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The price people pay …

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The price people pay ….

Sisters in Arms

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There are times in your life that will stay with you forever.

Last weekend was one of them.

Over 80 ex WRAC women met up in Fort William to celebrate their time in the army and to remember friends and colleagues who have left to march in the great parade square above.

The years fell away as we celebrated friendships, old and new, danced like we were all 30 years younger and partied like tomorrow would never come.    We became one again, the celebrated sisterhood of women that join together in comradeship that we cannot explain to those who have never served in the forces.

Our most poignant moment was the tree ceremony, where we dedicated a tree to our comrades and our memories of our past.    The words spoken by Maggie Purkis brought a tear to everyone’s eye as we stood in the most beautiful forest, over looking a loch and onto the grandeur of Ben Nevis.

It is memory that united us all, the ladies of the ATS and WRAC … the Sisters in Arms

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The power of women

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The Rice Pudding Story…

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Back in the early 80’s I spent 18 months in Northern Ireland.    As postings go. it was great! .. we had so many pubs on camp that you could spend a whole week drinking in a different one each night.

Like many of the WRAC in those days I did partake (often) in a wee drink or twelve… and like most drunks ended up starving at 1am!

The cookhouse was open 24 hours in those days, there were so many different shift patterns and patrols coming and going that it was possible to get food at anytime (although you weren’t really meant to use it when you were drunk as a skunk!).

One night, after a really good NAAFI disco (were they ever really good .. or was I just really drunk), a group of us ended up in the cookhouse and due to the fact that one of my friends was working behind the counter, we didn’t get kicked out and managed to help ourselves to a plate of burger and chips each.

There was a pudding on offer .. Rice Pudding.    but it was a congealed mess and none of us (even in our very drunken state!) liked the look of it.

It was the Rice Pudding that started it.   It was, really.    One of my friends suggested to me that the Rice was more like plaster of paris and wouldn’t it be funny if I stuck my boobs in it.

Well.. I did… to much hilarity and cheering … so much so that my cook friend came out to see what was going on .. (by this time I had pulled my shirt back down) .. checked her hot plates and stirred the rice pudding (which I had left with two very large holes in it).

We were still laughing when a group of RMP’s came in … and one of them helped himself to the Rice Pudding .. did we tell him .. did we hell …

 

Oops!

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I am one of those women who decided to change trades whilst in the army.  I ended up in the Signals as a DTG but back in the early 80’s I was working in stores at Bicester.   During this time they decided to make a new “emergency” shift that worked nights and I was in the first lot of women to be part of this.

Working on this shift was a bit of a laugh .. two storewomen and a driver on each shift (if my memory serves me right!) .. and our main duties were to check if any telexes came in, check location on the fabulously old microfiche system and then head off to which ever site and shed the item was located in.

We actually had a really interesting time of it, from loading tyres for Northern Ireland, ropes, that we skipped up the aisles with until we realised they were actually Funeral cords (sorry!), various engines, oh all sorts of things large and small that was needed urgently.    Sometimes our driver couldn’t fit items onto the 4 tonner we had, so it was my responsibility to sort out alternative transport by ringing the RCT.

One night we had a telex come in for  Tent Marquee P x 4 … and being an organised and responsible sort *cough* I decided I should ring the RCT in advance and book one of those really long lorries to fit these Marquee posts in .. which I duly did.

Off we went to the sheds (stopping at another shed to pick up an additional forklift that one of the gals drove over to the shed we needed to be at) and started looking for our marquee posts.   Outside the ordered lorry stood waiting, two of us on forklifts driving round this huge shed (if you can imagine an aircraft hanger with shelving!) .. until we found the correct area and shelf.

It was then we found out that the Tent Marquee P x 4 actually meant 4 Tent marquee pins … Oops!

It probably wouldnt have been so bad but a couple of nights earlier we had phoned the MOD police to report an intruder in a shed .. (we could hear his foot stops) which turned out to be the drips coming off the leaky roof…

Or perhaps if Sue our driver hadn’t stopped so quick the Rolls Royce engine in the back of her 4 tonner hadn’t fallen through the floor of her truck …

Or maybe if we hadn’t lost Debbie one night (she was practicing hanging onto the rope of the back of the 4 tonner and fell off!) …

All I know is that the wee Scottish Sergeant Major was not very happy with me … Can’t for the world of me think why!!

 

Only a dream…

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I found a wee picture on facebook today, posted by one of my friends that made me stop and think.

From the pages of facebook – Nadia

We have all, at one point in our lives been guilty of trying to rush things, trying to change people, their opinions or just our general life situation, to how we want them. We often forget that other people have an opinion or feelings and need their own time to think and sometimes how things develop are not how we want or envisage them.

Sometimes we are faced with a decision that seems to have no correct answer but we force ourselves to choose, often to ease our guilt or give our feelings an easier ride, when in reality we should just stop, do nothing and let life and time sort things out for us.

In life we do not always get what we want, or what we perceive to deserve, but what we often do is forget what we have in front of us right now.

So don’t force things, don’t hanker after what you haven’t got because when all is said and done, what we have right now is real . The past cannot be relived and the future is only a dream.

Attenshun!!

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WRAC – Im the one with no jacket on

I have lots of memories of my time in the WRAC and some lovely friends that stretch way way back!

I joined up in March 1980, really because I had no idea what to do with my life and joining the army seemed like a good idea and would allow me to carry on playing hockey!

Initially I was a storewoman but later changed trades to join the Royal Signals as a Data Telegraphist (hence why I can type today!)

One of my favourite memories is of a time when I was serving with 233 signals in Northern Ireland.  During my tour it was decided that a group of us would be sent across to Faslane on the West Coast of Scotland for a week of adventure training.

That week was probably one of the funniest weeks in my whole life.

It started on the ferry over .. the sea was pretty rough and you have never in your life seen so many green looking women in one place at the same time.  A few dragged themselves up on board to share their breakfast with the creatures of the deep.  The rest of us just sat below and groaned and rolled with the ferry.

Our accommodation was not actually in Faslane camp, it was up on top of a hill in old metal nissan huts, the round corrugated iron type, rustic wasn’t the word .. but it was reasonably dry and clean and the eight of us with the WRAC settled in to our temporary accommodation.

We were surrounded by sheep, which initially we thought was cute .. our thoughts did change when one morning we couldn’t open our door (it opened outwards).  One of the sheep had died during the night right outside .. we were trapped .. 8 serving army women, trapped by one dead sheep.  Eventually we did manage to get out, I have vague memories of someone skinny squeezing out the door and pulling the dead sheep away so we could escape.

But is this the end of the sheep story .. oh no .. not by far.

Blod, to make us laugh, decided it would be really funny to grab a clump of its wool and stick it down her knickers giving her a woollen merkin of giant proportions.  Oh how we laughed.

Oh how we laughed even more when it transpired that Blod had managed to get sheep ticks in her “floo floo” and had to spend an hour in the bath, legs over each side, with tweezers pulling them out … it probably didn’t help that most of us were hanging over the top of the bathroom partition taking photographs of the scene.  Poor Blod, she didn’t live that down for ages .. and will probably kill me for posting this on here!

The next day we set off on a 24 hour march .. with an overnight stay in tents halfway.   The picture above is our group finishing the end of the march… sore feet and a bit smelly .. me particularly so … the reason will become apparent below.

When our group of 4 set off we initially had all our kit in rucksacks and they weighed a ton … off we set .. uphill .. it was a killer, everytime we thought we were reaching the top there was another high bit behind it.   We stopped for a quick water break and rest.  Being of the highest intelligence <cough>  I decided instead of taking my rucksack off I would rest it on a gate post.  Great idea.  Well… it would have been if the gate post hadn’t given way and I ended up on my back arms and legs flailing like a stuck tortoise!  .. luckily the girls helped me up (after falling about laughing) and off we set once again.

Very soon we came to a high level flat moor .. easy walking .. I was walking alongside Blod, she was on the path, I was walking across the moor grass at the side of the path, when suddenly I sank, right up to my knees in this smelly quagmire that stank… Blod helped me out (again after laughing) and I turned round (while walking backwards) to shout to the girls behind about what had happened to me .. suddenly I sank again .. this time right up to my waist.. if it hadn’t been for the rucksack I would have probably gone right under …

This time it took the other 3 girls and our instructor to pull me out and I was stinking … really really stinking … no-one would walk beside me <lip quivering at the memory> .. and I had to endure the wet slimy clothes for the rest of the walk until we reached camp.

When we did reach there I was ordered to walk into the loch and stay there until I was clean .. so not only did I have to suffer being stinky, I then had to freeze!

Thankfully it worked.. and my clothes dried quickly by the campfire, which we gathered round to cook our rations of baked potatoes and beans.

Blod and I took our dinner back to our tent and ate it there.

In the morning I was awoken by Blod calling me all the names under the sun with the words “dirty bastard” flung in there too .. “what is it” I mumbled … “YOU” she shouted “have shit just outside the tent door”    “No I didn’t” I spluttered back, as I looked out the door …. and there lay the burnt potato skins of the previous night ..

What not to do when bored …

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The army back in the 80’s was not an easy place to be as lesbian.  You could still be kicked out and although there were a lot of us around, most of us were very careful where and when we had our fun!

In Ireland  it was particularly tough .. I shared a room with five other women and most of the rooms, even for corporals were shared.

During my time in Ireland I met a girl called Jan.   Luckily for me she was the PTI and I was captain of the hockey team so we both had keys for the sports store.   The sports store was really nothing more than a big shelf lined cupboard on the 3rd floor (top floor) of the WRAC sleeping quarters.

This cupboard was our den of inequity .. the place we met to do what some girls do <grin>

Jan had a terrible habit of always turning up late .. sometimes I would be waiting 30 minutes or more for her.

I passed the time by climbing the large slatted shelves and exploring what was on them.  On one of my forays I found a karate outfit, which pleased me greatly and I was often seen striding around in my really cool new PJ’s  (ok I looked a bit of a prat but I was happy!).

One particular day I came across a diving outfit, the rubber body suit, flippers and the rubber helmet.   Being a bit of a wally (see karate outfit PJ’s above….) I decided it would be really funny to put the helmet on.

So I did.

Eventually Jan opens the door

“BOOOO” shouts me .. my face squished into a pouting shape by the helmet.

Oh how we laughed …   until I tried to take it off..

It wouldn’t move.

“How much talc did you use” asked Jan

“Talc?… what do you mean talc?”  I mumbled (difficult to speak with a roll of rubber in your mouth)

No matter how much Jan pulled or wiggled, it wouldn’t move.

In the end we ended up in the corridor.  Jan with her foot on my head and her fingers under my chin (good job she was fit .. I could NEVER have got into that position!).

In the end it did roll off my face, and believe me it was painful, every little hair (that you didn’t know you had!) was being ripped out one by one.

My face was swollen, my eyes nothing more than slits … there would be no misbehaving after that!

The story doesn’t end there … in fact it gets worse …

Later that night I was in my room when there was a knock on my door.

In walks one of my friends (who was straight but knew all about Jan and I).

“CJ .. will you do me a favour, I don’t care what you and Jan get up to, but can you please be a bit quieter” she said

“OH NO .. you don’t understand” I garbled .. “It was the rubber helmet …….”

The look of horror on her face, and undoubtedly mine as those words left my mouth would have made a smashing picture …

Finding my way…

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I think I always knew…

From the age of five I liked girls. I wanted to play mummy and daddies, I wanted to be the daddy.   We sometimes played the sound of music.   I wanted to be one of the brothers.   I played football, better than some of the boys. I dreamt of kissing girls.  I was jealous of friend’s boyfriends although I did have boyfriends of my own and had the usual clumsy fiddles of sexual exploration on bodies that repulsed and scared me.

By the time I was 18 I had full sex twice with a boy which left me wondering what all the fuss was about.   There was something wrong and I didn’t know what it was.

I played hockey. I listened to, and joined in with, the whispers and giggles about the sexuality of our PE teachers.  I always felt awkward about this and a little fascinated but still the penny didn’t drop.

My life at this time revolved around a hockey pitch.  I was chosen to play for Scotland, I was a star in my own little world and I wanted to carry on playing hockey but decided (much to my mum’s horror!) to join the Womens Royal Army Corp rather than go on to college or university.

It was when I joined this world of women I realised why my life had always felt a little lost in my life.

I was gay and I was scared.

My first experience was with a woman a little older than me, and a higher rank than me which meant that she had her own room, or bunk as we called them.

Her name was Chris.   Chris had a girlfriend who had recently been posted to another camp.  Her girlfriend did visit on occasional weekends but mostly Chris was on her own.

I always got on with Chris, I trusted her and liked her.  She became the person I turned to when my thoughts and feelings about my sexuality became too much for me to try to understand on my own.

We had a little routine, a couple of cheap bottles of wine, some crisps and some nice music playing in the background.  She would lie on her single bed and I would lie on the floor resting my head against a black and white checked stuffed dog.  We would talk, mostly about how confused I felt and about how much she missed her girlfriend.

One night, after a few too many drinks, I stood up to go to the bathroom and tripped over the dog, resulting in its head being forever sloped to one side.  I named the dog “My life”, which for some reason we found hysterically funny.

A few nights later, around a bottle or so wine down, Chris suddenly sat up and looked at me.

“Take your clothes off and get into bed”

I didn’t reply.  I just did what I was told.

She slipped off her clothes and slid into the single bed beside me.

I remember the feeling of total panic, excitement and want all mixed up together.  I was scared stiff, but I wanted to touch her so much.

“I don’t know what to do” I blurted out.

She kissed me then.  A soft, warm kiss.  “Just do what comes naturally” she whispered and kissed me again.

I felt her skin against mine, I felt her arms slide round me as she pulled me closer and I just knew what I had to do, I didn’t think, I didn’t plan .. I just reacted to my feelings

She was the first woman I heard cry out my name and shout for God all at once.

For the first time in my life I felt as I belonged.  I had come home.

We fell again into each others arms.  She snuggled against me and we slept.

Over the next few weeks (apart from when her girlfriend came to visit!), Chris continued to act as my mentor, advising, letting me explore, experiment, live out fantasies.  She taught me a lot, she gave me confidence.

One day she turned to me and said, “we have to stop this, you know enough now”

I wasn’t hurt.  I wasn’t in love with her, I always knew she was giving me a very special gift that I would take on with me.

I bought her a couple of bottles of wine.  She gave me “My life”

A week later I met my first great love.. lets call her “M” I was her first lover and her first love and she was the one who opened my heart and my mind to everything that loving someone should be..

I showed her everything that Chris had given me and we played and explored and loved each other in a deep passionate way.

Roll the clock forward 30 years.   I’m sitting in a converted barn with “M” and her female partner.   The log burner is giving out a beautiful light, I am sitting on the sofa and Maggie is lying beside me with her head on my lap and I am stroking her hair as her partner sits on the floor in front of us.

“I can really see what you two seen in each other” she says “M” has always said you taught her everything she knows and I would like to thank you for that”

“M” and I laughed and I wished I could tell that to Chris.

She had given me a gift that I passed on and “M” in turn had passed on.

Thank you Chris.

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