I have, after long discussions with myself, decided that the time has come for a more in depth introduction to my past. I know that this may shock some readers, but heaven forbid, that I kept it to myself.
It was early 1970, yes I know! Most of you were`nt even a glimmer in your Dads eyes! But there it was, I had left home and decided to sail the seven seas aboard one of the Queen`s finest ships. Actually, I ended up on Dartmoor.
I had been in training for the RN, for some six weeks, with only another eight to do. I was idly having some lunch, well as idly as you can with some Chief Petty Officer Drill Instructor, hanging over you! As I glanced around the spartan walls of this salubrious establishment, I noticed a large poster on the notice board. It read," Volunteers wanted! Full board and lodging! Exciting Prospects! No Drill!".
Well whats a boy to do? Disregarding the old motto," Never volunteer for anything!" I gulped down the last piece of leather, masquerading as beef, and took note of the Officers name to whom I should apply.
After all sounded it good. I was duly summoned to the Commandants office and handed a sheet of paper, it was completely covered in type face! I could hardly read the damn thing, what I could read, I was rather pushed to finish. Should have caught on then.
I was to report to the private home of certain retired Captain on Dartmoor. The only thing I new about Dartmoor, was that it had a prison, and that Daphne Du Maurier lived there! So with mounting excitement in me belly I caught the navy lorry to Launceston.
When I arrived my arse had developed the exact imprint of the wooden slatted seats, that I had spent the last 3 hours sitting on. My piles, if I had any, and I`m not saying I have! They were killing me. I was met by a rather serly looking chap of indeterminate age, somewhere between 2 and 100, would cover it! Bow legged and wearing jodphurs.
Still, he picked my bag up for me. We drove for another hour, across the wildest countryside I had seen for a while, my own Cumberland was better I thought. Arriving at a very posh house, I alighted from the rather dirty vehicle that passed for an automobile. Instantly, I was aware that two lads standing some ten yards away, were sniggering and casually looking at me. I began to worry.
I must digress from this for a while, and inform my dear readers that, I have never had anything to do with horses! The only time that they and I have come into contact, was at a race meet with my father. There I had been bitten, yes bitten! By a rather large long faced animal that passed for a horse. It picked me up off the ground by my left arm and promptly dropped me back down. This at the age of nine years, had left me scarred for life!
Back to the plot!................................I was introduced to the owner of this fine establishment, who shook my hand, then looked me up and down, as though sizing me up for a coffin. he then bellowed, as in the style of the late Mr Jimmy Edwards, " Fine! You`ll do me lad, can you ride?" ...............I was somewhat nonplussed by this loud question, and retorted, "No."
"Soon have you in the saddle me lad!" was his reply. Although I was aware that this portly gentleman with the rather florid face, was a retired Captain, I was young and not to be walked over! I then asked the question, " I thought that this was a working holiday, Sir?" He gave me a look of immense cunning, and said, to a young lad standing watching, "Fetch Whisky!" Now your talking I thought, Ha, lets do some sailor stuff!
I was presented with a shock. There was no drink, no sailor stuff, no way out! It stood all of ten stories high, brown and with a rather nasty look in its eye! It snorted at me and stepped on my bloody foot! I of course wanting to be hard, didnt say a word, no, I gritted my teeth and turned purple!
"Right me lad up you go, he`ll take care of you, gentle as a lamb, just follow the gallops and you`ll be fine! Oh, and hang on, you`ll soon get the idea!!"
With this harty endorsement, of the horses character, I was hurled onto his back, and without so much as a "by your leave", handed the following advice, " hold on, dont let go, and above all, dont fall off!" Now isnt that all the same thing?
With my heart in my mouth, and the feeling that something was touching cloth! I looked straight ahead, all I could see was lots of open space! Oh God! Please dont let me die! Suddenly, I heard a slap from behind, the snorting beast jumped forward and we were away! S**t, this was too fast for me, let me off, stop! I shouted to no-one in particular, for no-one in particular could hear me!
Every thing was a complete blur, I was travelling at Mach 10! and getting faster, my legs were flailing about and the bit of leather in my hands, wasnt anymore! I could just see it flapping about the beasts neck. F*** me!!!!!!!!!! It was no good the horse didnt understand vulgarity, my legs gripped the side of the horse, for some reason, this made it go faster? I was locked in a battle with a monster, and I was loosing big time. I decided to grab some of the mane hair whipping around my face, good idea lad! Having done this I started to feel less secure, as it didnt help stop the horse.
What the hell did I volunteer for? Why me? Steady lad! Steady. The wind was making my eyes water, and whats more we still were`nt slowing, I then lay along the neck of this wild beast, yes, I was all over him like a cheap suit!
I`ve no idea how long this went on for, seemed like years. Then I felt a slight slowing of the pace, well maybe he`s seen sense, thought I! Oh B****r me, thought I again,!
Now what on earth was that, wooden thing in front? Before I could be rhetorical with myself, I was airborne! Well more to the point, we, were airborne! Then as the horse was heavier than I, we started to separate in mid air, he was going down, I was still up! There could be only one conclusion to this event.
I was wrong! There was two! One, was the fact that we both landed together, and the second was that I was no longer on top of him! Yes! I was under him! Hanging from his neck, and screaming like a Banshee, I was being dragged to my doom by a hairy monster with no morals! (Sounds a bit like an old girlfriend, she was.....sorry another tale.)
I was getting banged about like a tennis ball, I could feel the grating of his feet on my legs, oh it was awful! (Tears here please) It was stupid! What the f**** was I doing, to late. By this time we were still doing 90 miles an hour, but he was slowing, I felt that I was getting the better of him. Then he stopped.
For no reason, he just stopped. As I lay there in the mud, I could feel my heart pounding and my breathing rasping! I opened my eyes, and looked upward to thank god for my deliverance, but there was this bloody nag! Looking down at me, with that look that says, "Want to go again?"
I crawled away from him, trying to push with my legs, nothing happened, except the slight darkening in my eyes......................................The room was clean and smelled of antiseptic.
I was there for about six weeks, both legs broken below the knees. Apart from that I was fine. Some time later, I managed to get some leave, and as I was now walking again and still in the navy! I paid a visit to the Posh house on Dartmoor.
I was greeted rapturously, " Come back for more me lad?". The Captain smiled. I looked around. I thought, funnily enough?...........................Yes!