returned aboard Totem, depressed, my feet aching and my pockets empty.

A dance was hosted for Totem’s crew that night promising lots of girls in attendance. I knew I wouldn’t be doing any dancing even if my feet recovered in time.

When I entered the mess I noticed the mail had arrived. I showed no interest there would be none for me. Like my pay doc’s, my change of address was sitting in my locker back at the base. Therefore I was stunned when a shipmate asked if I’d got my letter? What letter? It had to be a mistake. It couldn‘t be for me.

Nevertheless, on the table was a large official looking white envelope with my name clearly printed on the front? I quickly tore it open to find it contained several typed pages. But what immediately caught my attention was the attached cheque. It was from my lawyer, a settlement for my injuries in the sum of one thousand pounds. Never in my life had I held such a huge sum of money in my hands.

The first question that came to mind was how this letter found me? How was it possible? The fleet mail office didn’t have my new address.
*******
Now my second question?
A few hours earlier I had kissed the Blarney Stone with only small change in my pocket. Now I was rich beyond my wildest dreams. Coincidence??? Or Luck of the Irish?? You decide!

I served a total of 24 years in the British and Canadian Navies. I’m now retired and living with my wife, Linda, in Abram Village, Prince Edward Island. Canada. I have completed and published three books (two memoirs and one fiction) titled “Lily & Me” and “The Royal Navy & Me” and Chapter XXl Armageddon, they are available in bookstores or online at http://www.amazon.com or visit my.
Web page for more info http://www.irishroversbooks.com
*******
Oh, and yes I did make it to the dance that night!

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A LAUGH A MINUTE —NOT

Mostly when we listen to a provincial government report of not quite managing the deficit of finances we are told it was due to one of the following. Either the fault of the Federal government transfer payments, health cost, snow removal, rising gas prices, road repairs, harsh winter or just not enough tax revenue. This was the case tonight on CBC Compass, our intrepid finance minister Allan (funny man)Roach explained the island deficit would be double what he had predicted. In other words he was 100% wrong in his prediction. However, this was the fault of the Federal government clawing back  over payments of HST revenues.  Of course it was Allan, how could anyone blame you, our ever so smart finance genius!!!. He then went on to say, and this is really the funny part, his department is moving forward and predicts that they will have a balanced budget in 2018!!!LOL. ThIs has to be a standing or maybe a running joke within the Liberal party. Isn’t this what was said by the Liberals last year, the year before and the year before that and the year before that, and the,,, well you get the message. What is so amazing his how this guy can say this on television and not even show a tiny hint of a grin. I’m sure if they asked me to make this statement I’d be laughing and rolling on the studio floor. I’m beginning to wonder if they are starting to believe themselves. If they do, they are the only ones that do, the rest of us just shake our heads, saying this is just more of the same old same old. Remember this other Liberal financial genius???. Please be careful don’t hurt yourself laughing too much. If it wasn’t so serious it really would be a court of jesters preforming for us instead of a government!!!

God Blest and keep reading

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My First day in the Royal Navy – March 15th 1955

Kippers for Breakfast

 Wednesday, the fifteenth of March 1955. I was on board the Belfast to Liverpool steamer, one of six new Royal Navy recruits en-route to HMS Ganges. Crossing the Irish Sea from Belfast had been unusually calm. Perhaps it had something to do with the misty overcast weather.

Still, I was grateful for a flat sea. It would have been hugely embarrassing to be seasick on my very first day as a sailor. Not that the other passengers would have noticed anyway. To them I must have appeared as just another silly young boy.

During the last hour of the crossing I stood alone at the ship’s guardrail, quietly daydreaming. I imagined myself on the bridge of a warship, a stalwart seaman, feet firmly planted on a pitching deck and binoculars at the ready, searching for an enemy fleet.

The ship’s foghorn suddenly sounded overhead, breaking my salty reverie. The ship was slowing down as it approached the wharf at the Albert Docks. My five companions joined me on deck and we watched the Liverpool skyline gradually materializing through the fog.

Twenty minutes later the gangway was in place and the passengers began to disembark, and six young Jolly Jacks finally set foot on a Liverpool jetty, thus ending the first part of our epic journey.

Our next task was to find the Seaman’s Mission, where we were to spend the night before travelling on to London the following morning. The address was clearly listed on the sheet of instructions given to us by the recruiting officer in Belfast.

After asking a dockyard worker for directions, we set out on foot to find it. Having no luggage to carry, we decided to walk and save on bus fares. I almost regretted this decision because, as we left the docks area, I spotted a line of trams. They were parked in front of a huge building. At the time I assumed it was the City Hall but I later discovered that it was the Mersey Port Authority Building.

The sight of the trams rekindled some fond memories of the old Belfast trams that were taken out of service in 1952. They had for years been my favourite mode of travel around the city. The Liverpool trams were the same familiar Chamberlain models, but in their drab green paint they didn’t look nearly as grand as my Belfast ones.

But now wasn’t the time to reminisce about the past. I had far greater priorities on this important day.

We continued down the main street, taking in the sights and sounds of an unfamiliar city. Ten minutes later, on the opposite side of the street, we spotted the Mission sign on a two-storey red brick building.

One of the boys noticed a cinema a couple of doors down from the Mission which was showing George Orwell’s ‘1984’, and he suggested we should go there after supper.

At the Mission we were assigned our beds and issued with pillows, blankets, towels and soap. The menu for supper was bangers and mash, tea and rice pudding, but we were notified that it wasn’t available until 6 pm. So, having an hour or so to kill, we decide to test our bunks and rested up before eating. We smoked cigarettes, talked about nothing in particular, and laughed at silly jokes.

We were nervous and anxious, but also impatient to move on to the next stage of our adventure.

After supper we agreed that we should go to the cinema as it would help pass the time, but it was a strange film about an imagined world some thirty years in the future, and I didn’t particularly enjoy it. I had little interest or comprehension in such a futuristic world. 1984 was just too far in the distance to bother thinking about.

The sleeping quarters in the Mission was just one large dormitory containing approximately thirty beds. We cautioned each other to sleep with our wallets under our pillows. Liverpool was a busy seaport and the Mission was filled with a variety of merchant seamen from many different countries. In fact our sleep was disturbed several times during the night by the noisy arrival of a drunken sailor or two.

This was my first introduction to a sleeping environment that consisted of loud and various sounds that involved snoring, farting and belching. However, sharing a small space with so many bodies was something that I would soon become quiet accustomed to in my chosen career.

I arose around six the next morning and headed to the communal bathrooms to wash and brush my teeth. There was very little movement at that early hour because most of my neighbours were still sleeping soundly.

Trevor Weir, a wee lad from Ballymena, appeared shortly after me and we finished our ablutions together. We got dressed and then returned our bedding to the used-linen hampers provided. With twenty minutes still to go before breakfast, Trevor suggested we take a walk around the block and have a smoke.

Outside, the morning air was crisp and clear, and there were few people about as we sauntered down the street puffing on our Woodbines. Trevor, who was just as nervous as me, started a conversation about how he imagined life would be at HMS Ganges, but neither of us came close to picturing what lay in store for us once we passed through those barrack gates.

As we returned to the Mission a clock was chiming the hour from somewhere across the city. I was hungry now and my thoughts turned to a hearty breakfast of bacon and eggs, toast and a large mug of tea. When we entered the dinning area the four other recruits were already standing in line waiting to be served so Trevor and I collected our cups, plates and cutlery from a table at the side of the counter and lined up behind them.

When my turn came I held out my plate and the cook dumped something on it that I didn’t recognize. He was a big burly man who didn’t look particularly happy with his lot in life so I decided not to ask him what it was and I joined my friends at the table.

We had all been served the same thing, and I wasn’t the only one who didn’t know what it was. One lad did, however, and he gleefully informed us that we each had a pair of smoked kippers.

I was none the wiser, but I was equally sure that it was something I wouldn’t normally eat for breakfast. Or at any other meal, for that matter! So I had to content myself with bread, margarine, marmalade and a cup of tea.

I soon learnt that kippers were a popular item on the Royal Navy’s breakfast menu, and they were better known in Naval terms as ‘Spithead Pheasant.’

With our less than scrumptious meal finished we collected our coats and departed the Mission. Lime Street Station wasn’t far away, so again we decided to walk and conserve our dwindling funds. We had ample time. The London train didn’t leave until 8.30am.

 

*****

 

 

The next leg of our journey began with a five-hour train ride to Euston Street Station in London. The six of us clambered into an eight-seat compartment just behind the engine.

In the nineteen fifties, British Rail still used the old style carriages. There was no corridor, so the passengers were confined to their own compartment until they arrived at the next station. So it was incumbent on everyone to use the public lavatory before they embarked on the train because the next stop could be hours away. And there was no way of knowing how long the train would stop for then. The duration of the stop could be anything from two to five minute, which was often way too short to make it to the toilet and back again.

Of course, in desperation, one could always use the window.

This, however, was only an option if the compartment contained only your shipmates. And it was also very risky, requiring careful aim and timing. The wind rushing past the window could cause an embarrassing spray, which you could say was getting your own back.

It was also a big risk going to the station cafeteria for a cuppa and bun because it usually meant you had to compete with a dozen other passengers all doing the same thing, and it always seemed that, just as I was being served, the whistle would blow, signalling that the train was about to leave. With a surge of panic, and trying not to spill several mugs of tea, there would be the mad dash back to the carriage. With the train juddering and gathering speed, I’d frantically pass the mugs to outstretched hands as I ran alongside, finally managing to scramble on board just as the end of the platform loomed large.

This scenario would be repeated many, many times during my Naval career, though in later years it would be with pints of beer rather than mugs of tea. I became quiet competent in platform racing, and though I had some close calls I never actually missed a train.

Apart from that the journey to London was uneventful, and we arrived safely at 1.30 pm on Wednesday afternoon. The next part of our schedule was rather tight. The train to Ipswich departed at 15.45, and we needed to navigate our way through the London Underground System to Liverpool Street Station.

The London Underground is indeed an amazingly simple system, and even fools like us found our way around it without any mishap. At Liverpool Street Station we sought out platform fourteen to begin the final leg of our journey.

At the gate we saw dozens of boys milling around, and we knew instantly that we’d arrived at the right place. There were close to a hundred boys of all shapes and sizes. The platform was alive with their noisy chatter and laughter.

On the train I sat beside a boy who looked closer to twelve than fifteen. His name was Jameson and he was joining from the Royal Hospital School at Holbrook, the same place where I had almost ended up in1952. He was known as Jamie, and though we couldn’t know it then, we would be shipmates for the next three years.

During the journey to Ipswich everyone in the compartment talked excitedly and constantly. On arrival, the carriage doors flew open to discharge their eager cargo. We had arrived.

Several Petty Officer Instructors from Ganges were there to meet us, and it quickly became evident that it was not to roll out the welcome mat!

Suddenly we were being yelled at, told to shut up and sort ourselves into three neat lines. This was my first taste of Naval discipline.

Over the next twelve months, forming three neat lines would become a way of life. We marched smartly out of the station. Well, we thought we were smart. Several dark blue lorries with canvas covers were lined up in the parking area. Emblazoned on the cab doors in large white letters was RN.

In an orderly fashion we were loaded into the vehicles, and the convoy set out for the base at Shotley village. The cold and uncomfortable drive took about twenty minutes.

Sitting in the back of a covered lorry, you can only see where you’d been, not where you were going, so when the lorry made a sharp right turn, I was surprised to see a huge ship’s mast with a white ensign flying from it. Below the mast was what looked like the main entrance to HMS Ganges.

Then I got a bit confused. It appeared we going in the wrong direction, away from the main camp. Suddenly we were in a much smaller camp, and the lorries swung in a wide circle and came to a stop.

The next instant our world exploded to the shrill of numerous whistles, people yelling and shouting. Bewildered and frightened, we flew out of the trucks and landed on a parade square where Petty Officers attempted to organize us into a division of three neat rows. I noticed that several of the boys in uniformed were wearing white gaiters and, like the POs, appeared to have some authority over us. In fact they were the ones doing most of the shouting and shoving.

“Three rows, you idiots!” they screamed. “Tallest on the ends, shortest in the centre. Move, move, move!”

Once we were finally formed into three somewhat ragged lines, a silence descended as a Chief Petty Officer and several Petty Officers stood in front of us with clipboards in their hands.

“Listen carefully,” the Chief Petty Officer said. “When your name is called, fall out and go to the Instructor Boy on your left.”

So that’s who these guys in the white gaiters were, Instructor Boys.

When all the names had been called I realised that we had now been segregated into three separate groups, and only one of the six lads from Belfast was in my group. Being separated from my travelling companions initially caused me an anxious moment, but it didn’t last long, though. Things were moving too rapidly.

The camp, I later learned, was known as The Annex. All the buildings were spread evenly around the parade square. At the top end were the Instructor’s quarters, along with an area known as the quarterdeck. I would soon learn that the quarterdeck was perceived to be a very sacred part of the ship. When entering this area, we were required to salute and then march at the double across it. The mast, a ship’s bell and two ancient cannons identified the sacred area.

To the left of the quarterdeck was the guardhouse and two accommodation blocks. Facing the mast at the other end was the mess hall, the shower block and the laundry rooms. On the right was the last of the accommodation blocks, and this was to become my home for the next six weeks.

Our group was ordered to turn left and march in single file into our mess block. To achieve this single file, two Instructor Boys shoved and pushed us, calling us stupid in a variety of colourful Naval terminology. Once inside, we were told to stand at attention beside a bed, no talking, no moving. The Petty Officer who had called out our names entered the block and told us to stand at ease.

“My name is Petty Officer Birmingham,” he informed us. “For the next six weeks I shall be the most important person in your life. At all times you will address me as Sir, and you will only address me when I say you can. Instructor Boys Mathers and Moss will be in charge when I’m not here. They too, will be addressed as Sir.”

I was beginning to wonder why they bothered to tell us their names. Obviously we’d never be allowed to use them.

The Petty Officer gave us a brief outline of what lay ahead, and what was expected of us in the coming weeks, and by the time he’d finished there wasn’t a boy who was not scared. Perhaps a few were even terrified

Instructor Boy Moss told all the boys on his left to turn right and follow him in single file.

Those of us remaining were told to sit on the long bench in the middle of the mess. We were handed a pencil, some paper and an envelope, then ordered to write a brief letter letting our parents know that we’d arrived safely.

By the time our letters were completed the other group was returning. They carried bedding and clothing that were piled so high it was difficult for them to see where they were going.

Then it was our turn to march out in single file behind Instructor Boy Mathers. We followed him into a supply room where the clerks, giving us a quick once-over, decide what size clothing we needed. In rapid order we moved along the supply line, and the pile of blankets, pillow and clothing we were given grew ever larger. We then marched in single filed back into the mess to join the rest of our group as they finished their letters.

The next order took us totally by surprise, and it caused us considerable embarrassment.

“Right,” came the command. “Strip! Everything off, underwear, socks, the lot! Put everything on your mattress, and stand by you beds again.”

Twenty-seven red face boys were now standing stark naked in front of a room full of total strangers, trying desperately not to look at each other. Then the senior Instructor Boy held up a pair of newly issued white underpants. To our immense relief he told us to find ours and put them on.

Next he held up a vest and again told us to find ours and put it on, and our acute embarrassment receded as we quickly dressed by numbers.

Within two minutes we were fully clothed in our new working uniforms, which are known as Number 8’s. We looked a sorry sight; though, with every item of clothing stiff and ill fitting. I’d always imagined myself as a dashing figure in my smart new uniform, but what I looked like right then was neither smart nor dashing. In the following weeks, of course, after washing our kit over and over again, the new unworn look would soon disappeared, and as my skill with an electric iron improved too, I soon began to look a little smarter as well.

On that first day we were told to gather all our civilian clothes for packing. We wrapped every single item, socks, underwear, and hankies – the lot! And when the pile of brown paper packages and the stack of one page letters were addressed and ready, four boys were detailed to collect them all and follow Instructor Boy Moss.

Those remaining were told to march in single file to the washrooms, wash our hands then fall in three deep outside the mess hall. It was now almost 1900 hrs, and as we were marched into the mess hall for supper we quickly realised that there were no cooks on duty. The Annex wasn’t officially operational until the following morning, so we were issued with mugs of kye (cocoa), bread, margarine, cheese and jam.

When the meal was over it was back into three lines to march back to the accommodation block where we were told to strip again! It was time to have a shower. A very cold shower!

I was learning fast that there was neither modesty nor privacy in the Royal Navy. The shower room had about eight or ten showerheads, and twenty-seven boys were all told to get under the freezing water together and wash. Our newly issued kit included was a large bar of soap known as Pusser Hard, and this was used for washing everything, including yourself.

In the showers, a few boys barely got wet before dashing for the exit. But dodging a cold shower was not possible. Petty Officer Birmingham stood at the exit, waiting to inspect each one of us. If he decided a boy wasn’t clean, it was back under the showers for him.

Shivering badly, we tried desperately to dry ourselves with our newly issue, almost totally waterproof, towels. Then, with our towels around waists, we marched in single file back to the mess and stood by our beds.

“You have thirty seconds to get into your pyjamas,” was the next order.

Quietly and quickly, we complied. We were freezing.

A bed was dragged to the centre of the mess and Instructor Boy Moss demonstrated the Navy’s method of making up a proper bed.

The owner of the bed was then severely disappointed when it was pulled apart again. We were learning that nothing was ever going to be done for us.

It took ages to conclude the exercise. Instructor Boys marched up and down, pulling beds apart that didn’t meet their exact standards. Then at long last, when everyone finally achieved the requirements, twenty-seven totally exhausted boys climbed between the sheets and sighed with relief.

It was now 2100 hours, time for lights out.

We were given one final, stern warning not to talk. Just one sound and everyone would be back out on the parade square to practice their marching skills for an hour.

Utter silence fell on the place. I lay quietly in my bed, gazing at the rafters. I was tired, but I was very happy. I had arrived.

Thus ended the first day of my Naval career.

This is the first chapter from my book “The Royal Navy & Me” it is available at amazon and as a Ebook at http://www.smashwords.com

 

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Leaving for HMS Ganges. 62 years ago

Today 14th March 2017.  My journey to join the Royal Navy began on this day 62 years ago but it still feels like yesterday.

Chapter One    Lily & Me.

Tuesday morning the 14th of March 1955, the last day of my story and the beginning of a new life. I had risen early, unable to sleep with so many things running through my head. That day represented a very important step for me, and I was excited at the prospect of my chosen future. This was the last time I’d sleep in that small double bed, in the tiny back bedroom, a bed I had shared with my father and brother in the past, now shared only with my father.

I was sure he wouldn’t be too unhappy about my departure either; tossing and turning all night, I had probably kept him awake.  I quietly tiptoed downstairs; outside it was still dark, and the house was silent and cold.

I didn’t waste time lighting the fire, too many other things to do.  The previous evening I had laid out my best suit.  Anna had ironed and starched my good white shirt.  My shoes were polished to a high gloss. There were clean underwear, and socks, and my most colourful tie was hanging with my suit.  It was the same tie I had worn to those Saturday night dances.  I thought it made me look suave and attractive to the girls!

Quickly, I washed my hands and face under the cold-water tap in the scullery.  Shaving had not yet become necessary. I put a small dab of Brylcreem in my hair, rubbing it in well, I combed my hair carefully and parted it on the left, then using the flat of my hand I pushed my hair forward into a wave.

Without thinking, I stripped off my pyjamas and underwear, immediately feeling the chill on my exposed skin.  It was customary to wear pyjamas over underwear at night.  My father, in winter, kept his shirt on as well.

Standing naked in the middle of the kitchen, I suddenly realised I was in full view of anyone passing in the street.  The blind had not been pulled down the night before, and with the street dark and the kitchen light on, a passer-by would have an eyeful.  In panic and embarrassment I first considered dashing to the window and pulling down the blind.  Already naked, standing in the window would only have increased the risk of being seen.   I decided my safest course of action was to dress quickly.  I was into my clean underwear in a flash; trousers quickly followed, and my anxious moment was over.

Only then it occurred to me, I could have easily just turned off the light.

 

By the time the family started to come to life, I was fully dressed and ready to leave. It was a little after 6am. My instructions were to be at the Liverpool boat terminal at 7am sharp.  I wanted to leave quickly with no long, drawn out goodbyes.  Besides, it was just another working day for everyone else, they would be in a hurry to have breakfast and be on their way. 

The moment to leave was soon at hand. I buttoned my raincoat, looked around to make sure I had picked up my wallet and money for bus fare.  I shook hands with Jackie, and hugged Anna; Pop put his hand on my shoulder and, like everyone else, wished me luck.   This was probably the closest my father ever came to actually embracing me.  He told me to look after myself and let them know how I was getting along. 

I promised to write as soon as I arrived at H.M.S Ganges.  Hot tears began to well up in my eyes, and I fought them back, not wanting to cry.  Pop gave me a half crown saying I might want a bite to eat on the boat.  Then, very quickly, I said a final farewell to everyone, took a last quick look around the room and left.  Out on the street I realised what a nasty cold morning it was.  The sky was overcast, with a fine drizzle.  I turned up the collar of my raincoat, thrust my hands deep in my pockets, and headed for the bus stop.

It was ten minutes past six as I reached the top of the street.  Traffic was still light at this early hour, and just a few people were waiting for the bus.  We didn’t have to wait long for one to arrive. I boarded and went upstairs to a front seat.  I wanted to see as much of the old city as possible one last time.  It was as if I needed to save the sights and sounds to a place in my memory, which later I might recall when I was far from home and lonely.

As the bus travelled down the Falls Road, I kept looking at my watch.  I had plenty of time, but that didn’t stop me from worrying or feeling anxious.  The last thing I wanted was to be late on this particular day.  At the meeting ten days earlier in the recruiting office, we’d received strict instructions to be on time. 

We had been instructed that parents were not permitted at the boat terminal to see us off.   We were supposed to be men and must let go of our mother’s apron strings.  I remembered the stern warning: Should anyone not show up, they would be classified as deserters and the police called to arrest them.  All these things ran through my mind as I impatiently waited for the bus to reach the city centre.  I planned to hop off at the corner of High Street and Royal Avenue and walk the remaining distance to the docks.

 

 

*****

 

 

Stepping off the bus, I turned onto High Street at a brisk pace, still anxiously checking my watch more than necessary.  I continued at a fast pace, taking a short cut through an unfamiliar back street.  I was surprised when I came upon the infamous Du Barry’s Pub. Until this moment I had not known its exact whereabouts, only its notoriety.  The pub was a hangout for sailors and prostitutes.  As I was passing, it occurred to me that one day I might have a pint in there myself.  After all, I would soon be a sailor. 

That idea quickly faded, I couldn’t imagine associating with prostitutes.  I switched to more inviting thoughts of girls falling for me once in my uniform.  I silently hummed the tune ‘All the nice girls love a sailor’.  With this romantic and appealing notion dancing in my head, I crossed the road to the docks.  It was just 6.45 am when I arrived at the terminal. The five other boys travelling with me were already there.  The three from the country had stayed in the city overnight in order to be on time. We gathered under the terminal colonnade sheltering from the rain.  The air around us filled with excited chatter as we nervously waited for the recruiting officer. The wait wasn’t long. Moments after my arrival he appeared carrying our warrants and travel itineraries.

We gathered around him and listened intently as he gave us our final instruction and times.  We each received the promised ten shillings for expenses en-route. We were warned not to waste it on cigarettes or chocolate.  It was for paying bus fares between railway stations and to buy lunch tomorrow in London.  We had been told to travel light, bring no luggage, just a toothbrush in our pocket.  Along the journey, everything we might need would be provided. 

On arrival in Liverpool, we were booked overnight at a seamen’s mission.   Soap, towels, supper and breakfast would be provided.  On arrival at the Ganges training base, we’d be issued with everything we would ever need. Our civilian clothes would then be sent home.  The less we brought, the less to pack.  I wondered what Anna would think when my clothes arrived in the mail. It might seem like I had cease to exist!

 

 

*****

 

 

The clock chimed the half hour as the recruiter wished us luck one final time and departed.  With his job finished for the day, he was heading home for a hot breakfast.  For a few minutes we remained on the dock, hesitant to take the next step. We clutched travel warrants and instructions tightly fearing we might lose them.  Collectively we decided to go aboard the ship and headed down to the warmth of the lounge.  A boy from Ballymena, Trevor Weir, produced a 10-pack of Woodbine.  Passing them around, we each accepted one and lighted up.  I was sure a couple a boys were smoking for the first time, but no one wanted to appear different that morning. 

For the next fifteen minutes we made small talk, asking about each other, our homes, whether we had girlfriends, what we did before joining the Navy.  I suspected there was more than a little exaggeration in our stories we were all trying to impress each other.

At eight o’clock sharp, I felt the first vibrations of the ship’s engines as it started to move.  I heard a foghorn sounding from somewhere above.  Snuffing out the butt of my cigarette, I went up on deck.  I stood at the guardrail watching the deckhands letting go of the shorelines and the gap between the ship and the wharf quickly widening. 

Soon we were in the centre of the channel, gathering speed and heading for Belfast Lough and the open sea.  I watched as we sailed passed the old cruiser H.M.S. Caroline, where for a brief time I’d been a Sea Cadet.  We passed a forlorn and unfinished aircraft carrier moored at a buoy, its once fresh grey paint now streaked with soot and rust. It had been under construction when the war ended, and was never completed.  I looked up at the tall gantries and cranes of the shipyards.  Off to the west, in the mist, I could just make out the hills of Bellevue and Napoleon’s Nose.  I could see the morning rush hour traffic moving on the road along the coast, busy people heading to work.

I felt a strange sadness to be leaving this beautiful place.  Slowly the Black Mountains and surrounding green hills began to fade into the mist and drizzle. I wondered when I would see them again.  Watching the cold green water racing along the hull, my mind drifted back to the time I crossed the Irish Sea with Lily and the trepidation caused by that decision.  I remembered my tin soldier dropping into the sea and watching it disappear beneath the waves.

 

 

*****

 

 

I thought of the events in my life that brought me to this moment.  I was excited to be venturing into a new life, but at the same time afraid of what lay ahead.  I remembered the hurt and turmoil of my sixteen years, and wondered how different things might have been if only.  I quickly stopped this train of thought. It was a waste of time, and nothing could be changed.

I thought back to the dreadful tragedy that befell our family on Boxing Day, 1939, and how it altered the course of my life forever.  I thought about my father, he, too, filled with trepidation and standing on the deck of another ship some forty years earlier as a newly enrolled soldier travelling to France and the Great War.

How difficult had life been for my mother as a young girl? How did she meet my father? What chain of events led from my father’s birth to this exact moment?  Standing at the guardrail, I reached back to the time and place where all these events began.  How they finally culminated here with me.  I wondered what chain of events I would follow into my new future on that cold and wet March morning as I moved ever closer to my destiny, these thoughts ran through my mind.

With a stiffening breeze off the Irish Sea stinging my face, I realised it was time to go below.  Walking toward the lounge door, I vaguely recalled something my English teacher had once said: ‘They change their sky but not their soul, who cross the ocean.’

It seemed, at this moment, somehow appropriate. She had explained it as a good maxim for exiles, of which Ireland had many. She had first given us the Latin version, which I had promptly forgotten: ‘Caelum non animum mutant qui trans mare current?’

 

  

With his job finished for the day, he was heading home for a hot breakfast.  For a few minutes we remained on the dock, hesitant to take the next step. We clutched travel warrants and instructions tightly fearing we might lose them.  Collectively we decided to go aboard the ship and headed down to the warmth of the lounge.  A boy from Ballymena, Trevor Weir, produced a 10-pack of Woodbine.  Passing them around, we each accepted one and lighted up.  I was sure a couple a boys were smoking for the first time, but no one wanted to appear different that morning. 

For the next fifteen minutes we made small talk, asking about each other, our homes, whether we had girlfriends, what we did before joining the Navy.  I suspected there was more than a little exaggeration in our stories we were all trying to impress each other.

At eight o’clock sharp, I felt the first vibrations of the ship’s engines as it started to move.  I heard a foghorn sounding from somewhere above.  Snuffing out the butt of my cigarette, I went up on deck.  I stood at the guardrail watching the deckhands letting go of the shorelines and the gap between the ship and the wharf quickly widening. 

Soon we were in the centre of the channel, gathering speed and heading for Belfast Lough and the open sea.  I watched as we sailed passed the old cruiser H.M.S. Caroline, where for a brief time I’d been a Sea Cadet.  We passed a forlorn and unfinished aircraft carrier moored at a buoy, its once fresh grey paint now streaked with soot and rust. It had been under construction when the war ended, and was never completed.  I looked up at the tall gantries and cranes of the shipyards.  Off to the west, in the mist, I could just make out the hills of Bellevue and Napoleon’s Nose.  I could see the morning rush hour traffic moving on the road along the coast, busy people heading to work.

I felt a strange sadness to be leaving this beautiful place.  Slowly the Black Mountains and surrounding green hills began to fade into the mist and drizzle. I wondered when I would see them again.  Watching the cold green water racing along the hull, my mind drifted back to the time I crossed the Irish Sea with Lily and the trepidation caused by that decision.  I remembered my tin soldier dropping into the sea and watching it disappear beneath the waves.

 

 

*****

 

 

I thought of the events in my life that brought me to this moment.  I was excited to be venturing into a new life, but at the same time afraid of what lay ahead.  I remembered the hurt and turmoil of my sixteen years, and wondered how different things might have been if only.  I quickly stopped this train of thought. It was a waste of time, and nothing could be changed.

I thought back to the dreadful tragedy that befell our family on Boxing Day, 1939, and how it altered the course of my life forever.  I thought about my father, he, too, filled with trepidation and standing on the deck of another ship some forty years earlier as a newly enrolled soldier travelling to France and the Great War.

How difficult had life been for my mother as a young girl? How did she meet my father? What chain of events led from my father’s birth to this exact moment?  Standing at the guardrail, I reached back to the time and place where all these events began.  How they finally culminated here with me.  I wondered what chain of events I would follow into my new future on that cold and wet March morning as I moved ever closer to my destiny, these thoughts ran through my mind.

With a stiffening breeze off the Irish Sea stinging my face, I realised it was time to go below.  Walking toward the lounge door, I vaguely recalled something my English teacher had once said: ‘They change their sky but not their soul, who cross the ocean.’

It seemed, at this moment, somehow appropriate. She had explained it as a good maxim for exiles, of which Ireland had many. She had first given us the Latin version, which I had promptly forgotten: ‘Caelum non animum mutant qui trans mare current?’

Lily & Me is available at Amazon and as an Ebook at smashwords.com.

 

 

  

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