For army basic training we were posted to Loopspruit outside Potchefstroom. We were ‘medics’ we were told. The place had been a reform school before and we were billeted in old houses converted into barracks – or most of us were. Our gang (platoon?) got the science lab, and boy, were we lucky. The other guys spent their days sanding and polishing old wooden floors. We had linoleum. All we did was sweep and – unfairly – we often won the prize for neatest inspection. Every so often that meant a weekend pass, so we were careful to keep the place clean, removing our boots at the door and shuffling around on ‘taxis’ – cloths you step on and scoot on, cleaning as you go.
Uniforms and beds were inspected too, so evenings were spent cleaning and ironing and smartening. Some would even sleep on the floor, unwilling to mess up their crisply-straightened beds. One of our guys found this all a bit hard. Graham. What a lovely bloke, but tidiness R Not Him. He would get bombed by the corporals for untidiness, so we took to doing his ironing and smartening for him, forbidding him to move as we shone his boots and dressed him for inspection.
One weekend we were all given a pass but Graham was ordered to forfeit his. On our arrival back in camp Sunday evening we were greeted by the disturbing sight of our dazzling floor looking dull and scratchy. It had lost its shine!
Graham explained: Bored all alone over the weekend he had spied an electric polishing machine and some ‘Drybright’™ polish in one of the houses and thought he’d do us all a big favour and get the floor to a dining shazzle the likes of which had never before been seen in military history.
Well, the more he polished the duller it got. So he polished some more. Eventually he managed to get it to the disastrous state we now saw before our ‘thinking-of-lost-weekends’ eyes! Fortunately we knew where Graham’s heart was, so we saw the funny side and set to rescuing the situation as best we could.
But we never let him forget it: Graham Drybright Lewis!