Friday, January 28, 2005

The Battle of the Blob Farm

The Battle of the Blob Farm

Henley-on-Thames air cadets - is there nothing we did that was touched by sanity in any way, shape or form? Even squadron jumble sales were a descent into barbarism and lunacy of the worst kind. Our idea of fun was to lie as many of the new bugs across the mess floor, take a run up and see how many you could jump over before you landed on one. My record: eight-and-a-half cadets.

One of our favourite pastimes was to run about the local woods with wooden replica guns shouting "NaNaNaNa!!!" at each other like demented Private Pikes. In fact, a local boarding school - one for (cough) troubled children that we named The Blob Farm - let us use their grounds for that exact purpose. In hindsight, it was probably an exercise by the school's owners to prove to their charges that THEY were the normal ones.

One thing led to another, and following an incident where hardly anyone got killed, we were invited to take part in their school fair. The idea was that we were to stage a mock battle, running about with wooden replica guns shouting "NaNaNaNa!!!"; and pupils, staff and parents would be suitably impressed. And like the damn fools that we were, we accepted. Mainly because there would be real guns present.

Mr Eldridge, one of our officers, was in cahoots with some RAF Regiment types. Eldridge really, really wanted to be in the SAS, or even the Catering Corps, but the army wouldn't have him on account of him being a skinny streak of piss. So, instead, he got a job in a bank and spent a couple of evenings a week as a make-pretend RAF officer, lording it over highly impressionable teenagers with wooden tommy guns.

With hardly any effort at all, he persuaded his mates to help us stage the Battle of the Blob Farm. They turned up with machine guns (sadly) loaded with blanks, flares and thunderflashes. One of the blob farm inmates brought along a large firework, and assured us that it would bring a suitable climax to the action. It was the size of a large paint tin and promised armageddon on a grand scale. Not once, come to think of it, did we ever question why a pupil at a school for troubled children should have an industrial-grade firework in his possession. Just as long as he wasn't allowed matches...

Clutching our carefully hand-crafted wooden firearms, and screaming shouting “Na-na-na-na-na!” the battle began. On the given signal, we swarmed across the school field in two teams, the politically correct "Good Guys" and "Pinko Commie Gooks". I was a gook on the strength of my non-NATO standard wooden Uzi. The Reggies took careful aim from their position behind a carefully camouflaged Renault Four, and let rip with everything they had.

The trouble was that nobody told us when to stop, and hyped up as we were by the sunny day, Happy Shopper lemonade, the large crowd of terrified parents and blobs, and the smell of cordite, nobody wanted to die. So we all met up in the middle of the field and pretended to shoot each other. Some parents and blobs fled in terror, but most just laughed.

Then someone let off the firework.

WheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! it went, spraying pink and red sparks into the sky, making us look all the world like a big bunch of ponces with wooden guns. Which, in retrospect, we were.

"Ooooh," went the grown-ups and our ordeal was over.

In the end, we got a whole three recruits from the blob farm, who were sorely disappointed when they realised we didn’t give out real guns to the new kids, especially not the one with a twitch who repeatedly used the phrase “Red Rum, Red Rum”.

One of the new lads, bless his heart, eschewed the military regulation black, highly polished boots, and habitually turned up for parade in his carpet slippers. It was my heart-wrenching duty to teach them how to march, salute and to stand still without scratching their bollocks. A lost cause - they all had the hand/eye coordination of someone with no hands. Or eyes. But in the all-new inclusive Air Force, we weren't allowed to tell them to fuck off.

Lovely lads. As the plank, though. We called them the GJBs. Gibbering Jelly Blobs.

Still, we got good value for money from the RAF Reggies, who, fools that they were, took us under their wing and tutored us the manly art of shooting at stuff. They would take us up to RAF Benson, book a few guns out of the armoury, and let us blaze away at paper targets in the range until we knew which was the dangerous end.

They even trusted me enough to look after four rifles, a light machine gun, a Sterling SMG and a Browning 9mm pistol and several thousand rounds of live ammo in the back of my clapped out Renault 4 while everybody went to lunch.

To get to the mess, you had to leave one half of the station, cross a public road and re-enter the base on the other side. How tempted was I to turn right and leg it with enough kit to equip a small army? Very, that's how much.

I am still, theoretically speaking, a fully-trained RAF Marksman who can shoot the bollocks off a fly from three hundred yards. If you want anyone bumped off, or a smally buzzy insect castrated, the price is One Million Dollars a shot.

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