In 1990 I was at Hameln in Germany with the Royal Engineers, on a signals exercise. We were based at Ravelin Camp, a transit tented camp on a hill overlooking the town. On occasion we had to visit some of the local barracks, and on one visit as my mate and I were making our way across the parade square we noticed the Regimental Sergeant Major off in the distance, accompanied by an officer. As we got nearer we were faced with the dilemna of who should salute and when. As there were two of us, only one was required to salute, that would be the man on the right. That sorted, it only left distance. Too early, you have to hold the salute too long. Too late, and…
Regimental Sergeant Majors are well known for their psychic ability. Sensing that we were just about to salute he beat us to the punch by a nanosecond. “Where’s your salute? Don’t you recognise an officer of the British Army?” We mumbled our apologies and were sent on our way. The etiquette of the parade square was never simple.
The etiquette of the hill is similar. Or so I thought. The other day I was out walking, heading back to the car after a short walk to the Lilly Loch. As I headed downhill I saw a man heading uphill, and the mental calculation was made for optimum delivery of a greeting. The distance narrowed and we were about fifteen feet from each other. “Hiya” I called out with a smile. No reply, just a stare and on he walked. There was no need for a ‘stop and chat’, for a long conversation. Neither of us appeared to be in any particular hurry, yet all I got was a look and a cold shoulder. Open mouthed I turned and watched him and his dog saunter on. Like Germany all those years ago had I left it too late? Or was it my luck to bump into a miserable bugger who brought his own personal cloud to my sunny winter day?
If I see him approach again I’ll know better. I’ll remember my camouflage and concealment training and hide in the long grass until he’s gone.