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Acquire a Carriage, Square Away
By Ironteeth Rum Spigot (UK)
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Acquire a carriage, square away.
On the Burma Way, looking at the notice board. A Wanted poster up for the “Phantom Crapper”. Threats and much malign condemnations from exasperated pigs regarding his evacuation expeditions merely enhanced his popularity.
A lightweight, well thumbed copy of the airmail Telegraph clutched in his mitts, Vallely had to suppress guffaws. Big time.
“I see you take the Telegraph.” One of the junior Operations officers, over his shoulder.
“I have a wee shufty at the Torygraph crossie.”
“Your accent. Where are you from?
“Glasgow? You’re not Scottish!”
Anger at the thought that this misfit could be of his ilk. He, himself, is of Chuchter extraction.
“Yer arse is oot the windae wi’ that shite. Ah’m frae Coatbrig. You know, the Buckfast Triangle. Stoater o’ a place. Fair minging an’ that. Are you real? Cummin the cun’? Ye soun’ like a seagull skreeechin on a wire. Wait a minnit. You’re frae Englanshire, no? Sure ye’re no a shooglie tattyboggler,ya feckin rocket, ye, see you, ya scunner…………..”
“Haud yer freaking wheesht, Doc!” The Buffer’s beard, which had come from nowhere, moved.
Vallely’s wheesht was haud.
The junior Operations officer looked around, mumbled an inaudible and edged away.
Buffs’ eyes gimleted Vallely, the beard moved, again.
“Lang may yer lums reek, Doc.”, and he sauntered on down the Burma.
“And weil, to yours.” From Vallely to the departing back.
The Chief Bosun’s Mate, The Buffer. Vallely thought he had his medical docs, didn’t know or care. With men like the Buffer, they either need you or they do it for themselves. Vallely only knows that he’s been in the Mob longer than anyone onboard has been alive, anyone.
He lived in his own grot, a sanctum inviolate.
He disdained the Chief’s Mess, scorned the bunks, gregariousness and general familiarity of Mess life, enjoying his own commorancy. A small compartment, one deck, midships, above the Burma Way and near to another, less busy, passageway. A small space with his mattress, bedding, an overhead, bedside table, a locker and a fridge. Clean and unfussy, it was chock a block with his personal miscellany and gave off an aura of old bluejacket.
The Buffer normally conducted his business wherever he stood, no office, no headquarters, where he was was the cynosure of his enterprise.
People could sometimes be seen standing at the doorway to his cloister, no more. Vallely even saw the Captain standing thus once, in conversation with the Buffer.
In conversation with the Buffer?
His winger, the Bosun’s Mate, once told Vallely:
“The only way you can tell that he’s talking is that you can see his beard move and hear cussing.”
And this was true. Valley had had occasion to hear such and deduced that he was Scottish by the nature of the language and the timbre with which it was delivered. There was definitely no tautology with the Buffer.
Hard to describe, of medium height with a strong, stocky build, always in uniform, usually in number eights under a number two jacket with rows of medal ribbons. Most noticeable was his head. Vallely never saw him without headgear of some kind on, not that he was bald, far from it. Hirsute to the nth degree it all paled into nothing when regarding his beard. Saint Nick would have committed tomticide for a specimen such as his. Big, white and everywhere. Vallely didn’t think he even groomed it; it was free range and fascinating. Stare at it too long and the pair of piercing blue eyes residing on guard over it would quail the looker.
The ship’s seamanship was his dominion and without any fear of confutation this ship had the best seamen and routines in the Navy; No other could hold a salt to this ship in seamanship. End of dit.
The only time Vallely had any real contact with the Buffer was in Funchal, immediately after the diving incident, when he was storming along One deck, fresh from the upper scuppers and, he thinks, intently heading for the Bridge. The Buffer appeared and dragged him into his refuge.
He sat Vallely down and pressed an open can of cider into his hand, “Bad luck, Doc.”
A calm silence settled between them for many minutes. Vallely knew that he knew that the Buffer knew that he knew that the Buffer knew that he knew, what they were both thinking.
Vallely looked at the deck. The Buffer looked at Vallely, the bulkheads, the deck and the deckhead. A mutual feeling existed.
After a while Vallely finished the Cider, stood up and thanked the Buffer. Buffs offered his hand, looking Vallely in the eye, they shook, firmly. Vallely left the holy of holies.
In the passageway Vallely had a strange, never felt before feeling, and realised that he had just encountered something that no Psychotwaddlesociocyclingfeckwitologist could ever dream of patenting. He felt better, more aware and more determined than ever to go on.
Buffs had just stopped Vallely from doing something that would have been indescribably good at the time, but a feck load of shit for him afterwards. He thanked the Buffer, telepathically, but he knew that he already knew. Us fecking Celts.
The Buffer was cloaked in legend, but Vallely knew of one that he could personally attest to.
He used to chuckle as he stroked the beastie in question whilst telling the tale to unbelievers
Alongside in Fido-Faeceal City for a couple of weeks. Usual grim, unholy place full of its usual crap. Defects have to be fixed somewhere, but why here?
On the jetty the customary disorder of crates, machinery, ropes, wire, hawsers, bicycles, vans- the normal jumble of kit and equipment that converge on any warship alongside.
One item stood out by virtue of the inattention lavished upon it. A handsome green Army Landrover.
In the early morning, before the ship sailed, a party of ne’er-do-wells alighted the jetty bent upon affairs covert.
Later that morning one of Brenda’s dreadnaughts prepares to leave harbour. The Buffer is in charge aft, holding sway from the flight deck. Special Sea Duty men are closed up with seamen assiduous in seamen doings. The Aft Deck Officer is, somehow, nowhere to be
seen. There is no helicopter ranged, it will join the ship at sea, and the port side hangar
door is open.
The Buffer, with no need of a megaphone, issues commands and the aft ropes are pulled in and the ship slowly moves down the jetty, preparing to get into position for cast off and then steam away.
Three sailors run up the gangway giving the thumbs up. The Buffer nods and the ship’s starboard flight deck nets are dropped, lines are tightened and the gunboat’s aft end moves closer to the dockyard wall. On the jetty the Dockyard rails have disappeared.
The Landrover comes alive.
Smooth as ninepence, the Rover backs up across the road, a road uncannily quiet for this time of morning, as far as it can go. Then, with a happy roar it thunders across the tarmac towards a path, even more uncannily, cleared for it through the flotsam, and launches itself into space.
For a happy moment it is in midair, free at last, free at last, then crunches onto the flight deck, performs a handbrake right hand turn and hurls itself into the hanger.
The hangar door closes, the jetty returns to its previous state, some sailors jump onboard, the flight deck nets are up, the lines are loosened and all is well. Two minutes and no one else on the ship forward of the hangar saw a thing. Or ashore either. The Dockyard crane lifted the gangway up, the ship cast off, the tugs pulled her from the jetty, and she was on her way.
One of Her Majesty’s gunboats was sailing, with a new bit of kit.
The next day with the ship settled down into her well-accustomed Cruising state, Captain Markie was on his well-accustomed relaxed walkabout. Through the ship he would roam, an engine room here, a workshop there, a galley here, a messdeck there, a passageway here, a compartment there, a missile system here, a torpedo there, a magazine here and a nuclear depth charge there, and near the end he would always end up in the hangar, because it is near the end of his gunboat, no less.
He entered through the only hatch and was confronted by a compact, business-like, gleaming predator - his Lynx. He would look thoroughly over its clean and shiny airframe all the time talking to any Fleet Air Arm types in earshot, and there were always several, discussing the cab and things airy fairy in general. Usually a pleasant occasion for all, the Flight proud of their beastie and their job, and Captain Markie proud of both of them.
But this day he sighted an unusual extra standing to one side, handsomely, beside the helicopter, and walked over to it with an intrigued grin on his face.
A shiny brand new Pusser’s Navy Blue Landrover. He inspected it closely, taking in the hand painted ship’s crest, with his name underneath, on the driver’s door and, within, a gleaming interior. There could have been a hint of fresh paint in the air, but no what. The bonnet was pinned open to allow him to see a gleaming engine shining in the daylight. He observed, wryly,
“Ahh, a new Ship’s Transport?”
The Buffer materialised by his side with a Log Book and a set of keys which he handed to the Captain with all due ceremony.
“Your carriage, Sir.”
“My goodness me, it can’t be mine for personal use, it must be for the Ship’s Company.
Master at Arms, can you do the usual sort of thing, routines and all that, you know?”
“Aye, aye, Sir”
Captain Markie handed the Log Book and keys back to the Buffer, saying:
“Well done, keep it up everyone.” And left the hangar, smiling.
The Buffer looked around at the assemblage, his beard twitched:
And the gunboat sailed on.