HARD AS NAILS.....
To begin on a sad note. It`s about a year ago when a good friend of mine from our National Service days passed away rather suddenly. But, instead of dwelling on his untimely loss too deeply, I find myself remembering the good times we had together and our long lasting friendship which was forged in the two years of our compulsory military service, largely in the comparative backwater of Germany`s BFPO 16.
Now I have the utmost respect - admiration even - for those who make the armed forces their career of choice and so nothing I say here will in any way be critical of them. But the fact remains that, in those days of the call-up, conscripts like me and my departed friend were very different in out attitudes to life and to the concept of good order and military discipline.
But we learned early on that to survive in that environment, one had to become `hard.` Not just as a result of the training we endured, but also in the persona we tried to convey to our fellow inmates and especially towards those regular soldiers who we assumed were `hard` anyway. Somehow we had to compete. And there were ways of going about that.
One ploy I particularly recall was the ritual of the NAAFI break - a mid morning sojourn to the NAAFI canteen for a mid-morning snack. We thought this gave an opportunity for us to demonstrate our `hardness` and so, eschewing the more favoured cup of tea and sticky bun, we both plumped for a pint of Paderborner Export and a pork pie. This brought admiring glances in our direction along with the assumption that, therefore, we ourselves must be `hard.`
But there were other means of achieving that status, one of which, curiously, was through music. I suspect it`s still the case that the `harder` the music you go for, the `harder` you are perceived. It`s all nonsense, of course, but what other reason can there be for inflicting the likes of AC/DC, or The Running Sores on an unsuspecting world than to demonstrate `hardness` in the ear of the beholder? Anyway, back in the day, we trawled the airwaves for `hard` music and we went for songs that told `hard` stories like the `hard` western saga `El Paso` by Marty Robbins, which we played loud and long for all to hear and admire our `hardness.`. Here it is:-
It doesn`t sound very `hard` any more, but it did in those days, and like the friend I lost a year ago, it`s still fixed in my memory.