Celtic Illumination, part 181, ♫ I’m prayin’ for rain in California. ♫
Living in Germany seemed to make you quite popular as in we never had so many people want to come visit and stay with us. We didn’t mind, it was nice to see old friends, especially those who had been stationed in Germany themselves. One such couple was John and Maureen Hampson. We had all been great friends in Watton so it was a pleasure to have them over for a break. John and Maureen were a lovely couple and as well as visiting some of their favourite haunts in Germany encouraged us to join them and allowed us to really begin to enjoy our posting.
One place they took us to was Cochem a beautiful German village on the banks of the Moselle River. It really was a picture postcard sort of place. A large river ran through it and it was surrounded with plenty of trees, had it been raining it would have been perfect for me, for it was the Germany I had in my head from the story books I devoured as a youngster. Cobbled streets threading their way around wooden framed buildings and of course a fairy tale castle overlooking it all from a nearby hilltop. We joined a vineyard tour and nodded when required as we wanted the tour to be over and the tasting to begin.
With the tour over we were brought into in a cellar, curved roof, long rough wooden tables, candlelight and a huge selection of wines that was so vast even the squadron would have a problem with finishing it all. We were allowed to taste up to three wines for free, after that we could taste whatever we wanted as long as we paid for it. The purpose was not to have a session but to actually find a wine that you really liked. We were very lucky and found a nice white wine and bought a case of twelve bottles. Despite the fact that the average bottle of wine was quite reasonable in price, the wine we choose was somewhat special and did stretch the wallet a little bit.
Back in Erkelenz the wine was set in a special place, the back of a wardrobe, as it would be saved for birthdays and special occasions. The theory was ‘out of sight, out of mind.’ John was the captain of the rugby club at Watton and therefore the senior man so I can only blame him for what happened afterwards. How we got there I really do not know but I do know that we cleared the living room of furniture and set up the two massive Scalextric racing sets I had bought in Decci on Sardinia. We switched off the lights, lit every candle we owned and then set about drinking all twelve bottles of the special wine.
John and Maureen returned to England a day or two later and as they had two boys, John took both Scalextric sets with him. Maureen collected Capodemonti so took all the figurines I had bought and to cap it all there was no special white wine left. The worst thing is that we couldn’t remember the name of the wine so could never buy some more. It wasn’t a bad thing as it meant we would have to continue tasting as many wines as we could in our search for perfection.
The visiting wasn’t all one sided. I had stayed in touch with Louis Henry and his wonderful wife Elizabeth. This is the Louis who I met on mountain rescue at Valley. Louis was now working at SHAPE, working in the caves at Maastricht and living in Liege in Belgium. Louis was having a Saint Patricks day party and had invited us down. He told me that there would be quite a lot of Americans at the party so I was to bring something Irish. I still had my home brewing kit, which was packed away in a crate. It would have been senseless to brew your own booze in Germany.
I went up to the main NAAFI at Rheindahlen and bought a case of white wine. It was cheap stuff, nothing special. I also bought some green food colouring and some Polish vodka. I had to go to a German wine store to get the really good and superbly strong vodka. Back at home I opened all the bottles and mixed in some green food colouring, then added the vodka and rebottled the lot. I had washed the wine bottles and removed the labels, intending to make my own labels, but never got round to it. With my home brew wine kit I was able to re-seal the bottle with corks and add shrink-fit plastic caps. Apart from the missing labels you couldn’t tell the difference from proper bottles of wine.
We arrived in Liege on the day of the party. Louis was creating some concoction in the kitchen involving Guinness and walnuts. Irene and I helped out and prepared his flat for the party. Before we knew it the party was in full swing and I found myself chatting with some Americans. I told them that I had just flown in from Dublin that day and had brought some fresh Irish wine with me. The Americans had never heard of Irish wine and were desperate to try some. I explained as I opened a bottle that the Irish wine was so fresh that they didn’t even have the time to stick labels on the bottles.
There were gasps of amazement as I poured the green liquid, followed by gasps of surprise as the liquid ripped a layer of flesh from the inside of their mouths and throat. It was all a good giggle and Louis only stepped in as I was taking fifty dollars from an American for a crate of Irish wine which I would send to him. The party fizzled out leaving just the four of us to finish the booze. Irene was the first to collapse followed by Louis leaving just Elizabeth and myself.
There was three quarters of a bottle of whiskey and half a bottle of Baileys left so we mixed them together and were quite surprised to find that we had created quite a nice drink. The following day we took our hangovers on a tour of Liege. Louis insisted that we count each of the four hundred steps on some fecking famous stairway. We traipsed through the Cathedral and enjoyed coffee and beer on the main street. I have to admit I really liked the centre of Liege as evening approached but couldn’t believe, as we rumbled along the cobbled road in front of the train station, that the prostitutes actually sat in windows selling themselves. But, as they say, you learn something new every day. Well; at least I seem to do.