Mirth and Woe: Upside down
So, there I was, sitting on my bed one summer morning.
My bed - at that time - being at some RAF camp in the Midlands during another ill-advised summer camp in my teens, where I leafed through the week's 2000AD comic, in my full pseudo-military fig in the gap between a hearty canteen breakfast and inspection parade.
You're a kid in your early-to-mid teens, you're on a week's camp away from home in the company of your schoolmates where you get to shoot things, fly planes, and run about in the woods blowing things up whilst pretending to be Rambo.
What you actually get is a week in a dismal barrack room left over from the war, while your superior officers - themselves playing make-pretend airmen in time off from their day jobs - get to shout at you like the Sergeant-Major in It Ain't Half Hot, Mum.
Instead of loafing around in bed until two in the afternoon like normal teenagers on school holidays, Air Cadet camp is full of six o'clock starts, immaculately turned-out uniforms and boots that shine like black mirrors. The only fights you will ever see at ATC Summer camp is the one for the ironing board. And the one for the single dog-eared copy of Escort, the young teen's porno mag of choice.
I sat on my bed, trousers creased to a knife edge. Shirt freshly laundered and pressed. My beret held over a kettle and shaped until it no longer resembled Frank Spencer's. And my boots: I had worked long into the night doing arcane work with a spoon, a candle, a duster and huge dollops of Kiwi's finest polish until they shone twin black holes ripped in the fabric of the universe.
At the end of my bed, my blankets, sheets and pillow were folded neatly into a regulation bed pack, and - comic aside, which could be slipped into a drawer at he first sign of grown-ups - I was ready of inspection parade.
"Officer coming! Stand by your beds!"
I snapped into action. I flung my 2000AD into a drawer and snapped to attention.
At least, that's what I wanted to do. Burly hands grabbed hold of me, lifted me bodily, and dumped me upside down in my immaculately-kept wardrobe. My own room-mates, too. Good God, didn't they want to win the inspection parade trophy?
To add insult to injury, I was whopped around the genitals with my rolled-up comic just as the door slammed shut on me, leaving me in muffling darkness.
I could hear heavy boots outside and the voices of the inspecting officers. Warrant Officer Can't-Remember-His-Name-But-By-God-He-Was-All-Bullshit-Foghorn-And-Polish and Flying Officer Sennitt, who, within the year would be cashiered over his habit of following his young charges home to ensure they got back from drill nights safely.
The door flung open in an explosion of light and sound, and I poured myself out onto the barrack room floor.
"Boy! What are you doing in there?" screamed WO Noisy.
"Don't know sir"
"And you a corporal, too"
"It's only a comic, sir"
"You disgust me"
"But... it's only 2000AD"
I looked down. It wasn't only a comic. It was a hurriedly dispatched copy of Escort magazine, hurled at my head by one of my panicking attackers who was - rather understandably - not keen to be caught in possession of the smut himself.
It flopped open, forlornly, at the traditional Escort four-page centre-spread, where The Girls of Yeovil were showing the delights of their home town. Delights which - such is the paucity of entertainment in Somerset - basically boiled down to naked bosoms and a bit of flange.
"Drop and give me fifty!"
I dropped and gave him fifty. At least, I tried. It's hard to drop and give your shouty senior officer fifty on a stomach full of fried breakfast. I gave him twenty-two and a boot covered in rich, brown vomit.
And then I spent a lovely morning on jankers, cleaning every toilet in the barrack block.
Revenge was served slightly warm and at about ten o'clock that night.
"Sorry lads," I lied, "I'm too knackered to go to the club tonight. I'll stay here an' do my boots."
With my assailants well out of the way, I spent a profitable hour 'tea-bagging' each and every one of their beds. Tea-bagging, for the uninitiated, is the art of folding the sheets on an already-made bed so that they *look* normal, but fold back upon themselves halfway down. The result being that the victim will jump - slightly pissed - into bed and find that it stops after three feet.
And if they jump into bed with enough enthusiasm...
"Chop chop lads! Lights out in thirty seconds!"
Got the bastards - all three of them.
"Boy! Why are you damaging Air Force property?"
"Don't know sir"
"And you a corporal, too"
"Drop and give me fifty."