I entered a discomfort zone

I had been looking forward to yesterday for a while as it was the first day since the surgery that I was going out to do some photography. Every year Cambridgeshire Army Cadet Force has the recruiting trailer at the Army Careers Exhibition held at the Army Training Regiment Bassingbourn (ATR(B)). I missed last year’s show because I was in hospital, it was the first year that the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force were there. The Royal Artillery Motorcycle Display Team “The Flying Gunners” and the The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment’s Parachute display team “The Tigers” perform displays in the main arena. For about 4 or 5 years I have provided them both with Photo Discs of the pictures I have taken of them there. There is usually an Infantry Regiment on hand to demonstrate attacks and tactical withdrawals using various weapons and smoke grenades.

I was looking forward to the photography, seeing the other Instructors, getting the Cadets on kit and using equipment and chatting to the regulars. The only thing that was bothering me about the day was the weather and the forecast. The show is held on the Airfield, some stands are on the runway with the arena and remaining stands on the grass. Because of the amount of rain we have had and knowing what the wheelchair is like my concern was the wheelchair would just dig into grass and I would have real issues moving around. I told people I would see what the weather was like on the day and make a decision but everyone was getting back to me saying that most of it was on hard standing and they wanted me to go. I got up to sunshine with a dark rain filled sky but made the decision give it a go.

After donning my uniform and grabbing my camera equipment I was off to the show. It started spitting with rain as I got near ATR Bassingbourn but by the time I had parked up it was sunshine again. Thankfully Beds & Herts Cadet Training Centre is on the airfield and they had disabled parking there which I used. I had to convert some equipment from my camera bag into the wheelchair backpack, before I could get the camera in the weight was already leaving the wheelchair wanting to pull a wheelie. I strapped the small camera/lens bag round my waist which is like a bum bag and started to wheel myself to the Cadet recruiting trailer. It was then that I started feeling something I had never felt anywhere before, uncomfortable, really uncomfortable. Obviously all the visitors are teenagers looking at career options and teachers. I expected to get some of the teenagers looking at me but I felt like some sort of eye magnet. I felt so conscious of everyone looking at me, it was like the teenagers thought I was an Afghanistan casualty and the regulars didn’t know what to think of me, we do have civilian amputees you know! There was one young girl who had approach our PRO (Public Relations Officer) as she was looking to join the Army but was worried about losing a limb. The PRO introduced her to me and she asked me lots of questions, which I answered to the best of my ability. I was fine talking to her and I have no problem answering any questions that people have. There was only two Cadets on the stand, the weather was pants, the ‘Flying Gunners’ nor ‘The Tigers’ were at the show, I didn’t feel comfortable there and in the end I left at lunch time without taking a single photo. It was an experience and as it was the first time I have been out on my own it was an eye opener too. I didn’t go back today as there was no benefit for either the Cadet Force or me.


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