Yesterday (Thursday) was essentially for us a wind down on the site. The area that the group have been digging was all but finished and we would be leaving minimal excavation for the Cypriot archaeologists to have to do to complete it. For the last day of our site work I mostly “supervised” as there was not a great deal of sieving left for us to do and Karl decided to do some digging. Clearly there were a great many opportunites to take the piss out of Karl due to his being almost blind. This would be deemed as really cruel and unnecessary outside of the military circles and to some, understandably inside those circles, but Karl and I have from day one it is fair to say, “ripped each other a new one” with the back and forth verbal abuse and general piss taking but with an understanding that if anything said to each other was to us too far then we would say so and reel it in a bit. As yet, this has not happened nor do I expect it to. For those thinking that I am an utter bastard for making fun of someone who is clinically regarded as blind, I can fully appreciate your feelings and probable disgust but seriously, you should hear what he says to me! I will say though, that firstly no other group member goes anywhere close to the abuse that we give each other and indeed sometimes look in horror at what we have said, and secondly I cannot remember the last time that I cried so much through laughter, well not sober anyway!
So once I had told Karl that he was holding the wrong end of the digging implement (which he obviously wasn’t and he knew so), and he had called me some very rude words (bless him), he commenced chipping away to assist in clearing the area of excavation. At no point in time did I yelp as if he had hit something or tell him he had missed a bit as that would have been downright disgusting, (so obviously I had on a few occasions) and at no point in time did he call me things that were unprintable but to his credit, he didn’t kill or maim anyone.
Concurrently to the work that Karl and the Gang (wasn’t that a band?) the “conservation team” were beginning to wash the floor that had been excavated and as the dirt and film were cleaned away, beautiful mosaics were revealed. Please take a couple of minutes to watch the videos below, if you are interested in archaeology or not, the end result is amazing. It takes some thinking about to try to imagine what it must have been like to not only have to make the tiny pieces of tessera (spelling??) but to actually lay it in to the pictures and patterns. It also gives you an idea of the things that Karl and I have been searching for whilst sieving. The site will not see any digging activity for rest of the year until maybe the middle of next but the “conservation team” will spend a week or so cleaning, photographing and covering the newly excavated parts of the site and finally close it down.
Our day on site ended at lunch time with a BBQ prepared and cooked by our Cypriot hosts so we had different local foods, they treat us as family while we are with them which makes for a very relaxing atmosphere. It was at 13.30hrs that we said our “Goodbye’s” to our hosts for another year and headed back to camp where I immediately set about squaring my packing away leaving only the minimum that I needed. This is not an indication of my desire to leave in fact nothing could be further from the truth, of course I have my family in the UK who I want to be close to but I do quite like it here. The weather is predominantly good, it is quiet and the people friendly but by packing as much as early as possible meant that I would have more time to sort my room etc and ultimatley have time for myself in the long run. So having showered and packed as much as possible the time of 16.45hrs approached. The significance of this? We were meeting at the Mess to then drive to the Library where we would be met by a driver who whould take us to meet with the unit who had invited us to evening meal.
Long story short, someone had “dropped a bollock” and transportation had been forgotten about for our evening out. It is not an everyday occasion that you get invited to evening meal with the unit that had invited us and so with phone calls back and forth by Karl and Stewart giving us no answers, I had to make the decision that we would regrettably have to let the unit know we would not be able to attend due to a complicaiotn and make our sincere appologies. With a cut off time that I had given to Karl and Stewart getting ever closer, a people carrier arrived who said that he would be taking us out. We cross loaded vehicles and as we were about to pull away, another minibus arrived. How ironic, from no driver to two drivers! The journey was around twenty or so minutes from the Air station, it would take us past a large Army base and eventually to a little used camp where the unit we were to dine with were “overhauling”. So who was the unit that we were going to see, that we had been privelidged to be invited to dine with? It was `K` Troop, 70 Gurkha Field Squadron who are a unit of engineers.
I served with 2nd Royal Gurkha Rifles in Kabul in 2003-2004 when we were the Rifle Volunteers. It was my first tour and what a unit to be attached to. I would recommend spending some time to look up the Gurkha’s on the internet and read about their history and the amazing selection process that these incredible men have to go through simply to have what they regard as the honour to serve as a soldier in the British Army. Some of those that I spoke to are third generation Gurkha soldiers and regard it as a tradition of their family to continue to serve, very humbling therefore that these amazing individuals wanted us to dine with them. When we arrived at the camp that they have been working on, they approached the people carrier as a unit. Enquiring as to how they could assist me in getting out and in to my chair and each wanting to meet us. This in itself was testiment to how fantastic these guys are, they had gone to the trouble of ensuring that there was a ramp in place for me to be able to get in to the building where we would be eating which also showed a great deal of thought on their part, unfortunately though an O Group was being held in the building and so we ate outside instead which I have to say was really pleasant.
One of the first things that I was asked was; “How are you with a semi hot curry?” A `semi hot curry`, hmmm. I thought it best to speak up at this point and simply said; “A semi hot curry to whose pallet?” Having been shown to the end of one of the picnic style benches that had been arranged for us, one of the Gurkha engineers approached me with some food. A Pork curry, some salad and bread and a fantastic looking cake for a pudding. “I hope that this is OK for you and that you enjoy it” he said and after I had thanked him he went off to collect some for himself. I sat talking to an English Lt and a Gurkha Sgt asking about why they had joined and what attracted them to the engineers. I spoke to the Sgt about his wanting to join the British Army, training he had done in preparation for the selection process and courses he had taken since his joining, one of which was the Army Commando course. I could have stayed all evening talking to the Sgt about being a Gurkha but alas it was not possible. They had been up early and slogging all day and we didn’t want to keep them up for too long as we knew that they had the same to do in the morning. The food was fantastic and the hospitality was incredible. I thank `K` Troop of the Gurkha Field Squadron for the privelige to have been invited and to have spent the evening with you all.
Professor Sir Ralph Turner, MC, who served with the 3rd Queen Alexandra’s Own Gurkha Rifles in the First World War, wrote of the Gurkhas:
“As I write these last words, my thoughts return to you who were my comrades, the stubborn and indomitable peasants of Nepal.
Once more I hear the laughter with which you greeted every hardship. Once more I see you in your bivouacs or about your fires, on forced march or in the trenches, now shivering with wet and cold, now scorched by a pitiless and burning sun.
Uncomplaining you endure hunger and thirst and wounds; and at the last your unwavering lines disappear into the smoke and wrath of battle.
Bravest of the brave, most generous of the generous, never had country more faithful friends than you.”
Good afternoon all.