...pull up a sandbag, you ! yeah you there ! get that light swinging, sit down and I'll tell you a story about when I worked with...(looks over both shoulders furtively, leans forward conspiritally and in a hushed voice says)...THEM ! Once upon a time, long, long ago, in a green and boggy land not too far away when I was a stripling youth, I was the brainier half of a Wagtail team. As jobs went it was'nt too bad. Plenty fresh air, guns with real bullets, 50p a day danger money and sometimes we got to go to work in a choppper as we held apart the green,white and gold baddy tribe from the red,white and blue baddy tribe. Some days I could go out in 'mufti' and dressed in my plastic imitation Irvine flying jacket, brutus jeans, Derriboots with white welly socks and my riot helmet with the visor removed, I'd mount my ancient 250 Yam and head off to Lisburn for some hearts and mind action with the colleens that hung about Corkens or the like. Sometimes I'd head off for the Holdfast Disco at Castle D where the RE's had thoughtfully converted the stable next door into a Lurve Shack with blanket GS drapes and swamped mattresses from the SQMS. It was during my time there that rumours persisted that THEY were there as well. No-one ever saw THEM. No-one had ever met THEM but the 'experts' reckoned you could tell one of THEM by the length of his hair, but, given that every squaddie there grew his hair long at the slightest excuse, you never knew whether it was actually one of THEM you had seen or just some civvy driver or other REMF. Still, the rumours persisted. Now, one day, twas in the summer as I recall, we were out and about in a green,white and gold part of the land, spreading the peace and impartial goodwill message to the CivPop along with a section from the RHF, in shirt sleeve order, proudly displaying thier 'FOR GOD & ULSTER', RANGERS F.C.' & 'UVF,UDA,F*CK THE POPE AND THE IRA' tatoos for the delictation of the locals. Twas a feckin' long, long day I can tell you and we were mightily glad to RTB that evening. Anyway, no sooner had I kenneled and fed the oppo, blagged some tinnys from the choggi and settled down for an evening with Gloria and UTV, and the tannoy goes' 'Wagtail to the ops room, Wagtail to the ops room. That is all.' BA*TARD !!! so off I trots. 'Evening sir, what've got for me ?' 'Ah right. They want you at so and so in an hour. QRF are waiting to take you. Oh, and they want you in civvies.' 'Civvies ? who wants me in civvies ?' 'How the f*ck should I know. No one tells me f*ck all, I'm only the Ops Officer FFS. Now b*gger orf.' So 'orf' I b*ggered and got into my finest 'I'm not a squaddie, I'm one of you's' outfit and went to get the oppo. Now, my oppo was one of the finest noses ever to graduate from Melton in the late 70's but he'd been a troubled youth. Abandoned by his parents when barely weeks old he'd ended up being drafted into the Pet Corp as an alternative to the dog pound and after four months basic he found himself on the mean streets of Derry. He'd found that first tour hard. Friend and foe alike would mock him for his lack of stature for although he had the noble head and body of a golden labrador his dad had been a pit bull or some such and as a consequence he had little short legs and a big barrel chest. He was so short arrsed he'd need a bunk up just to get into the pigs. All this and the fact that the Pet Corp had decided that this war dogs given name was to be.... Stumpy !!FFS just made it worse. Eventually the stress got too much and after a number of collapses on duty he was diagnosed as epileptic and RTU'd to Melton for the needle........ TBC.