When we were in Belize there were these Americans making this movie, Dogs of War, I think it was called. Christopher Walken was in it, I remember that. Anyway, it was based somewhere in Africa but the political situation was too sensitive there or something and they filmed it in Belize instead, where all the foliage was more or less the same. The director, John Irvin, or someone like that came to our camp, wanting soldiers to act as extras.
Obviously, we all wanted to be in it and all lined up hoping to get a part as dead soldier #23 or limping soldier #37 or whatever. Cuddles and I were hoping for ‘soldier getting a blow job in background’. This guy Irvin was very disappointed with what he saw, said we didn’t look like soldiers, said we looked like a bunch of spotty teenagers. Sad fact is that that’s what most soldiers do look like, spotty teenagers. Our Sergeant Major did his nut. “What do you mean, they don’t look like proper soldiers, you fucking homo?!” he ranted, “Have you any idea how many battles these men have been in?” Irvin was unimpressed, he wanted gnarled looking 40 somethings, not spotty teenagers.
Afterwards Cuddles and I chatted up some of the production assistants and Cuddles landed us auditions in a low budget porn movie, “Nymphoid Barbarians in Dinosaur Hell III”. I was reluctant, “I don’t have a big enough dick.” I argued but he said that it didn’t matter, as long as I could maintain wood. Now, that was one thing I could do, so I went along with it. The auditions went like this:
I stood there, naked and erect, in front of a group of strangers, they all laughed and pointed and told me they’d let me know. Cuddle’s audition went a little better, they were impressed with what they saw and it only went bad when they suggested that he performed a gay scene. Needless to say, some noses got broken and we were lucky that we were on good terms with the local chief of police.
Cuddles and I went back to soldiering, back to what we knew and what we were good at. We never became porn stars, we never should have. He would whip it out, nevertheless, on occasion.”See that?” he’d challenge everyone, “I could have been fuckin’ famous for that!” He was right too, he could.
Cuddles could make himself come, just by thinking about it. It was his party trick, well one of them. He’d whip it out, put his hands on his head and close his eyes. Then after about two or three minutes, he’d ejaculate. I was really quite impressive but he wasn’t always very appropriate with it and we got kicked out of several restaurants, two children’s playgrounds and a zoo.
I asked him once what it was he thought about when he did it. “You, you ugly cunt.” he said.
Not the sort of man
One night we were all in a pub, in some shit-hole little burg in Germany somewhere, when this furious looking woman walked in and started punching Cuddles about the head and chest. She was only small but she was livid and was hitting him with all her might and, although she wasn’t hurting him seriously, you could see him wincing. Cuddles though, was not the sort of man to lay hands on a woman; he’d break your jaw if you spilled his pint, but he wouldn’t hit a woman.
“You know this is giving me a hard-on?” he said, she carried on hitting him.
“Wusstest du, dass du gibst ihm eine erektion?” I translated and she froze, her fists in mid-punch and looked a me, then at Cuddles, indignation, as well as fury, now etched on her face. You could see just how much she wanted to hurt him, her bunched up fists shook with it but she certainly wasn’t there to give him his jollys. She screamed something at him, spat in his face and stormed off.
The look on his face when we all stared quizzicaly at him told us that We would never find out what Cuddles had done to piss her off so.
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The first night we went out in Belize City we got mugged. They were like lightning – knives at our throats, hands in our pockets and jackets, and gone, as fast as they had appeared. We didn’t even get a look at them. Cuddles was furious and beat up some little guy selling dog burgers in the gutter for not speaking english.
The police sergeant roared with laughter when we reported it, it was the funniest thing he’d ever heard. “Sorry.” he kept saying. He called his mates out from the back room where they were playing cards. “Hey come and listen to this.”
“Sorry,” he said to us again, “but please tell my friends where you had your cameras.” We told him “Round their necks!” he shrieked and the whole place erupted in laughter. One guy had to support himself against the door frame, he was laughing so hard. “Sorry, sorry,” he said again, “but tell my friends where you had your wallets.”
“In our pockets.” I said reluctantly, knowing what response this would get.”
“In their pockets!” he screamed, tears pouring down his chubby face.
Cuddles cussed all the way back to camp.
Lance Corporal Mew
I only got promoted once in the army, it was from private to lance corporal. It meant having one stripe on your arm, instead of none. It was pretty much the same as having none. I was a lance corporal for three weeks.
The guard room at the camp by the airport was not very secure. Most of the time the soldiers that got locked up in it were only there for a few days and, even if they had wanted to escape, there was nowhere to escape to, we were 5,000 miles from home in a country that was often less than hospitable to its ex-colonists. The guard room at that camp was very easy to escape from.
Days after I got promoted to lance jack, two guys did actually run off, and I was given the task of hunting them down. It was a golden opportunity. I rounded up my best mates and we signed out a jeep. The plan was not to look for the runaways at all but to head for Acapulco, smoke some of the finest weed man has ever wrapped his lungs around and laze around on the beach gawping at bikini clad beauties for a couple of weeks.
Once we crossed the Mexican border, we changed into our civvies and bribed the local police sergeant into locking up our weapons for us and told him we’d be back in a couple of weeks. All I had to do was radio in once a day and make up some bullshit about how the prisoners had been sighted headed for the west coast or whatever. It was a flawless plan, nothing could possibly go wrong.
On day three, we stopped off at this little town, called Puerco Asentaderas or something, where this little old lady sold us some peyote cactus. She offered to chew it up and spit it out for us, but we thought that was gross and just necked the things as they were. After about twenty minutes we started throwing up, and I mean really throwing up, it was like a scene from the Exorcist, we thought we were going to die. Cuddles wanted to go back and slit her throat and chuck her in a bush. I wasn’t sure about that, but I certainly wanted to have a word with her. We hadn’t realized that pre-digested cactus meant you could take peyote without all the vomiting.
Before we could find her though, we started to trip, and I mean really trip, that stuff was amazing. I could see sounds and hear colors. I spent two hours staring at a plank of wood, while Cuddles had this in depth discussion with a stray dog he’d picked up. I remember him looking up at me and grinning, “This dog’s a fucking genius man!”
Later when we were sat naked in this puddle getting a goat drunk on the local brew, the two runaways walked up to us and turned themselves in.
I never got promoted again.
Sally the knife
When I was in the army I acquired the nickname ‘Grotty.’ Here is how I got it:
Most of the battalion never went out, when we were posted in Belize. There we were, in an amazing tropical country where everything was completely different from anything we’d ever seen before, and out of 600 men, there were about ten of us that went out, met people, did things and got to know the country we had to live in for six months. The rest of the guys spent their nights in the NAAFI drinking cans of Tennents and watching video tapes of football and Coronation Street. I joined the army to travel and have adventures, not to watch soaps.
I made friends with some of the local street walkers. We had a sweet deal going on, it went like this: health services tend to suck in poor countries like Belize and these girls struggled to get their hands on decent condoms, the local brand, Jizzies or something, having a strong tendency to split. What these ladies could get hold of though, was good amounts of the mind-blowing local weed, and what I could get hold of was plenty of thick, strong condoms.
The army doesn’t like their soldiers getting STDs because it affects their combat readiness, so condoms were always available from the guard room for any of the troops that were planning on getting some on a night out. The first time I asked for some, it was funny; the corporal in the guard room had his head down in an overused copy of Playboy. He didn’t look up when I asked, “Can I get some johnnies Corporal?”
“Sure, how many?”
“Oh fuck off you clown! Why don’t you-” he began, and then he looked up “Oh, it’s you Mew. I thought someone was being serious for a minute.”
“I am serious Corporal, I need thirty johnnies.”
“What the fuck for?”
“We’re holding a balloon party down by the harbour.” I said sarcastically, ” What do you think I want them for?”
“So you’re gonna go fuck thirty whores?”
“I was thinking of maybe fucking some of them more than once, so it might not be as many as thirty.”
“You are one grotty cunt, Mew. First it’s all them hippies back in Aldershot and now this! Here you go, you grotty mother fucker,” he said as he handed me the box so’s I could help myself, “Now fuck off out of here, Grotty.
The name stuck.
Cuddles and I had it all sorted. The gear would get dropped off at Sally-the-Knife’s, who was just down the road, and Cuddles would drive it through in a Bedford. He knew a million places where you could conceal all kinds of shit on a truck like that. We sold shitloads to the other guys on camp and we both came home with more money than we’d set out with. Cuddles never smoked weed or fucked prostitutes. He did fuck a colonel’s daughter once, but that’s another story.
No one ever knew why Sally was called The Knife, except me. She told me one night, but she swore me to secrecy, so sorry but I can’t share that with you.
People sometimes ask me if I’ve ever been with a prostitute. I never know what to say. Does it count if you didn’t pay?
Little brass raindrops
“I’m hit mate.” Cuddles says, and I look round. He’s grinning, there’s a hole in his thigh that you could fit your thumb in. I gesture to the signaller, but he’s already on it. Chalky saw the muzzle flash and we send a blizzard of 7.62 millimetre rounds through the open window. Glass, wood and masonry fly. The tinkling sound the empty shell casings make as they bounce around our feet is actually quite pretty, like little brass raindrops. Passers by cower in doorways screaming. Cuddles tourniquets himself and joins in, still grinning at me. “I got fucking hit mate.” he laughs. Three men die and Cuddles gets a medal and a week off.
You got to have rules
There were rules. One of them was that before you kicked someone’s door down you had to knock and say “It’s the British army, we’ve come to search your house.” We had to do that three times before we kicked the door in.
We rolled up outside, as quietly as we could, tapped as lightly as is possible on his door, whispered “Its the British army, we’ve come to search your house.” as softly as you can imagine. Three times. We had to stifle our giggles. We took the door off its hinges with a baton round and stormed up the stairs.
He slept with a nine millimetre Browning under his pillow, his finger on the trigger. We startled him so much that his finger slipped and he shot his wife in the face. She made this horrendous gurgling sound and I was almost sick. I couldn’t believe that anyone could be alive with that much of their head missing. He was in shock and Cuddles had to bash him round the head with his rifle butt to get him to listen to us. We tried to get him to open the safe but he was too shaken, we had to take it back to the barracks and blow it open. It was full of drugs and explosives and detonators and money. He got 25 years. His wife died before we could get her to hospital. Her name was Caroline. I don’t remember what his name was.
In Northern Ireland you never asked someone what religion they were, whether they were Catholic or Protestant, it was just rude. You asked people what football team they supported and if it was Rangers, you knew they were Protestant, if it was Celtic you knew they were Catholic. If it was Liverpool or Man U, you knew you were being told to fuck off and to stop asking personal questions.
We called it ‘the troubles’. We never called it a civil war but that is what it was.
We used to pass this sweet, little old lady’s house every time we went on patrol. It was a corner terrace. She had a Rangers flag in the window. “God bless you lads.” she would say from her doorstep. It was good to meet people who liked having us there, good not to be spat at and called names, good not to have things thrown at us.
One day we were locked down by a fire-fight further down the road, and I was crouched in her doorway in the rain, waiting for the ‘all clear’ “Would you like a sandwich dear?” she asked me.
“Thank you Ma’am,” I said, “that would be lovely. We may be here for some time.” The rain soaked through me, through my combats, through my soul, I hated Belfast. The sandwich was thick and bulging and the smell of ripe cheddar and pickle warmed me.
My corporal came screaming across the road and bashed it from my hand, just as I was about to take a bite, called me a fucking idiot and bitch slapped me. I watched the sandwich land in a puddle and spill open, watched the little blue pellets of rat poison roll from it into the gutter.
There were these big blue butterflies in the jungle, as big as your head. My mate Cuddles would try to shoot them, but you can’t shoot butterflies, its the air pressure the round creates, it just sends them into a spin. Cuddles used to wonder if you could take one out with a grenade but that seemed like overkill to me, to grenade a butterfly.
The corporal was pissed with me because I hadn’t taken a dump that morning and said if I stopped now then I would just have to catch up with them. I hated shitting in the jungle, the smell would attract all kinds of creepy crawlies, scorpions and big hairy spiders and the like. I felt vulnerable squatting with my pants down, afraid of getting my butt or nuts bitten. I jogged to catch up with them and realised I was lost when the trail faded out. It is not smart to get lost in the jungle, and I was relived to hear the gunfire, I assumed it was Cuddles having another pop at a butterfly, I didn’t realise that they were under attack.
You can stand very close to someone in the jungle and not be seen, and I was only a few feet from him. I could make out the shouts of the boys off to my left, in between the bursts of his automatic. He couldn’t see them and was firing wildly, spraying rounds in their general direction. If he had turned his head to the left he would have seen me.
I fired three rounds into his arm and chest. Those ArmaLites were puny, we used them because they could handle the high humidity, his body barely rocked. He stopped firing and looked down at his boots, puzzled by the blood dripping onto them and then he collapsed.
His name was Paulo. He was 17. In one of his pockets was a picture of his sweetheart, she was absolutely gorgeous. Cuddles wanted the picture to jack off to. I told him he was sick but it didn’t stop him.