Elwood 5566

Westphalian Winters

Posted in Osnabruck 76-84?, Uncategorized by 노강호 on July 22, 2011

a great photo capturing Phil Watson and Andy Coombs at a significant moment

I have special memories of winters in Osnabrück. I think these photos must have been taken around 1978 because Dave Smith and I went to Kneller Hall in 1979 and Andy Coombs had transferred to another band by the time we returned.

Osnabrück winters were severe with heavy snow appearing usually at about the same time we were playing in the Hallemünsterland show, which was every December. The snow hung around for months and I clearly remember chunks of compacted snow, the remnants of that which had been swept to the side of pavements, loitering into early April.

Then, there were odd occasions when the finest drizzle fell onto the freezing ground and everything was glazed in a fine sheet of black ice. I only remember this kind of weather twice over a 10 year period but it was memorable because for several hours everything was suspended; all traffic stopped and the pavements were so treacherous that even walking  a short distance was dangerous.

There were a numbers of photos taken at the same time as the two I have added here, the others included Knocker Patterson, Bones and Mick Pickering.

Both photos are intensely familiar to such a point I can almost feel the nip of a Wesphalian winter and smell dinner as its aroma drifts from the nearby cookhouse. In the photo above, to the left of Phil Watson’s head, are the birch trees around which I practiced taekwondo over 7 years.

Bob Hallett and John Adye on the edge of the Regimental Square

Silver Birch trees were so prolific in northern Germany, they covered Imphal Barracks and I remember an enormous, somewhat desolate forest of silver birch surrounding Bergen-Belsen. In autumn and spring, Amanita Muscaria mushrooms, which grow in a symbiotic relationship with silver birch, would spring up around them. In spring, the Catkins, laden with pollen, were a great source of irritation for Mick Henderson and on a blowy afternoon, I recall watching the trees around the Regimental Square swing and sway in the wind agitating a cloud of yellow pollen.

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Sports Afternoon in the King’s Head, Richmond

Posted in Catterick 74-76?, Uncategorized by 노강호 on March 3, 2011

Circa 1975. On a Wednesday afternoon, ‘sports afternoon,’ we (Taff Coleman, Woolie, Lofty, Pete Middleton, Daz, Adrian Dawson), used to go into Richmond. Adrian, Pete and Woolie had cars. Usually, we had pate and toast or a ploughman’s lunch in the King’s Head though if we were early and had not eaten in the barracks, we would eat in one of the numerous cafes and restaurants around the square. I remember a place that sold pork chops, gravy and mashed potato and the Bell Nook springs to mind, probably because of its name which we changed to ‘bell end.’ I think it may have been a pizza restaurant.

The quaint 'square' which gives Richmond, Yorkshire, so much of its character

Often, we’d then go to the auction room which was in one corner of the square near the Chinese take-away and Barclay’s Bank. We bought all sorts of things there, a piano, a Baby Belling cooker which consisted of one hotplate, a grill and a tiny oven, electric bar heaters etc. There was a friendly old lady who worked there who took a liking to us and would refer to us as ‘my boys.’ The auctions were held on a regular basis and I went to  a few and I remember the shop, which was stepped the further you went back into it, was enormous with all sorts of curiosities.

The King's Head, Richmond, Yorkshire - still there in 2006.

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Trip to the Baron’s

Posted in Band, Osnabruck 76-84?, Uncategorized by 노강호 on December 6, 2010

I’m selecting photographs with Taff in them and  linking them to his epitaph. If you have other photographs please forward them. I’d appreciate any information on this photo.

Trip to the Baron’s. Dougie Reed,  Bob Hallet, John Adye, Twiggie, Taff Coleman, Bob Pochin and Stevie Ruddock.

When this photo was taken, I remained in barracks getting ready for a taekwondo competition. I remember Martin (Hitler) was with me. Not too long after you all departed, we decided we should have gone and so set off to some forested place with a cavalry trumpet. The idea was to sound the regimental Call from somewhere in the forest and hope for a response. What a freaking dumb idea! The forest was enormous, as far as the eye could see. Naturally, the idea failed and we returned to camp. I think we missed out on a fantastic booze up. So, some questions.

Who took the photo?

I estimate this trip to have been around 1978?

Who went?

What memories do you have?

What was happening in the photograph

Do you have any other photographs from this trip?

What does a Baron  look like? I always wanted to meet one.

What was the Baron’s name and where did he reside?

What was Twiggie’s first name? His real one?

Thanks

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Phillip ‘Taff’ Coleman. Band – Epitaph

Posted in Band, Catterick 74-76?, Epitaph, Marriage by 노강호 on December 6, 2010

Phillip (‘Taff’) Coleman, who would have been 53 on the 15th of  December (2010). He was killed, instantly, early in the morning of December 1st, on his way to Gatwick Airport, where he worked. I was unable to leave these comments on the Facebook site for the  5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards Band Members Past and Present, they don’t allow for a post of longer than a 1000 characters. ‘Taff’ deserves more!  I decided to host them here.

Taff’s smile

I have special memories of ‘Taff’ and he has a very close place in my heart which a few band members serving from that period, will understand. On the day I left the band, during which we’d been friends for 12 years, he gave me a final hug as I stood waiting to board the bus back to the UK. As he kissed my cheek he whispered, that if ever one of his children were gay, he’d simply remember me and it would never be a problem. They were his exact words and he was crying as he spoke them. I had some excellent army friends and ‘Taff’ was one of the best!

The Band, Paderborn (c. 1987) 

I left the band in 1988 and in the period since then, 22 years, we only met the once. It was a fleeting reunion, probably only of minutes, in 1989, during a break in the Colchester Tattoo rehearsals. Despite our close friendship, we never talked on the phone, never once e-mailed each other and never once connected via Facebook.  I always thought I’d see him again – sometime…somewhere… I think we both did!

‘Taff’ left the band not too long after I did and for a long time he seemed to disappear but every now and then, as if coming up for air, I’d hear rumours about him: one time I heard he was working in Wigan, then I heard he worked for Twinnings tea company. Another time I heard he was appearing on the TV show Gladiators. I’ve no idea how true any of them were.

In 1976, when stationed in Cambrai Barracks, Catterick,  Pete Middleton, Adrian Dawson, Taff,  John Adye and myself were all part of a little group and every Friday we held a meeting to ‘front-stab’ each other (because band life was  incredibly bitchy).  One of us recorded and wrote the minutes and we each paid a weekly subscription, kept in a jar, which we used to pay for curry evenings in Darlington. After the meeting we’d often make mashed potatoes and cook a fray Bentos steak and kidney pie and then watch the Friday night horror movie. The group probably didn’t survive very long, but I remember it well.

Taff around 1977, Catterick. Note the moors through the window

Catterick is where I have my deepest memories of him. On Wednesdays, sports afternoon,  the ‘club,’ along with Chris Woolnough, who was sort of an associate member, would go into  Richmond and have pate and toast, or buttered scones, at the King’s Head, or we’d have lunch at the Belle Nook. Later, we’d go to the auction house and maybe buy some stuff. The old lady who used to work in those dusty, ancient rooms would refer to us as ‘my boys.’ I can still hear her cracked old voice with its comforting broad northern accent. She would have died years and years ago but she used to mother us, dearly! I once bought a second hand piano at the Richmond Auction house as well as the Baby Belling cooker in which we cooked our tinned pies.

Taff would have remembered this

Our friendship could easily have survived a long and longer chasm because we knew each other so well and unwittingly, knew this.  We ‘grew-up’ together and he was the third person I came out to. First was Adrian Dawson, then Pete Middleton, and then ‘Taff ‘- basically, the Front Stabbing Club. I ‘came out’ to him as we sat taking a ‘breather’ on a small bridge on the moor, out on the tank tracks, during a run. He didn’t talk to me for a few days. He wasn’t happy about my sexuality and even less into the idea I had a crush on him. But ‘Taff’ was always his own man, confident and strong, characteristics that came out when he played the euphonium,  and after a few days pondering the issue, he apologized for being ‘stand offish’ and for the next thirteen years, never once let me down.

I do not doubt that our personalities changed in the years since we left the band, I do not doubt there developed some big differences, that’s natural, but we had enough history and experience between us to temper significant changes. But it is a shame that the envisioned reunion, I, we,  thought might one day occur, will never take place and it is a greater travesty he has gone at such an important point in his life and those closest to him.

The display photo from Taff’s Facebook site

Only a few days ago, I was looking at photos from his recent marriage and saw the display photo of of a motorbike. I had this fleeting image of ”Taff’ on a high-powered bike and could imagine him enjoying the thrill of biking – that was part of his character. ‘Taff’ was a proper ‘man’ and into ‘man’ things: cars, bikes, the tattoo on his arm, tinted sun-glasses,  often pushed up on his head, a sweat band around  his forehead, chewing chewing gum – I can see  him ‘sporting’ them all at different times of the life during which I knew him and always with a big smile, the same smile seen in his wedding photographs and the same smile that had enamored me as an adolescent coming to terms with my sexuality. And I can just as easily see him on a monster of a bike with leathers and a snazzy helmet. ‘Taff’ wasn’t reckless or a ‘tearaway,’ far from it, but on this occasion was tragically unlucky.

Taff and Janette Coleman’s wedding. 23 October 2010

And I now realise, as a chasm begins to stretch between us and from which I can no longer rescue or resolve anything, that I know nothing about him. Did he have brothers or sisters? Does he still have a mother or father? What happened to his children and did he have more? Where did he spend his childhood and what was it like?  Today, I searched his Facebook, searching all its nooks and crannies with more gusto than I ever do on such sites, looking for answers, looking  for his embodiment in text, for a fading reminder of his being; but the only comment, other than his e-mail address which either I’d never noticed or always planned write to, sometime, was promising to provide the website link for his wedding photos. His final words, ‘but don’t hold your breath!’ Unfortunately, ‘Taff,‘ time’s hooded harbinger, beat us to it. I neither considered such questions nor sought such answers before but as usual, it is when we no longer have something that its value becomes all the more apparent; all the more desired.

Taff and Janette

What farewells does one mutter to a friend on the precipice of that cataclysmic departure? What words finalise the epitaph with enough respect, and grandeur and at the same time encapsulate the intensity of emotion generated? Three words, virginal, emerge  renewed and  are forever mutated. Three words suddenly imbued with meaning beyond meaning, and which stir an accompanying melody, a lament. Three words detailed to encompass so much and sentinel the point beyond which a new chasm separates us and in which the tangibility of  ‘sometime’, and ‘somewhere’ evaporate. Three words to emblazon the entrance to departure: ‘Fare Thee Well…’

‘Fare Thee Well’

Nick ‘Lofty’ Elwood

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RELATED INFORMATION

Worthing Herald

♦Taff’s funeral was held at 10.30, on Monday 13th of December at Kingswood Chapel, Worthing Crematorium. He would have been 53 two days later. He died on the anniversary of my father’s funeral. For many, many years, my uncle (Ron Elwood), was organist at the chapel where he is to be cremated.