Twittering Tales #132 – 16 April 2019

It’s time again, for Kat Myrman’s wonderful challenge, to write a story, inspired by her picture prompt, in 280 characters or fewer.

Here is this week’s prompt and my contribution.

Check out all the fabulously creative entries here and, if you’ve never had a go, why not try a story of your own? You may surprise yourself!

img_4398Photo by Luis Quintero on Unsplash.com

The emergency survival packs had been set up for years, they were all over the city.

They held weapons, ammunition, water, food, and a radio.

Each agent had a unique access code to punch in on the keyboard, and a voice code to verify.

What the hell was the cat’s name I’d chosen?

(279 characters)

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Twittering Tales #131 – 9 April 2019

It’s time again, for Kat Myrman’s wonderful challenge, to write a story, inspired by her picture prompt, in 280 characters or fewer.

Here is this week’s prompt and my contribution.

Check out all the fabulously creative entries here and, if you’ve never had a go, why not try a story of your own? You may surprise yourself!

img_4352Photo by Adhitya Andanu at Pexels.com

Since those huge bright globes appeared low in the sky it hadn’t been safe to venture outside.
All who tried were frazzled to a cinder.
We soon realised that we needed to keep to the shadows, but then the acid rain proved deadly too!
We’ve now used the last of the food and water!

(280 characters)

St Kilda – Island on the edge of the world.

Anyone who saunters through my blog will very soon find that I was, for over 28 years, an Army man, a soldier, a squaddie!

This involved living in all sorts of weird places, in peculiar circumstances, and doing all sorts of things that the average joe doesn’t get to experience.

One of the places I lived was on the remote island of Hirta, in the archipelago of St Kilda. In all I spent over 8 months there, normally on a rotational basis of 6 weeks on, 12 weeks off. You can read a little about it here, and here.

During my time there I don’t think that I ever experienced the superb 4 day block of good weather that Angus Mackie and his group of kayakers did for their trip that is shown here.

This post is not about me but it does show a place that is dear to my heart, and to anyone who has ever been lucky enough to experience it.

Just as anyone who has experienced a true desert will know  what “desert fever” feels like, those who’ve been to Kilda will be forever drawn back there, even if it is only in memories!

This expedition report is rather lengthy, and will be hastily skipped through by some, but for a few it will be of great interest. The link at the bottom will take you to a marvellous set of photos and videos. It takes a while to load as they are high resolution, and lots of interactive 360˚ shots. I hope you have time to enjoy them.

A link to a newly updated blog post of “A Superlative St Kilda Sea Kayaking Expedition with Skyak Adventures.”

St Kilda is a place of superlatives!

The remote island archipelago of St Kilda lies some 40 miles west of the Outer Hebrides and not only is it a UNESCO World Heritage Site but it has the highest sea cliffs in the UK, the largest seabird colony in northern Europe and a quarter of the world’s gannet population.

It’s also an amazing place for sea kayaking…!!

 

I’m Angus Mackie, a professional forester and photographer, based just north of Inverness on the beautiful Black Isle.  I’m on the North Coast 500 and am well placed to discover most of the Highlands.  The iconic scenery of Glen Affric and the Cairngorms are close by whilst many of the wild and dramatic locations on the west coast are within easy reach.

Mountains, landscapes, coastlines….  As a landscape and panoramic photographer who specialises in 360° photography, I enjoy exploring Scotland and its wild and remote places and have discovered some of the best photography locations in the Highlands over the last 35 years of living up here.  With a broad and wide ranging knowledge of the Highlands, I still enjoy finding new locations and fresh perspectives for my photography.  The use of natural light to capture stunning scenery at spectacular locations is very much a key factor for my photography.

I’m a qualified Summer Mountain Leader, a Sea Kayak Leader and a UKCC Level 2 Sea Kayaking coach, with many years experience of leading and guiding.  I am also a longstanding member of Dundonnell Mountain Rescue Team.

Copyright © 2018 Scotland360° and Angus Mackie.

https://www.scotland360.co.uk/Blog_St_Kilda_July_2014.html?fbclid=IwAR0jolFavOHKug8o9RkHNk_oxkkAcyjGYtSI-heTlQk7dehf9o-Xyo-xans

Alone With My Bike

I’m shamelessly reblogging this because I added a little verse to the comments, and I rather like it. Also, if you haven’t ever read any of Colleen’s posts then you are missing out on some very wise words, some selfless, and often moving, observations, and the chance to get to know more about a lovely lady. I think Colleen should be prescribed to everyone as a pick me up!

The Chatter Blog

I got on my bike.

To be alone or so I wouldn’t be alone.

I’m not sure which.

Along the way I received waves,

Hellos,

Good mornings,

Thumbs up,

and

A few things I couldn’t decipher but they were said with smiles

So I accepted them with delight.

I met Judy who was on a bike for the first time in 15 years.

She was grateful for being on the bike and determined to resume her joy of biking.

I was appreciated her smiling face and her sharing her story with me.

I stopped to watch a muddy river.

It wasn’t so much roaring as it was rumbling,

I enjoyed the sound of it.

On the way back

I saw a damn snake.

And with that adrenaline I nearly flew over the next five miles.

There was no poetry to my day,

But maybe the rhythm of it lent to…

View original post 23 more words

Twittering Tale #65 – 2 January 2018

It’s time again for Kat Myrman’s wonderful challenge to tax our creative souls. Just take her photo prompt and write a story, inspired by it, in 280 characters or fewer.

img_0355.jpg

Here is this week’s prompt and my contribution. Check out all the fabulous entries here.

“I’ll just explain again. You accelerate hard. Don’t worry about the bumps and bends, the bus will keep you safe. Now, this is the important bit. Once you get to 97mph the vehicle will disappear. You’ll still be in it though.”

“Any side effects?”

“You may wet yourself.”

“Thanks!”

(278 characters)

Twittering Tales #58 – 14 November 2017

It’s time again for Kat Myrman’s wonderful challenge to tax our creative souls. Just take her photo prompt and write a story, inspired by it, in 280 characters or fewer.

light.jpg

Here is this week’s prompt and my contribution. Check out all the fabulous entries here.

Now that the nights were drawing in, Peter was unsure whether there would be enough light to see to complete a full 280 characters.

280, for goodness sake. He’d had trouble trying to write 140 each week. Never mind , he thought, I’ll just get the lamp lit to complete…….…….damn!

(280 characters)

All at sea – Flying through the air, with, and without, the aid of a helicopter.

This is part of a recollection of “Some things I’ve done that you probably haven’t.

Number 2, Transferred between Royal Naval ships at sea by Jackstay, and 3, Transferred between Royal Naval ships at sea by helicopter can be recounted together because normally, when you go on a journey, you want to end up back where you started!

When I was posted to Gibraltar we (The Army) often entertained Royal Naval personnel when they had shore leave. We invited them to functions in the various messes (Officers Mess/Warrant Officers and Sergeants Mess/Other ranks Mess, and we invited them to dine with us, often arranging a special dinner.

 In return, they reciprocated, and we were often invited on board ship.

 I came to know several of the Petty Officers of HMS Charybdis quite well, during 1976. I was invited to spend time at sea with the ship, in an exchange with a member of the ship’s crew, where we swapped jobs for a few days.

hms charybdis Life on board a Royal Naval vessel is unlike anything you may imagine. Space is at a premium and everything has to be stowed away to maximise space, and to ensure there are no hazards created by loose gear.

 Before departing from any port, the ship must be fully provisioned with fuel, stores, ammunition, food, and a myriad of items you wouldn’t even begin to think of. This is to ensure that, should the vessel be called upon to sail into conflict, or to aid others, it can proceed immediately, without having to stock up first. There is a good deal of manual labour involved in this, and the whole ships company (of 260 in this case) is put to work, less a few essential personnel. It is hard work, and I experienced it!

 Imagine having to stock a freezer so you can retrieve food, to feed 260 hungry people for 2 months, when you can only reach things right at the front. Just where do you put all those potato sacks, carrots, toilet rolls, extra large cans, butter, fat, oil, flour, spices. The list is huge, as is the quantity. You cannot run out.

 I shall not go into disposal of waste, recycling, or what can, under international law, be discharged into the sea. I mention it only because sometimes it flies off the ship!

 Whilst at sea it is sometimes necessary to load, or offload personnel, or materiel.

 This may be for changes in personnel, removal of severely ill, or deceased, replenishment of food, fuel, supplies, and the removal of waste for disposal, or recycling.

 The Royal Navy is supported at sea by Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) vessels.

The RFA is staffed by civilians, and they have a variety of ships that can supply fuel and stores, effect repairs at sea, and even supply hospital facilities. They have a helicopter on board, and also cranes mounted on either side.

 Most modern warships have a helicopter on board, or a helipad that can receive a visiting helicopter so stores can be transferred from one vessel to another by underslung load. However, there is a restriction on how much weight can be carried that way, and it is an expensive method of resupply.

 The alternative method of transfer is by Jackstay, a method of using ropes and pulleys to carry personnel and materiel between vessels.
jackstay trfs

The light jackstay, employing human power, is used for transferring personnel, provisions, and light stores with a maximum load of about 250kg. The hauling end of the jackstay is manned by up to 25 hands. The other end is secured by a grommet strop to slip in the receiving ship. A traveller block is hauled back and forth along the jackstay wire by an in–haul rope in the receiving ship and an out–haul rope in the delivering ship manned by up to six crew in each ship. Working distance limits are normally between 24–61 meters with a normal working distance of about 34 meters.

 The heavy Jackstay, uses steel ropes for transfer of heavier loads, or to support feed pipes during transfer of fuel or water. Normally a powered winch is used.

 The ropes are passed from one ship to the other by first firing a thin twine by rifle and pulling this across, with increasing thickness of twine, then cord, then rope.

 Ships are unstable platforms when stopped in most seas and it is extremely dangerous to bring two ships directly alongside one another. All transfers are therefore done with the ships steaming side by side, in to the wind, at a distance determined by the state of the seas. It is a hazardous operation and constant adjustment is needed to ensure identical speed, and to ensure the distance between vessels does nor vary. The procedure needs to be practiced often to ensure the crew knows exactly what to do when the need arises. It is the ultimate in team work!

 This is how I came to “volunteer” for my first, and only, experience of transfer at sea by Jackstay, and return by helicopter. I was one of a dozen.

 Having watched others being hauled across from Charybdis to another visiting Frigate, it was soon my turn. Apart from a little dampness from sea spray I arrived safely on the other ship and was hurried along to the stern to jump into the helicopter for the return trip. This was only my second flight in a helicopter. The whole procedure took less than 30 minutes, but was very exhilarating!

 Flights by small helicopter are normally from, and to, a stable surface, and the take off pattern is normally a vertical lift into the air, transferring into forward flight whilst gaining height. Larger helicopters use a running takeoff and landing whenever possible.

 Taking off from, and landing on, a ship at sea, entails a helipad moving at quite a speed, often with buffeting wind, and large chunks of solid metal very close by. It is a very specialised skill!

 On take off, the aircraft has to rise off the pad and move to the left, or right, immediately moving away from the vessel.

 Landing is the more difficult skill. The helicopter must approach the vessel from the rear and then fly, at the speed of the ship, slightly to the left or right of the helipad. It then has to move slowly across so that it is hovering above the pad, but is, in fact, still flying forwards at the speed of the vessel. It must then drop down on to the moving deck, immediately ceasing forward flight.

 Naval pilots, I salute you!

 To the crews of both vessels, Thank you for not getting me wet!charybdis.jpg

 

HMS Charybdis was affectionately  called “The Cherry B.” Hence the cherry tree on the ship’s plaque.

 

 

 

Light Jackstay information courtesy of: MacFarlane, John M. (2013) Jackstay Transfer (Replenishment) at Sea. Nauticapedia.ca 2013. http://nauticapedia.ca/Articles/Jackstay_Transfer.php

Travelling down the Rhine on a duck

In the Summer of 1962, at the age of 14, I travelled to Germany, with the Combined Cadet Force from my school, for a Summer Camp.

It was quite an adventure to get there. We travelled by military steam train, with the carriages being loaded onto the ferry for the channel crossing. It must have been very nearly the last such journey.

We eventually arrived at 2 Division Signal Regiment, in Bünde, West Germany, a Regiment I was later to be posted to as a regular soldier.

2 div.png

The Crossed Keys of 2 Division

 

 

There were still National Servicemen who had been conscripted into the forces for 2 years. These were the last of a dying breed as the last National Servicemen left the armed forces in May 1963.

I well remember that the soldiers took great delight in plying us with beer, probably at our own expense. That Summer, far from home, was the first time that I became extremely drunk, and extremely unwell.

We obviously overdid the cigarettes too. When I returned home I suffered, for a few days, with what was diagnosed as nicotine poisoning!

During our 10 days there we went out on exercise with the Regiment and did all sorts of, what was to us young boys, very exciting things. We helped camouflage vehicles, laid large capacity cables, helped put up radio masts, slept in abandoned barns and spent a day with the German Army.

It was during this “exchange day” that I encountered the DUKW (duck) that was to transport us down the river. (For the technically minded, more information here)

Ten very excited teenagers squeezed into the restricted space at the back and were driven down a ramp, into the water, where we progressed at a very sedate pace for 20 minutes or so, driving back up another ramp to dry land.

dukw

To be honest it was a bit disappointing, certainly not as exciting as the next half hour when we were transported at some considerable speed back up river, sirens wailing, in a fast patrol craft.

We then experienced a German Army lunch, for many, the first ever taste of “foreign” food. Tepid cabbage soup, cold würst, sauerkraut, black bread, and a strange pudding of yogurt. A new experience that was not repeated until it became more commonplace in the UK.

Postscript

In fact the river in question may not have been the Rhine. Memory being what it is, it could have been the Mösel, or even the Wëser. I have travelled on all of these, but, at the time, it seemed to be a very wide, and busy, river.

Part of the series Some things I’ve done that you probably haven’t!

Some things I’ve done that you probably haven’t.

I had this random thought that I have done a few things in my life that the average person will never experience.  I thought I would write a post entitled:

“Ten things I’ve done that you probably haven’t.” It developed a little like this:

Ten Eleven Twelve Thirteen Fourteen Fifteen Sixteen Seventeen Eighteen Nineteen Twenty things I’ve done that you probably haven’t

I arranged them in reverse alphabetical order, just for the sake of it! Then I thought of an added one, or four. So, here we have:

Some things I’ve done that you probably haven’t

  1. Travelled down the Rhine on a Duck
  2. Transferred between Royal Naval ships at sea by Jackstay
  3. Transferred between Royal Naval ships at sea by helicopter
  4. Spent time in a prison cell
  5. Sat in a Harrier Jump Jet
  6. Rowed in a coxed 4 at sea
  7. Regularly travelled to work by helicopter
  8. Qualified as a helicopter handling marshall
  9. Played bugle and drums in a Cadet Force band
  10. Helped to spy on Russian spies
  11. Helped to open a Playboy Club, with no women, in Bahrain
  12. Handled, and repaired Enigma machines
  13. Gassed hundreds of people, some several times
  14. Fallen out of the top of an oak tree
  15. Driven a tank
  16. Crawled under the Queen’s bed
  17. Crash landed a glider
  18. Been underwater in a submarine
  19. Been inside a radome
  20. Been in the impact area of High explosive shells
  21. Been an unpaid tourist guide
  22. Been totally alone on an island
  23. Been a sound engineer for The Gibraltar Song Festival
  24. Been a cave guide

All of these were achieved before the age of 40 but, if you have a large outstanding bucket list, do not despair, it is never too late!

I must admit that there is an amount of poetic licence involved, but where that is will only be revealed as I expand on each tale.

No state secrets will be revealed during the making of these blogs.

You may be waiting a while!