Hitting the Bottle

July 2, 2008 -

John Heald

When I was 18 years of age and wondering what to do with my life there were three careers that I truly considered.

First of all I wanted to be a Vet, however as I have mentioned to you before I was and still am carrying a rather small amount of brain cells and therefore was basically too thick to even think about trying to understand the principles of curing the world of sick animals…………..plus ……….after consideration……..I didn’t really relish the thought of traipsing across a field in the freezing cold snow of winter knowing the only way my hands were going to get warm was after they had been inserted into Daisy the Heffers bottom.

I also thought about going into Politics. I loved and still love that world and my two biggest male “hard as rock” role models are Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher. However, it was never to be.

The final possibility was to join the Army. My Dad was in the Army serving in the Royal Sussex regiment serving in post war Germany. I had visions of grandeur dressed in my smart uniform fending off swarms of young ladies……………….again it was never to be.

However, I did, a few years ago spend the day with the Territorial’s in the UK. These are similar to your National Guard but obviously on a much smaller scale. My mate Larry Pots or TEEPOT as he was known was a Dentist by day and at weekends a Captain in the territorial’s.

I will never forget the 24 hours I spent with him and the lads. We did some very realistic training which included one of the most remarkable experiences I have ever had.

I was part of an eight-man team charged with the task of storming a well-defended house, shooting everyone inside and getting out again in under 15 minutes.

The rules were simple. I was to stick with my buddy unless he got wounded in which case I was to leave him behind. Marvelous. None of that soppy movie nonsense here……….oh ..sorry you’ve been shot mate……………and then bugger off……….those were the orders.

So, dolled up like Action Man, I had the latest SA80 assault rifle slung over my right shoulder and, in my trouser pockets, a clutch of grenades. I was going to open a tin of whoop arse, unleash a hail of hot lead and do that war film thing where I point at my eyes, then point at a wood and then make a V sign, for no reason.

Unfortunately, things went badly. They had asked me to bring along the explosives which would blow a hole in the side of the house, but I forgot, which meant we all had to climb through a window. It turns out that it’s amazingly easy to shoot someone when they’re doing this.

I was shot the first time in the sitting room and again on the stairs. Then some burly commandos picked me up and shoved me through a trap door into the attic.

Well, when I say “through”, this is not entirely accurate. My embarrassingly significant stomach became wedged in the hole which meant my head and upper torso were in the loft with three of the enemy, while the rest of me and my gun were on the landing below. And believe me, it’s even easier to shoot someone when they’re in this position than when they’re climbing through a window.

Happily, because everyone was firing blanks, I wasn’t really killed.

The problems with doing this sort of thing are many. First, we were all wearing exactly the same clothes and full war paint so my buddy looked like everyone else. And second, there are so many levers on an SA80 Machine gun that every time I wanted fully automatic fire, or to engage the laser sights, the magazine fell out onto my foot and that hurt like hell

But worse than this is the army’s insistence on talking almost exclusively in acronyms. Throughout the firefight the house had echoed to the sound of mumbo jumbo, none of which made any sense at all. “DETCON WOMBAT” shouted someone into my earpiece……….then for some reason someone started ordering a SUBWAY sandwich with yells of “FOOTLONG LAYUP” . Rat-a-tat-tat barked the enemy’s AK-47 and beep went my earpiece to signify I had been shot again………….this time in the groin………….probably by a sniper…………….a very good sniper to hit a small target like that.

Things were not explained in the debrief. This, said the colour sergeant, had been FIBUA (Fighting in Built Up Areas) and we had done FISH (Fighting in Someone’s House). Heald, he didn’t need to point out, had been a FLOS (Fat Lump of S***).

How many times have we seen the President in American films ordering a man in green clothes to go to Defcon 3? Hundreds. And do you know what — I still have no idea what this means, or which way the numbering goes. Even now, if someone told me to go to Defcon 1, I wouldn’t know whether to launch the nukes or ask the President of North Korea over for tea and crumpets.

I loved my day………….I enjoyed the thrill ………….and afterwards I realized I would have been a dreadful soldier. However, if just for a day it gave me an insight to what our lads and lasses do each and every day and although I write in jest……………..I still could not imagine what doing that for real must be like…………each and every day.

So, its appropriate that as I salute the men and women of the armed forces here in the blog that I show you this press release which goes out tomorrow night and which PA 007 has sent me once again……………as breaking news.



– First ever underwater-to-hull bottle break to name biggest passenger ship to sail from Dover –

London, July 3:

Multi-talented classical musician, singer and presenter Myleene Klass will have a spectacular bottle-breaking “assist” from Royal Navy divers when she performs her first-ever Ship’s Godmother duties next week by officially naming the 113,000 tonne Carnival Splendor – the biggest passenger ship to sail from Dover Cruise Port.

Ultra-fit Petty Officer Christian Rumming, 39, assisted by a Royal Navy dive team led by Lt Ian Richardson, 43, will be underwater near the bow of the Carnival Splendor when he will hear a unique radio signal from Myleene Klass, playing live classical piano music on the ship’s top Lido deck. PO Rumming will let out some compressed air from his diving tanks and then personally climb, in wet suit, safety harness and flippers, a 60ft black marlin ascent rope to reach the Carnival Splendor’s name on the top of her bow.

PO Rumming will then break with tradition, for instead of French champagne, he will undertake Myleene’s command and smash against the hull a bottle of the highly acclaimed 1994 vintage Nyetimber English sparkling wine, chosen by Carnival to emphasise their selection of Britain to launch their largest and latest superliner.

Myleene Klass said, “Not only am I excited about launching my first-ever ship with the Carnival Splendor, but also I am so looking forward to working with the Royal Navy men who seem to be under my command – if only for a couple of minutes! I plan to give PO Chris Rumming the start signal by playing some classical music on Carnival Splendor’s baby grand piano.”

Lt Ian Richardson of the Royal Navy Fleet Diving Squadron said, “This has to be a rather unusual assignment for my men, who are trained in deep sea marine diving and underwater bomb and mine disposal to protect our fleet, but I am confident they can pull this off.”

Carnival Cruise Lines President and CEO Gerry Cahill said, “Myleene Klass and the Royal Navy are a unique combination, and we are very honoured that they are joining forces to successfully name the Carnival Splendor.”

Carnival Splendor offers a comprehensive selection of restaurants, show-stopping entertainment, four swimming pools, a 5,500 sq ft children’s play area and Carnival’s largest ever floating spa featuring a thalassotherapy pool, thermal suite and 17 treatment rooms.

Immediately after its Naming Ceremony, Carnival Splendor sets sail for a three day preview cruise to Amsterdam, returning to Dover on July 13, when it will depart on the same day for its official inaugural 12-day cruise to the Baltic countries, visiting Copenhagen; Warnemunde (for Berlin); Helsinki; St Petersburg; Tallinn and Amsterdam.

Your Friends
John and Heidi

PS the man in the rubber suit is not me…………I know it looks like me…………but its not..

Hi, I’m John, and this is my blog. So please don’t mistake my opinions — or those of my dear friends, fans or commenters — for those of Carnival Cruise Line or Carnival Corporation. My apologies in advance for anything I may say that upsets you, but this disclaimer covers Carnival and puts the blame directly on me………….. bugger.