A few weeks ago I got a nudge on fb that some of my old mates from the ‘70’s were gathering at
Ohakea/Bulls for ANZAC day.
The Air Force is/was a classic place for nicknames, to the point that one often didn’t know the real name of close friends and on more than one occasion, I recall turning up at home with mates and saying, “Hi mum, this is …..??...... TK!!” So I get this message, “Greek, there’s a bit of a Ohakea get together this coming ANZAC day in Bulls. It would be a good ride from where you are. Just saying.....” and that led on to, “Yep it’s Punjab !!! There’s about 20 or more of us gathering in Bulls for ANZAC day this year. I can give you some names, Pedro, Bob and Nuts, Cookie, Gerrie, Snow, Lee Parts, Taiters,” …and so on. “We will be settling in the day before then off to the Dawn parade next day, most of us are there for a day or two more. (Probably recovering) There is rumour of a tour on base and maybe a couple of quiet ones at the Sgts Mess It would be nice if you can turn up but no pressure. It’s a bit of an Ohakea reunion.”
I looked at the names and thought, “Bloody hell, could be dangerous, ….. I’m a bit busy but how could I not.”
I did 20 years service, ended up in Wellington, exited in 1993 and stayed here. Shelly Bay closed down a couple of years later and from that point I had very little contact with any of the old mates. In fact, I’ve only been back on two bases since then to attend an Avionics Reunion in Auckland about 20 years ago, then for the Ohakea Air Show in April 2012. I mean, I have caught up with mates from time to time, but just not that often.
So I figured I really should make the effort. A week ago I dropped the bike in for a service and was planning to take that, possibly even leaving early enough (0430’ish) to make the Dawn Parade, but as it transpired, I needed a new rear tyre (mumble f…. after only 6500km ….although that did include two fairly spirited 1600km rides). Anyway, Easter delayed the order, then shonky couriers that took three days to provide an overnight delivery meant that I didn’t have the bike and had to take the Merc.
The other problem I had was that I’d left the mobile on the counter at the bike shop and told them to put it in the top box (expecting to get it back the next day) so I never had it. Punjab had given me her number so I could contact her to find out where I needed to go once I got there and I wrote her number down on an old envelope (as you do) …..and I forgot to grab it with my stuff, so I get to Bulls about 0800, go to the RSA and find nobody there, go back to the car to get Ann’s mobile and the number ….and find out what an idiot I am!!
After a bit of faffing around (because I couldn’t ring Ann since I had her phone) I eventually get the number and get hold of the group to find they have just gone on base, so I make my way there.
I finally catch up with them and as I’m walking up to the group I comment, “Bloody hell, I came to meet up with my old mates, but all I see is their grandparents!!” to which a dry response comes back, “Go look in the mirror.”
The rest of the day was great. We watched a couple of relics and a few trainers take-off, went for a wee drive around base, had a couple of photo-ops, then settled down in the Sgts Mess to reminisce.
I’d run into Pedro on a TT2000 about 8-10 years ago, Fish when I was on a Uly ride about 13 years ago, Dawn around the time I got out (25 yrs) but the rest I hadn’t seen since before my eldest son was born, so that’s over 40 years. That’s a bit scary really.
The other very Kiwi thing is how small the country is. I asked Gerry where she was living and she said, Nelson and that she’d been working at the Alliance Works. I said, “One of my boys had been working there.” And quick as flash she replied, “Lance is your boy? I thought he looked a bit like you. …wait till I see him” she says. Then talking to Taiters, who has been living in Taumarunui and I mentioned how we had been stopping there to visit a couple of young boys with Muscular Dystrophy on our Uly MDA run. Turned out that she was good mates with their mum and that both boys were now deceased. Bloody sad to hear, but it’s so 2 degrees to be Kiwi.
I didn’t drink at all because I figured if I had one, who knows how I’d end up and I had to drive back to Wellington, so we finished the day (or at least my part) with a visit to the scrub under the Bulls Bridge, where, back in the day, we used to go for ‘bridge parties’, then headed back to their motel. Bridge parties used to involve drinking until closing at the ‘Baggies bar’ then cruising down to the river and lighting a bonfire under the bridge to continue partying until breakfast. On occasion, the fire has been known to get so big that the tar in the seal on the bridge was melting!! It wasn’t exactly approved behavior at the time but wouldn’t be PC nowadays and no doubt some minority group or other dickhead would be up in arms, but such was life in the ‘70’s! …but it wasn’t any worse than a group of officers at the time, dragging a piano down from their mess and throwing it off the bridge! …probably because it was out of tune. I think they called that high-spirits.
After chilling (literally) at the motel for a bit, I headed off at about 1730.
Many thanks for the nudge Eileen! ….sorry, …Punjab! What a great catchup.
This blog is pretty much just about motorcycling ...but every now and then I might rant or dribble on about other things.