Not the average birthday blog......
It's four-o-clock in the morning and, as is often the case when I'm troubled by a trapped nerve, I can't sleep. Fortunately, since retiring (from work - not to bed), I don't need to worry so much about the side-effects (i.e. preventing me from driving); so, I've taken a couple of strong pain-killers.
More often than not, these have a 'knock-out' effect and I doze off quite quickly. Tonight/this morning, however, for a variety of reasons which, although disparate, do have a common thread, my mind seems to be hyper-active and I'm being taken back exactly fifty-two years. So, I might as well share the experience with you.
The common thread, by the way, is that it's my birthday and the significance of fifty-two years ago is that it was on this very date that the last bomb was exploded during the UK's nuclear testing programme at Christmas Island. Although it wasn't the largest in the series (here's a video of that one) the fact that it occurred on my birthday has ensured that, along with the largest one, of the five I witnessed, this one is etched quite firmly in my memory.
Interestingly, another reason my mind seems to be taken back to those times (and here's where the disparate aspect of this trip down memory lane comes into effect) is that a few days before that particular detonation, our DUKW unit had visited another island in the south Pacific and, as usual, when visiting neighbouring islands, we travelled on board HMS Narvik.
As this photo demonstrates, the Narvik is an LST (Landing Ship Tank) and the significance of that from the point of view of this story is that she is flat-bottomed. As a consequence, when we encountered rough weather - south Pacific storms can be really rough, by the way, and waves in excess of twenty feet high were quite common - the absence of a keel meant that she could be tossed about quite a bit.
Now - and I hope you're keeping up with all this disparate stuff - another factor which might be exercising my mind is that, over the past couple of weeks, I've had some dental work done and the last treatment was yesterday. Coincidentally (pun not intended) at the height of a particularly violent storm during the aforementioned voyage, I had a raging toothache and, in order to establish a firm base, the Royal Navy medical officer strapped me into a chair which he had strapped to a pillar. Having done that, he strapped himself to the same pillar - thus ensuring that we were all moving in 'unison' whilst, with one arm on either side of the pillar, he carried out the extraction procedure.
It is said that crucial moments in one's life flash through the brain as your time runs out. So, I wouldn't be surprised, when my time arrives, if that voyage and seeing the outline of the bones in my hands as they were pressed into my eye-sockets whilst the nuclear bomb exploded will probably feature quite strongly. I'm not ready for that day yet, however, and hopefully writing this little tale might have tired me enough to contemplate sleep again.