Firstly Sorry for this Blog entry being late. It was after 01.30 that I arrived home last night and I was too tired to write anything, I knew it would not be a long entry so I have left it until this morning. So where was this dirty little stop out last night then? I was at the Royal Albert Hall! Check me out. And what a place that it is let me tell you. If you have never been there, like me, until you see the place you can not really comprehend the magnificence of it.

We were supposed to be there for the performance to start at 19.30hrs however due to a serious accident on the M4 we got massively held up in traffic. We had left at 15.00hrs which would have been plenty of time, but traffic was against us badly. We were not the only ones caught though as when we arrived and parked up, two coaches were just dropping off. We parked up and my friend from the T.A, Paul, got me out of the Chucklebus. Once he had locked the van up, we went to find a steward to show us to our seats. I had noticed when Paul gave me the tickets that there could potentially be a problem. The seat numbers we had made me think that they were not isle seats and that we were going to come unstuck.

A steward very quickly walked to us and offered his assistance. “I think we may have a problem” I said, “The numbers on the tickets, I don’t think that there is an isle seat on either, also, it has given me a seat number but I have bought my own” I said. “I’m not sure if anyone mentioned that I had my own chair and just needed a parking space.” The steward asked to see the tickets and said that there was no way we were going to get to our seats due to the location, it involved stairs for a start. “Ok, is there anywhere else we could sit please, my mate obviously drove me and so it would be quite good if we could sit near to each other so I don’t lose him.” This was an ask I realised but I really didn’t fancy getting separated as my eyes would be tired at the finish and double vision could potentially be a problem if this was the case, which would be bad. “No problem Sir.” he said, “I have just amended your tickets for you and I apologize for the inconvenience of you being unable to reach your seats, please follow me.” So off we plodded, following the steward, who was quite a well spoken young man and very helpful and polite. Eventually, after using the lift and going through the corridors which are rounded, we arrived at a door which the steward unlocked and said “Sir’s, enjoy your evening.” Paul and I looked at each other, then the steward and thanked him for his help and we proceeded through the doors in to our own box on the upper level. Holy crap, I’m in a box watching a concert in the Royal Albert Hall….IN A BOX. Posh eh?

After what seemed like a short time due to our delay, we went to the bar during the interval to get a coffee. I was spoken to by quite a few people, but I did not want them to think or believe that was a soldier who had been put in the wheelchair due combat. When they were asking things or talking I very quickly let them know that whilst I had completed two tours of Afghan, it was not the reason for my paralysis. There were several soldiers that I saw and wheeled past in the corridors who were in wheelchairs, amputees rather than paraplegics, but I did not want people who spoke to me to think that my wheelchair bound state could be attributed to the same causes of the other wheelchair bound soldiers injures. They are far braver than I, and I have nothing but respect and admiration of them. Whilst we have all had life changing injuries, I have the advantage of not remembering my accident, where as these brave rifleman brethren of mine will probably wish that they could not remember.

After the interval, Paul and I returned to our box for the second half of the performance. The second half was as fantastic as the first. We had seen the Fijian choir who were great, and the second half gave us the Tenor from “Go Compare” fame. What a brilliant performance from him, a real pleasure to watch. Several other pieces of music from the band and then the one thing I was waiting for, the thing that in itself justified the ticket purchase, the trip up and the inevitable late night arriving home…..The Bugles, LOTS of Bugles, a sound that for me is unrivalled. They genuinely sent a shiver down my spine caused a trigger inside which threw up all kinds of memories of things I have done with my soldier mates from exercises and tours to nights on the piss, nights spent in the T.A centre on the night before Remembrance parade and courses we have done. The Bugles finished and my hands hurt where I had been clapping so hard, this had sparked memories, this had triggered emotions, this had made the hairs on the back of my neck stand to attention but above all, above everything else, this had strengthened my feeling of pride. This had let me remember just how much love being a part of our Regiment, how I am so fortunate to be a member of such a large “family” and perhaps worst of all, how I am really not ready to leave it even though I know that it is a choice that will not be mine to make.

When the concert had finished and Paul and I had travelled back to my bungalow it was time for bed, I was too tired to share my evening with you, but now I hope that you may be able to try to imagine how special a night it was.

So it is not goodnight all, but instead it is have a brilliant day.

An incredibly proud member of THE RIFLES



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