The Zoo

Placing known 'casual alcoholics' a 10 metre dash from the NAAFI bar was an inspired move.

Ten metres? I managed better than that: five! Block 543 at Brize Norton – directly (and ever so conveniently) opposite the NAAFI Pigs Bar had some odd and colourful occupants. Named the ‘Reptile House’, 543 comprised mainly of two-man rooms and a couple of single-man-****-palaces at the airfield end - one of which I was lucky enough to inhabit. There was never a dull moment. Though this was in the pre-gaming console and wide-screen era, there was plenty enough tellies and grot vids to cater for all tastes – and indeed it was during one of the infamous room parties that I first viewed the non-Orwell version of Animal Farm (a mind-scarring experience for a 17 year old sprog).

Décor varied. One room was entirely lined with glued together beer tins – right down to a partition with doorway, and one room was totally lined with black polythene and filled with tropical plants. The humidity was horrendous and when the plaster started to disintegrate words were had and its inhabitant mysteriously posted.

Usual access was via the fire exits at each end (in the days before keypads were introduced) and the perennially-lit central corridor lined up perfectly with the door of the Pigs Bar which made navigation back to one’s scratcher possible even with all directional systems shot to shit courtesy of the bar’s Cocktail Book. It was like watching a 747 landing at Heathrow in fog. One night it was very foggy - steam filling the corridor. Music filled the moist air and muffled laughs and female giggles emanating from the ablutions signalled that a ‘shower party’ was in progress – the ladies maintaining their dignity by retaining their underwear – or elements thereof. Much I do not remember, as I did spend an awful lot of time hammered.

The block was awash with ale and the local birds – invariably snared in the (very) nearby Spotlight Club - were very eager to please. To this day, the sound of a woman’s high heels on a polished floor takes me back instantly to those times. The weekenders and ‘bed-ins’ were legendary and work, stags and exercises were an inconvenience. I don’t know how we got away with half of it, but with hindsight I suppose every garrison, camp, station and shore base had their equivalent Reptile Houses. My further postings confirmed this, and whilst they had their own qualities and characters, my time in 543 will be fondly remembered until the Alzheimer’s kicks in. It was the original and best - and my first taste of debauchery.
Funniest thing I`ve read for ages. I guess it must be absolutely true as well.

We had a similar place back in the late 70`s at the "factory".

Then it was known as A Wing run by a big fat CSM called piggy K**p.

The clever blokes were in either B Wing (new arrivals) or C Wing - Guys on 1st Class courses etc.

I had the misfortune to be back coursed while on my first class and spent a few weeks in A Wing while waiting to be placed back onto another course.

It was bliss. We had a quick parade at 8.00 and then (if you were clever) disappeared for the rest of the day to do your meaningful work for the day.

This could be anything from the odd day at the bedding store or in the classrooms setting up equipment for students to use.

I was placed under the wing of a civvy called George and he never expected me to do owt so I used to wander off back to my MQ on Valon Road for the day.

I came unstuck one week when I was selected to be fire piquet commander and had to kip in the guardroom for a week.

Ah the good ole days.

Quick edit to show the proximity of the zoo and NAAFI entrance plus the Palm tree roundabout. see.JPG
verticalgyro had to go away. You'll find his cousin is a bit more grumpy and lazy.

If I manage to get an idle hour I'll see what I can do.

...and Smudge, my descriptive skills must be on par if you remembered his name from that! Halcyon days, The Zoo :)


verticalgyro had to go away. You'll find his cousin is a bit more grumpy and lazy.

If I manage to get an idle hour I'll see what I can do.

...and Smudge, my descriptive skills must be on par if you remembered his name from that! Halcyon days, The Zoo :)

DG - tell your cousin to tell you what happened at the post ROPs party, and then come on here and backbrief us!

We're absolutely dying to hear the rest of this tale, man!


War Hero
We're waaaiiittttiinng.


The Moon, the Sun, Mars and the constellation of Mong aligned, and The Zoo finished their ROPs on a Friday, which also happened to be a payday, the November payday, and hence that time of the year where the Traditional Silly Season begins and Squaddies are required, under Queens’ Regulations, to drink twice their own bodyweight in Lager.

Despite all the warning signs being evident to anyone who enjoyed an IQ of double figures, the Company staff did nothing to split The Zoo up. All those hours wasted learning about Maslow, the years of experience in man-management, Venn diagrams showing Task, Team, Individual etc etc were, in the finest traditions of my glorious Corp, ignored totally and the four miscreants were allowed to move back into their little party zone.

Arborfield was buzzing with excitement; the money was in the bank, the Levis were ironed, desert boots brushed, Pierre Cardin shirts expertly pressed, in anticipation of a massive weekend. The sounds of Happy Mondays, Stone Roses, Oasis and Blur competed in a cacophony of noise from a hundred different sound systems, up to four per room, as the young heroes of SEAE prepared to exercise their right to stagger down Wokingham High Street with Pork Bayonets erect, Pints of Stella unfurled and Drum ‘n’ Bass…erm…drumming from the open doors of the Public Houses.

As luck would have it, the Corporals Mess, which was really just the Function Room above the NAAFI with slightly less threadbare carpets and slightly less bent brown tin NAAFI ashtrays on the Formica tables, were having their Christmas Function on the Saturday night, so in preparation they had brought in the EEC Beer Lake conveniently packaged into cases of 24. Like you do, when there is a willing workforce sat around in Holding Platoon, you get the young, honest, hardworking Craftsmen to do the donkey work and shift all the booze from the back of the Transit van into the Store adjacent to the Cpls Mess. Of course, as we all know, watching a load of Craftsmen carrying case after case of beer and alcopops up the stairs is tiring work, and it wasn’t long before the Lancejack supervising them decided to catch forty winks in one of the ever-so-comfy chairs. Big mistake. One of the members of the Zoo quickly changed the padlock for the storeroom to one of his own, which of course had two keys.

Later that night, under cover of darkness and assisted by Fosters Night Vision Beer Goggles™, kindly donated by the Cpls Mess for their help in humping the beer, The Zoo carried out The Big Beer Heist of 1995. All the beer and alcopops were swiftly moved from the storeroom and into The Zoo, the padlock carefully replaced (I am reliably informed that NBC Inners are perfect items to prevent “dabs”), and the party began.

For the princely sum of £5 per head, anyone could come to the Free Booze Party in The Zoo, as long as no questions were asked, wink wink, nudge nudge. The Zoo was kicking, it was the post-ROPs party to be seen at, anyone who was anyone was there, even Sgts who had heard on the jungle drums that The Party Of The Year was in full swing had come down from the Mess to get amongst it. Smirks and winks were passed round as the LCpl who had supervised the original beer move arrived, and he seemed to enjoy the evening, happily swigging away, totally oblivious to the fact that he was assisting the criminals in disposing of the evidence through the medium of turning beer into piss. A great night was had by all, the last revellers left around midday on the Saturday and all the empties were deposited in different skips all round camp, to spread the load and avoid suspicion.

On the proceeds of the party, The Zoo decided to go Billy Big-Timing it down Reading on the Saturday night – half to avoid the outrage and fuss when the Cpls Mess turned up to see a Store Cupboard which contained a few cases of Diet Coke and a half empty box of out-of-date Prawn Cocktail Seabrooks Crisps and half because there were Maidens who needed spearing.

That though, as they say, is another story.


I mentioned Holding Platoon and my first real job as the 2ic of the Pissed Stained Mattress Store elsewhere, I thought a quick dit spin might bring back endearing images and smells of the halcyon days of Verticalgyros "Career":

At the tender age of 19 my first real job in the Army really was the 2ic of the Piss-Stained-Mattress Store, as assistant to LCpl "Spider" Parsons, a 22 year served chronic alcoholic. We spent our days drawing circles around suspicious marks on the white and green striped mattresses and initialling them. We opened our "half-door" between the hours of 1000 and 1030 every Thursday in order to carry out Sheet Exchange. Some of the fcuking minging spunk encrusted sheets that came through my store in those fantastic eight weeks were a sight to behold. I recall one particularly honking specimen that had been grand slammed a couple of times and left to dry out. It had the weight and consistency of a roll of 1970s blown vinyl wallpaper, in accompanying 1970s colours - Orange, Brown and Purple.

Apart from using the Magic Marker of Mingingness and the half hour on a Thursday, the remainder of the time was our own, although we had to be "at our place of work" in case the CQMS had a fastball when he needed a Mattress exchanging. Spider kept a bottle of cheap vodka - called Tsars' Crown or some bollocks - in his bottom drawer, which he kept topping his brew up with throughout the morning until lunchtime arrived. I wasn't quite ready to start on that habit at that stage, and I would usually spend the morning kipping off the previous nights NAAFI Fosters on top of the counterpane shelf. Eventually, 1230 would roll round and we would fill up on greasy crap from the Cookhouse, then roll into the NAAFI for the "POWER HOUR" of lunchtime drinking. Afternoons would be spent in much the same way, although Spider usually let me knock off and go sit in my Eine-Herren-Vicks-Panzer so I could **** over the sound of the two Duty Dykes clamjousting upstairs. The eternal excuse to the CQMS was that "Oh The young Craftie, he's gone for a run, fit little bastard he is..."

Spider was perennially skint so I spent a large chunk of my shit wages on propping up his habits; to be honest I saw it as money well spent to stay on such a good ******* skive. We would both run out of money quite regularly, although Spider had an account in the Post Office where he had secreted a sum of cash that his wife didn't know about when they got divorced. When we had absolutely fcuk-all to spend on booze, we would walk into Arborfield Village, withdraw £50, have a sesh in the RBL then roll back to Hazebrouck.

Spider smoked roll-ups, but being a prudent sort who despised spending money on anything that didn't have any alcoholic content, used to take the tab bins from the smoking areas and the ashtrays from the NAAFI, and knock the dog-end baccy out into an old 7.62 Link Ammo Box. He wouldn't even buy Rizlas, he used to take a scalpel to the 1033 Pad and seal his bines with pritt-stick. We would spend a couple of hours every day "rolling our own" before going out on the piss.

We must have stank like a fcuking pub carpet.

God Bless you Spider, you're probably long dead now (he was released onto an unsuspecting public in the Spring of '95). One of Gods Own creations, I am proud to have known you.

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