I can still hear Sergeant C screaming like a rutting stag across the darkening Devon skies, his mustache twitching furiously: “That was Fred Karno’s army. That was The Retreat from Moscow. Hoist it in. Sort it out. Perfect Preparation, Gentlemen, Prevents Poor Performance. Front-support positions place. Arms bend. Arms stretch. Too slow. Round the bushy topped tree and back to me.”
For the benefit of readers, I have redacted at least a dozen four-letter words of encouragement that littered the good Sergeant’s bellowed observations following a failure of Young Officer Batch May 1997.
Learning about Fred Karno, the Retreat from Moscow and mixed metaphors was all part of the rich tapestry of commando training – lessons that drift lazily into my head now and then. The Six Ps – or possibly seven if you include CA ‘prior’, ‘proper’ or a four-letter colloquialism meaning urine – are one of the more useful of these lessons; they will be familiar to most serving and retired military personnel and despite the equally well-used contradictory saying ‘Plan early, plan twice’, they remain something I find myself remembering on a regular basis.
It was in the spirit of perfect preparation, preventing particularly poor performance, that I set out recently with one-year-old Scout to introduce her to the joys of retrieving in tidal creeks. Tess, my 13-year-old lab, has had her last serious season on the foreshore. This year she will make way for the dark yellow pretender who chews on her ears and irritates her as a kennel mate.
Scout is coming on well in her training. My daughter, Elizabeth, and I have introduced her to gunshot with no ill effects and she is now willing to deliver even a dummy wrapped in rabbit fur –something she used to sprint off with and refuse to return. It was a glorious summer’s day as we bumped down the shore lane and parked on the edge of the saltings. Clouds billowed benignly across a deep blue sky. A distant fisherman cast languidly for sea bass into a rising tide.
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August 05, 2020