Smoko

We used to exercise about once a year. Now I don't mean a session of P.T., I mean an event where a bunch would go to a caving area and put into practice rescue techniques in an actual cave. The people involved were from two groups. There were the cavers, of course, and members of the Police search and rescue squad. We would spend all day crawling, climbing in a suitable hole in the rock, hauling gear and bodies and getting darn cold and very thirsty. The best cure for thirst is, would you believe, beer. Some might argue, but with this mob, the evening was devoted to relieving dehydration at the local hostelry. So after a feed at the camp we would all head for the pub. The Police had a small bus whose driver was a non-drinker and prepared to cart us to the watering hole and pick us up a few hours later. I never did find out what he did in the intervening hours.

Normally the party congregate in the lounge bar, and the locals would normally stay in the front bar. The bars were arranged so that one could see from one drinking area into the other, and the antics of the cops and cavers provided the evening entertainment for the locals. Dress was generally the immensely popular New Zealand wool shirt but the cops tended to wear blue in while the cavers wore every other colour. The other difference was the cops tended to be about a foot taller than the average caver. There were the usual games played and some novel ones. The fireplace had a brick face up to the ceiling, and there were small corners of the bricks emerging at one corner. These provided miniscule finger and toe holds. The challenge was to climb this obstacle and touch the ceiling with your head. Few did, many fell, but nobody seemed to get injured. One time my prized bush hat got "stolen". One young constable put his training to work and interviewed me and every member of the groups, taking copious notes and reporting progress. And the beer flowed, and the locals watched.

One time a couple of the cavers put on an act. The left the lounge and went to the front bar. They evidently wanted to have a quiet chat and smoke. This was in the days when you could smoke in the bar:-, in fact it was almost a requirement. These two blokes were both bearded and long haired. Hippy types. They fronted the bar, ordered a couple of beers and one started to roll a fag. Now this was very common practice and normally nobody would have taken much notice. What was a bit different was the size of the fag. It was fat. Not one of the skinny little efforts, the normal roll-your-own the thickness of a pencil. No, this was like your thumb. The paper barely reached. A triumph of the smoking art! A couple of the locals were a bit suspicious and eased down the bar away from the pair. The monster was lit and the maker took a drag, held it and then slowly exhaled. Then came the cruncher. He passed it to his mate who repeated the process. All the locals retreated to the far end of the bar. Without being too obvious, a few of the cavers and coppers were observing the antics of the "hippies" and the reactions of the locals. The word spread and with no diminishing of the noise in the lounge, the boys moved back and forth, taking turns to grab a view of the front bar. You could see the locals anxiously glancing from the "hippies" to the partying cops, and exchanging whispered comments like "Don't the daft buggers know the place is stiff with cops?" The playlet went on for about ten minutes until one of the police leaned across and called to the pair of puffers. "You two finished playing silly sods? Your turn to try the chimney". They rose, extinguished the "joint", and strolled out of the bar, nodding to the locals while a bunch of us stood grinning in full view. One by one the locals woke up to the joke. You could almost hear them saying "Sucked in" and "Smart bastards!"

Frank Brown©