A week has gone by now since I had to face the final day of an amazing career. I had very mixed feelings about the whole day because it was also my leaving do. The day finally arrived and I greeted it with much trepidation. I was so very anxious about what the day would bring, especially as I would be visiting the final RAF base I had the pleasure of working on. It wasn’t just any base, it was RAFC Cranwell, the place I aspired to serve at throughout the whole of my career. The proudest moment, reaching my goal, marching off the parade square as an RAF Officer. Then I had the pleasure of developing other cadets into finally reaching their ultimate goal.
There I was driving to RAFC Cranwell, nervous excitement running through my whole body. The closer I was to my destination the more aware I became of the sound of my heart beat, the feel of it trying to punch it’s way through cartilage, through skin and splat, onto the windscreen. I know that might sound pathetic to some people but it’s exactly how I felt at the time. If you can, remember back to a time when you had to do something that put an instant feel of dread, combined with elation and various other emotions. Letting go of something that holds so many memories, good and bad combined, is such a difficult thing to do. I guess you could relate it to a loss of a long term relationship. For over 20 years that person has been your main focus for everything. Having to consider the person when making plans, enjoying the person….. you get my point. The loss is a huge wrench regardless of the reason.
So, I’m on the A17 reaching Cranwell and I see the regular sight of aircraft coming into land. I remember giving a little smile before realisation hit. I drove past Beckingham Ranges where we used to take the cadets on exercise. Turning off the A17, slowly winding my way down, looking at the field on the left where the saddle club sometimes left their horses. Taking a right bend, driving past Whittle Hall staring at the windows to C Sqn, my squadron whilst going through officer training. Then the most beautiful building going past my left hand side, standing proud behind it’s iron gates. College Hall Officers Mess, an absolutely amazing building stretching out across the parade square. One of my proudest moments was marching up those steps on my graduation, where many great people have gone before me. I was suddenly aware of a lump in my throat and my eyes started to well up.
I needed to make a quick visit to the SPAR shop for some stockings as I had caught mine on my case! I noticed how clean it looked, like it had just had a paint job. Why on earth I noticed that was beyond me. Anyway I bought what I needed, booked myself into the guardroom, walked into the HIVE, changed my stockings before meeting up with 2 dear friends Jenni and Li. They had both organised my leaving do bless them. We had a coffee before going our separate ways to get ready.
I had been booked into Deadelous Officers Mess which is where I used to live before I went off sick. I parked in the same spot I used to, like it was always mine. I guess that was just force of habit. I sat there for a second looking across the car park to the training fields where I used to take Mitsy and go running. I had been beasted on that training area on so many occassions, and then it was my turn to assess other cadets on the very same training course.
I finally stepped out of my car, grabbed my bag and walked over to the door I had used many times before. I automatically pressed in the numbers for the simplex lock, not surprised to find it hadn’t changed. As the door opened, the familiar smell hit me and as I stepped inside I paused for a moment, reminiscing. I finally made my way to reception to be told I couldn’t book in until 2pm. It wasn’t the bloody Hilton I was checking into!! I decided to get back in the car and wait a while. I was already dressed and ready so there was no rush. I could have waited in the anti room for a while but to be honest the surroundings where suffocating me. I was wound up enough already so I didn’t need any further angst.
I eventually made my way to the sgts mess where my leaving function was being held. It was great to see my lovely friends who shared the day with me. It was a shame some of my other closest friends couldn’t make it though but life just takes over sometimes. It was a great afternoon/evening full of emotions and I couldn’t have asked for a better gift. Thank you so much for sharing the day with me.
My final drive out of the gate was awful and I actually cried. I got up really early and was out of there before 7.30am! I needed to get out because the emotions where just too overwhelming. I gathered myself and pulled in at McDonald’s for a dose of reality, had a great breakfast with the ladies and then drove away from what will now be my past….