Thursday, 30 July 2015

Over Time

And an astronomer said, "Master, what of Time?" 
And he answered: 
You would measure time the measureless and the immeasurable. 
You would adjust your conduct and even direct the course of your spirit according to hours and seasons. 
Of time you would make a stream upon whose bank you would sit and watch its flowing ....
Time Xxi - Kahil Gibran

First day at Joint Services Mountain Training Centre
How about a Canyoning training practice suggested the leader (John) ok says the team, where?  Let’s get a chopper and fly into the gorge above the German camp Kinlochleven at the end of April suggests the leader.  O.K we say.  Two Sundays later we have an interesting day with me a bit twitchy as I start a new job at 7.00pm that night.

It all begins at the new rescue centre.  We meet, and as usual plans are laid back.  Rescue 137 arrives to find a semi comatose bunch of ex hippies and thrusting youth ready for action.  Wet suits and other apparel is donned by John who has a cunning stunt in mind.  We land amid the alder clad brush above Kinlochleven in a scene that would do justice to the classic Vietnam chopper book “Chickenhawk”.  Paul Moores decides to climb into the gorge and simulate a broken neck.  Rudimentary belays spring up all around as a variety of MIC’s and prawn fishermen try to assert who is best with ropes.  The result was functional rather than aesthetically pleasing, and a truce was called.  Paul is packaged ready for hauling when a shout is heard and John  falls backward over a 20’ raging waterfall and disappears off downstream.  John reappears some 30mins later wondering why nobody went to his aid.

Much hauling and cursing sees the Paul transported to a clearing in the wood and all 15 of us pile in for the flight back to base.  Coffee and biscuits then later the winchman runs in to find John as they  have a  big "job” and need 2 team plus “the medic” which is me.  In we pile with no idea where we are going.  Ronny, Paul Moores and I.  No word yet from ARCC as to where the job is. We fly over the by now wet and gray hills Southward to the Arrochar "Alps" for 30 mins.  Word is the casualty is in a serious condition after a long fall.  We fly up through the mist to the ridge above the South and spot figures waving frantically.  The chopper lands on the ridge and out we pile running along the ridge then down to the foot of the climb to get him. 

We find him on a grassy ledge 80’ below where he fell. He is unfortunately surrounded by doctors and nurses from a medics hillwalking group. Many pale anaemic doctor types looking 16 but probably 30 years begin to be assertive in the company of us aliens from the sky.  Diagnosis’s abound.  It soon becomes apparent that none are as slick as they thought or ought to be, and good old fashioned naked aggression from us seems to get things back under control.  As a peacemaking gesture the oldest looking of the bunch was given the cannula to put in.  This he did with gusto, but when he seemed perplexed as no blood came out the end,  it became apparent that unlike the cannula, he wasn’t the sharpest tool in the box. In I go wondering who will write letters about me this time. He is very badly injured and needs to go to hospital quickly. I do my best for him airway, chest drain, cannula, spinal care, load and go.  Isn't that always the default on a mountain. I hate fuckwits who think it's a science. It's just common sense.

The casualty is quickly packaged and carried down a little way till the chopper could come in and lift him by winch. After this the helo landed again on the ridge, and after a sprint back to get on board we were winging our way to The General Suffering hospital in Glasgow. 

After a 15min flight we landed on what appeared like a Tesco car park miles from the A/E entrance.  Winchy and I disembark with the casualty onto the back of a flat bedded van with two gum chewing pirate earinged and orange tanned people dressed as nurses on board.  I am met with  “ah like yer truss jimmy - musta been some party”, referring to my state of the art Petzl guru harness and jangly bits.  After a short journey we entered the A/E and do our handover. The casualty has spinal injuries as well as a pneumothorax and pelvic fractures, so all in a good bit of teamwork  between SAR crew and MRT, so we feel chuffed. 

Some time later  I need a pee.  Wandering around I see a doppelganger - bugger me, its Ronnie!  “How’s it going Dave? I’ve been wandering around for ages.  The choppers gone to Glasgow airport with Paul.  How are we going to get back home?”  I see a clock and its 5.00pm.  I start my new job at 7.00 so it looks like a bad start in my career as an honorary soldier.  Several phone calls later the Police agree to take us to the airport.  The police duly arrive and drive us like the clappers through Sunday football traffic to the airport police station.  Good news is that I can phone wifey to say I may be late for tea.  “Where the ****k  did you say you are!”  she says incredulously.  Bad news is that they won’t allow us onto the airfield to look for the chopper unless we get searched.  So, off we go in with all the dangly jangly bits, accompanied by sniggering from the pale anaemic wee jimmy’s who think their smart. making comments on our atire.

We eventually get ushered to a small departure lounge and meet up with the SAR aircrew.  It seems that such is the paranoia about terrorism that despite having a big yellow budgie with RAF on the side, and flying suits/helmets etc, that they also had to be searched and are not amused.  Beep goes the body scanner again - ****k it goes Davy.  Off we go then, eventually - and try and find what is a big  ****k off helicopter in Glencoe, but which looks like a wee budgie when we eventually find it among some 747’s.  We eventually get on board and ages later get permission to taxi out among the giants.  We take off into the gathering gloom and fly North down Loch Lomond.  After 50 mins of juddering and shivering we land back in Glencoe where a  quick shave and change sees me racing off to start my new job. Shiny shoes, smart blue polo top, pressed trousers.  A uniform!

I’m in the door at JSMTC at 7.00 exactly,  and sort out the gear.  First student in is most unimpressed by the gloomy damp weather,  and a bit ratty.  His first words to me;  “fuckin ell mate - must be fookin boring stayin in this place” - Great joy at being paid overtime in my new job, and having had a nice wee day out, I said nothing.
Davy Gunn
April 1998

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