Friday, March 9, 2012

There's Elvis Down Below

Writing about Elvis '56 in my latest post made me remember the first time I watched this documentary TV special - in the bowels of a warship.

In the autumn of 1987 I had just started my military service in the Royal Swedish Navy. After a couple of weeks of basic training I reported aboard the flagship and minelayer HMS Visborg, where I trained to become a signalman. Later on I served on a fast attack missile craft in that capacity, but that's another story. This one takes place on HMS Visborg.

One morning I read in the newspaper that an Elvis documentary was to be shown on television, called Elvis '56. I don't remember how I had the time to look through a paper, as life in the military was a pretty hectic affair, but apparently I did. I was also lucky in the sense that I had no duties that night, so I decided there and then that this wasn't a documentary I was going to miss out on.

My only worry was that my fellow off-duty shipmates probably weren't as interested as me in watching Elvis on the one TV set that we had access to in our recreation room. In those days Sweden only had two channels, but whatever was on the second one, I was sure they would go for that instead.

Then it hit me. A lot of our theoretical lessons had taken place in a briefing room deep down in the ship. And I clearly remembered a television set bolted to the wall ... excuse me, bulkhead. So what I did that night, when it was nearly time for Elvis '56, was to descend a lot of staircases and open a lot of hatchess to reach that briefing room, hoping to find it empty.

To my relief it wasn't in use, and after some experimenting with the TV I got it working. I dimed the lights, sat in one of the chairs, and turned my attention to the screen. I then spent the next hour watching what was one of the best documentarys about Elvis I had seen so far. When I returned to my buddies a couple of decks above, I was probably the happiest sailor aboard the ship.

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