Life on Mars – Long night of waiting

Almost half the people had gone and the makeup of those who were left was much more civilian biased.  Edsel and I decided we were hungry so headed to the hotel’s restaurant.  I say restaurant, but in fact it was like an army canteen run by the NAAFI – the Navy Army and Air Force Institutes.  To me the NAAFI were an anachronism I remember from old post war black and white British films.  But here it was brought right up to date.  To me, the food was edible but nothing to fuss about; sausages, steak and kidney pie, heaps of chips and baked beans.  For Edsel he was not used to this kind of filler cuisine, and since he had chosen years ago not to eat any pig products there was not that much left on the menu.  I poured myself a glass of orange juice that turned out to be the sort of weak cordial that I remember from school dinners – tasting more of chemicals than fruit.

That nightmare out the way we returned to the TV.  It was here I got my next induction into military ways.  I had thought I had been watching ITV – the UK’s old commercial channel – where X-Factor came from, but now they were watching something on BBC1…. and the channel was the same.  In fact there were only two channels on this TV.  BFBS 1 and BFBS2.  The British Forces Broadcasting Service pump amalgams of various programmes from various broadcasters on these two channels, with the occasional self made programme such as their forces news.  It was like I had moved in to a parallel world, where elements of my old one existed but in a new form.

We were given an update on our flight early in the evening.  The plane would leave Luxembourg at first light and be at Brize Norton at around 6am.  We should expect to be called at 5am to head to the terminal.  Given this news Edsel and I retired early.  Although we had been vegetating around the hotel for most of the afternoon, the uncertainty of what was to occur had exhausted us.  But I found it difficult to get rest – there were still planes coming in and out of Brize, the noise from the lobby rose into our room and my mind was still whirring about when we might or might not get off and what impact that was having on our proposed work programme on Ascension Island itself.

I must have eventually nodded off because the next thing I remember was a screech from the old speaker above our heads and a brusque female voice telling us that those on the Airbridge flight to the Falklands should be assembled in fifteen minutes at the front of the hotel to board the buses.  From a supine groggy start this was a demanding timetable, but really we both just had to have  a quick shower and brush our teeth and pack the few things we had in our carryon bags and we could leave.  There was no time to use our breakfast vouchers – the NAAFI did not open for another hour fortunately.

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