In your youth, did you ever try to pass yourself off as an adult? Unless you were one of those kids with stubble and/or breasts at the age of nine, you didn’t tend to get away with it, do you? Take my good self by way of example. I was never the biggest of kids, and I could rarely pass myself off as my own age, let alone a tax-paying, voting adult. At the age of twenty-five I was still having to produce my driving licence to get served in pubs, and even then it was to the most dubious of landlords. Whatever made me think, at the age of fifteen, I could ever get away with it? Short answer: stupidity.
So there were were, at Air Cadets camp at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire. All Vulcan bombers and Wimmin’s Peace Camps (who were roundly abused, but little did I realise that within ten years, I’d be on the same marches as them), but most of all we were away from our parents and under the care of a bunch of uniformed idiots who thought that by shouting at us in very loud voices they had us under control. We spent days marching up and down drill squares, shooting things on the ranges, puking in the swimming pool, visiting other air stations and generally annoying the RAF staff, who referred to us as Space Cadets. Waste-of-Space Cadets.
The problem was that I was small for my age. Gary, Shed and Stu could, in fading light, pass themselves off as eighteen, but you’d need to be Blind Pew’s blinder and deafer brother to believe that I was of age. Then there was Roger Ramjet. Same age as the rest of us, but in a twelve year old’s body, with an eight year old’s brain.
So, what in the name of God possessed us to try to get served in the pub nearest the main gates of the RAF station? We were literally chased back to our barrack by a bunch of squaddies after Roger asked for, and I kid you not, “A cup of beer, please Mister.”
It was also no-go in the station’s Other Ranks bar, after all, everybody and their dog knew we were Spacers, and a trip out to the local off licence was thwarted by a sign of the door reading “Thames Valley Air Cadets: Don’t even think about it”, signed personally by Wing Commander Matthews. The grown-ups had all the bases covered at this particular base. Or so they thought.
On the last day of camp, as was the tradition, we were to be let loose in the nearest town to the station. In the case of RAF Waddington, this was the City of Lincoln, a historic city with a magnificent cathedral dominating the scenery for miles around. One of the camp spunkers, leafing through the pages of a certain magazine in the barrackroom, noted that Lincoln was also home to a Private Sex Shop. We would, it was decided there and then, troop down there and top up on our jazz supplies. So we did, en masse, forty of us. We were met with one word: “Out”. I never even got in through the door.
Obviously, the big mob of kids was rather too prominent for the citizens of Lincoln. There was only one thing for it - split and try out luck in smaller numbers. A few tried pubs, but they all seemed to contain our leaders on the lookout for cadets to put on a charge, and they caught plenty, particularly the ones still wearing their uniforms. One bright spark thought they could get pissed on the Communion wine at the cathedral. Total alcohol content, despite protestations that “I only got a bloody sip”: 0.0000001%
Desperate to get into somewhere underage, we all headed for the cinema, which, as luck would have it, was showing Porky’s, a movie about a bunch of kids trying to get into a bar underage. Standing on tiptoe and affecting our deepest voices “One Please”, we all got in. All except Roger Ramjet, who asked for a kids’ ticket and was shown the door before he could even get his money out of his pocket, his protests that “I’m eighteen, Mister, honest” being met with snorts of laughter from the fat, sweaty doorman. He sat outside for two hours waiting for us.
We got to see Porky’s: The Puritan’s Cut. He was the lucky one.