Wugby & Weddings

Happy Boys On Tour

I sat down, surrounded by a huddle of Kiwi’s, Irish and ‘the rest of us,’ to watch the bruising encounter between the Lion’s and the All Blacks in the 2nd test on Saturday morning, not in Wellington in New Zealand but in Bellmaclellan in the Galloway hills. With Guinness in hand and hopes high, I wasn’t disappointed. Nor were the 20 odd thousand Lions fans in the crowd at the game, including our intrepid tour party who have devoted themselves for the last two weeks to disproving all available medical advice that suggests 20 units of alcohol a week is a safe and proper level of consumption for adult men. It was though, as the great Duke himself said, ‘a close run thing.’ When Sonny Bill was sent off my Kiwi chum beside me dismissed the episode saying with laconic confidence, "13 would be a problem but 14; we can do 14." They so very nearly did. Had their goal kicking been in the same postcode as the posts they would have galloped away with a sensational win but the honours, for the match at least, were ours. 

Whilst we spectators were congratulating ourselves on a successful but gruelling 80 minutes in the armchair my Godson stood up and said, “Right, I’m off to get married.” And so he did.

The two things which give us all unrestricted joy and happiness are the birth of a newborn and a good wedding. That is, unless you are my Godson’s father who was in a state of some considerable shock when he announced over a beer when we were in Northern Ireland together thirty three years ago, ‘She could have told me she was planning this. I mean, telling me after the event on the phone; it’s hardly fair.” Having calmed him down and lured him into a place of manufactured comfort with another half dozen beers he pronounced me ‘Godfather-to-be,’ for the new arrival. I am so pleased he did. The wedding on Saturday was an epic event. 

We were almost a family at the wedding had not one of the Crumble Kids actually been at the match in Wellington. The rest of us enjoyed it though, arriving in typical family style; with individuality. It’s the old thing, ‘here’s a grid reference, be there at this time.’ Two arrived by plane, two by train, (with five minutes to spare), and I got to know the roadworks on the M6 really well. 

The father of the groom; just before the men in flapping white coats arrived........

The father of the groom; just before the men in flapping white coats arrived........

Just as a gentle hint of guidance my Godson has not even a passing acquaintance with convention or tradition. It was in fact the very first ‘low carbon footprint,’ wedding that I have ever attended but I am pleased to report that the wine and whisky at a ‘low carbon event,’ tastes very much as it does everywhere else. And you get to know a whole bunch of Corbynista's you never met before. The arrival of the bride and groom on a Dragon Boat being hefted in to a solemn drumbeat on the foredeck, with a lone piper on the shore giving them a navigational clue as to where to head in the stiff breeze, was an indication of what was to come. The humanist service by the lapping waves of Loch Ken was a sensitive, emotional and happy one. I loved the toast at the end of the service from the Quaich, filled with a symbolic mixture of Irish and English whisky for example, reflecting the backgrounds of both. A particular highlight was the Groom's speech, (isn’t it always?). It is the first speech I have heard to the accompaniment of 130 Kazoos which were handed out to us for a sort of crowd-driven supporting act to what was a very original speech. We all thought we did really rather well.

As seems to be the way these days, the old script of father of the bride, groom and best man speaking went straight out of the window and it was becoming a bit like Saturday Night At The Palladium as more and more souls had their moment which would have been tedious had they all not been so blisteringly entertaining. None more so than the bride's 92 year old Grandma who had us all in her hand, speaking with grace, wit and charm. I absolutely embrace rewriting the wedding thing. Dare to be different. The Ceilidh was brilliant fun, the fireworks on the loch sensational and the swing……………. well that was something else.

Apparently you don’t have to drink your own body weight in red wine to have a bash but I found it gave me some uncharacteristic courage both on the dance floor and on the swing. What is the swing? Well, it’s just another run of the mill thing conjured up by my chum that you can enjoy at a wedding at his Galloway Activity Centre. How else do you celebrate a Lion's win against the All Blacks and your Godson’s wedding? Some souls are apparently suffering from the onset of PTSD having witnessed me flying through the air in a kilt at night....... it isn't very likely to happen again; I promise.

Action This Day Mr Fallon Please

We learn from his website that the Defence Secretary spoke at the British Legion reception at the Conservative party conference recently, described thus,

"Michael spoke at the Royal British Legion’s reception at the Conservative Party Conference recently.

Referring to the Armed Forces Covenant he said:  “It is particularly fitting, in the 100th year anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War, to reflect on the importance of the Covenant.  Our armed forces today, like those of a hundred years ago, embody the best of British, and it is right we honour all that they do for our country.  We must never forget the willingness of our armed forces to make the ultimate sacrifice for our country.”

Importance of The Military Covenant
“The Military Covenant recognises that the whole nation has a moral obligation to members of the armed forces and their families. This isn’t just about Government – it is about society’s commitment as a whole.”

“I am proud that this Government has enshrined the following principles in law:

  • that no current or former member of the armed forces, or their families should be disadvantaged compared to other citizens in the provision of public and commercial services;
  • and that special consideration is appropriate especially for those who have given most such as the injured and bereaved.”

“Never again can the Covenant cease to be honoured.”"

Just one question Mr Fallon, I appreciate you run a very big department with multiple responsibilities but just in passing, why is there a four month waiting list for non urgent PTSD referrals in the Tidworth Garrison?

Action this day Mr Fallon, action this day please.

Unrest in Libya and Haslemere

Yvonne Fletcher.... murdered

With Gaddafi and his despotic regime on their last legs I shed no tears; but keep a thought for PC Yvonne Fletcher, murdered by his henchmen in St James Square and the many, many soldiers and civilians murdered by the provisionals and INLA with training and weapons supplied by Gaddafi. The brutal murder of 270 innocents on PanAm Flight 103 should have been grounds enough to remove this lunatic almost thirty years ago. Indeed, my old company was dispatched to clear up and the impact of PTSD on those men is still very much a live issue today. I hope the bastard swings.

Tony Blair

Well, it's good to see that appointing Tony Blair as a Middle East peace envoy is going as swimmingly as those of us in this country who know him so well could only expect. So far, we have most of North Africa ablaze, with growing protests as far East as China, (small and known as the Jasmine protests), as far South as Zim, as far West as Wisconsin and as far North as Haslemere when yesterday, as bad luck would have it, Mrs Flashbang went binky bonk Cloud 9 when the washing machine died. Trying to be helpful, I pointed out that "we used to handwash things all the time in the Army," which almost resulted in me going the same way as the LG direct drive washing machine. 
USS Enterprise (CVN 65) transits through the Suez Canal
In response to the turbulence, (in the Middle East; they haven't yet offered assistance to middle aged men in Haslemere under domestic duress), the Americans have sent what appears to be a very large bit of US Navy and parked it close enough for the Iranians to notice, lest the Iranians harbour intentions to exploit the unrest. The Royal Navy, (who's very role in life used to be to send gunboats at the first sign of uppityness), meanwhile has a somewhat smaller presence which probably won't be growing very much given there's not an awful lot of it left, as with yet more inspired planning, we've sold most of our ships to scrap metal dealers in Turkey and to Third World dictators........................ oh dear...
Actually, we don't have much of anything left in the cupboard. If the rumoured new cuts go through, by 2015 the Army will be exactly half the size it was when I joined. Still, we can always enlist the thousands of kids on YOP schemes who work for Tesco's on minimum wages which appears to account for an aspirational career these days,
from Think Defence


Blair; Shameless

In the post, "A Tale of Two Men," I compared that shameless Tony Blair with another man who, sent to war as a Territorial, returned badly wounded and without compensation. Yet, he has devoted his energy to setting up a charity to help others with life changing injuries in his situation and their carers. What indeed did you do in the war Mr Blair?

It's interesting now therefore, that the Attack Dogs of the press are setting about Blair and beginning to dismantle any pretence of good works since he left office. When even the Guardian is joining in, you know it's not just angry middle aged men in Haslemere that feel deep distaste at the exploitation of his office for personal gain when we have so many young lives wrecked at his behest.

In fact, the Guardian is even launching a competition with a prize for anyone "who can shine the brightest light on those financial structures."

I don't much care about the opaque and complex tax efficient financial structures. I don't even care about how many millions of pounds Mr Blair has or will earn. I care that he appears to have absolved himself of his moral responsibility to give something back. Here is one example that has crossed our desk this week,

50 yr old ex infanteer with major PTSD issues after being involved in a rather famous incident in NI. Served 16 years, whole life is in a mess but one thing that needs addressing immediately is his bedding and mattress. He's completely incontinent, a direct result of his illness. Been too embarrassed to mention it to anyone.

If you want to help Mr Blair you can contact me at hofj@mentalcrumble.com and I'll tell everyone you did the right thing or no one, just as you wish.

Prisoner of War

Regular readers will have quickly identified that there are recurrent themes in my posts.  Two of the most common are the incompetence of petty officialdom, and the after effects of active service on those who return. We attempt to address some of these issues with our little charity, holidays4heroes which many of you generously support.

It's unsurprising then, given that petty officialdom has spread through the country like a bad virus that these two themes should come together now and again in one post. Some make me irritated, some upset........ this one just makes me bloody angry and we're going to fix it.

A former soldier who served in NI, the first Gulf War and was one of the unfortunate group sent to clear up after Lockerbie has had his share of bad luck.

He contracted TB four years ago which was undiagnosed for a year. In that time he lost 40% of his lung capacity and now has the lungs of an 80 year old. He was in receipt of a disability living allowance but that has been taken away from him, "he can cook a meal and walk more than 5 metres"

He goes on to say,  "I used the Mobility allowance to get me to Tescos and back. Now I'm a prisoner in my home unless a friend is free to drive me.  It was also used for my heating, now I get inside a sleeping bag in my chair. " What in the screaming fvck is he supposed to do..... get two teenagers on a YOP scheme to knock up an iron-lung in remedial metalwork?

Just for fun and giggles he has been diagnosed as suffering from severe PTSD and to really make it a full house he was burgled two weeks ago. Yep, I'm pretty pissed off about it too.

Just to give you a wee bit of perspective, just a few years after Lockerbie, most of the emergency services who attended retired on disability pensions and I have no issue with that. It was a traumatic event of some magnitude for those present. The soldiers were sent away from their families to Belize afterwards, no doubt some bright spark thought that keeping them busy was the right idea.

With the help of the specialist agencies out there we will absolutely fix this and if I can track down the jobsworth responsible for making this guy a prisoner in his home I will and I'll let as many people know about it as I can.

The important thing for you though, is simply to be aware that these cases exist, that it's not acceptable and to be supportive. We have many more thousands coming down the pipeline.. we sent them and we have a collective duty of care to do the right thing.

Tick, tock

The total number of dead in Afghanistan with three more soldiers killed in action this week now stands at 256. The press have highlighted that the number now surpasses the 255 killed in action in the Falklands Campaign. Not quite.

An estimated number of suicides by ex Falkland veterans stands around 264, more than were killed in action. Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, (PTSD), can take years to manifest itself and most veterans who suffer tend not to seek help until 10-12 years after their service.

Given the hundreds of thousands of men who have rotated through both Iraq and Afghanistan over the past seven years we have a bulge in the pipeline which will take time to manifest itself. It's coming though. Combat Stress, the sevice charity, campaign for greater awareness and education. We should all be aware, the suffering doesn't stop when the guns go quiet.