The Falklands War – My guilty secret.

argentina, falklands war, thatcher, royal airforce, nimrod, vulcan, harrierNormally, at around 4.00 in the afternoon, my writing life will be dominated by one of two things.

If I’m in writing mode, it’ll be the sounds of Bjork in my headphones and if I’m in skiving mode it’ll be some crap TV show like Come Dine With Me or Deal or No Deal as a lounge on the sofa.

Recently however, I have discovered the delights of Simon Mayo on Radio 2 and having been listening to his excellent ‘Confessions’ slot, I have been inspired to confess something of my own. Not because I feel guilty about it and need forgiveness, but because I just feel the time is right to get it off my chest. So here goes…

In 1982, whilst a young, impressionable and innocent Corporal, I was dispatched to Ascension Island as a part of the Royal Air Force detachment involved with the South Atlantic Task Force. For those who do not know, Ascension Island is a volcanic rock in the middle of the South Atlantic. It’s hot, windy and dusty which can make things extremely uncomfortable when you’re living in tents and what with that and the huge amount of aircraft movements taking place, sleep was at a premium during the day.

More importantly, the island is home to a beautiful and very long runway which meant that it provided the perfect operational hub for the men and equipment being put together to repel the Argentinian invasion of the Falkland Islands. As a consequence, by the time I arrived, at around the same time as the first British ships heading for war, it was somewhat busy.

Now, my job will remain secret for reasons which would be obvious if you knew what they were but suffice to say, my shift pattern was 24 on, 24 off. Unfortunately, the ‘on’ portion involved my sergeant and I remaining both awake and alert which whilst fine at first, was not fine after about a week. Zombies comes close.

As a consequence, we began a rota where one would snatch sleep whilst the other remained awake rushing awake doing the work of two men. This worked well for a few days until it all went horribly wrong. Or to be more specific, I cocked it up.

It’s fair to say that being on an active and very busy airfield during time of war is extremely exciting but as you can imagine given our location, the facilities left something to be desired. And by facilities, I mean specifically, toilets.

This was fine for ‘number one’s’ but when the body placed additional demands on you (if you get my drift) you needed an actual toilet. And let’s face it, I wasn’t in the Army, I was in the RAF so our much higher standards meant that we couldn’t just ‘go’ anywhere! 

Unfortunately, the toilets for us lowly airmen were about half a mile away and consisted of what are known universally as ‘long drops’. These being basically long planks of wood with holes cut in them. I will leave you to work out the rest but to say they leave a lot to be desired is an understatement. Especially at 3.00 in the morning when it is pitch black.

war, falklands, ascension, RAF, royal air forceHowever, within one hundred yards of my building on the side of the aircraft pan were four chemical toilets of the sort you see at music festivals and on building sites. The problem for me was that these were specifically for officers, pilots and aircrew and we oikes had been expressly forbidden to use them under pain of disciplinary action. Indeed, so serious was this threat that they were actually surrounded by barbed wire with a small gap providing the only entrance.

As you can imagine, toilet envy became a huge factor in our lives. Something exacerbated by what I can only describe as  the habit of ‘showing off’ by those eligible to use them.

Well, at some ungodly hour of the morning during one particular shift, I was, to be blunt, caught short. With the airfield reasonably quiet and my sergeant fast asleep under his desk, I took the decision that rather than wake him and endure my long walk to the long drops, I would risk it. My thinking being that not only would I be away from my desk for a shorter period but I would obtain a small victory for junior ranks everywhere by taking a dump in the officers bogs. Such victories are, after all, what the British Forces are based on.

So within minutes, I’d crept out of the building and in full SAS mode, has slunk through the darkness across the extremely crunchy volcanic ash and was sitting comfortably doing what came naturally.

Inevitably, after two or three minutes I heard footsteps approaching and it suddenly struck me that I could soon find myself in serious trouble. I was after all, disobeying a direct order. But just as importantly, so could my sergeant who was at the very moment blissfully unaware that I wasn’t actually there holding what should have been a very secure fort whilst he was fast asleep on active duty. Being one of the most serious offences in the military, had he been caught he would almost certainly have faced a court martial which could well have resulted in a prison sentence and demotion if not even dismissal from the service. We were after all, at war.

As all this ran through my brain, all I could do was sit and hope to goodness that the fast approaching officer would not even try the locked door to my cubicle (something which might well have led to him asking who was in there) but would simply enter one of the three empty cubicles thus allowing me time to escape.

It was at this point that I noticed that I had neglected to lock said door and even as I reached for it, it swung open to reveal a very senior officer silhouetted against the South Atlantic sky.

As he took a step forward, I suddenly realised that it was so dark inside that he hadn’t actually seen me sitting there and so all I could to was shout ‘BOO!’ at which point he let out a high pitched scream, turned and ran back at high speed toward the collection of portacabins which formed the operations centre.

Within seconds I was sprinting after him and made it through the gap in the barbed wire just as an alarm went off and all hell broke loose.

By the time I made it back to the safety of my building, the first of the armed patrols had arrived as rumours spread that the very real fears of an Argentine Special Forces attack on the airfield had been realised.

It was some hours before things calmed down and an investigation began into what had caused such a flap. Of course, being the closest building to said toilets, suspicions that the culprit was close to home soon centred on yours truly but my vehement denials as well as my sergeants assertions that I had not left our office at any time meant that I escaped unpunished.

A few days later, the first shots were fired down South and the incident was forgotten but it has stuck with me ever since and the time has now come to put my hands up.

Not because I almost gave a senior officer a coronary or caused him a degree of embarrassment (after all, he screamed like a little girl and ran away) or because numerous police and soldiers ended up sending hours scouring the locality looking for non existent invaders, but because of my sergeant.

For not only did I almost cost him a twenty year career, his pension and a spell in military prison, but he spent the next five weeks terrified of shutting his eyes whilst we were on duty in case I actually did drop him in it. Mind you, that did mean I got all the sleeping time.

So sorry Tim. I hope you’ll be pleased to know I feel much better for getting that off my chest.

.

football, soccer, comedy, cost of football, manchester united, liverpool, derby, watford

My latest novel, Wings of a Sparrow  is available in ebook and paperback format from either Amazon or iTunes.

The audio version of Top Dog is now available to download via the link and joins the ebook, paperback and movie to make the clean sweep of all platforms! Not too shabby if I say so myself.

And speaking of movies’, my next project will hopefully be announced at some point over the next month. It’s going to be a cracker.

RAF, army, military, forces, hooligan, british film, top dog, green street, self publishing, manchester united, liverpool, sex, maggie thatcher, veteran, UKIP, tory Argentina

The Falklands War – My guilty secret.

argentina, falklands war, thatcher, royal airforce, nimrod, vulcan, harrierNormally, at around 4.00 in the afternoon, my writing life will be dominated by one of two things.

If I’m in writing mode, it’ll be the sounds of Bjork in my headphones and if I’m in skiving mode it’ll be some crap TV show like Come Dine With Me or Deal or No Deal as a lounge on the sofa.

Recently however, I have discovered the delights of Simon Mayo on Radio 2 and having been listening to his excellent ‘Confessions’ slot, I have been inspired to confess something of my own. Not because I feel guilty about it and need forgiveness, but because I just feel the time is right to get it off my chest. So here goes…

In 1982, whilst a young, impressionable and innocent Corporal, I was dispatched to Ascension Island as a part of the Royal Air Force detachment involved with the South Atlantic Task Force. For those who do not know, Ascension Island is a volcanic rock in the middle of the South Atlantic. It’s hot, windy and dusty which can make things extremely uncomfortable when you’re living in tents and what with that and the huge amount of aircraft movements taking place, sleep was at a premium during the day.

More importantly, the island is home to a beautiful and very long runway which meant that it provided the perfect operational hub for the men and equipment being put together to repel the Argentinian invasion of the Falkland Islands. As a consequence, by the time I arrived, at around the same time as the first British ships heading for war, it was somewhat busy.

Now, my job will remain secret for reasons which would be obvious if you knew what they were but suffice to say, my shift pattern was 24 on, 24 off. Unfortunately, the ‘on’ portion involved my sergeant and I remaining both awake and alert which whilst fine at first, was not fine after about a week. Zombies comes close.

As a consequence, we began a rota where one would snatch sleep whilst the other remained awake rushing awake doing the work of two men. This worked well for a few days until it all went horribly wrong. Or to be more specific, I cocked it up.

It’s fair to say that being on an active and very busy airfield during time of war is extremely exciting but as you can imagine given our location, the facilities left something to be desired. And by facilities, I mean specifically, toilets.

This was fine for ‘number one’s’ but when the body placed additional demands on you (if you get my drift) you needed an actual toilet. And let’s face it, I wasn’t in the Army, I was in the RAF so our much higher standards meant that we couldn’t just ‘go’ anywhere! 

Unfortunately, the toilets for us lowly airmen were about half a mile away and consisted of what are known universally as ‘long drops’. These being basically long planks of wood with holes cut in them. I will leave you to work out the rest but to say they leave a lot to be desired is an understatement. Especially at 3.00 in the morning when it is pitch black.

war, falklands, ascension, RAF, royal air forceHowever, within one hundred yards of my building on the side of the aircraft pan were four chemical toilets of the sort you see at music festivals and on building sites. The problem for me was that these were specifically for officers, pilots and aircrew and we oikes had been expressly forbidden to use them under pain of disciplinary action. Indeed, so serious was this threat that they were actually surrounded by barbed wire with a small gap providing the only entrance.

As you can imagine, toilet envy became a huge factor in our lives. Something exacerbated by what I can only describe as  the habit of ‘showing off’ by those eligible to use them.

Well, at some ungodly hour of the morning during one particular shift, I was, to be blunt, caught short. With the airfield reasonably quiet and my sergeant fast asleep under his desk, I took the decision that rather than wake him and endure my long walk to the long drops, I would risk it. My thinking being that not only would I be away from my desk for a shorter period but I would obtain a small victory for junior ranks everywhere by taking a dump in the officers bogs. Such victories are, after all, what the British Forces are based on.

So within minutes, I’d crept out of the building and in full SAS mode, has slunk through the darkness across the extremely crunchy volcanic ash and was sitting comfortably doing what came naturally.

Inevitably, after two or three minutes I heard footsteps approaching and it suddenly struck me that I could soon find myself in serious trouble. I was after all, disobeying a direct order. But just as importantly, so could my sergeant who was at the very moment blissfully unaware that I wasn’t actually there holding what should have been a very secure fort whilst he was fast asleep on active duty. Being one of the most serious offences in the military, had he been caught he would almost certainly have faced a court martial which could well have resulted in a prison sentence and demotion if not even dismissal from the service. We were after all, at war.

As all this ran through my brain, all I could do was sit and hope to goodness that the fast approaching officer would not even try the locked door to my cubicle (something which might well have led to him asking who was in there) but would simply enter one of the three empty cubicles thus allowing me time to escape.

It was at this point that I noticed that I had neglected to lock said door and even as I reached for it, it swung open to reveal a very senior officer silhouetted against the South Atlantic sky.

As he took a step forward, I suddenly realised that it was so dark inside that he hadn’t actually seen me sitting there and so all I could to was shout ‘BOO!’ at which point he let out a high pitched scream, turned and ran back at high speed toward the collection of portacabins which formed the operations centre.

Within seconds I was sprinting after him and made it through the gap in the barbed wire just as an alarm went off and all hell broke loose.

By the time I made it back to the safety of my building, the first of the armed patrols had arrived as rumours spread that the very real fears of an Argentine Special Forces attack on the airfield had been realised.

It was some hours before things calmed down and an investigation began into what had caused such a flap. Of course, being the closest building to said toilets, suspicions that the culprit was close to home soon centred on yours truly but my vehement denials as well as my sergeants assertions that I had not left our office at any time meant that I escaped unpunished.

A few days later, the first shots were fired down South and the incident was forgotten but it has stuck with me ever since and the time has now come to put my hands up.

Not because I almost gave a senior officer a coronary or caused him a degree of embarrassment (after all, he screamed like a little girl and ran away) or because numerous police and soldiers ended up sending hours scouring the locality looking for non existent invaders, but because of my sergeant.

For not only did I almost cost him a twenty year career, his pension and a spell in military prison, but he spent the next five weeks terrified of shutting his eyes whilst we were on duty in case I actually did drop him in it. Mind you, that did mean I got all the sleeping time.

So sorry Tim. I hope you’ll be pleased to know I feel much better for getting that off my chest.

.

football, soccer, comedy, cost of football, manchester united, liverpool, derby, watford

My latest novel, Wings of a Sparrow  is available in ebook and paperback format from either Amazon or iTunes.

The audio version of Top Dog is now available to download via the link and joins the ebook, paperback and movie to make the clean sweep of all platforms! Not too shabby if I say so myself.

And speaking of movies’, my next project will hopefully be announced at some point over the next month. It’s not a gangster or hooligan picture, it’s something very different. And it’s going to be a cracker.

RAF, army, military, forces, hooligan, british film, top dog, green street, self publishing, manchester united, liverpool, sex, maggie thatcher, veteran, UKIP, tory Argentina

The rise of UKIP and the one fact people seem to be avoiding.

219c1-politicalcorrectness1It’s not often I’ll blog on the subject of politics because generally speaking, I’ve no real interest in debating my personal beliefs with other people.

However, as a Falklands veteran I’ve never made any secret of the fact that I’m a fan of Lady Thatcher nor that I hate the left with a passion. Nor have I hidden the fact that whilst I always voted Tory, that changed the day they took the shameful and ill thought out decision to scrap the Harrier and replace it with… well, nothing yet.

To many of course, my love of Mrs T marks me out as some kind of raving Nazi/homophobe/racist/rapist/child molester/tax evader/bigot* (*delete as appropriate) which is fine. This is after all a democracy despite what many seem to think and so we are all entitled to opinions. However, recently something has happened which has piqued my interest. It involves, not surprisingly, the rise of UKIP as a political force.

Now I’m sure you’ve read the papers and watched the news recently so you won’t need me to tell you what’s been going on and you will also have no doubt seen that the reaction from both left and right has been predictably rabid.

Yet to me, something fundamental is going on here. For when I watch the news and see members of the public being interviewed about why they have (or intend to) tick the UKIP box on the ballot sheet, they all seem to have one thing in common and it’s a thing no one seems to be noticing; they’re almost universally either middle aged or elderly.

Of course, the lunatic left make the argument that another thing these people have in common is that they’re almost all white and therefore, must be racist. An accusation which is not only laughable, but offensive for fairly obvious reasons. Indeed, some of the things I’ve seen written about the average UKIP voter borders on hysteria. One tweeter even told me in all seriousness that she believed that UKIP was underpinned by members of the EDL, the BNP and Combat 18. Madness.

However, by being so quick to wield the racism card (always their favoured weapon of suppression) against the very people who were building this country in the days when multiculturalism was barely even a word let alone a concept, what the loons fail to realise is that they are actually reinforcing the very reason why so many British citizens are embracing what Farage & Co are saying. And every time they attack those same people for being little Englanders, out of touch, old fashioned, homophobic, Islamophobic or anything else they care to throw out, they simply hammer another nail into their increasingly redundant argument because the simple truth is that the silent majority are sick and tired of being on put on the defensive whilst being forced to listen to lie after lie whilst watching their lifelong efforts being dismissed and their taxes squandered. Just as importantly, they are tired of sitting and watching whilst this once great nations history and traditions are being eroded and our inbred sense of tolerance and fair play abused.

Or to put it another way, UKIP have finally provided the platform for a long suppressed but increasingly discontented middle England to stir and cry enough is enough. And about bloody time too.

I don’t agree with everything UKIP stand for but I make no apology for the fact that I think they are a long overdue breath of fresh air to British politics and if, as seems likely, they’re going to give the established parties a kick up the arse if not a bloody nose, then they’ve got my vote.

Because if the political system in this country has been screaming out for one thing, it’s exactly that. 

.

football, comedy, humour, rivals, derby, soccer, premier league, championship, manchester united, chelsea, liverpool

My comedy novel, Wings of a Sparrow seems to be creating a bit of a buzz film wise which, given that it started out as a film script, is quite exciting.

Hopefully, I’ll have some news on that very soon as well as of another project which if anything, is even more exciting as it’s very close to being greenlit.

Speaking of which, my next movie is close to being announced and with We Still Kill The Old Way doing well, it certainly is an exciting times!

 

 

ukip, tory, labour, liberal left, politics, conservatives, cameron, millband, farage, EU, europe, football, soccer, hooligan, gang, uk film, britain, england, election

A writers life. The agony of waiting.

writing, screenwriting, author, self publishing, filmThose who know me will be well aware that I am by nature, lazy. To me, all work is hard work and any effort, an effort.

As a consequence, when I see either my work, effort or time being wasted, I find it irritating. When I know from the outset that they are all going to be discarded and there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it, I find it galling. And by galling, I mean f***ing annoying.

Sadly, that’s bog standard when it comes to screenwriting. I write a script and hand it over to someone else dripping with my sweat and blood and they then tear it apart. This is wrong, that’s wrong, more of this, less of that. It’s too long, it’s too short, we need a stronger character, do we really need a stock car racing scene, we’d never get Jennifer Anniston to do that, etc, etc, etc.

I listen to this, absorb it all, sulk for a while, admit they are right (usually) and so begin rewriting. When that’s done, I hand it over and the cycle is repeated until such time as everyone is happy or I tell them to stick it.

Whilst ultimately I accept that this process is a necessary evil if you want to get the very best you can on screen, the fact remains that for the writer it can be painful and often humiliating. Indeed, as I’ve said many times, if you can’t take criticism, don’t write and that’s never more true than when developing a script.

However, it is not the worst part of life as a screenwriter. Oh no, not by a long chalk. The worst part is the waiting.

You see I can hammer out a first draft in anywhere between three and four weeks and rewrite most things in under two. If the notes are minor, I can have the changes done in as little as an hour but certainly within 24. That’s what I do, it’s how I work.

Now I don’t think it unreasonable to expect that same level of commitment from whoever asks me to do that work but more often than not, I am disappointed. Indeed it’s not unknown for me to have to wait a week for a response to something which was apparently so urgent that I’d been asked if not told to drop everything and do it immediately. In one instance, so apparently desperate was the rewrite that I was made to feel guilty for going to watch Watford (on a Saturday!) rather than do the work although oddly, even after working through the night to deliver it, it took three days for them to get back to me.

Annoying… oh yes. Will I ever get used to it? Never. Will I end up killing? Possibly.

Recently however, even the agony of waiting for notes or feedback has lessened. Primarily because it has been replaced by the agony of waiting for something else. Decisions.

Now you would think after 18 years as a writer I’d be used to waiting for a yes or no on a project and having been along Commissioning Street many times, I thought I was. But this time it’s different. This time it’s not only big deal, but big league. And it’s not just one decision, it’s two, possibly even three. And it’s so close I can smell it.

So now, waiting isn’t about wasted time or effort and knowing I’ve got work coming back to me, it’s about potentially life changing phone calls or the abject desolation of rejection.

And if you want to know how that feels, just imagine checking your lottery numbers, realising you’ve got all of them and then not being able to find the ticket… the day before you have your driving test and just after your 16 year old daughter has told you she’s been knocked up by the local scumbag. That’s pretty close to how I’ve been feeling for the last two weeks. 

To compound things, the pressure of waiting means I can’t concentrate on anything else so days which should be productive are instead wasted trawling the internet searching for obscure motorcycles, watching video’s of morons who are seemingly intent on killing themselves or pissing about on Twitter. Things which more often than not, result in my getting told off for prevaricating or feeling guilty for not actually filling any pages with text.

It’s as vicious a circle as you’d ever want to endure.

Waiting. Yes, it’s an absolute bloody delight.

.

Top Dog, green street, audiobook, hooligans, hooliganism, krays, gangs, ganster

I’m delighted to tell you that the audio version of Top Dog is now available to download by clicking on the picture to the left.

It’s been narrated by Karl Jenkinson who has done a brilliant job and joins the film, the paperback and the ebook to give a clean sweep for this title which is something of which I’m justly proud.

In other news, my next movie, We Still Kill The Old Way was shown to a selected group last week and was apparently well received. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen any of it yet so I can’t really comment but I’m sure, given the quality of the cast involved, that it’ll be awesome.

More information on that can be found by clicking right here.

top dog, green street, gangs, gangsters, UK film, indie film, hooligans, danny dyer, eastenders, sothcott, martin kemp, spandau ballet, ebooks, amazon, kindle, ibooks