Friday, 6 November 2009

Major Changes

There have been several major changes since my last post, the first of these being that I am indeed a Major (can you see what I've done there?!) However, it was a bit of double-edged sword, as the day I was given my crowns was the same day that it looked as if the Squadron would be dormant for months.

There had been some talk for a while that the Government would need to save money, what with recession and their expenses claims, and one of the strategies that they had decided upon was to reduce training for the Territorial Army. I knew that some units were already doing unpaid training, but then the decision was made that all training would stop until April next year.

And where were we when we found out about this? On a weekend training exercise.

Initially, it had seemed that we would be unaffected, but then the axe fell on all TA Units, so I had to write to all members of the Squadron with the bad news.

It was not well received by the troops, but they understood the reasoning behind the decision, and many that were already booked onto courses said that they were willing to attend without pay.

It also meant that the Sergeant Major and I attended the launch of the Poppy Appeal without pay, although I don't think that either of us have ever claimed for the time for such an important event. The SSM was also being given one of the first poppies.

So, having written to everyone about the fact that there was no training, things changed rapidly within a week. First of all was the fact that the Government had relented a little, and decided for the sake of retention that one drill night would be paid.

I drafted another letter, but fortunately didn't send it, because within 24 hours, there had been a complete U-turn and all training was reinstated. Sadly, it was too late for some courses, but not for all.

Unfortunately, it wasn't all good news, as one of the Warrant Officers (the one with the simulated gunshot wound to the head in the last post) died suddenly last week. It is thought that he had a massive heart attack at home and as far as I was able to establish when myself and the SSM visited his widow the following day, he didn't even get as far as hospital. It came as a shock to most people as he was only 53. So my first order of business when the Squadron met again on Wednesday was ensuring that everyone knew, although we still hadn't heard anything at that point about funeral arrangements.

From a home point of view there has also been a major change, when my ex-wife telephoned me, the first time that she had actually spoken to me in about four years. But, like the harbinger of doom that she is, it wasn't good news.

It appears that Alec, my eldest, is not having as good a time as I thought in Guyana. In fact, he has been having a very miserable time and not getting on at all with the two people that he is living with in St Cuthbert's Mission. As a result of this, he has decided that he is returning home.

I telephoned him the day after the call from his mother and talked to him about the consequences of coming home after only nine weeks, but he was adamant, although he did talk about going to one of the other areas, either in Africa or Asia.

The fact that this was the first that I'd heard about all this, and the fact that it had apparently been going on for some time, far from impressed me. Particularly as I had made sure that the Desk Officer for Guyana at the charity had all my contact details.

When I spoke to him the following week, I was to discover why. He had been informed by my ex-wife that she would keep me informed about everything that was happening. I put him straight, and he's kept me informed since.

Alec leaves Guyana to fly back to the UK on Remembrance Sunday, arriving on the Monday, and then it’s a case of debriefing in Coll and hopefully, for him, flying out to the new location very soon after getting back to the UK.

At the same time that Alec is flying back, I will be in Maidstone taking part in the Remembrance Parade. But between now and then is my first mess dinner as OC. I wonder if I'll still fit in my mess kit...........

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