Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Silence .....

It is late, the house is quiet, the cat on the sofa has his paw across his eyes, twitching cat dreams of mice or voles he has near missed or caught. I can hear the occasional burst of humming from the fridge while on the distant A75 a truck rumbles by on its way to or from Ireland.  In my head I am conscious of the tinnitus which is always there on the edge of my hearing hissing and whistling its white sound.

I do not want to go to bed and face the unseen dreams that haunt me at this time of year, so I stall, writing a stream of consciousness piece to while away another 30 or 40 minutes, make yet another cup of tea and hope something will come up to avoid the dread tread of stairs to my bed.

In my mind, as I write, I see the mass grave behind the Ajax Bay surrounded by 2 Para as they bury their dead from Goose Green, in the same grave we had already placed a friend's body bag after his helicopter was brought down by enemy fire.  As 2 Para move away, I hear a Sea King helicopter coming in to Casevac the lucky living. I tip out the remnants of a cup of now cold tea and wander back to start another trick in triage, hoping it will be quiet, for a change, during my watch. The Medical Tech Chief comes up swathed in a newly acquired, inside out, fur coat. He sidles up to me and mock whispers like some old fashioned spiv or the Monty Python character 'Nudge, nudge, wink, wink - know what I mean?', "Nice line in warm 'O' neg or Heamocel, no decent offers rebutted, sir, fancy a pint?" as he flashes the inside of the fur coat which has blood and fluid bags pinned to it to help keep them at body temperature. I smile and ask where did he 'rabbit' the fur coat from. "Got the wife to send it out along with half a dozen pairs of extra large tights. She never wears it now."

I put the cup down on the 'rest room' table and move through to the receiving area as the Sea King headed off to the hospital ship, SS Uganda. The shout goes up - 'Air raid warning red'. The LMA and me stand at the door to the processing plant as we watch A4's and Puccaras skim over the ships in the bay, watching the bomb splashes from near misses, waiting for expected customers from any hits. We see a Puccara smoking from its starboard engine and watch as the totally misnamed 'Sea Cat' anti aircraft missile staggers slothfully after it, struggling to get close enough to try and pounce. As the Puccara goes behind a ridge there is a blossom of flame - maybe the Sea Cat caught up but more likely the low flying Puccara ran out of air, on the latter case, we both agree. The A4s and Puccaras only ever make one pass, they learned, early on, a second pass was always fatal.

Sitting here in my home I can feel the cold wind blowing around me, just as it did as we looked out the door, squinting into the low sun, waiting for the next shout, my hands unofficer like in pockets, slightly hunched against the chill breeze, watching as the Wessex Fives and Jungly Sea Kings restarted their logistic ballet between the ships and shore while the RM Landing craft ushered 5 Brigade to land near San Carlos, where they moved into the bunkers and slit trenches recently vacated by 40 and 45 Commando. The Commandos, meanwhile, had trudged off towards Teal Inlet laden with kit there was no longer transport for, just like the Legionaries of ancient Rome - modern day Marius' Mules.

There was a silence then as well, broken only by the whop of rotor blades as a Sea King, with an under slung load, passed near us as it shifted a 105mm gun, forward. 

"Fancy a wet, sir?" I nodded in assent so we turned and went inside where a naptha block soon had our hands wrapped round a warming mug of Oxo, as the winter sun headed ever closer to the horizon while casting beams of reddish light through the holes in the rusted corrugated iron skin of the processing plant and the mottes danced.

Tonight it will be a mug of tea, clean pyjama's and a warm duvet and not mostly clothed, boots at my feet, in a sleeping bag, on a mat on a concrete floor - maybe tonight the ghosts will stay away or at least I will lose the chill I am now feeling. 

Armistice Day remains a long way off.

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