Ah, ‘Insider info’, that old chestnut. It’s been around since the dawn of time but how can you tell if what you are being told is really golden or not especially if it’s from someone you don’t really know that well ? Approach with maximum caution is what you should do but sometimes we happen across snippets of info that really must be acted upon and acted upon swiftly or we will end up literally kicking ourselves for ignoring it.
During Gulf War 1 I was stationed in Saudi Arabia ‘somewhere in the Eastern Province’ as we liked to say and one night, well actually it was closer to 3am, I was awakened by a furious rapping on the window above my bed. We weren’t billeted in tents, we were on some gated compound or other vacated by a multitude of Western civilian workers due to all the impending trouble about to kick off.
“You’ve got to get rid of it – they know !” said the voice on the other side of the window. “What the fuck are on about ?”, I asked back, wiping the sleep from my eyes. “The booze. They know about the booze and they know where you’re at. They are going to shake you down tomorrow morning.” came the reply.
The voice was referring to the 25 cases of Famous Grouse whisky that were stashed under my bed and inside and on top of my wardrobe in the cramped space that I called home for the duration of the war. “Hang on a minute…” I hear you say, “…this is Saudi Arabia…there’s no booze in Saudi Arabia.” And to this claim I say “Oh yes there is…fucking loads of it.”.
Booze, whether it be spirits or beer, is readily available in Saudi though most of it has to be home brewed. The Sauds turn a blind eye to what goes on behind closed doors as they know that were they to really crack down on drinking they wouldn’t have any Western help left as everyone would bugger off somewhere else. The brand name stuff also makes it’s way into the country though I’m not really at liberty to say how the 25 cases managed to find their way under my bed but the wider point I’m making in this paragraph is that booze is available and it is the equivalent of liquid gold.
Now, back to 3am on a compound somewhere in the Eastern Province…
My informant who is also my supplier of the liquid gold tells me that the game is up etc etc and the brass are going to shake me down in the morning and we’ll both be fucked so the booze has to go somewhere else. We had only recently been introduced and between us hatched a plan that so far had enabled us to obtain and distribute 67 cases of various brand name spirits to the masses. Selling at £500 a case it more than covered our overheads. Anyway, he had a right panic on but he was unaware that I was familiar with the entire surrounding area and that before he’d finished shitting his pants I had formulated a cunning plan.
I got dressed and went to the area on the compound where most of the vehicles that weren’t in use were parked. Following a quick snoop around we found a Land Rover with the keys in it so we ‘borrowed’ it and made our way back to my chamber. We parked up right outside the window that overlooked my bed and I nipped inside and began transferring the cases through the window and into the back of the Rover.
Once all the boxes were loaded we proceeded to make our way off the compound and along the highway for a mile or so and then we hung a quick right and entered another compound that housed many hundreds of expatriate workers all oblivious of the life or death mission that we were undertaking.
We parked up in front of one of the more secluded villas and I knocked on the door. Nothing. So I knocked again. Still nothing. So I went to a window and banged on it whereupon a bleary eyed Welshman, let’s call him Pete (because that was his name), pulled the curtains aside to see who the fuck was banging on his window at 3.30 in the morning.
I simply pointed to the front door and Pete opened it shortly thereafter. “What the fuck are you doing ?” he cried. “Pete, I need to ask you a favour…”, I said, “… I need to hide a coupla cases of booze til tomorrow.” “What booze ?”, he asked, and with that and in dramatic fashion I whipped back the plastic rear tailgate canopy on the Rover to reveal what equated to a diplomatic incident and / or 20 years in a Saudi jail if we were caught with it. “Oh for fuck’s sake…get it in here quick.” said an ashen faced Pete as he scrambled to pull back a mat that was covering a trapdoor that led to a crawl space beneath the villa.
So far so good. We started moving the cases chain like, me to my accomplice, and he to Pete, and from Pete into the crawl space and I was starting to breath easier now that it looked like the whole incident had been dealt with. Then, out of nowhere, came a powerful flashlight that bathed us all in it’s light. Right there and then my stomach tightened and I started to wish I’d never seen Midnight Express. The flashlight made it’s way towards us and my head was spinning wondering how the fuck we were going to get out of this predicament. After what seemed like ages the flashlight and it’s owner was upon us and demanding to know what was going on. He flashed his light into the back of the rover and turned to face us, his eyes were on stalks, “What is this..?” he said, pointing to the booze in the back of the Rover. The light from Pete’s front hallway lit up the face of our interrogator and almost at once my utter despair turned to jubilation as I saw that he was a Filipino and not an Arab. Oh joy of fucking joys. The Filipinos, or Flips for short, are there by necessity, not because they like the place. Their Saudi masters treat them like shite so it’s little wonder that they don’t really give 100% if they don’t need to. I whipped out a 50 Riyal note and gave it to the guy, put my finger to my lips and said “Sshhh, big party. You keep quiet, OK ?” and handed him the money which he took without hesitation. He nodded and went on his way leaving the three of us to hurriedly finish our task.
When we were done Pete went back to bed and we went back to our compound, put the Rover back, and went our seperate ways. The following day I met with the intended recipient of the shipment, took him round to Pete’s place, and helped him load the cases into his Isuzu Trooper. The brass did indeed check out my living quarters but, unlike me, they didn’t act as swiftly on their insider info and all they found was a relatively tidy bed space. My bacon was saved (“But this is Saudi Arabia, there’s no bacon in Saudi.”. Oh really ? I beg to differ ;-))
Shortly after that episode the ground war started and that saw my supply cut off at the knees for reasons that I won’t go into but for the short while that it lasted it kept me busy when I wasn’t doing other things.
If you’ve read this far then it’s fair to say that it’s probably not what you expected but as with other posts I’ve made it’s my way of highlighting certain aspects of the world of punting, whether you do it for fun or to pay the bills. Maybe some people truly are privy to real insider information but that doesn’t mean that they will profit from it every time so the message here is that regardless of who provides you with it you have to assimilate it and decide what to do with it. No one is twisting your arm but you never really know in advance whether or not your acting upon it will result in a positive outcome until the event is decided.
Best of luck out there…only 22 hours to go and I will be back amongst you.