Changing the tone abruptly, my old memory bank has been jogged (uncomfortably) ! My last odd anecdote about knocking the main front lamp in church as I handed back flags to standard bearers has reminded me of my years in the Boys Brigade aged 11 to 16. I enjoyed playing the bugle immensely and belonging to the band took us not only on regular church parades through the streets of Gloucester, but also brightened up town processions and fetes in the area.
However, there was much to distract as you paraded through the crowds. On one memorable occasion, I think somewhere in the Forest of Dean, we led a procession and I was given the task of marching at the front of the buglers to give them notice of impending action by throwing my bugle aloft in my right hand before pressing it to my lips. This clear signal was intended to bring all the buglers simultaneously into crisp united rhythm with the drums. Readers will anticipate what happened! Distracted along the way I realized too late that our big entry was upon us. In movement so swift that no one could possibly follow, I ended up with a mournful solo squeak before the ragged ranks eventually caught on. The bandmaster sighed deeply.
In spite of this I was later promoted as Lance-Corporal and was sent on a training course. One exercise involved learning how to drill the company...'.by the left, quick march', etc! New officers had to take turns. I remember the hall was large with a well polished floor. I guess 40 or 50 fellow officers formed the ranks. It had been carefully explained that as they marched down the hall we needed to give adequate time to command 'About Turn'. This seemed so obvious for ranks to be able to turn and march back in orderly fashion. Whether it was the legacy of my bugling faux pas I am not sure, but I regret to say that I left it far too late. In panic, I shouted just as the first rank was trying to avoid the wall giving the second rank little other option then to slide into them. Total disorder followed with about a quarter of the lads on the floor. The commanding officer sighed very deeply.
I think moments like these have helped hone (!) my leadership skills - certainly the ability to cope with public embarrassment.