After my dalliance with the nation’s seaborne defence force, the rest of my university career progressed without further incident, except for an abortive attempt to join the Hong Kong Police. I think my problem was uniforms. Whereas most men spent their energies on trying to persuade sexual partners to dress up as policewomen, maids, nuclear plant workers, etc, I would cut out the middle man and amuse myself for hours in a matching set of khaki fatigues and a pith helmet (see picture – please note, this is not me).
My colleague E, the demented bigot, was probably the one person who, more than anybody else, persuaded me that a career in The Army would be a step forward. A year into my TEFL adventure, he was displaying such spectacular symptoms of mental meltdown, accompanied by a raging self-loathing apparently based on the fact that his salary hadn’t risen significantly for about fifteen years, that I felt compelled to leave the burning deck before I too became accustomed to the idea of caravaning as an economic holiday option.
One Monday morning I was walking along a corridor in the school, when a classroom door burst open and a hysterical Swiss woman spilled out, wailing in an advanced state of agitation. “Is he mad?” she screeched, “is he mad?”, as she half-ran, half-staggered into the school garden like a victim escaping a sudden building collapse. I poked my head around the door and, sure enough, a pair of deranged, paranoid eyes glared back at me as if belonging to the most junior private at Rourke’s Drift who’d just heard the Zulu drums for the first time. They prompted me into a judicious silence, but it turned out later that E had been burgled for about the eleventh time the day before, and his revenge, exacted upon the innocent Swiss lawyer, had been as swift as it had been without logical foundation. In the interview to discern her level of spoken English, E had peevishly destroyed her obviously imperfect conjugation of verbs, together with her self-confidence, and left her, along with the rest of us, questioning his suitability for living in the community.
But I digress. My plan now was to join The Army as an officer in the Educational and Training Services branch of the Adjutant General’s Corps, formerly the Royal Army Educational Corps. The job seemed perfect – teaching some English to foreign military officers being trained in the UK, learning and then teaching foreign languages to British officers being sent abroad, and best of all, running a course for non-commissioned officers who wanted to gain a commission by rising through the ranks. This involved taking them to the theatre, art galleries, great European cities... making them posher, in other words. I greedily filled out my application forms, sent them off to the Regimental Headquarters in Beaconsfield, and started the arduous process of getting physically fit.
PART THREE TO FOLLOW SHORTLY...