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.