Celtic Illumination, part 192, A rock and a hard place.
I have often, as I am sure many of you, the Illuminati, have come across various rocks or lumps of stone that are associated with legend. I suppose the first one I encountered would have been the Blarney stone in Ireland. Legend has it that by kissing the Blarney stone you would imbue yourself with the gift of the gab, meaning a certain eloquence of speech. These days, and every day, you will find long lines of tourists waiting their turn to lean over backwards and place their lips against what most Irish people now know was an urinal. The second lump of rock I came across would have been two standing stones on the top of Tryfan in North Welsh Wales.
Tryfan, because of its shape, is one of the most recognisable mountains in the UK. It offers a variety of climbs but at the top has two standing stones known as Adam and Eve. This legend states that by climbing to the top of one of the stones and leaping across to the other will grant you the freedom of Tryfan. Others say that it gives you wisdom and some even say that you get your virginity back. You’re not going to believe this but there is a rock in Cyprus known as Aphrodite’s Rock. It is actually a sea stack and is also known as the Rock of the Greek. All you have to do here is swim around it three times and you will either get your virginity back or you will find love. A group of us decided to visit Aphrodite’s Rock and see what happened.
Had this been at ten o clock on a Saturday or Sunday morning then we could have claimed to have had our tourist heads on. As this was happening at midnight on a Friday night it would be safe to say that we had our stupid heads on. There were three mini buses full of us who arrived at Aphrodite’s Rock at about one o clock in the morning. We lit a fire and began drinking beer and wine wondering if we should swim clockwise or anticlockwise. This is a big problem with many myths and legends as there’s never anything written down. It was decided that some of us would swim around the rock three times in a clockwise direction; some would do the opposite while those having difficulty finding their knees sat on the beach watching the waves.
I suppose it’s one of those things you simply have to do. Mostly harmless and a positive tick on the ‘been there, seen that, done that,’ list most of us carried in our heads. The night was great fun, lots of splashing about and drinking but nothing really over the top. By dawn some had crashed out, but most of us were still in a party mood and decided that we would return to camp for breakfast, then we would gather at submarine point and spend the day there sunbathing and swimming. Submarine point was a beautiful spot hidden among the red sandstone cliffs. As you begin to descend from the cliff tops you are drawn by the turquoise water, so clear and inviting. The place looks raw and wild.
You can see a long strip of smooth rock jutting out into the ocean. As you approach the area it is quite exciting to think you have found such a remote and beautiful place, however once you actually get on to the rock I know my heart sank. Into the soft red sandstone of the cliffs were carved many squadron mottos and crests. Some of the work was quite detailed and very well done but we were surrounded with ancient caves and temples and ruins. The whole area was steeped with history and really did encourage your mind to wander off and dream about what life could have been like. I felt like a vandal as I sat down and tried to ignore the graffiti behind me.
We had each brought a gallon container of either wine or brandy as it was intended to continue the party, however as some bright spark once pointed out ‘the spirit is indeed willing but the flesh is weak.’ We had been drinking all night long and had just had a fill of food, the sun was beginning to smother the island and we all fell asleep. I can remember waking at about five in the evening. There was a slight chill in the air and I was in serious pain. I, as had everyone else on submarine point, had been burned raw by the sun. Now with a slight chill in the wind it made you feel as if the very skin on your body had shrunk.
I can remember scrambling back up the cliff which was so uncomfortable. We all hobbled back to our accommodation and did the only thing we were capable of doing, which was lying on our beds. Even that was painful. The night air was cold and it was just too excruciating to even have one single sheet covering your body. I had the great idea of dragging my mattress into the drying room, a room that was always hot for the drying of clothes, and was able to get some sleep. I don’t think anyone even bothered with food the next day as moving around was simply too agonizing.
Monday morning had us all back at work, for us on the squadron the first shift would be starting at six in the morning, whereas the main departments on camp would not be opening for business until nine o clock. At nine o clock I went to the medical centre where I hoped to get some calamine lotion and pain killers. There was a long queue waiting to see the medics so I found a quiet and cool corner and sat myself down. As with most medical centres there was a noiseless and calm atmosphere, people would speak in almost hushed tones, but this was a military medical centre and it should have been no surprise to any of us to have some idiot start screaming.
It was the Station Warrant Officer who had taken himself over to the medical centre to see what horrible people would be trying to take time off work by claiming to be ill. The first person in the queue, like myself, had some serious sunburn and was wanting something to ease the pain. The Station Warrant Officer had a different idea. This was self-inflicted injury and was therefore punishable. He was going to put the poor fellow on a charge. I’ve never seen a line of people disappear so fast in all my life. I got back to the squadron and gritted my teeth. My days in the guardroom were over, well; hopefully.
John Zammo had asked me to smuggle some brandy and wine back for him which he wanted for his wedding reception. I had no problem with that but one of the navigators, Barry, had decided that the squadron would host a Cypriot evening in the mess back in Germany and was looking to take fruit, brandy, pitta bread, lemon juice and even bitters back to Germany. Luckily with the Falkland’s raging away no one asked any questions about the amount of secure packages I was sending back to Germany.
Once back I had to collect Jimmy Orr’s mother in law and give her a lift to Liverpool, where I was heading anyway. They had a great system where people like myself, when flying out, would drive to the departure terminal and simply hand over our car keys to a squadron member who would be remaining on the squadron to keep the place safe, secure and ticking over in our absence. The cars would be taken to a HAS where they would be parked and maintained. They were treated in the same way that we treated military vehicles, they would have been started now and again to make sure the batteries were okay, drips and leaks would have been investigated. But arriving back in Germany you knew that you would walk in to the terminal and the same fellow would be there to return the keys to your car which would be parked outside the terminal. Very civilised indeed.
John Zammo told me that he laid all the Cypriot booze, along with more wine he had bought in Germany, along the back seat of his car. He had covered it, so as not to encourage thieves and the like, and intended to declare it at customs when he arrived in the UK. Everything he would have to declare was on the back seat and everything else in the boot. He had quite a large quantity of booze and cigars to declare. As he came off the ferry in England, John drove towards the ‘Something to declare,’ area but was waved through by the customs officers. The only reason we could think of for his good luck was swimming around that fecking rock, which we would all be aiming for next time we went to Cyprus. But now we had an even bigger problem because John couldn’t remember which direction he had been swimming in.