“Oh, you’re on a motorcycle. You’ll need to display a parking permit on it. Is there anywhere you can put it where it won’t blow away or get wet?”
“Um. Not really”.
A bit of head-scratching followed.
“Do you have any panniers on the bike?”
“Just put it in there then”
I rode over to Gateway House, the on-site hotel. The car-park seemed pretty full, but there was a push-bike park right next to the entrance. I parked in there, unloaded my luggage, and locked the bike. Enter hotel reception, and cue another friendly military person.
“Hello, I’m off to Akrotiri tomorrow. I’ve left my motorbike next to the push-bike rack outside for the duration. Is that ok?”
“Er. How long are you leaving it for?”
“Until a week Saturday”
“Um. Er, I suppose it’ll be alright there”
So, should anyone from RAF Brize Norton be reading this, please don’t blow up, tow away or impound the blue-and-white striped BMW motorbike reg P590RGM parked next to the bike-racks outside Gateway House. I’ll be back for it on the 14th. Oh, and the parking permit is in the top-box. I’ve got the key if you need it.
Gateway House itself is pretty basic. The rooms have a 1970s student hall of residence vibe, with perhaps a slight undertone of remand centre. I have slept in far worse places though, such as the 1970’s hall of residence of which it reminded me. But it does have a bar, and I decided to check it out. It was fairly quiet, other than a couple of soldiers getting a few last beers in before being sent somewhere dry. I bought a pint of Guinness, and they invited me to join them. Jack and Andre were both top lads. Unfortunately, they weren’t allowed to tell me who they were with, or where they were going, other than one darkly muttered word: “Desert”. Jack, like me, is a northerner and from Lancashire, and a bit of a Rugby League fan. Andre was wearing an England Rugby Union shirt. Inevitably, the cross-code banter started, and we soon got to the core question which always arises in this situation, namely “which is the superior code?” (the correct answer is “Rugby League” in case you were wondering).
However, something of an impasse developed, so Jack and Andre decided to settle the argument in the only sensible way possible (non-Rugby fans may need to do a bit of Googling to make sense of the next bit): the two of them set a scrum in the middle of the bar. After a while, it was clearly a close call, so Andre, in the finest RU tradition, collapsed the scrum. 1-0 to RL. They then said their farewells and disappeared, as they were due to fly off to “Desert” at 3.30am.
And so to bed. Didn’t get a great night’s sleep, and woke up at about 5.50am, which gets me into Cyprus time straight away I guess. I went down to breakfast. The only outbound flight scheduled for the day was mine, due off at 10am, and as far as I could tell, pretty much everyone in the hotel was on my flight, and having breakfast. Only toast and cereal was available at that time, with the fry-ups not starting until 7am. The coach to the terminal, containing pretty much everyone staying in the hotel, left at 7am. No, I can’t figure that one out either.
The sun came up. Sort of. It was a very damp, grey, dull, chill autumn morning, the first one of the year so far. The sort of start to the day that used to make my heart sink in my full-time digging days because it was irrefutable proof that winter was coming. Makes me very glad that a) I don’t have to work outside in winter any more and b) I’m heading for a sunny island in the Med.
It got very misty and then properly foggy, then from out of nowhere a really short, sharp shower of rain shifted the lot. The plane itself is a wide-bodied Airbus, with loads of leg-room compared to the average tourist charter. EasyJet this isn’t, I’m glad to say, especially as I flew to Cyprus with them fairly recently and have had empathy for the humble sardine ever since. Take off was delayed for an hour due to a water-leak. We got some engineers on. They fixed it. It started leaking again. We took off anyway, but no chance of me getting a look at site tonight as it’ll be dark by the time we get there.
So, leaky plane permitting, I’ll be in Akrotiri tonight, and tomorrow this blog may even contain some mention of archaeology.