They claim that the mission is not yet technically finished. We’ve completed our preparation in France. We’ve put our skills to practice in the Afghan conflict (with gusto, I might add). Six months later we packed up our bags, loaded into a helicopter and waved goodbye to our beloved FOB. What on earth is there left to do?
Only forty eight hours of r ‘n r in a five-star hotel here in sunny Cyprus. Thank you French taxpayers, we love you, we really do.
Bienvenue а la Coral Beach Hotel and Resort. Finding itself located just outside the town of Paphos, this luxurious vacation hotspot is normally the chosen destination for retired couples, newly weds (indeed a few weddings went down during our stay), the occasional young family and a healthy dose of young single Russian girls. But I wouldn’t know anything about that sort of thing.
Despite the apparent plushness and overall comfortability of our surroundings, our timetable was regrettably a tad overloaded. The ol’ "Army see, Army do" mantra coming in to play. Several hour-long stints were spent in group therapy sessions (seriously!), discussing possible problems one might encounter once back in the normal world. Well it was what you would expect really. The drop in wages, the despicably outdated and uncomfortable uniform, switching back to meals from the dreaded regiment restaurant, pretty much all the components of a sturdy case of PTSD. The shrink finished, hands dusted off with satisfaction, we switched over to meditation. Sprawled out on the floor, sucking in air like a winded heifer before blowing it out just as hard, I can’t say it wasn’t a relaxed sixty minutes of each day, but the instructor tended to emit a vibe resembling Paul McKenna offering candy to little children. Bizarre, but hardly day-destroying.
The relaxing powers of our dedicated rohypnotist only stretched so far, however. In order to tumble across the finish line, we were forced to profit from a free back massage included in our stay. Two pretty young Belgian girls dished out the oil and went to work, but the massage was more a token rub-down than anything. Not to be denied a proper decontracting session, I didn’t hesitate to point out a ball of tension in my left shoulder. "Oh, so you don’t want me to massage that part?" asked my fluffy, flapping masseuse. Er, what website did you buy your certificate from, love? Fortunately, the girls’ supervisor - upon hearing my smooth, lyrical Irish accent - came over and relieved my Belgian beauty from her failing attempt. Suddenly I had a jolly middle-aged English lady digging fingers, elbows, chins, you name it, into my poor stiff shoulder. "Don’t tell anyone about this" she pleaded, "Normally this is only supposed to be a token rub-down" she confided in a shrill whisper. My lips were sealed, mainly from trying to muffle my screams of agony. But an hour later in the jacuzzi after my sauna session, I began to feel the positive effects. Ah, a soldier’s life is the life for me.
Now, tequila has severely diminished my recollection of our first night at the hotel. Suffice to say that at breakfast the following morning I was besieged by congratulatory slaps on the back from the grunts and displeased and disapproving glances from the top brass in equal measure.
When in Paphos.......
The second day saw the timetable freight train hit the brakes momentarily, a morning trip to and tour of the town followed by another creepy floor-hugging session the only real activities of note. Needless to say the gym was completely overwhelmed by the visiting soldiers, the swimming pool experiencing a similar temporary invasion. The evening promised karaoke. I won’t lie, spirits were high. Nobody mentioned that the song list contained nothing but farcical French "classics". My disgust was evident, the tequilla called. I opted for a cola, my liver crying out for mercy upon sighting the ruthlessly diminished bottle behind the bar. Then an anonymous tipster dropped off the International catalogue. Ah George Michael, it had been far too long. "Faith" got its traditional celtic remix, the crowd went wild, we danced the shuffle and everybody hit the hay smiling.
I say "everyone hit the hay" when, in fact, I’m writing this at 1am when the majority of the lads are still downstairs giving it socks to Lady Gaga and co. Tomorrow we touch down in France, and Friday spells the beginning of 2 weeks leave. The REAL holiday. They claim that the mission is not yet finished. Perhaps not, but the fuckin’ tequila certainly is.
AU REVOIR AFGHANISTAN
You certainly left your mark. I just hope that I did too.