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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

In The Midnight Hour


Something, and I couldn't make out what or who was tugging hard on my legs. For some reason I couldn't move in yet someone was pushing me hard in the back. I could feel panic rising within me as adrenaline began to move through my body.

Then the cold night air hit me and I was awake.

"C'mon mate it's nearly your stag and the frequencies are about to change. I've given Smudge a kick to get up and help you."

I sat upright and realised where I was. Scotland. On exercise. Shit. As I sat up the prodding in my back disappeared. The flat piece of ground I'd gone to sleep on had proved to be not quite so flat. Either that or the tree root had grown through the night. Pulling my smock from it's position as an improvised pillow I could feel the cold begin to hit me. I might as well wait to put some warm clothes on - I had the antenna's to change and it was going to be warm work.

I looked at my watch.

23:41.

"Shit - he could have woken me earlier - I haven't got much time."

It took a conscious effort to drag myself from the warmth of my sleeping bag into the night. My eyes were still adjusting to the dark and I stumbled through the Command Post to where the antenna masts where. No sign of Smudge.

"F**king typical - lazy b**tard never gets up when he needs to."

I stumbled back to where we were sleeping and gave Smudge another kick. A groan emanted from his sleeping bag and I took this for a sign that he was awake.

Back to the masts. The antenna was held aloft by two of them. Both had to come down before I could adjust the antenna wire to the right length for the new frequencey. I released the clips on the first mast and let it slide down under it's own weight. That was a mistake. The rain from earlier that had been hanging on the guide ropes made a beeline straight for me. Half soaked in icy water - a great start to a two hour stag. Still no sign of Smudge - might as well give up on the idea of a helping hand. Another look at the watch.

23:46.

"This is going to be close." A minute later and both masts were down and I was even wetter. Back to the CP to get the new length for the antenna from Chris. Not much change - just release a metre on each side - tighten up the strings and then the masts were ready to go back up. Trying hard to keep it steady but not succeeding, I started to raise the first mast. As I raised each section more icy droplets slipped down my neck. As each section was raised and clipped into place the mast got heavier. Finally the first mast was up.

23:52.

A repeat performance for the second mast and the seconds were ticking down. The instructors would be trying to get in touch with us on the new frequency at midnight and if we weren't ready we'd be in trouble. I lifted the last section into place and clipped it off. A quick check skywards and the moonlight showed the antenna cable to be hanging reasonably horizontally.

23.56.

My eyes were more accustomed to the dark now and as I climbed into the back of the LandRover the relative brightness stung my eyes.

"Ok mate good to go. You sort the VHF out and I'll tune the HF in."

Chris began to turn the dials on the set for the new frequency as I turned the tuning knob on the other set. Eventually the needle flicked to the right indicating we had a good signal.

"....pha Two Zero - Alpha Two Zero this is Zero. Radio Check Over."

Made it - just. I answered the check as Chris slunk out the back of the Rover headed for the remaining warmth in my sleeping bag. The excitement over I could feel the sweat begin to cool on my body and the LandRover suddenly felt cold. It was going to be a long two hours ahead.

5 Comments:

Blogger Monica said...

I dont know how you dont always have the sniffles.

excellent writing.

4:08 am  
Anonymous Pat said...

Does 'stag' in this contexr mean you're 'on duty'? Don't stay wet and cold any longer than you have to. You'll be thankful later on in life!

10:30 am  
Blogger Universal Soldier said...

Pat - yup to "Stag On" is to be on duty.

5:14 pm  
Blogger Cheryl said...

Stagger? Stagnate? Stalagmite?
Poor soggy you.

Sorry I havent been past for a while - time and all that - your posts are all brilliant and a lovely read :-)

7:32 am  
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