RAFairman's Blog

An RAF Airman's Blog

Music Matters (Pt2)…

It’s funny, what music does to me.

As I have written in the past, it’s a very important part of my life; indeed recently we bought new CD cabinets for the 800 CDs or so we have amassed over the years, and I had a pleasurable evening sorting them into alphabetical order (and often just picking up a CD and remembering where I was and what I was doing when I bought that particular one).

But this morning, whilst enjoying the last real day of my leave, reading the paper and supping a coffee, the TV was on in the background and the Breakfast show was interviewing Marti Pellow…the singer, from (if you’ve forgotten) the band Wet, Wet, Wet.

And that took me back, and not in a good way. You see one of Wet, Wet, Wet’s massive hit singles was of course “Sweet Little Mystery”.  Not a bad song, not a great song – just a throw-away pop song, but one that was very popular in the mid-summer of 1987.

I know this because it was the song that was ALWAYS playing on the brand new video jukebox in the big NAAFI hall at RAF Swinderby in July 87, when I was doing my initial RAF recruit training.

Back then the flights of trainees weren’t mixed, meaning that in our intake there were four flights. Three of blokes, and one of girls.  And didn’t we bloody know there was a girls flight there.  Particularly when it came to that bloody video jukebox.

I wasn’t even old enough to drink in the bar, but you had to walk through the bar room to get to the NAAFI shop (used to buy coat hangers and yellow dusters mostly!) and it seemed that ‘Sweet Little Mystery’ was the only song that the sodding thing ever played, every time I went into that building it was on.

And now whenever I hear that song played on the radio, I always think back to those days.  The endless cleaning of the wooden floor.  Polishing the inside of the waste bin in the room 12 man room we had. Getting up at 5am to be ready and  standing to attention as a scary Corporal inspected us, by our beds, daily at 7am.  (Yes, like many in the RAF I can even remember his name, but only his rank and surname!) Doing drill in the pouring down rain wearing ponchos and practising “marking time” in a massive and very deep puddle.  Trying to get changed from a PT lesson in 3 minutes and spending 2 minutes of that trying to put bloody puttees on. Running up and down the runway doing our mile and a half fitness test. Eating what could only be described as the worst mess food in history. Losing my ID card on the very morning that we were to go on our very first exercise to RAF North Luffenham – and having the aforementioned Corporal look me in the eyes, when I told him, and say “The Sgt has told you to say that to wind me up hasn’t he? You are taking the piss, aren’t you?”

It was just six weeks…but what a six weeks.  A fresh-faced and very thin 17 year old me entered the grown-up world for the first time. Never did I expect it to be an adventure that took me this far.  To working on Tornado F3 jets.  Getting the opportunity to go supersonic in one over the North Sea. Going to Saudi Arabia and being underneath the very first Scud/Patriot encounter of the First Gulf War.  Spending a much nicer six weeks in Vegas where I put on a stone cos of all the food and drink. Sitting on QRA in Italy at 3am in the morning wrapped  up in a fur-lined canopy cover.  Teaching at RAF Cosford; driving a Landrover past the exercise base there with my right hand on the steering wheel and my left hand poking a rifle out the window and firing it on automatic at the base. Flying over my house in a Puma, and now with the opportunity of going to Afghan to do a job that will really make a difference to people’s lives…nearly 24 years later…

A lifetime away.

But you know what, that six weeks was worth it. ‘Cos without going through that pain back then, I would never have been able to do any of the other stuff, and that was a lot of fun.

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8 thoughts on “Music Matters (Pt2)…

  1. Big Bro on said:

    We had the dulcet tones of ‘I’ve found my thrills’ playing from Reveille to Lights Out on good old Radio Swinderby when I was there in Aug-Oct 1976. I think it was the only record they had!! That and the greeting “Hands off C*$%s, and on with socks” greeting us every morning will live with me for a very long time!

  2. Bill Cooper on said:

    Have you checked out the Flickr photo’s of Swinderby? A little sad but good memory joggers!
    I am glad that I was not the only one that put on weight while “on exercise” in vegas.

  3. Hi I think you must have had it easy being at swinderny in July – all that sunshine ? I was there in Jan/Feb ’87. Marking time on sheet ice, Combat PT along drainage channels with inch thick ice cutting into the lead mans shins …… Ah memmories. The bin could not have needed much polishing as we did plenty of that ready for your arrival 🙂 our Corpral “punishment” as he was fondly known was a sweet heart. I must agree it was certainly life shaping.

  4. Colin Stewart on said:

    Alex,

    We joined up together, If I remember correctly our DS Cpl was Martin Finnan and our SNCO was a guy called John Boyson. That was for 13Flt anyway.

  5. This is reassuringl that it is all worth it, as I foresee doing my own basic training within the next 12 months!

  6. Mouth on said:

    was training there in ’85 .. the Swinderby Radio station was based in the morgue .. one of the coldest , creepiest places i’ve ever been “asked” ( like the mob asked you to do anything …lol ) to work in. At the time i hated the camp with a passion , however , now that its gone and i’ll never have get beasted by the PT staff for 2 hours and then try to stay awake in a lecture about the rank structure of the RAF … i sort of miss the place .

  7. kwesi taylor on said:

    Thank you, those lines about Swinderby, bought back so many memories. One of the few times in my 9 years where everyone was equal and you actually felt like you where part of a team.

    Miss those days, now I sit in an office looking back to whwn I was young wishing I could turn the clock back.

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