Image via WikipediaWell, just as you will have guessed, the sea was calling me back, so on my day off on the Sunday I went round to my uncle's house and told him I was ready to come back, but I thought I would have to work a weeks notice at the airport.
"No problem" was his reply,"the boat will only be on the slip for a week, so we will be ready to start when you are."
Great, I thought, one more week, then back where I belong, at sea, where no two days are alike, and never a dull moment. If only I had known what lay ahead of me that last week, I might have realized that the job at the airport, though boring, had some scope to throw up the unexpected after all.
The job was classed as a "safetyman driver" because the drivers had to gain a first aid certificate, as there was always the risk that one of the technicians might get an electric shock when attending one of the radar stations that were situated at out of the way places, and the driver being the only person within miles, being skilled in first aid, could mean the difference between life or death.
As my new boss was a friend of my father-in-laws, I had already phoned him to hand in my weeks notice, before I walked in to start my back shift at 3pm on the Monday afternoon, but Alex had not informed the other three men of my leaving, as one of them approached me to join their union.
"Nah! I don't think I'll be here long enough for that" I said. "What, do you not like the job?" he asked. "Ach its too boring for me, I'm off back to the fishing." I replied.
"Oh well, you won't need to sit your first aid certificate either then" he said.
They still let me out with the technicians though, and it being my second, and last week, I new I was not going to be polite to the toffee nosed people I had to carry in my van.
The Monday went past without much going on, and other than delivering weather charts between the buildings that held the air traffic controllers, and the tower, plus another building a few miles up the road at Gailes, which needed the charts also, my shift was spent puffing away at my out sized pipe as I contemplated next week, and some real action.
Tuesday afternoon was to be a bit different though, and as soon as I walked in I was sent to the tower to pick up two technicians, and convey them to a station that contained computerized equipment, where a section needed replacing.
You will have picked up by now that in the early seventies, the weather charts were hand delivered, and not faxed, or sent by any other technological means, and that the computers were much larger than they are today, hence the reason that the section needing replaced here needed two men to carry it, more for it's size rather than weight.
The station was right in the middle of Royal Troon Golf Course, so I thought, as the two men lifted the computer part into my van, that at least I will be out for a while today, and as it was nice and sunny, and near the sea, it would make a pleasant change from sitting waiting, and waiting, doing nothing.
Off we set, the computer part on the floor, with a technician on either side of it staring down, with not a word said between anyone, until we got off road and onto the golf course.
The road on the course was just a sandy track full of holes and bumps, and as I was driving a plain ordinary Bedford mini bus type thing, that jerked and bumped on a smooth road, I had no chance of keeping it steady along this track.
No matter how slow I went trying to avoid the unmissable potholes, I still could hear the computer section sliding, and bumping on the floor behind me.
I looked in my mirror to see the two men sitting watching this slide and bump, just as one of them said aggressively, " Try and keep this van steady, or you will break the computer component."
Well it was like a red rag to a bull, "If I go any slower we will be stationary, I would like to see you making a better job of it," I retorted.
These guys were not used to the drivers speaking back to them, so we drove in silence until we reached the station, where they lifted the part out, and entered the wooden hut like structure the computer was housed in, while I turned the van.
No sooner were they in until they were back out again, muttering away as they lifted it back on board, and sat theirselves down again.
"You broke it, its no use" one of them said to me.
Steam coming out of my ears, I shouted back at him, "I broke it? You two morons, sat in the back and watched it dance all over the floor and never lifted a finger to guard it, so if anyone is to blame, its you pair."
"I will report that outburst to your boss when we get back." he said, "You do not speak to US like that."
"Oh, so you think you are better than me do you?" "Well let me tell you this, just because I am driving this van does not mean I do not know what I am talking about," and went on to tell him that I was a fisherman, who could skipper a boat, take a marine engine apart, and put it together again, and two thickos like them would have no chance of getting a job with me. "You should have been seeing that no harm came to your equipment, instead of just staring at it, and maybe the next time you had better do that, instead of watching it bounce around"
It was great to get that off my chest, and let them know that they had never impressed me, AND why.
We returned to the tower where they replaced the broken part for a new piece, and this time when we got off road they lifted it up, suspending it between them, and this time it was fixed into the computer in full working order.
Nothing more was said, and no report went in about me, not that it would have mattered, as I relayed my story to Alex anyway, and all he said was that it was about time they were put in their place.
The next day, my afternoon was spent running around with charts, but at least I was getting out, and the weather was still nice, so I was quite happy when I was sent to Gailes, which was just outside Irvine, a nice little run up the coast.
I was driving one of the smaller vans, and being a safetyman driver, had a large first aid kit in my van, as did all the vans used by us. All the vans connected to airport duties at that time had yellow painted roofs, the remaining parts painted black, but we all knew which van was ours..... or so I thought.
I had a lovely drive up to Gailes, and parked the van right at the door, so I could just nip in, and out, then be on my way again. As the building was on private ground, and had a long driveway, we sometimes left the keys in the ignition, knowing there was plenty people about, including security, who would see no harm came to our vans, which gave us peace of mind.
While I was standing at the desk, waiting to hand over the charts, another man came in, did what he had to do, and nipped out before me.
I was only about a minute behind him when I went out to my van, and thought, that's strange someone has moved my van, as it was sitting on the other side of the drive from where I had parked it, but when I jumped in to move away there was no key in the ignition.
I went back in to inquire if the person who moved the van had left it in here, but no, was the answer, so I went back out to search the van. It was then I noticed that there was no first aid kit in the back, and then it dawned on me, THIS WAS NOT MY VAN!
The guy who had nipped in when I was standing at the desk had the same type of van as me, and of course, as he worked for the airport, although in a different department, his van was identical to mine, except for the first aid box, so he had ran back out, jumped into the nearest van and drove off not noticing that it was not his, or that he had the key to his van in his pocket.
As he had taken his key with him, I had to wait at Gailes until he could be contacted, before he returned with my van, and to pick up his own.
Sitting about waiting again, I thought, and I am getting paid for it, so I went out and enjoyed the sun until he came back.
Is this week is going to be full of incidents, I wondered as I drove home that night, smiling to myself, perhaps there could be some excitement in this job after all.
No it was not to be, because the next afternoon (Thursday) as soon as I walked in the door I was told to go to a radar station, well outside the grounds, and wait for the technicians who were in the process of dismantling it, as it was to be updated. The man I replaced had sat in the van for eight hours, with nothing to do but eat his sandwiches, and drink tea, until it was time to replace the driver.
No! I thought is the only fun I am getting today going to be talking to the tower over the two way radio?
I still had the same trouble with my radio, as just like the absence of modern technology regarding the weather charts, and computers, the radios were atrocious for static interference.
After the crackle crackle on the radio, and my mad dash across the runway, never knowing if it was safe to go or not, I arrived at the radar station, and sat there for three hours, until the technicians went back to the tower to finish their shift, but I had to return right away with their replacements, where I sat until my shift was over.
That was how I spent my last days as a safetyman driver, dicing with death as I crossed the runway (with or without technicians) completely bored to tears, with a longing to feel the spray of the sea on my face once more.
Before I left I thanked Alex for giving me the chance to experience working ashore, and now I knew what it consisted of I would be sticking to the fishing.
To my surprise he told me he didn't think I would last too long as he knew my love for the sea, and how different the life he offered me was in comparison, but he did think it would have taken me longer to realize it.
Shore life over, the extra large pipe was dumped and the "Players plain cigarettes" placed back in my pocket, ready for next week and new adventures.