March 21st 2021
The Army was out in force. The heavy trucks stormed past us, coming over the pass in convoy with their lights on, and camouflage netting draped over the sinister equipment in the back. The situation looked serious.
We’d gone up to Wensleydale for the day (when? You’re all right, I’m still waiting for my visa to North Yorkshire, just like the rest of you. I’m talking B.C. – before coronavirus. This is all in my head, which is about the only place you can travel these days. Where was I?…) Yes, the situation looked serious.
The wagons roared on down into the village, into an ominous silence. Up here, curlews called unconcerned – though in the distance something that could have been thunder rolled.
We caught up with them at Hardraw, parked outside the teashop, the warriors all perched on a wall eating ice-cream cornets. They looked about twelve. A couple of them waved as we went by. It looked as if war had been postponed in favour of more important things, which seemed pretty sensible to me.
It was nice to hear that the army’s contributing further to this more comfortable state of affairs by ensuring that they no longer run over the nests of curlews that set up home on M.O.D. land. It’s a skill worth practising. They’ve put up little luminous cages around the nests so you can’t miss them – or rather, so that you can. In the thick of make-believe warfare on military ranges, as they hurtle towards their foes, tanks now dodge around clutches of endangered eggs in their protected nests.
That’s what I call a defence force.
The R.A.F is in on it, too – we’d noticed that they call off aerial bombardments over weekends and bank holidays up the Dales. The low-flying fighters that whip past at ground-level and almost the speed of sound (presumably practising picking up sheep over enemy territory) don’t go out to play when the coaches are about.
And I suppose it would be a bit difficult to nip in for an ice-lolly in a Harrier jump-jet.
The Navy’s contribution to a more peaceful world seems to be yelling “BANG!” instead of using bullets when they’re out practising, according to something on the radio a while back. Slanderously explained away as merely a method of saving money, naval recruits have been told that in weapons training they should do this every time they pull the trigger, instead of wasting hot lead. It’s a method which should at once be taken up by armed services globally – and not only when they’re practising.
I’m awaiting confirmation that the RAF is to train pilots in a similar fashion by having them sit in the plane firmly parked on the tarmac, whilst twiddling the controls and going “VROOM!”
It’d scare less sheep.
As we pottered on from Hardraw, the sheep were all safely grazing, and somewhere up over the moors a curlew was turning a victory roll. Nobody yelled “BANG!” and even the grouse were relaxed. It was really peaceful, and it looked like peace was going to be preserved.
On the whole, armies parked in beauty spots eating ice-cream are better occupied than most.