Thursday, November 18, 2010

41. Parties and problems

I dislike parties intensely due partly to the fact that I am not comfortable in crowds, and partly because I have no patience with the inane chatter of the sozzled and semi-sozzled with whom one cannot hold an intelligent conversation. Fear grips me in the pit of my stomach when I see people I love and respect change before my eyes from sensible responsible people into groping, leering idiots. Also, I don’t like the taste of beer or spirits, apart from Crème de Menthe Frappe, and that lovely creamy coffee tasting stuff, but I avoid those because they make my face go red. My tolerance to liqueur is zero and, as my darling Tom used to say, “Give her a sherry and she’s anybody’s”. My childhood experience of drink does not help. However, when one’s husband is a member of an Officers’ Mess one is required to attend Mess Functions.

I remember Tom arriving home after a 'dining-in' night at the Officers' Mess, to which he had worn his very expensive mess uniform, complete with miniature medals, covered in dust and dirt from some boyish games they had been playing. I believe they had brought beds into the dining room and had been racing them up and down the halls, or something. As I remarked to him the next morning, when he was better able to comprehend what I was saying, “If Tommy came home with his school uniform messed up like that he would be in big trouble!”

Of all the many parties attended the most memorable were four held at Finningley, three of which were fancy dress. For the New Year’s Eve Party I decided that, as Station Security Officer, it would be fitting if Tom went as a good fairy and I went as the witch. I made him a very full skirt from a folded over sheet trimmed round the bottom with tinsel, a vest top trimmed with more tinsel, a tinsel crown and a wand sporting a large star tied to a piece of flexible metal tubing so that it swung about all the time. I also made him a blond wig out of canary yellow knitting wool. It was probably the cruellest thing I ever did to him. My costume should have disguised me completely; long black robe, tall witches’ hat, teeth blacked out, green makeup and false hook nose, so I was not very flattered when someone came up to me on my arrival and said “Hello, Cynthia. Where’s Tom?” In retrospect, it was stupid of me to think that Tom would walk into the mess in his fairy dress stone cold sober, verily he had to be well ginned up before I could get him out of the front door!

Arriving at the mess he dumped me, as was his custom, and went to join the lads at the bar. Some time later he passed me, saying something about going home, so I followed before being served with my supper. It is my habit, when in a temper, which isn’t often, to polish things, usually the floor, so if some giant had lifted the roof off our house that night he would have seen one blonde wigged, rouged cheeked, very drunk good fairy passed out cold on the bed, and one very pissed off witch frantically polishing the parquet floor in the lounge. Another temper giveaway is when I make toffee or paint my nails red. And a Happy New Year to you too!

The next fancy dress I opted for something a little more decorous. He would go as a parcel, aptly “waiting to be posted”; the term used when one’s present tour of duty is almost over. A huge cardboard box, which had contained a filing cabinet, was found and inside I attached a shelf for his lighter and cigarettes. A large hole was made in the side through which a glass of ale could be passed in and the empty glass passed out. The box was addressed in large letters to “Officer Commanding R.A.F. Episkopi, Cyprus, tied up with thick string and with some large stamps drawn in the corner. He seemed quite happy, tucked away in his private drinking box until I noticed a little circle of aircrew lads circling the box, round and round. I asked them what they were doing and they said that they could see how he was getting the ale in, but they wondered how he was going to let the ale out, a problem neither of us had foreseen when we strapped him in there. Inevitably, the time came when he needed to retire to the gents, which he did, followed by five or six interested spectators. I was never told the outcome, or outgo, but when he returned the box did not look damp! Then a Land Rover was driven up to the entrance of the Mess in which sat a couple of chaps who were hell bent on taking the box to the post office in Doncaster. None of them was fit to drive and, as I explained to them, the Post Office would not be open at 0100 hrs on a Sunday morning. Unfortunately beer was spilt all over Tom as they tried to lift the box onto the Land Rover. I was dressed as a clown.

The theme of another party was desert islands. Tom went as a native with a stick through his nose. I don’t quite know how the effect was managed but it was an optical illusion. The Officer Commanding dressed as a pirate with false oozing boils stuck all over his face. I told him he had a perverted sense of humour, after which he told Tom that his wife had called him a pervert, which I had not. My costume is forgotten.

And finally there was the Christmas Party when I had to go into Doncaster to attend an audition for the Doncaster Players, who were casting “The Waltz of the Toreadors”. Tom was Orderly Officer that night and could not escort me, so I said I would see him at the party later. I was wearing a tight fitting, short emerald green satin dress with black beading round the neck, a matching stole with black fringing and a new pair of high heeled black satin shoes that were killing me. Snow lay thick on the ground but the heater in Goldilocks was very efficient so I did not feel the need of a coat. Anyway I did not have anything that would go with this outfit. I was also wearing Jet, dangly earrings and carried a black satin bag. The audition went well and I was given the part of the dressmaker. I was rather thrilled because this was the first time I had auditioned for them.

The road back to Finningley ran alongside the race course and it was here that Goldilocks decided to stop. Stop, dead as a dodo. I tried cranking her, but no go. Outside the car was nowhere near as warm as inside and my teeth started chattering! The last bus left Doncaster at about 10.00 p.m. so I thought if I ran, or rather hobbled, alongside the racetrack up to the traffic lights, where the road took a left turn for Finningley or went straight on to Bawtry, I would catch it. I kept looking back towards Doncaster because, being a country bus, the driver would stop if I waved to him. I still had quite a long way to go to the lights when a huge lorry slowed and stopped and the driver asked if I wanted a lift. I accepted gladly, and asked him to please drop me at the traffic lights, all the while talking, or rather shouting, about my husband waiting at the Mess and wondering what had happened to me. Actually, I doubted said husband had given me a thought all evening.

Well, I knew I was in trouble when the lorry shot over the traffic lights and on to the Bawtry Road! I shouted at the driver to stop, and he said he knew what I was, and what I wanted, and who did I think I was fooling! It must have been the tight fitting emerald green dress, and the fact that he had needed to use two very strong hands to get me up into the cabin.

After screaming and hitting him, he stopped the lorry at a lay by and pushed me out of the cabin from whence I landed head first into the snow. I was very relieved to be out of there because, about that time, there had been a couple of murders on the Bawtry Road, a fact I had forgotten when accepting the lift.

There was not a car to be seen, and if one had come along I think I would have hidden in a hedge rather than accept another lift. This was farming country, not a house in sight nearby but I could see, across a field, a little light shining in a farmhouse window, which was surprising because most farmers were in bed at that time. There was no choice but to set off, across the plough-ridged field, towards the light. Oh, my poor feet!

If the farmer was surprised to hear someone hammering on his front door so late at night; he must have been quite alarmed to find a frozen, green clad creature standing at his front door. I explained briefly what had befallen me and asked if I could use his phone. He was in his pyjamas and dressing gown, lovely woolly slippers on his feet, and about to get into what would probably be a nice warm bed. I finally got through to the camp but Tom could not be found, so I spoke to a young aircrew friend who I knew had a car. I told him the long story, explained where I was and asked him to drive down the secondary road to the farm and I would walk down the road to meet him. “Fine,” he said “see you soon”.

Well, I walked and walked and walked some more, until at about midnight, I reached camp. Frozen, weary and almost hysterical. My now ex-friend said that he thought my call for help had been a hoax started by a chap whose girl friend he was chatting up. When I finally told Tom my sorry story he asked me, “Where did you say you left the car?” For the second time that night the word “murder” entered my frozen brain.

To be fair, he did ask if I had taken the number of the lorry but, having landed on my head in the snow, I had been unable to take down numbers. I left the party, walked to our house and thawed out in a nice hot bath.

Parties are never quite like that at Command Headquarters!

I was cleaning the kitchen, minding my own business, and not looking for trouble, when there was a knock on the back door. A good looking young aircrew officer was standing there holding a curly haired little boy by the hand. He introduced himself as Barry Riley and his little boy Tony, and asked if he could use the telephone. Because Tom was Station Security Officer and on call 24/7 an internal phone had been installed, and Barry wanted to call the Station Medical Officer because his wife, Kay was ill. Kay was pregnant and, as had happened when she was carrying Tony, her little body turned into bile. I don’t know the medical term for it, all I can say is that she was one sick little lady and had to go into hospital, be fed intravenously and had a bad time of it. I offered to look after Tony while Kay was in hospital. He was a dear little boy and, apart from being terrified of the vacuum cleaner, was no trouble at all.

Kay Riley was a lovely girl, very tiny and very sweet, one could barely see that she was pregnant at all and so when the doctor delivered twin girls everyone was very surprised, to say the least. “No more” the doctor said. “Definitely no more”. I so admired Kay who, though still exhausted from her illness, from the shock of giving birth to twins and from looking after Tony, Barry and the babies, kept her house immaculate. There was never so much as a dirty cup on the draining board. The twins were just crawling when Kay discovered she was pregnant again, and the poor girl was suicidal. I could have killed Barry. Between Kay’s stays in hospital, I now had Kay, Tony and the twins staying in my house, with Barry coming in for meals as well. Tommy was not yet away at school so, some of the time I was catering for nine of us, albeit the twins were bottle fed. To add to the problem, I was waiting to have surgery on my right hand to remove, or whatever they do with it, a carpel tunnel, so sometimes the hand was so screwed up I could not put a teat on a bottle. The pain at night was excruciating.

Barry was an extremely selfish, self-centred young man, and never once gave up his Wednesday afternoon game of golf to look after the children so that I could have break. Kay was determined to have the expected baby adopted, which was a crazy idea because she was a Catholic, and a wonderful mother who loved her children. So, I came up with the even crazier suggestion that we would take the baby with us to Cyprus, where we were shortly to go, and give it back to Kay on our return. Tom agreed, in principal, he always went along with my most irrational ideas, and the offer was made. Then we found that Kay and Barry both had families, who had kept well in the background so far, so what on earth was I doing? With Tommy at boarding school, Jeni growing up nicely, what did I want with a baby? As it happened we left before the baby was born. I received a letter from Kay about six months later, enclosing a picture of the four children. She wrote of the fourth child, another little girl; “She is such a little angel, and so very good. It is as if she knows that I did not want her and is trying not to be a nuisance”. I never heard from her again, but sincerely hope that was her last pregnancy.

Jeni and I took what was to be the first of many air flights, this one landing in Nicosia. It was a very turbulent and nauseating ride. Tommy could not picture us in Cyprus, in fact in one very sad letter he wrote “I feel like I don’t belong anywhere anymore!” He spent a couple of holidays with Jock and Doreen in Milford, and they were so worried about him that they suggested he live with them. But we did not know where we would be stationed on our return, and Milford was a long way from any likely bases. We decided to leave him at Ripon a while longer.

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