Celtic Illumination, part 188, ♫ The wheels on the bus ♫
The squadron had an entertainments committee. Well; I am assuming they had something along those lines. I wasn’t sure, but events and functions happened. One standard recreational activity while on detachment was to have a trip to the local brewery. Even someone like me, who practised the dark art of home brewing, wasn’t that interested in how Keo produced their beer and thankfully the Keo employees understood this. Even if someone had stood up and said ‘This is a bottle of beer and you drink it from this end,’ that would have been too technical for most of our chaps. A coach load of us arrived at the Keo brewery outside Limassol and poured in to the factory. “Long tour or short tour?” asks the guide, who from his demeanour had seen all this before.
I shouldn’t really have to explain to you, the Illuminati, that we chose the short tour which involved finding the shortest route between the bus and the bar. If I remember correctly the Keo lot were very stingy with their product so it was just as well that we had our own stock of fine German beer on board the coach. We had finished all the free beer they were going to give us and were now being told that if we wanted more, we could pay for it. This of course was our prompt to leave. Back on the coach we were heading back toward Akrotiri when some of the chaps decided that they now needed to relieve themselves. It was five o clock in the evening, or thereabouts, so the traffic was quite heavy and under no circumstances was the driver going to stop and allow us to engage in ritualistic formation peeing.
Someone found a bag, or a bottle, and was relieving themselves on the coach. They were right in the back of the coach, in the corner. In order to complete the mission the guy had twisted his body and was leaning into and against the corner window. There was a certain look of satisfaction on his face which indicated that he was achieving his objective, something we all cheered. Then there was a sort of gasped hush as the corner window of the coach popped out and floated off, skimming above the following cars like a Frisbee on a mission.
We settled down and behaved ourselves knowing that we now had to get back to base and get off the coach without the driver noticing that his rear corner window was missing, probably like the guys at the brewery he would want us to pay for that too. We did begin to sing some squadron songs though and whether that was to cover up the sound of the horns and flashing lights behind us I’m not sure but we seemed to get away with it. Another trip that had been arranged for us was a coach trip to the ancient village of Paphos. To me it was a village even though it is often referred to as a city and once was the capitol of Cyprus. Unfortunately Phapos now has a reputation for being an upmarket retreat for the well-heeled.
Paphos has a wonderful little harbour where you can sit in the sunshine, get rat arsed and feed the pelicans that hobble about the place. It also has some fantastic Roman ruins and mosaics if you know where to look. The squadron decided that we would take over a small bar on the harbour and a session began. John Zammo and myself decided to visit the ruins. We were dressed as any normal tourist might be, short trousers, especially with my legs, and T-shirts. But most of us would have had a bag, a large briefcase type affair that would hang by one long shoulder strap. We used these to carry water, wine, cameras, squadron Zaps, screwdrivers, pliers, wine, scran. You get my drift?
John and myself found the ruins and went in. Someone started nagging on about paying an entrance fee which of course we refused as we were not tourists. The area was still being uncovered and the management of it seemed to be quite shambolic. We ignored the walkways, which I promise you were dangerous, and wandered about inspecting the work. I was soaking up the atmosphere and trying to comprehend that what I was looking at was created about the same time as Jesus was knocking about. It was strange seeing an actual link that put some reality to the Latin texts I had to translate at Violent Hell. Most of the mosaics were still being uncovered and pieced together.
I suppose now would be a good time to formally apologise to the Cypriot government as one or two of their beautiful mosaic floors have pieces missing. And before anyone starts blaming me, it’s not my fault; this is an age old tradition stretching back for centuries, just look at the Elgin marbles. Anyway, it still looks quite nice on my mantelpiece and continues to fill me with awe and amazement. Having had our fill of culture and hoping no one noticed our bags were somewhat heavier that when we had come in, John and I escaped. We bumbled along enjoying the sunshine and headed back down toward the harbour area. Perhaps a beer and a photograph with a pelican might not be a bad idea.
As we approached the harbour we decided to call in to the hotel on the corner for a glass of wine before joining the troops. It really was a beautiful day and there perhaps could be nothing better than a cool glass of white wine on the shore of the Mediterranean at Paphos harbour. It was a typical Mediterranean hotel, all white with a large veranda, covered with a white sailcloth. We sat drinking in the scenery and asked for a bottle of Saint Pandemonium, the white wine that really was a hand grenade in a bottle. By the time we got on to the second bottle a wedding party had arrived.
They must have booked the hotel or the balcony for it was now full of people and plates of food were being shoved in front of us. Well; it would have been rude not to join in. By bottle three, John and myself were fluent in the local language, whatever that was. Then two policemen arrived. We don’t think they were looking for us, but as we had refused to pay to enter the mosaic place and as we had liberated some pieces of mosaic as well, we thought we should vacate the wedding party and the hotel, just in case. We moved through the crowd, now all our dearest lifelong friends, looking as innocent as we could and belted down the staircase to the front car park.
This is where I began to wonder about the effect the squadron was having on John. For at the bottom of the staircase was a police car. It was empty so I presumed it was the one the two coppers had arrived in. We could have made a clean getaway except John reached in to his bag, brought out a squadron zap, and zapped the windscreen of the police car. It was one of those ‘If I laugh any more I’ll pee myself,’ moments. We legged it back to the squadron guys who by now had taken over a bar and were busy getting drunk with the pelicans.
John and I realised that we had run into a dead end and explained our predicament to the chaps. As you may imagine for a bunch of guys who for using false names was second nature, disguising John and myself was easy. John changed clothes with some guys but I ended up wearing a skirt. The police did come along the harbour but seeing a crowd of fifty fellows, did the old equivalent of the British Bobby and his ‘Evening all,’ before turning and walking away. It was good to relax so I wandered out to the harbour to enjoy the sunshine. Yes that is me in the photograph leaning against the lamppost, but I was only chatting with the chaps, I wasn’t soliciting for business, not with legs like mine.
Some of the guys came out and turfed both John and myself into the harbour. The only people worried were the bar staff who came out shouting that we should be careful as the harbour was littered with broken glass. We assured them it was no problem as I still had my shoes on. Regrets? Yes, as the song says, I have a few. But so what, forgetting to have your photograph taken with a pelican is not the end of the world.