Friday, November 19, 2004

 

Tales from the Empire

Back in the late 60’s when we still had the vestiges of a foreign policy and UK colonies etc, us scum of the earth were sent to soldier, “serve and protect” these little outposts of empire, where the sun never sets. So after an incredibly long air journey we landed at Belize International Airport! – the longest piece of tarmac in the entire colony ! and headed for the aptly named “Airport Camp”. There to spend a happy six months, bashing about in the Ulu, spending weeks on tropical Robinson Crusoe islands called Keys and generally doing hearts and minds projects and having a great time drinking the local firewater – called rum but bearing little resemblance to the stuff you buy in tescos. We used to go for a morning run and as we passed the local grog shops we would see the locals brewing the next nights lot in old bathtubs out the back – I knew there were rumours about them putting dead rats in to improve the taste but I don’t think a dead rat would want to be found dead ??? in some of the brews – send you blind – my word they used to give a free white stick with every case !
For most of us this was a first experience of the tropics and the variety of flora and fauna was amazing. I had a Mango tree on one side of the doorway to my bunk and a lime tree on the other. Pick the fruit and let it ripen on the window sill – cut a fresh lime in half and suck to cure the obligatory hangover from the local gut rot
It works – There are 150 different varieties of snake – 143 of which are poisonous including the two most deadly snakes in the world either of which will kill you pretty damned quick. One wit asked how we could identify which were the non-poisonous ones if we came across a snake ! – Answer a sweeping aggression policy – if it comes towards you – kill it !!! we’ll worry about identifying from its corpse. Also there were the insects – I have never seen such big bastards – even the midges were bumble bee sized and the spiders did not bear thinking about !! which brings me to the point of this tale. One afternoon four of us decided to take our launch out on to the river and do a bit of water skiing – bloody silly with all the alligators, water snakes etc etc but anyway we did ! To get to the river we had to go down a path through some fairly untamed yungle to the mooring on the river – about a half mile . We did our water sport and moored up. As we walked down the path back to camp we saw what we thought was a standard (about 6-8 inches across) tarantula pulling a very large (8 – 10 inches long) very iridescent green beetle along the path. As we approached we realised it was the other way round – the beetle was pushing a feebly struggling tarantula along. This thing then suddenly took off with a sound like a bloody helicopter and I swear it came towards us with evil intent
We took off running ! This thing chased us all of 400 yards down the path to camp – four grown men running away from a beetle – You bet your life !! I’m only glad it didn’t catch us. One of our number, Paddy by name went back down the path to see what had happened to the spider ! – it was still laying in the middle of the path twitching. He whipped back got a waste bin and captured it.
He took it to our Doctor (There is a wonderful story about him – later) who pickled it in formalhyde thingy and he kept it in a large jar marked “Paddy’s Pet” I’m still glad the beetle didn’t get us though
Swinging the lamp
Evening all
Mog

Comments:
My old dad was in the RAMC at some stage. I wondered where he got it all from.
 
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