I served in the Paras, but decided to leave the following year. My knee gradually worsened on the regular battle marches and, literally, I limped through to the end of my time in the battalion. Initial parachute training worsened the problem as I hit the ground feet first and rolled agonisingly along my legs. However, I didn’t leave due to that injury, although it ended up causing pain for years. I was just in a hurry in life and wanted something else. I didn’t know what it was, but I was going to find it.
I went for a job at a small local company and met the boss, Bob Hangdog, for an interview. Oddly enough, it was in a Middlesbrough pub. He was about forty years of age, bearded, overweight and a big personality. It went well and I was offered the office job, but the initial joy soon subsided as the work was so dull. On the upside, it paid enough for rent, bills and a social life. Nights out were spent drinking with my best mate, Rog, and it really was party time as we knew a lot of people in the pubs.
Rog was lively and reacted to abrasiveness, so he was involved in brawls. The tempo was rising and trouble was never far away. To take a break from it all, I decided to visit a friend in Leeds for a weekend. I knew both of her sisters as well and it was a nice time. On Sunday afternoon, I got the coach North and met my mates for a beer in the evening. It was an uneventful night until we were confronted by four pissed off blokes on the way home. It was an intimidating situation. One shoved me in the shoulder.
“You’ve been seeing my ex-girlfriend.”
“She’s a friend and I visited her for the weekend.”
“Yeah, and you stayed at her flat.”
“With her sisters as well, you retard. Anyway, what the fuck’s it got to do with you?”
I leant back against a street sign with crossed arms and a bored look on my face. My heart was pounding, but I kept any emotion under control. I breathed slowly and decided to provoke him.
“If you hit me, there are witnesses and you’ll be picking up soap in the prison showers within a day.”
He went apoplectic.
“I’ll smash your fucking head in. Come on, you fucker!!!”
He raged and ranted about hitting me for a few minutes, and then trailed into a monosyllabic drone. From what I’d seen, fights usually kicked off without much discussion, so I figured he was all mouth. Ten minutes later, my arms remained crossed and the short-fused Gobshite was still unsuccessfully trying to start a fight. One of my friends lost his temper, pushed Gobshite about and impressed upon him to go away, really quickly. On the way home, I thanked my friend.