I was going to write about my birthday but there's no point, it's just another day and if you weren't there, you already missed the free drinks. I could also have talked about the superb gig I saw on Monday but, if you weren't there either, the band have already left.
Anyway, during a conversation about what people did before we became the little computer geeks that we are today, it came about that two of them had been in the Belgian Army.
Firstly, I have to confess that I didn't even know that Belgium had an army (good camouflage I presume), and even if they do/did, assuming the work ethic is the same as the police force here, I'm sure they'd be too pissed to fight.
However, up until 1984 or so, Belgium still had conscription (or drafting) - simplistically, where you have to join the army whether you like it or not. As to this being a good idea or not is purely subjective but let me give you a couple of tales (not from me, I hasten to add) which may help you formulate an opinion.
Lesson 1 - Training on Radioactivity
The platoon sergeant has to hide a radioactive ball (about the same size as a tennis ball) somewhere, and with the help of a Geiger Counter, the platoon have to find it. Doesn't seem that complex really - when the Geiger Counter starts clicking like Flipper having an orgasm, the hunt is over.
Unfortunately, by the time the sergeant catches up to his platoon, they are playing an impromptu game of 'catch' with the ball of radioactive shite. I suppose it's a good job they weren't American as someone would have brought a baseball bat.
Needless to say, said Sergeant is not a happy camper and the Geiger Counter is off the chart any time one of the platoon walk past.
Lesson 2 - Fitness Training
Being such a small country, choosing the best and fittest recruits isn't really an option. Therefore, if you are breathing you are in. In order to avoid unnecessary deaths, for those of a somewhat unfit state, they are given a piece of paper somewhat similar to a 'get out of jail free' card in Monopoly.
Not really the wisest idea really. I mean, if you have the choice of running 10 miles with 40lb of kit every morning, or waving a piece of paper under the sergeants nose that says you don't have to - which would you choose?
I think this guy definitely got the best part of the deal. Initially, the army claimed that everyone would leave with a trade suitable for the outside world. So, they made him a barman - he couldn't fight for shit but boy, could he mix a cocktail (always useful in a battle situation!!).
I don't think I'd want the Belgian Army on my side in a war, I think I'll choose the Swiss one - at least they get those funky little knives and can nip the enemy with the tweezers.....