PC 28 Balloons, Bacteria and bloating!!!

I never wanted to be a roughie toughie Paratrooper but, during my officer training at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, there was an opportunity during an Easter holiday break to do some basic military parachute training. Edward Bear was a scruffy teddy bear, complete with beret and parachute wings, and the mascot of the club whose entry involved completing 7 daytime and 1 night-time parachute jumps. After our initial ground training, we arrived for our first jump, from a tethered balloon, its shape a little like those World War Two barrage balloons. Fitted up with my parachute, I climbed into the basket with a couple of others and the instructor. We left the ground behind and the cable was let out until the balloon was at 800 feet. It seemed a long way off the ground!! Adrenalin was pumping through my veins, the instructor went through the checks, I stood at the barrier, thought “What the f**k am I doing here?”, a tap on the shoulder and I jump ………. the ‘chute’ opens above me and my quick descent is suddenly jerked to a stop, becomes an ascent for a bit and then I float down! I look around: “Wow! This is such a feeling of elation, of satisfaction …. so weird.”  And suddenly the instructor on the ground is yelling through a megaphone; “Number 73! Assess your drift, prepare to land……” Land? Oh! Yes! I need to do that!

I remember doing two jumps from that balloon maybe three; then we jumped from aeroplanes, with kit, before we passed the course and became eligible to wear a small parachute badge on our uniform and the Edward Bear tie. But that balloon, standing there waiting to leap into space ……. I can picture it now! We did of course have a ninth jump, one summer’s evening about three months later, onto a nearby training area for the ‘Teddy Bear’s Picnic’. As you would!!

Balloons featured at my birthday party in October, ones filled with helium (He). And I was reminded that, at a wedding in August, two teenagers thought it such fun to let the helium out of the balloons and inhale it. Took a while before adults realised the effect the gas was having! Maybe the adults had already had too much of another gassy drink, Champagne!

Some years ago there was a craze amongst the cooking fraternity to rinse a raw chicken under some running cold water before preparing it for cooking. “Get all the blood off!” Now we’re told that this is so wrong. The reason is bacteria called Campylobacter, which seems to be present in a huge percentage of chickens, and it can cause severe food poisoning in us humans. A chart in a national paper suggested that no chicken supplier’s chickens are completely immune.  It’s destroyed by proper cooking but if you wash the bird then you potentially spread the Campylobacter around ….. your kitchen! Yuk!

The other morning, well actually around 0200, I thought about the chicken I’d had for supper. Normally I prepare our meals from scratch but I was lazy and it was a ‘ready-made’ one, Chicken Arrabiata if my memory serves me well! I went to our bathroom, contemplated my navel, went back to bed …..  and then I went to our bathroom, contemplated my navel, went back to bed … I was blowing up …. truly not sure what was really going on in my stomach but the Chemistry teacher from Breaking Bad must have had a hand in it!! Celina asked if I was OK? I said I felt like one of those large rubber bouncing balls, with two large hand holds, that children can ride on. “Bounce! Bounce.!” ….. except I had feet at the other end ….. just the middle that was so, so bloated. You know those Puffer fishes that, dare I say it, ‘puff’ themselves up when confronted with danger? That’s not how I looked, for sure, in the dim light of early morning, but it was exactly how I felt.

And what came to mind? Far from the Madding Crowd!! Some of you will have seen the cinematic adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s 1874 novel “Far from the Madding Crowd”, starring Terence Stamp and Julie Christie. It was in our cinemas the year Celina was born, 1967. OK! OK! What the hell brought this to mind? You remember the scene when a flock of sheep strayed into a field of young clover? Sheep love fresh juicy clover ….. and munch and munch and ……. and they can develop ‘pasture bloat’, caused by a build-up of methane (CH4) and Carbon Dioxide (CO2). (You’d think I was good at Chemistry but the truth is I can’t tell an oxide from a dioxide!). In the film they rush around the field performing rumenotomies, where they puncture the sheep’s stomach to let out the gas …. or the sheep dies!

Well, I wanted someone to come and perform a rumenotony ….. on me!!

You know that Celina and I practise Bikram Yoga most days? Well, what you probably don’t know is that there is a posture called “Wind Removing Pose” (Pavana mukt asana). You think I’m joking? No! Really, it’s true. After the one hour ‘standing series’ you have a half-an-hour floor series, and the first posture is ‘Wind Removing Pose’. You lie on your back, bend your right leg up to your chest, put your hands on it just below the knee and pull the knee down towards the right shoulder. You hold it for 10 seconds and then do the other side. It’s meant to ease the intestinal gases ….. out. So, at 0300, on the bedroom floor, I try it. My stomach is so extended I can hardly get my knee to bend, let alone touch my shoulder! I’m reminded of that ‘funny’ card of a women’s yoga class where it seems they are all in ‘wind removing pose’ ….. and it’s very effective (there is no delicate way to describe this, is there?).

Just some more mundane thoughts …..

Richard Yates – richardyates24@gmail.com

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