Tagged in: birgelen

RETURN OF THE DISCS PART 1 – BIRGELEN BASH

Some Wizards

Once upon a time near a small dorf in Germany and almost surrounded by the dark and mysterious Guhor Woods was a secret place called Mercury Kaserne.

The Guhor Woods

 

It was so secret that not even the people who lived there knew what went on behind the wire fence beyond The Boiler House and LAD;  including most of those who inhabited it.

That was excepting for a small band of exceptional Wizards named Discs who, using the amazing powers of the E Book and the B Stick of Knowledge, worked their magic over the inhabitants of the realms of  Setroom and Pit.

These Wizards were sorely put upon by The Powers That Were who considered them to be A Blot on an otherwise Pristine Landscape. The evil forces of Geoff the Fletch,  Black Mac and their Mercurial Allies swore that these wizards would not prevail.  but, under the leadership of the Arch Wizard MacKinnon, and aided by the Gnomes of M, whose nimble fingers translated the results of the Wizards spells into the reams of paper tape required to disseminate them to the Gods of Cheltenham, they ensured that The Alternative Existence flourished in this dark land.

The Gods were exceeding pleased with the Wizards and placed them on a pedestal high above the forces of those who bore the sign of Mercury. These,  though prettily attired and immaculately pressed, had no appreciation of the aesthetic arts and thus were no match for the Wizards and their Acolytes.

Alas, however, as time went on, the Wizards were manipulated by The Powers That Were and were scattered to the four corners of the earth, or at least as far as Aynik or Maresfield. Many of them became Disenchanted and forsook their Wizardly Skills and were subsumed into  Civvystreet.  A few continued to perpetuate the magic and mystery of Discdom and SI and passed their skills down in the hope that sometime in the future the Wizards  would rise up again to become The Masters of the Kazerne.

Discs reunited – Roermond Station

Anyway,  The Cold War came to an end and it was discovered that the Power of the Eastern Block had been a figment of the imagination of the Powers that Were.  It tumbled down and with it the Kaserne on the edge of the Guhor Wood.

The Discs, however, were sure that there was still Magic and Wizardry trapped in the soul of this land.  So, following an edict from the legendary Jonibax, the Wizard of the Wand, the Ross and Jacko sent out missives to the Original Wizards and Gnomes, to bring them back together in the land of Hell, Alt and Jägermeister.

The Enchantress

Sadly the Arch Wizard MacKinnon had been taken to a better place and thus would not be a part of this pilgrimage.

So it was  a group of eight,   Romanis, Gnome of the North, Barnes the Wizard of the Wine, the Chinese Wizard May Ling (aka Bill ), Terry the Birgelen Bard, and the Keeper of the Keys Simpson, who set out on  Long and Difficult Journeys from Ireland and the Shires to meet together in the Metropolis of Roermond where, thanks to The Chud, there would be available a Minibus to whisk them across the Rothenbach and onto Haus Wilms where they were greeted by the Enchantress Birgit .

Thus began the mission to rediscover The Magic.  Of course this necessitated the imbibing  a modicum of the local brews and practising the local patois, which resulted in some interesting meals if not ales!

Normally viewed from this Angle

It had been decided that Roermond would be the first area for investigation and so, after a healthy breakfast, we ventured forth to rediscover the Sankt Pauli, Rooswinkle and other establishments we wot of.  Surprise, surprise, The Sankt Pauli, which should still have been festooned with fishing nets and shells, had become a smart block of apartments.

Lunch in the sun

To recover we traversed the Munsterplein, passed the Munster Cafe, and headed for the market where we discovered that the Rooswinkel had not only been turned into a kebab shop but had also closed down. Jacko discovered he had forgotten to pack keks and foraged in the Market whilst the remainder took over an adjacent cafe to ensure that the standard of Amstel had not deteriorated over the years.

Wizard hat

From there we investigated the river but, due to road works, were forced to abandon a riverside lunch and repair to the Munsterplein where the local band was taking up residence in the Bandstand.  Replete we summoned our loyal minibus and hied it to the Dalheimer Muhle deep in the heart of the Guhor Woods.  Here we were to meet up with Terry and Keith who had no interest in Roermond due to having spent all their youth hunting something intangible in Effeld and the woods; well that’s their story!

Waffle

Dalheimer Muhle

It says something for the powers of the Wizards that the Muhle was only recently  reopened after falling into decline for many years.  We duly increased their profit margin considerably and Jacko was tempted beyond endurance to sample the Waffle, hot cherry and icecream.  This was just to keep his strength up for the Walk Through The Wood.

The Minibus was again summonsed to return the wanderers to the Wilms whilst three took off into the wood to walk the four klicks home.

Spargel feast

The evening was taken up with Dinner; it being the Spargel season this was much in evidence and is Not To Be Missed in my estimation.  It is a white and very large variety, not the spindly English type. This was also the evening of the Chelsea/Bayern match, which proved to be so boring that even the German guests were yawning.

We moved into the courtyard to engage in some scintillation conversation and drink more beer until we were asked to come inside as the staff wanted to lock up. One who shall be nameless had bought a bottle of Jägermeister and in the company Bill we retired to said persons room and consumed same.  It doesn’t keep well once opened!!

Maters

Bill and I were hopeful of a game of golf on Sunday morning at the Rothenbach GC which, although sited on the foundations of Block30, has thrived. Unfortunately it was the one Sunday in the year that they had decided to have a competition so this fell through! Thus we took a taxi to Maters, which despite the new conservatory remains much as it was all those years ago.

Rothenbach GC with the Chud

From here we walked back up to the site of the Kaserne and up to the golf club for lunch where we were met by the Chud who, though an ex member of The Enemy, had been a vital link in the chain bringing this gathering together.

Bills Hiring?

Bills Hiring?

He also acted as chauffeur for the rest of the afternoon taking a group round the old quarters in Wassenberg and Birgelen.  Bill discovered that he didn’t know where he had lived except that it was over 4 garages so we stopped at various locations and took pictures.

The rest of the afternoon was taken up with revisiting the site of 13  and trying to work out exactly where everything had been, especially the WRAC Block, of which many stories were told!

We once again repaired to the Wilms where The Ross was waylaid by his ex landlord who spirited him away, probably to extract unpaid rent. The rest of the party decided to eat in the Burgerstube in the village and this turned out to be A Good Thing.  Excellent food and beer and, once again, lively intercourse; though not with the landlady!

And so it all came to an end on Monday morning when our carriage transported us back to Roermond Station and the parting of the ways.

In all a very memorable reunion and my thanks to Eric for all his efforts, to John Chudleigh for organizing the Effeld end and too all who came for making it so enjoyable.

For The Bard of Birgelen’s poetic contribution Click here

Watch out for Part 2 of the Return of the Discs

 

Sandy McKinnon – Man to Remember

sandy service page

The picture says it all

On Friday we buried Sandy in his family town of Penicuik in Midlothian. Those who knew him were enriched by the experience; those who didn’t are unfortunate.

For those that were not aware of the cause of his passing Sandy had a successful operation on a brain tumour, however, inoperable secondary growths finally defeated him.

Although we did not see each other from 1964, when I left 13 Signal Regiment, until 2009 when we met again at Bangkok airport it could have been less than a week.  Both he and Kay made us as welcome as if we had been family.

His friends came from across the globe to pay tribute to one of the most generous people you could meet and they in turn reflected this generosity of spirit.

St Mungo's Parish Church

The service was held at St Mungo’s Parish Church and was taken by Reverend Peter Taylor who, having served with Sandy in 9 Signal Regiment in the late ’60s, left the army to take holy orders. Not that the two events could possibly be connected.

His daughter Fiona read for us and son Alisdair gave the eulogy. Rarely have I heard such a perfect reflection of somebody’s life.  No remorse; he reached out to everybody, and it was large congregation, with stories of events that had touched all our lives at some point in time.

Sandy was laid to rest in the Kirkhill cemetery with a piper in attendance. The weather was kind and the rain held off.

piper at the graveside

Piping him home

The family held the wake in the Craigienield House Hotel and an a personal note I would like to thank Kay and the family for inviting me and their friends for making me so welcome – a special note to Jim and Susan who introduced me round.

We moved to the family home from whence we eventually made our individual ways back to various points across the country.

A very moving day and a fitting tribute to a wonderful person.

 

Bangkok March 2009 - How I'll remember him

Christmas Letter 2010

I’m sitting in the computer room (not allowed one in the living room) trying to think of a new way of putting this letter together.  Once again my good intentions of writing it in sections throughout the year has failed miserably and my original start got lost when the PC crashed. Yes, I do have backups but this bit was missing somehow!      

I left you last year anticipating reports of our impending New Year Rhine cruise. This was almost eclipsed by the demise of the our leader Peter Robinson’s Dynasty following the disclosure that the “holier than thou” Iris, doyen of Dundonald Society and famous for offering to get homosexuals cured, had been having a quiet affair with a 21 year old and had lent him about 50 grand to set up shop in a council owned restaurant.

Actually the Rhine cruise was a great success with amazingly good food and wine.   Probably the highlight was getting out of the rain in Rüdesheim and having the local speciality coffee made at the table – sugar caramelised in the glass by flambéing a v large Asbach brandy, coffee and lots of cream! There was a great crowd of “oldies” like us including a very large Welsh contingent who were intent on having a good time in spite of the rather poor entertainment on board. Needless to say the bar bill at the end warranted a mortgage.      

The photo is of a very big music box at the famous Siegfried’s Mechanisches Musikkabinett. An amazing museum of mechanical music machines.      

Later in January Peter, having somehow managed to survive politically and having  moved Iris quietly into a sanatorium, shook hands with Martin. Wailing and gnashing of teeth in Ballymena; what was the world coming to?

We managed to survive into February and escaped off on a tour of Cambodia. After Vietnam Cambodia was definitely hard work.  Either that or we are getting old. I would not have missed the experience and the highlights were the trip by boat from Battambang to Siem Reap and the temples of Angkor Wat. The downsides were our travelling companions, a pair of septuagenarian retired schoolteachers from London, the
female being christened “the witch” by all the guides, and the hotel in Kratie which had no lift, cold and cold running water and an ancient and very noisy air-conditioner. I’m not sure which of bit of the air it conditioned.  The geckos were extremely efficient at insect control!      

We did have a good time on the whole and the guides were absolutely super. Anybody for fried tarantulas?

From Cambodia we flew back to Bangkok to meet up with Sandy and Kay McKinnon, 13 and 9, ’61 to ’69, who had very kindly offered to put us up for a week and show us the high life of the city.  It was wonderful to just relax in good company.  We did make a memorable excursion with them and their friends to The Bridge on the River Kwai. Sandy and I also managed to fit in a game of golf (Note the very efficient caddie) whilst the ladies went off for a coffee morning. Go to Bangkok, it is an amazing city.      

Whilst we were away the ubiquitous dissidents bombed Newry court house.      

March brought the announcement that the Queen is planning a trip to Ireland.  With hindsight one wonders how they will afford it.      

Just to give Easter a boost the nice new MI5 HQ at Palace barracks near Holywood was car bombed. Bet nobody saw that coming!      

Business was not getting any easier either.

In May we flew to Venice with friends to pick up the Orient Express to Paris. Venice was amazingly wet, from above and below, but the food and wine were unsurpassable.  The Orient Express is a train everybody should travel on once in a lifetime, but not more than that! I was really impressed with Paris and it exceeded my expectations in trumps. Two wonderful days and then we returned via Eurostar to London and then home.      

This was also the month we had the council elections and poor Peter Robinson lost his seat to an ordinary local person who was not under the impression that she owned East Belfast.      


In June I went off to join a happy band organised by Tom McMahon, to walk along the canal from Liverpool to Leeds in aid of the Birgelen Vets Charity and Macmillan Cancer. I just completed the last 15 mile leg from Bingley to Leeds. A great time was had by all. Mick and Lynne Shepherd, of 9 Sigs Rugby fame met me along the way to make a contribution and also forced me into a couple of pints of real ale – well it was lunch time.        

The rest of the month and July were typical.  As a warm up to the marching season a 400lb bomb was left outside the Auchnacloy police barracks and following the 12th marches there were 4 days of carefully orchestrated rioting in north Belfast.        

In August the funeral of Alex Higgins brought the cream of the snooker world to Sandy Row to pay their respects. Personally I reckon they should have named the city airport after him; but then he didn’t die quite soon enough and footballers always get the glory anyway!

In September we joined up with friends to go the passion play in Oberammergau.  I reckoned it was our last chance as the next performance will be in 2020; which is rather a long way ahead. There were 47 of us altogether and we had a great week touring in the Tirol, going to the play, which everyone, be they religious or not, should experience, and culminating in the Hofbräuhaus in Munich.        

Our Great granddaughter is now a year old!        

We found out, during October, that one should be careful which beaches one picnics on, following the discovery and exhumation of the body of one of the IRA victims who had been buried by the dunes in Red Bay on the North Antrim coast some 37 years ago.

November brought the 50th anniversary of my joining the army (actually it was September ’60 but we’ll not quibble over a couple of months) as a boy soldier in the REME.  One of the squad, Barry Johnson had spent the last two years organising a reunion in Wokingham, close by the camp at Arborfield, Berks. It was a great evening followed by a conducted tour of the Corps Museum on the Saturday.  Josephine and I then took off up to London for the rest of the weekend.        

Workwise things are pretty slow at the moment and do not look like improving to any great extent for the foreseeable future, however, we have enough work to keep the factory going for another month and one keeps one’s fingers crossed that something will turn up. At least it’s not as bad as the Republic.        

O'Neill Park November '10

We’ll that’s a sort of commentary on our year and the local events of passing interest.  Cannot really complain as we have managed to fit an awful lot in around work and golf: yes I’m still finding time to play although I’ve definitely become a fair weather player!        

We are off to the Med on boxing day and will see in the New Year in between Alexandria and Olympia all being well; so that all that’s left to do now is wish you a great Christmas and health and happiness for the New Year.      

Michael & Josephine

BIRGELEN VETS & FRIENDS WALK RAISES £5.5K

Picture of sartorial elegance - Terry and I

It is hard to make a riveting story out of a long walk along a canal unless one is Claire Balding or a waterways enthusiast. I can say without fear of contradiction that I am neither of these and, after the first six or seven miles, the effort of putting one foot in front of the other was enough to put most other considerations way down the priority ladder. Having said this I feel bound by a sense of duty to my many and very much appreciated sponsors to give some flavour of the weekend in general and the 15 mile hike from Bingley to Leeds in particular.
Saturday 19th June – Arrived at Leeds/Bradford Airport about 10am, after a pretty uneventful journey, to find the temperature around 10° and a gale blowing. This was not quite what I expected and certainly wasn’t dressed for. Rummaged in case at bus shelter and found cashemere pulli which helped a bit!

The Old Post office Leeds

Eventually reached Leeds station and discovered that the hotel did not open their check-in until 2pm. Luckily Leeds is a pleasant city with some great architecture and I was able to pass away the time visiting the central market and a couple of the malls and watching the Yorkshire world go by from one of the innumerable coffee  houses.

I eventually booked into my hotel, pottered about a bit and had just decided to have a couple of hours snooze when I had a phone call from Jim Malone, who was on the Skipton – Bingley section, asking why I hadn’t showed up. This was a strange query as I had never intended to be on the Skipton-Bingley leg.  An inexplicatble feeling of guilt overcame me so I felt duty bound to catch a train to Bingley and meet them.

I walked about  a mile or so along the canal, which included going up both the 3 and 5 rise locks.

5 rise lock, Bingley

It’s supposed to be flat!!!  I eventually joined up with the happy band and we walked back to Bingley and thence into the Foundry Hill Bar opposite the station for a (well earned??) couple of pints.  Great little pub with really pleasant staff and a great line in Saltaire Blonde Ale. Real Ale at around £2.00 a pint, “eh up” lads (and lassies)!  From there back to Leeds and a wash and brush up prior to dinner which Tom (or Julian if you prefer) organised in the bistro of the Queens Hotel; he being in residence there. (That’s an almost Caesarian Gallic Wars construction).  Dinner was excellent and made even more enjoyable by the waitress and waiter on duty in the restaurant.  Their efficiency and sense of humour are qualities that seem to be lacking in too many staff these days.  We had an extra couple of drinks in the bar to finish off the night – Well one does doesn’t one.

Start of the Final Leg - Bingley Station

A not too arduous start to the day, for me at least, meant breakfast at 7.45, and then on to Leeds station to catch the 9.00 train for the short trip back to Bingley, to start the walk back to Leeds!.  One could get dizzy with all this toing and froing . In the Bingley station car park we were joined by other members of the team who had been staying at various points West over night.  It was here I caught up with Terry Ireland whom I had not seen since ’64: might only have been yesterday, just picked up our last conversation which had involved beer and minis!

Only 38 bridges to go

We were blest with perfect weather, the sun was out but there was a gentle breeze which made it ideal for walking. Before too long the group split up into about three or four sections with the “professionals” out in front and the rest of  us in small packets chatting away about times past, or whatever! The great thing about going in the Leeds direction is that the locks are all downhill so that the only uphill bits are where the tow path goes over a bridge.  I have only admiration for those of the party who walked more than one section and am amazed at the two stalwarts, Julian and Kevin, who covered all 9 sections and 127 miles.  Of course it must be said that they practiced beforehand! But as  it was not a game it was not ruined (Apologies to Flanders & Swann).

The Ice cream barge

After about an hour or so we came upon an Ice Cream Barge, so designated because it sold the said product rather than being made of it.  Moored under a large tree it made the ideal point to take a well earned break and, we were told, there was nothing else along the path for a couple of hours at least.  Then off we set again past the factories and mills of Saltaire and Shipley.  My first wife was a Shipley girl but that is another story!

From here on it was a fairly uneventful walk until, about an hour and a half later we came across a canal side café.

Tom lays out the strategy

I had acquired a raw little toe by this time so it was a relief to stop, remove my sandle and, being much the wrong shape to do it myself, get Terry to apply a plaster.  During this break who should appear but Maxi Wilson, of 13 Sigs Fame back in the 70’s, who just happend to be out strolling along.  More reminisences!  As a hostlery this was not the the most efficient I have ever been in – It took nearly 20 minutes to get a cup of tea, by which time everybody was wanting to move on so I ended up with a scalded mouth.  Took my mind of my toe though!

We moved on towards Apperley Bridge which was our designate lunch stop and en route I was met by Lynne and Mick Shepherd, ex RAPC and 9 Sigs rugby player extraordinaire, who had driven up from Nottingham to make a donation to the cause.  We had not met for, probably, fifteen years so there was more catching up to do.  We arrived at the George and Dragon and somehow, due to excellent real ale coupled with lively conversation, I  forgot to order lunch and so it was that I left foodless for the afternoon stint.   This was probably a good thing as rumour has it that it is not good to do too much exercise on a full stomach!

Rodley

Terry having teamed up with the lead group I joined Andy and Kamie Beer to form a mutual support section for this session.  This is one of the prettiest stretches of the canal, passing through Rodley, with its period terraces on the bank, and Calverley Bridge, where an old friend whom I met whilst on my Greek Interpreters course in Corfu in ’72, has a riverside cottage.  By this time we were beginning to feel the strain and we were counting down the bridges.

225G at last

But they got there first!

The start of the industrial skyscape of the Leeds suburbs were a welcome sight and when we found that bridge 225A was followed by 225D it elicited positive euphoria. Then, there it was, 225G and the end of the line. So about fifteen minutes later, and some 7 1/2 hours after leaving Bingley, we joined the first group at Wetherspoons for more excellent real ale. It is a pity that they did not run to foot baths as well!

The final resting place - Wetherspoons Leeds Station

I did it - honest!

Unfortunately a number of the party had to disperse home and Tom succumbed to an attack of terminal tiredness so it was a small party, Kamie, Helen, Maria, Andy and me that attended a final dinner an adjacent Indian Restaurant.  For the first time I can think of I cannot remember the name but I do remember the outstanding chicken liver starter and generally authentic food.  It also had a good line in Red Wine.(if anybody who was there can enlighten me as to the name please do it in the comments.) It was a pleasant way to end an exceptional weekend.

I had to be up at 4.30 am to get a taxi out the the Airport for my 7 o’clock flight.  Monday was definitely a day to be forgotten.

The most important part of all this  is the “unofficial” final tally of sponsorship which amounts to just under £5,500.  This is a really impressive total and is a credit to all those who took part, those who supported and especially to all those of you who put their hands in their pockets when asked.  On a personal note I would like to give special thanks to Julian (Tom) McMahon for involving me in this enterprise.

Also thanks to Kamie and Andy Beer, Julian, Maria. Laura and Tom for their photographic contributions

SEE THE SLIDESHOW -click on the pic to go to full size

Birgelen Veterans Association Reunion 2009

Jacko, Tom McMahon & Jim Malone recover from the AGM

Jacko, Tom McMahon & Jim Malone recover from the AGM

My first appearance at this event, which is now in it’s 9th year. The reason for attendance prompted by a meeting with Jim Malone at Heathrow airport in February which resulted in a “you go – I’ll go” scenario.  Anyway,  it’s held in the Cavendish Hotel, Torquay, reminiscent of Fawlty Towers in many aspects.  The receptionist doubled as barman, concierge and waiter and with about 70 people on the move this proved a challenging operation! It was great to catch up with a host of old faces (Bob & Joy White, Foxy, Tom McMahon, Tony and Hilary Moore, Keith & Pauline Clarke to name but a few) after such a long period away.  The do is run on the lines of any other reunion with a gala dinner and “dance” on the Saturday and the AGM on Sunday morning.  Sunday evening being a fund raising raffle and a sing along with Gwen Sangster.  Unfortunately the President, General Peter Baldwin, was taken ill and was unable to address the guests.  Tom, Jim and I spent a sunny Sunday afternoon on a mini pub-crawl along the sea front which produced a great deal of the humour that punctuated my time in the army.  Alltogether a well worth while exercise which I will probably repeat next year!