Monday, 5 May 2014

Thanks to Patsy


Yesterday's comments about Ab Fab and Patsy put me in mind of Ghurkas - the little, brown, smiling men who would have your head off as soon as look at you, or so their fearsome reputation has it.

For years, Ghurkas have been exotic, rare creatures to me, only occasionally spotted running in front of my car through the narrow, leafy lanes near Colerne in full gear, with a British officer in front - "Single-file please, gentlemen!" - but now I am in regular contact with a whole platoon of them, albeit retired ones.

Well, I say 'retired', but they are only retired from the British Army and - thanks to Patsy - on a decent and well-deserved pension, supplemented by other work in civvy-street if they haven't returned to Nepal. The fact that my spell-checker has never heard of them shows how exotic they used to be.

One of my highly security-conscious clients employs a large force of retired special-forces personnel, and about 90% of them are Ghurkas. They have substituted military green for police-force black, and ride around the estate in shiny, new Land Rovers when not monitoring a huge bank of CCTV cameras in their office.

I arrive at one gate, wind down the window of my car, stare into a small camera and press a button. Soon, a Nepalese voice comes through the little speaker. "Hello, security. How may I help you?" They know who I am, but a sense of duty compels them to ask anyway. I state my business.

"Ok. Coming in."  They have heard their British comrades say, 'come on in', and cannot be bothered to correct their own interpretation of it. They speak to each other in a mixture of Nepalese and English, so it is almost possible to understand what they are saying. The other day, I found two of them discussing the relative merits of washing-machines for sale on the net as I was signing the visitors book.

As I check the time when signing in, a Ghurka who I have not met before will take one look at my CWC watch and say, "Ah! Army watch!" They have all - one by one - noticed it. They are very observant.

They drive new, small cars of the sort which used to be tax-exempt for the British forces overseas, and their dashboards are decorated with vividly-cloured, plastic shrines or great bunches of fake flowers which probably smell of nothing. Their British counterparts give themselves away only by the 'Help The Heroes' stickers on the rear windows.

Their head of security is British born, and they are obviously used to taking orders from 'white' commanders, though still maintain the sense of dignity which they obviously had right the way through their military careers. Thanks to Patsy, they can keep up the sense of pride now as well.

I was in their office one day, when a large consignment of blue, latex gloves arrived, and everyone wondered what they were to be used for, and why they were ever ordered in the first place.

One of the Ghurkas put one on, then made an obscene, up and down hand movement with it - a 'Farage Wave'. Everyone laughed.

I'm glad I'm on their side.

13 comments:

  1. I'm sure I've mentioned that Lady Magnon should have been born in Kathmandu (before actually being born in Woking. She could have been the first female Ghurka.

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    1. Yes, I think I mentioned that Woking was the town of my first infant school - I could have been born in Kathmandu, though.

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  2. I have never heard of them before - and I must admit I cannot stop thinking about pickles.

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    1. They have been the first people we have sent into hand-to-hand fighting for a long time now, and every family in the tribal mountains of Nepal have usually sent at least one boy into the regiment.

      Never ask one to show you his Kukri - that curved knife - because they have taken a vow never to draw it from the sheath without drawing blood with it. This means that they have to cut themselves with it before putting it back - unless they decide to draw some from you instead.

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  3. I used to have a kukri but I sold it to a lesbian for 25 bucks.
    You know, I reckon this post timed well while Hippo is in transit.

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    1. Sold a kukri to a lesbian - are you mad? I didn't know Hippo was in transit. Is he repatriating himself, or has he just gone to find those missing 200 schoolgirls in Nigeria? Best send lesbians, I reckon.

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  4. They are an everyday sight here Tom as we live within a mile of Catterick Garrison - they are lovely people - many have elderly parents living here too. Another good side effect is that they are catered for in Tesco, in Take Aways and in other food shops, giving us an interesting variety of food.

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    1. Yes, Ghurka Nepalese curries are quite interesting. I have eaten a few, but I don't think they were up to proper standards.

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  5. You working for Prince Charles or someone? Must be some fucking important person to have a regiment of Ghurkas guarding the place, retired or not.

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    1. I would have to get a Ghurka to kill you if I told you, Rachel.

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    2. P says he would like to talk to you about it some time.

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