Agnostic Brussels Sprouts

April 7, 2012

When a soldier was Confined to Barracks it not only meant the obvious i.e. grounded with all privileges withdrawn, it meant that in addition to the day’s normal military training he had to report for Orderly Officer’s inspection at Reveille and at Last Post (sundown) in Full Service Marching Order (FSMO) and highly bulled (spit polished ) boots.

 On weekdays, immediately after the early evening meal, he would work and perform “fatigues” in the cookhouse (kitchens) or perform “exterior economy” i.e. outside maintenance such as grass cutting, road sweeping etc. Fifteen minutes before he was to present himself he would be released from work to wash, change into full service dress uniform, put on all his webbing equipment, and report to the guardroom for nightly inspection.

 At weekends, it meant two full days of extra fatigues.

 On my spell of “jankers” I had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with “Scouse” Martin and sharing his company. (Scouse died a few weeks ago but has been a lifelong friend.  I’ll relive some of our escapades together with you vide the medium of this blog in the near future.)  He had fallen foul of the system for repeatedly failing to wear his Army issue spectacles. He was harmlessly vain, as we all were, at that age. Looking back on it, those who ruled our lives then could be real petty arseholes.

 On that particular Sunday, Scouse and I were detailed to work for the Cook Sergeant, while the rest of the unit was at Church. After scrubbing and scouring the food containers, with virtually no hot water I recall, and very little cleaning detergent, we were assigned to peel potatoes with two of the permanent cookhouse staff. After about an hour, the Cook Sergeant re-assigned us and gave us instructions to peel and prepare a vat load of Brussels sprouts.

 I recall he said,

” Remove the outer withered leaves, make a cross on the base and throw them in the cold water in this ‘ere cookin’ pot.”  I remember we thought that was straightforward enough and set to on the sprouts. When we were about two thirds of the way through the task, Scouse who was a Catholic, said to me, a Scottish Presbyterian,

“Why do you think we have to make the sign of the Cross on these sprouts?”

I shrugged and guessed it was some sort of religious process, together with a baptism of the cold water or a form of blessing known only to the High Priests of Army Catering. After all, it was Sunday.

 We carried blithely on. (This is a split infinitive unlike, as we were to learn, our sprouts.)

 The Sergeant returned, scooped a handful of the little green spheres from the container, eyeballed them, then snarled, “I thought I told you two morons to cut a cross into the base of each sprout so that it will cook more easily?”

 You’ve guessed that we had to process the whole batch all over again but what you probably wouldn’t expect was that when we were reported by the Sergeant for being “lazy” we drew another seven days apiece.




One Response to “Agnostic Brussels Sprouts”

  1. I knew it would be worth waiting for, but thanks so much for indulging us!
    My god, they were humourless bastards. No wonder young soldiers (and in some cases…even older ones, am I right?) are addicted to practical jokes, to right the balance.

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