Sunday, 19 August 2018

Beautiful You


This week I read Beautiful You, by Chuck Palahniuk. Fresh out of college, the young Penny starts at a company producing highly successful women's sex toys. CEO Maxwell, however, is not just planning on being her boss- he wants her as her guinea pig. But what's the end goal? Penny might find out, provided she doesn't die of sex exhaustion.

A funny, twisty book, riffing off the successes of 50 Shades but self-consciously cliched. A fun read but not for the easily offended.

Saturday, 18 August 2018

I'm having to escalate my HMRC complaint

Over the last few Saturdays I've updated on an ongoing problem with HMRC: After my Disability Living Allowance was stopped, I was asked to apply for Personal Independence Payment. After initially being refused, I applied via mandatory reconsideration and was awarded about a third of what I was initially in receipt of under DLA. Not long after this, my Working Tax Credits were stopped. Following this, HMRC demanded £416 in apparent overpaid WTC. For many months, I received no valid explanation for any of this, and instead of explaining their processes, they passed this overpayment to a debt collector.

I've spent a few months receiving assistance from TJ, a Welfare Rights Officer. She's helped me to collate any and all information relating to my WTC claim: we've got paperwork, and now recordings of calls made to HMRC. The debt agency wanted nothing to do with my case due to my memory difficulties, and threw it back to HMRC.

This week TJ has called me explaining that the overpayment has been remitted. I should have been more inquisitive during this phone call, but my understanding is that 'remitted' in this sense means 'cancelled' as opposed to 'paid off,' as I definitely haven't paid them. So that's a relief. It isn't over though, by a long way.

HMRC are willing to pay me £70 for my troubles. £70 for months of bailiff threats, a total lack of explanation, numerous lengthy phone calls and still no WTC. TJ and I agreed that this isn't enough. HMRC say they aren't willing to reinstate WTC as Oldham is a Universal Credit area- a new benefit to which I'm not entitled.

We're going to debate this, though. TJ is escalating this to a Tier 1 Complaint, which 'provides for payment of compensation if a claimant has lost out financially, or suffered anxiety or distress, as a result of HMRC's error or delay.'

I've changed nothing. Same job, same hours, same pay, same home,same memory difficulties, same depression and anxiety. The only things that have changed are the massive levels of stress caused from the aforementioned situation and the benefit money that HMRC pay me, and that changed due to their actions, not mine. And I'm just one guy, out of 947,000 people, moved from DLA to PIP and dealing with the consequences. What's important, though, is that claimants- disabled people like myself- are transparent and have a voice. It's vital that we use the internet to keep the public informed of these situations without shame or fear.

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Abyssinian Baboon Attack

Mountain track, Abyssinia
The next instalment of my grand-uncle's war memoirs.

Spring 1941

A few months after settling down to a very nice standard of living, weather lovely and cool, so different from the Sudan, peace was interrupted by the arrival of a regiment, the Argyl and Sutherland Highlanders.

They had been chased out of Greece and Crete with terrible losses, heavily outnumbered, and had been sent down to Asmara to rest and recuperate. Every time we met in bars or cafes, their only remarks were, “Where were you lot in Greece and Crete? We were on our own, no help from you lot. You bastards.”

Fights started left, right and centre and in the end the OC Troops decided that the RAF and the Army would only be allowed out on different days of the week. This went on for a couple of months until the situation eased.

The Squadron played the local football team in the Post Stadium. We had heard about the local team, the way they introduced themselves and entered the pitch and the Squadron were ready for them. They ran out onto the pitch in single file, along the halfway line to the centre circle, right around the centre circle, across the middle to turn and face the stand. At a given signal they all raised their right arms and clenched their fists to give the Fascist salute. Trumpets, bugles, raspberries, drums and clappers sounded, drowning their salute. Our lads were just knocking the ball in the other goal. We beat them 4-1.

One of the flights had an aircraft which force-landed on an emergency strip about 50 miles into Abyssinia. Once again we loaded up the open 3-tonner, with the Cpl and driver in the front and four of us sitting in the back. It must be said that the Italians were good colonisers. In a terribly mountainous country they had built smashing roads up the sides of mountains with precipitous drops. Every water course was ducted under the road carefully. Heavy transport consisted of huge diesel lorries with often two big trailers behind.

We had been climbing and descending for about three hours when, slowly climbing up the side of a huge mountain, a huge male baboon jumped down into the middle of the road. Then another, then another, until there were about eight. Huge, snarling, menacing creatures. By the time the wagon had stopped we were about ten yards away from them. They were making mock attacks of a couple of yards, then retreating, barking all the time, fangs showing.

Then the main tribe came off the mountain across the road and down into the valley. Dozens of them. Mothers with babies hanging underneath. Always there were at least half a dozen big males menacing us. Some would move on only to be replaced by other males.

Back up,” we shouted from the open back of the wagon. This the driver did, freewheeling backwards down the road for another 10 yards or so. We had rifles, but if they decided to attack we would not have much chance to use them.

And so they all disappeared down over the edge into the valley. It was said they often used to raid the cultivated plantations in the valleys.

A complete plug change cured the problem on the sick Wellesley. A one night stay in a native's borrowed mud hut was sufficient and we were on our way back the following day after first seeing the aircraft airborne.

Monday, 13 August 2018

A Packed Weekend of Events



Manchester is very lucky this week- TONS is happening.

Friday night: Jack Fowler from Love Island is dropping into The Birdcage for a meet-and-greet. Love Fridays are always a fun night out whether you watch reality TV or not, so don't stay in. Get involved with the Manchester Cool Bars meetup.

On Saturday night I'm heading back to the Birdcage, this time with Singles Saturdays- Manchester. I'm again running the event, the first time I've done so with this Facebook group. Stopout Saturdays is the night. In both cases, ID is essential!

It doesn't stop there- oh no. Make sure you're properly scrubbed up. Sunday Evening sees SBJ Management hold a model scouting party in Spinningfields bar Menagerie. The modelling agency, ran by former Miss Manchester Sara Beverley Jones, will be looking for Manchester's next top models. Expect an array of talent. Again, Manchester Cool Bars is dropping in. Tickets are flying out at £15 a pop. Act fast! There are 10 people on the meetup so far so expect the event overall to be hugely popular.

Sunday, 12 August 2018

I have mostly been reading

 
By the end of the story, you, well, you'll understand the cover.

This week Northern Quarter stalwart Kosmonaut closed down, to be replaced with a beer house. A fucking beer house. Bullshit, man. I loved Kosmonaut's brutalist Russian look with elongated seats that reminded me of the top deck back row of an old bus: dark leather, half-pipe style. They had some good old-school hip hop blasting out most nights, a refreshing change from Manchester's staple soundtrack of Drake mixed in with Drake.

I finished Doomed, Chuck Palahniuk's sequel to his equally brilliant Damned. Snarky little dead girl Madison has found herself in Purgatory- out of Hell, but walking the Earth as a ghost. We learn more about what horrendous scenes landed her in the Fallen Kingdom in the first place, and who might actually have been in on it from the start. It's a great follow-up story, enriching all the characters (if you can call it 'enriching'- the majority of them are moral vacuums, and for good reasons). A very addictive, fascinating and totally gross follow-up.

My copy was signed.

Also today I dropped into meetup Talk About it Mate, a depression support group. I met with them a few months ago. A great meetup for men and women, with good chat, coffee, book recommendations and movie talk. If you think it might help, join the group.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Avoid being captured by Abyssinian soldiers at any cost

Asmara during the British occupation of Eritrea

The next instalment of my grand-uncle Dick's memoirs.

And so we moved into 1941, the war going well. The army was advancing with the help of the South Africans and Indian Divisions.

Periodically we helped to load up the Wellesleys with packs of leaflets for dropping over the Eritrean and Abyssinian territory, written in Italian, Eritrean, Abyssinian and English. They spoke of the Allied Successes.

Bags of Marie Theresa Silver Dollars were also dropped by the aircrew to Abyssinian patriots to pay them to carry on the fight. This was an old Austrian Dollar, but because of its silver content it was used as an additional currency throughout the Middle East.

Our billets were now built of mud bricks made from Nile mud with simple wood moulds. They dried in an hour. We watched our NAAFI built and grow from nothing in a few days.

Incidentally in the camp there was a tree ringed with an iron railing stating that General Gordon used to ride out from Khartoum on his camel to pray. He was a very religious man.

Two miles away was a Free French Squadron with Long Nose Blenheims. We managed to arrange a hockey match with them and on passing the aircraft we noticed one Blenheim, with both engines completely nude, with not a cowling in sight. We found out that a sand storm the previous day had caught the ground crew completely by surprise whilst at 'tiffin' (lunch) and about twenty cowlings were now bowling across the desert fifty miles away, never to be seen again. I do not think that we ever saw that Blenheim move again.

Once a month, on Saturday morning, was 'de-bugging.' Wooden rope beds were taken outside and all the joints brushed with anti-bug solution and we would watch them crawl out to be 'assassinated.'

The army had now entered Asmara, Eritrea, shortly followed by the Squadron moving into the Italian Air Force Camp which had been bombed the first day of the war. Attached to a rear party I remained behind at Gordon's Tree to service a few Wellesleys on rectification. Finally, I climbed aboard one of the last aircraft and flew into Asmara.

Asmara was a fine city with shops, cafes, an Odeon cinema and a football stadium. The war was practically over with just isolated pockets of Italian troops, mainly holding out on mountains, scared to surrender, but only to the British. For an Italian to be captured by an Abyssinian was a fate worse than death. They say they were given to their women who cut off their testicles, put them in their mouths, and sewed their lips together.

British soldiers were told not to surrender their prisoners to the Sikhs who would offer to take them back behind lines. Some Sikhs had had their hair cut of by the Italians when taken prisoner, against their religion, a terrible insult. The Sikhs would slit their throats.

Sports teams suffered. It took a good few weeks to acclimatise ourselves to enable us to complete a game without chest pains and shortness of breath. We were 7000 feet up.

One problem on road traffic: we made them change their right hand side drive to left hand drive, resulting in the buses offloading their passengers in the middle of the road. It was dangerous when suddenly confronted with oncoming traffic. A couple of civilian deaths ensued.

Monday, 6 August 2018

Damned, and one upcoming meetup


Damned, by Chuck Palahniuk. The snarkiest little dead girl in Hell, Madison, finds herself in a row of cells accompanied by a gathering of inappropriately placed, not-so-bad individuals who are forced to cold call members of the living world, in an endless loop of market research.

After a breakout, they take a tour of the underworld to confront the devil himself, who has some unusual plans for our Maddy.

A great fun read, and very well-researched. Numerous demons from international folklore play their part, while Maddy's backstory- what landed her in the fallen kingdom- is gradually revealed to us.

I'm currently hammering my way through Doomed, the second in the trilogy. After a run of non-fiction books and short graphic novels, a novel like Damned by a favourite author was a refreshing change.

This week: Not much on the nightlife calendar to speak of, but Sunday morning has a Meetup with Talk About It, Mate, 'a non-judgemental environment in which to meet others who have experienced different issues.' Drop into Peter St's Caffe Nero for a chat at 11am.

Sunday, 5 August 2018

Gok Wan DJ set in the Birdcage



Manchester Cool Bars dropped into Manchester's Birdcage for Love Fridays, where this week TV stylist Gok Wan was DJing. After midnight the How to Look Good Naked consultant took to the decks playing dance hits, making a change from the RnB that came before it. I didn't feel like Wan interacted much with the crowd but it was still a great fun night.

Album here.

Saturday, 4 August 2018

Andy's Man Club Dominate ANOTHER quiz

Thursday 26th: pub quiz over at Failsworth's Millgate. I attended with a few guys from the Oldham branch of Andy's Man Club and we formed a team.

Took a while to get started, but eventually the questions rolled in. A good portion of them were film questions, so, predictably, I dominated. We won. I think we got beer, which I didn't drink.
Good pub grub too.

Andy's Man Club is more than a 2-hour weekly support group. You'll meet a group of mates, a brotherhood. And, if I'm on your team, you might win stuff too.

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Cross-Dressing Christmas Maltese on the Red Sea


The next installment of my grand-uncle Dick's Memoirs.

December 1940
 
An interesting lorry trip was undertaken to Suakin on the Red Sea. Suakin was called 'The Dead City.' It was understood that Suakin, in the 19th Century, was the main port on the Red Sea for the Sudan, but extensive coral growths and sand banks made it impossible for the larger shipping to enter the small harbour. As a result the whole population vacated the city and moved north, and Port Sudan was then developed and became the major port. Suakin was about 50 miles south of Port Sudan.

Suakin now stands as it did, still intact, almost as if everyone had suddenly been killed by a plague. Just a few caretakers seemed to be around, looking after all the white buildings, still in excellent order.

The journey through the Red Sea Hills, about 3 hours, was undertaken in the flight wagon, a contracted Sudanese lorry with its owner called 'Pop.' We used it as the flight runabout.

Later the Squadron moved to RAF Gordon's Tree where we spent Christmas 1940.

Three weeks before Christmas, following a Saturday morning parade, we were- before being dismissed- held back by the Station Warrant Officer.

Gathered into the close circle, he remarked, “It's Christmas in three weeks time. Anybody like to get up a Christmas concert?” A pause. “No volunteers. Right, you lot, anybody play an instrument?”

About a dozen pointed to me. “He does the violin.”

Right lad, get a concert party up for Christmas. Parade dismiss.”

I stood there transfixed, but within a few minutes chaps were all round.

I'll help you, mate.”

And so we put together a good show. The last night, the CO came with the officers and sat in the front row. Our best turn was a RAF Maltese airman who dressed up like Carmen Miranda – super costume- and great falsetto voice who, during the act, finished up sitting on the CO's lap stroking his cheek.

After the show he said to me, “Where did you get the girl from, the Caberet Khartoum? She was super!”

I replied, “No, he's one of your photographers on the Squadron and comes from Malta.”

He used to shave his legs and arms and his make-up was perfect. He had photographs showing him and his friend dancing with the Navy chaps in Malta.

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

A Poem About Allotment, a Northern Quarter Restaurant I Visited

A post shared by Matt Tuckey (@matttuckey) on


Quiet trip hop tinkles
through the Northern Quarter venue's speakers
bouncing off the exposed brick
and painted plant-green ceiling.
Allotment: a restaurant, not a cabbage patch
nor a home for pigeons,
but spiced pulled chicken is on the menu.
Loved the Sriracha pork chop with spicy egg noodles,
plenty of choice and originality.
No lamb, or hibiscus on that day, but
no digging required. We just ordered.
Sweet potato wedges, still encased on one side in peel.
I'd have trimmed that off,
but leaving them on gave that
'just unearthed' quality.
Raspberry and lime lemonade an original concoction,
a recommended option for thirsty shoppers.
The back-bar a gin-lover's paradise, varied and transparent.
Like any other allotment, a wooden-themed escape from
the bustling, narrow roots of the Northern Quarter streets.

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

How to Turn a Toni Braxton Dirge into a Total Banger

I wrote this nearly 2 years ago as a guest post for someone' music blog. Looks like it got overlooked, though, so I've belatedly shared it myself.

Tieks' new dance song 'Sunshine' caught my ear recently.


It's great, but at a first listen it sounds strangely familiar. A few minutes after the song ended it hit me.



Is he taking inspo from Toni Braxton's 1996 hit He Wasn't Man Enough for Me? Hmm. Gotta say I prefer the newer song. But then, I'm a bloke and I've always liked my piano house music. It's basically six notes in the chorus of each song that seem very similar to me.

What other songs are similar in terms of melody yet at the same time hugely different stylistically and generically?

Monday, 30 July 2018

Oh Dear

Saturday Night took a turn for the worse, although not for me: for this guy at Deansgate Locks.


And her too. 




So: This coming week. TV fashion consultant and DJ Gok Wan has a DJ set in Birdcage, as part of the weekly Love Fridays events. Manchester Cool Bars and Clubs will be there, hosted by myself! Great party atmos, cheap drinks, no pretensiousness. Get involved! Meeting in Hard Rock first.


Saturday night / Sunday Morning- UFC 227 Features bantamweights TJ Dillashaw and Cody Garbrandt vying for the title... again. It was a war last time, so I expect the same this time. I'll be in Genting regardless, but there's no meetup as I'm frankly sick of people RSVPing to UFC events and then not turning up. So okay, the main card is usually 3-6am, but if you can't handle that why say you're going to come?

Bitching over. See you there.

Sunday, 29 July 2018

Eye-Watering Display in Theatre Impossible

Went to Impossible Theatre last night for mine and a friend's birthday. We started in Arcane, a retro bar with some bizarre cocktails.


We caught up, a group of us, some of whom had met before, some not. It turns out local cocktail bar Epernay has shut down. Shame, nice place. We quickly moved onto Theatre of Impossible, the lower ground floor club on Peter St, where we were welcomed by a mermaid in a perspex box.


A post shared by Matt Tuckey (@matttuckey) on

I really like the stage shows in Impossible Theatre but I think they need to vary their music a little, not to mention, fix their toilet cubicle doors. Great night had by all.

 








 
Simultaneous sword swallowing and juggling


 
Candle wax bathing




 

Saturday, 28 July 2018

War rages on with HMRC

Henry Ward Beecher


The difference between perseverance and obstinacy is that one comes from a strong will, and the other from a strong won't.
-Henry Ward Beecher, American Clergyman

Occasionally I discuss an ongoing problem on the #psychologysaturday posts. My Working Tax Credits were stopped a good 18 months ago and since then I've been trying to find out why this is and what I should do about it. I've heard plenty of conflicting information, confused further by my inability to remember it all. This is due to the memory difficulties I have, which made me eligible for the benefits in the first place.

Inhale.

I've recently been working with a Welfare Rights officer called TJ, who has helped me to gain information from HMRC about my case. She requested a transcript of all the calls I made, and my mother made, to the department. I received some CDs containing recordings of the calls, and from this we've been able to hear what has been said in the numerous conversations.

I passed this over to TJ, who has listened to them. She has written a 1300-word complaint letter to HMRC. I'm not going to recite the whole thing, but it lists out all of the numerous mistakes HMRC have made, mainly being their complete inability to grasp that the short term memory difficulties a) made me eligible for DLA and hence eligible for WTC, and b) mean that I wouldn't have understood their procedures for DLA moving to PIP and how this affects WTC. The letter also asks for a back-dated reinstatement of WTC and compensation. It's a brilliant letter from someone who knows how to illustrate a problem and how to ask for what is needed- 2 things that, due to my difficulties, are way over my head.

Fingers crossed. It makes me think back to a few months ago when I met with a Welfare Rights officer at a different office in Oldham, who sent me out of the door empty handed suggesting I ask my employers for more hours. It shows that, like in many government departments, it's the luck of the draw as to whether you get someone who knows how to help you and puts in the effort to make things happen, or whether you get a jobsworth who puts in the minimum effort and sends you out with no further progress. And, I might add, completely misinforms you and advises you to look for more work.

But it's progress. It's a lot better.

Oh, also, I had mentioned that HMRC had sent my overpayment to a debt recovery company. I'd asked them to put the case on hold while Citizen's Advice looked into it, but more recently (after numerous extensions to the deadline) I recently mentioned to them that the overpayment was caused because of DLA and PIP, and being in receipt of them due to memory difficulties, which is a vulnerability on my part. Due to this, they weren't comfortable handling this case so threw it back to HMRC again. I haven't heard back about this overpayment from either the debt recovery company nor HMRC, so it's possible that this has been cancelled.

Perseverance, it seems, also pays off.

Sunday, 22 July 2018

Insta Famous?


Noteable incident this week: Sandra Martin from Gogglebox following me on Twitter.

Also, I read Read This if you Want to be Instagram Famous, by Laurence King Publishing, featuring contributions by a range of successful Instagram accounts. Each individual behind the account is interviewed and they impart their story of how their account began and what made it so successful. The editors focus on what ignited the interest in so many hundreds of thousands of people.

Published just last year, the book is up to date enough to cover the stories feature (the temporary pictures and video that can be added for 24 hours to your feed with effects not available on the main feed). With regard to this and other areas of Insta photography, the book is packed with useful bite-size advice, laid out in an attractive, coffee-table format.

Saturday, 21 July 2018

Hale Juniper Launch





After the success of the Bloggers Taster Menu on Tuesday, Juniper's Hale branch opened its doors to the public. The The Head Chef, Saleh Ahmed, served up a buffet of tasty chicken, lamb chops, pasta, greens and tuna salad and topped it off with a selection of chocolate and fruit cakes.

In attendance: Coronation Street's Brooke Vincent (Sophie Webster).

Thanks go to Juniper and Go:PR for organising the event and inviting me.

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Italian Bombers, Sand Devils and Drunk Train Hi-Jacking

The next instalment of my grand-uncle's memoirs.
 
Vickers Wellesley from 47 Squadron

June 1940

The year was progressing and then came the fateful day in June. We were all sitting in the NAAFI tent having a cuppa out of our modified beer bottles, listening to the Overseas BBC News at six o'clock, when the announcement was made that we were at war with Italy. Within five minutes SNCOs had arrived shouting, “All back to work.”

The NAAFI tent emptied immediately.

It was getting dark. Flight personnel went back to their sections, aircraft were prepared and pilots taxied their aircraft across the sand 'drome to the bomb dump. Everyone was operating with minimum light, I think fully expecting the Italians to bomb us. On approaching the bomb dump one had jumped off the rear main plane step 'the wrong way,' fell over, and as he was rising was hit in the back of the head by the tail plane and knocked unconscious.

In the dark he was not seen and lay there for some considerable time and in the morning it was found that the main wheel tracks had missed him by feet, one aircraft having passed completely over him. He recovered okay. In the early hours of the morning a lorry was placed across the other side of the sand 'drome- it could not be called an airfield- with its headlights full on and eight Wellesleys opened up, made for the headlights and took off for Asmara, Eritrea.

One of the crew told me on his return that they had dived down onto the airfield whilst the Italians were all lined up in front of their hangars, as if their roll calls were being carried out. Some even started waving.

He then said, “We dropped the lot on them and then went around the place machine gunning anything in sight. It looked as if Mussolini had forgotten to tell them they were at war.” We lost one Wellesley on that initial raid.

We were also told that any of our aircraft returning from raids would approach the drome between two particular hills. This would prevent any unnecessary panic to the air raid trenches at the sound of an aircraft.

Many weeks later a lone SM79 flew over the 'drome at about then thousand feet and bombed us with no damage. Dozens of us were trying to get in the one small slit trench outside the dining room tent.

A few weeks later two Glosters Gladiators arrived daily from Port Sudan.

They were to sit on the ground in the event of any more Italian raids and used to leave about half an hour before dusk to return to base. Often, on leaving, they would shoot up the NAAFI tent, sometimes doing a slow roll at about 100 feet. One day, something went tragically wrong. One of them, in the middle of his slow roll, nose-dived into the ground and burst into flames.

It was not long before we were losing aircraft. Also the other Wellesley Squadrons. The CR42 Italian fighter had considerable advantage in speed, manoeuvrability and firepower. They carried .5” machine guns. We were even told that the SAAF Hurricanes were advised not to 'dogfight' with them.

I had now left 'B' Flight and joined 'Maintenance Flight.' Our workshops were a collection of sand-filled petrol cans with a roof of thorn bushes. Inside: one bench and a six-inch vice.

One day we were passed an aircraft requiring a tank change, damaged by a bullet. Being a little short of ground equipment and in order to get the main plane to decent working height, this time we had to dig a sloping trench to run the main wheels down into. This enabled us to get about twenty bods around the mainplane to bodily lift it off. The tank was then slid out.

Later I was given the job of fitting dinghies in the port inner main planes. A Bowden cable was fed through the fuselage window for manual operation. Our aircraft were obviously flying sorties over the Red Sea.

Many of our MT drivers had re-mustered to Air Gunners and were immediately given the rank of Sergeant. Workshops were hard at work making large U brackets to fit into the node joint of the geodetic construction aft of the rear open cockpit, to enable two Vickers guns to be mounted in tandem. Gun positions were also fitted to the side fuselage windows which the navigator could also use. We heard also that raids would consist of at least three aircraft to ensure that we had a better chance with 6 Vickers firing aft and a possible extra three from the side fuselage window. Even the air gunners were filing up the brackets- self preservation, I guess, in mind.

When the war started we had to tramp right across the other side of the airfield. That was not too bad, but we had to carry rifle, fifty rounds in a canvas bandolier, gas cape, water bottle (filled) and gas mask. We were worn out well before we started work, especially after the return after breakfast when the temperature was well up, well over 100F (38C).

Sand devils were annoying running through the camp, not large ones, but big enough to suck up an empty petrol can and throw out the top, smothering everything in sand.

The odd time, when it rained in the evening, we all rushed outside and got a lovely shower. Half inch hailstones once.

Later on we were allowed to discontinue carrying all the equipment except for the water bottle which was certainly needed throughout the day's work.

Our working dress was a one piece khaki overall, short sleeve, short legs. With no laundry facilities, when we needed a change, we drained a few gallons of petrol out of an aircraft, stripped off, washed them and stood naked behind a bush then laid them out to dry. In less than a minute we shook the shower of lead dust out of them and put them on again. I think it was good for prickly heat.

Some of the lads had pet chameleons which they carried around on their pith helmets tied with a piece of string around their bare legs. Flies were a nuisance. There was no shortage of chameleons, plenty in the bushes.

And scorpions and huge desert spiders. The flights had their own champions and challenged each other regularly for supreme champion. Frequently, following a field telephone call, you could look across the drome and see a dozen bods in single file. The Flight Commander, Adj aircrew and ground staff on their way to do battle. They were often put together in a town end ring, the exhaust ring, where however fast they ran, they always met each other again and finally had to fight it out. The scorpion was invariably the winner with that poisoned tail. A gallon of beer was the prize.

We heard the story of an incident concerning the Sudanese Railway engine based at Summit Railway Station. This small engine was the pride and glory of an old Sudanese. The brass handrails, in fact everything on it, shone like gold. At certain times of the day he had to get steam up and proceed along the line to meet the main train for Port Sudan or Atbara, come in from a side line, and help push the heavy train over the steep part of the Red Sea Hills. This done he would relax until the next train. Summit was 3000 feet up at the peak. One day when he had already got steam up, he was deliberately enticed away from the engine by a couple of RAF Summit's airmen which enabled another couple, one a Corporal, to board the engine and make off down the line. They were obviously drunk.

They shot off down the line for about 20 miles, waving to all the amazed locals as they passed through their villages, until they ran out of steam, blowing their whistle the whole way.

The snag was that the engine should have gone the other way because the main train from Port Sudan was now waiting patiently at the bottom of the hills for the extra engine to help it up the steep gradient to Summit and beyond.

It was not known how long it had to wait for help to arrive or wherever it managed to to struggle over the hills itself. It was also not known what happened to the airmen. No doubt, disciplinary action followed.

Three miles east of the camp up the sand track was the Erkowit Rest Camp for government officials etc. It was situated on the edge of a precipice, a drop of thousands of feet which was called Kitty's Leap. It was said she jumped to save her honour. Silly girl!

What this has got to do with 47 Squadron history, I do not know!

Doing the guard one night with Jock Robinson, he was suddenly taken ill with appendicitis. The MO was called and a Wellesley later taxied up to take him to Port Sudan Hospital.

He lay on the stretcher and an attempt was made to get him into the aircraft. Fuselage windows were too small. It was also not possible to gain entry through the rear spring loaded perspex canopy cockpit, again too small for a laden stretcher.

In the end it was, “Jock, would you get off your stretcher, climb aboard and lay on the fuselage floor?”

This he did and off they went to Port Sudan.

The year progressed and part of the Squadron moved south to Gedarif to bomb further targets unobtainable from Erkowit. As Owen Clark the Historian (possibly this man) stated in the Crane Courier (no reference of this publication online) eight Wellesleys and two Vincents were destroyed by Italian CR42s.

Whereas we thought that we were going to surprise the Italians the tables were turned.