Friday, October 30, 2015


A Quest for the Holy Grail or a Trip to World Masters

A 21st.Century Quest For The Holy Grail
Have you heard the one about an Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman? Well this tale of valour and courage concerns four Englishman, and an Irishman and is told through the eyes of Sir Colin the Elder.
Day One
 The 22nd. Day Of October In The Year Of Our Lord 2015
With heavy heart, I leave our small homestead in the village of Folkestone, to begin my epic journey. My voyage will take me past the Badlands of our capital Londinium, North to the settlement known as Luton. There, at some ungodly hour before sunrise, I am to meet with my fellow companions and crusaders Sir George of Loscombe, Sir Drew, The Celtic Warrior and The Dark Knight, Sir Oleg with his trusty squire, the mysterious Artiom. I bid a farewell to my wife of thirty four years, knowing that even if I am to return to these shores physically unscathed, the memories of this campaign may well scar me forever.
Setting of in my trustee steed, it is a whole two hours before I reach the rest area on the outskirts of the area they call the airport. I hand over my mount and put faith in the grooms that she will be well looked after. A carriage awaits to transport me the short distance to the rendezvous with my fellow knights.
Knowing how tiresome the second leg of the voyage will be, a hearty breakfast is craven and my hunger is satisfied by what the locals call a “full English”. In jovial mood, even the delicacy of black pudding, a somewhat unsavoury sounding mixture of pig’s blood and oatmeal, is vigorously consumed. With this ritual offering devoured, my comrades in arms and myself are shepherded through waiting crowds, towards the iron bird that will takes us to foreign fields and what we hope will be eventual glory and honour.
Aboard this strange craft, we are greeted by peoples of a religion I have never before encountered. Dressed in their orange regalia, the female concubines of this creed are accompanied by male eunuchs who, seemingly, are also happy to look after our needs, all be it for financial recompense! One cannot feel but sympathy for our fellow man in these circumstances, the operation of castration has left them with bizarrely feminine voices. Indeed, one poor chap must have only recently been conscripted and was clearly in pain, as evidenced by the way he was talking and walking!
Just over four uneventful hours later, we arrive in the second largest settlement in The Holy Land, Tel Aviv. Here we experience our first of many delays, a ninety minute wait for our chaperone and transportation to our lodgings in Ashkelon. Another hour later we arrive and it is time for recruitment. Unfortunately, the lord has put the Russians in charge and this simple process is complicated by officialdom. By the time enlistment is completed, it is 6.30pm local time and myself and Sir Drew need to complete the process of having our weights checked, ready for battle tomorrow. Crammed into a small room, the body odour from the great unwashed is over powering but finally we retreat from the human cesspool and make our way to the eating place for some much needed nourishment. In Sir Drew’s case, this would be the first thing consumed that day, as he was nearing his top weight for battle and did not want to be too heavy. A surprising and hearty variety of rations was offered and all combatants ate vigorously. (Even Sir George found the provisions to be palatable, his dislike of things green, legendary.)
Filled with apprehension for the forth coming battles, we decided to retire to our chambers. This would be a first for me, my pre-combat ritual of curry and beer forsaken. Instead, total alcoholic abstinence. Sharing quarters with Sir Drew, we soon realised we had only one bed, all be it one of king sized proportions! One day, some-one will write about this, turning the idea into comedy, perhaps by those jesters Sir Eric Morcambe and Sir Earnest Wise.

Day Two
 The 23rd. Day Of October In The Year Of Our Lord 2015

We are up at sunrise and are once again pleasantly surprised by the quality and diversity of the first meal of the day. Transportation arrives shortly after 8.00am and we are whisked away to the battleground of Ashdod, some 30 minutes away. Here we learn of our opponents for the day, for Sir Drew an Israeli combatant and for myself, one from the shores of the Ukraine. I have the honour of challenging first, the fifth bout of the day on battleground number one, with Sir Drew not far behind, the sixth bout on battleground two. Our fortunes differ with Sir Drew victorious and myself defeated, but not broken. Eleven gruelling contests later and it is Sir Drew’s turn again, the challenger this time hails from Kazakhstan. A stronger opponent, Sir Drew suffers his first loss of the day. Battle weary and scarred, he will have one more contest against a Russian before his day is complete. Unfortunately for him and his supporters, he fares no better, but retires with his pride intact having made a valiant effort throughout the day.
Refreshment is sought from a local under cover market place, before we are conveyed back to our lodgings to freshen up and seek nourishment of both the solid and the liquid variety.
At our hostel, it is the turn of Sir George and the Dark Knight, Sir Oleg to feel the anxieties of forth coming battle. Having completed their own weighing process at the battle ground, they were able to sustain their appetite without worry. Their turn to retreat to their sleeping quarters at an early hour.

Day Three
 The 24th. Day Of October In The Year Of Our Lord 2015

Once more, up with the lark, fed and watered, we make our way to Ashdod to start battle. Sir Drew joins us before hostilities commence, having partaken of the local spa to relieve his fatigued body. First challenge is Sir Oleg against a warrior from Kazakhstan. He needs to be victorious if he is to advance in battle, as his foes are numerous. Victorious, his next adversary will be Lithuanian.
Sir George must do battle with a colossal from Moldova. In a contest reminiscent of David and Goliath, he is fearless in pursuit of his aspirations, but alas cannot emulate our biblical hero. He is rewarded for his struggles with a bronze medallion, something he and the rest of our crusaders are proud of.
Sir Oleg is victorious once more, but his reward is to find a Russian champion awaits. Fatigued, he is unable to reproduce his earlier heroics, gallantly losing to the taller, more experienced man. Unperturbed, he now challenges the Russian champion’s student, but drained and exhausted the vanquisher becomes the vanquished.
Despite results we are of good cheer, until we leave the arena at six thirty. Expecting transportation to be waiting, we linger outside for another hour. Finally, after much telecommunication, a small mini bus arrives and there is a mad scramble among forty warriors for the seventeen place available aboard. However, with no sense of the English need to que, we fight our way to the front, leaving lesser mortals in our wake and take our rightful place in the carriage.
Foot sore and weary, Sir George, Sir Drew and myself are fed and seek solace at the inn. Sir Oleg and his squire Artium, wander to take the night air. At this point, I should express our gratitude to young Artium, he has been steadfast in his self-appointed role of linguist and has been an invaluable aid to us all, seeking information and communicating our needs to the outsiders from Russia. Meeting with comrades from his motherland, he may have over done the camaraderie, something he may regret in the dawn of the new day.

Day Four
 The 25th. Day Of October In The Year Of Our Lord 2015

Celebrating our conquests of the previous two days, we reward ourselves with a chance to emerge in the culture of this foreign land. We are to take in the sights of Jerusalem and experience the Dead Sea. Two coaches arrive at 08.30, they should have been there at 07.30! Still, there were not enough seats for every-one, so more transport was called for, which arrived after another thirty minute delay. Sir George, feeling fatigued, had chosen to rest, which left the four of us, two in the coach and two in the minibus. The sights of Jerusalem and The Mountain of Olives were reached after two long hours, followed by a long stop for keepsakes at a local bazaar. (No doubt the organiser of this expedition was given financial recompense!) Out in the open, Sir Drew and I were sold Arabic coffee by a Palestinian dwarf, a first for the pair of us.
Ever onward, our expedition took us on to the old city of Jerusalem, first stop the Western Wall. Weary and in need of refreshment, I separated from the group after first seeking advice from our guide as to where and when we would rendezvous. A quick look outside the old city walls, revealed little of interest, until the moment I spied Oleg’s squire, Artium, frantically waving and trying to gain my attention. It seemed our rendezvous point and time had been changed, and that if we were not to hurry, we would be left behind! Racing through the narrow streets, we emerged at The Church of the Holy Sepulchre ahead of our fellow travellers. Joined now by Sir Drew, we marvelled at history and architecture from a by-gone year, until hunger overtook our thirst for culture. By this stage we connected with a pair of fellow nomads from the far away shores of America and off we went in search of sustenance. With-in hailing distance we discovered a local eatery and settled down to a mini feast of “shawarma” (lamp and salad served in pita bread) and coffee. Satiated by our meal, we settled up with some Shekels with the intention of merging once more with our fellow wanderers. To mine and Sir Drew’s dismay, we had only ventured a few yards, when we turned back to see no sight of the Americans. It later transpired they took the wrong turning, in the event getting lost, missing the bus and having to pay for a taxi to return them to Ashkelon.
Back in the mini bus and onward again, this time an hour and a half in transit to The Dead Sea. A unique experience that made all our trials and tribulations worthwhile. Finally, two more hours on the road, and we were back at our lodgings.

Day Five.
 The 26th. Day Of October In The Year Of Our Lord 2015

Transportation is to be provided for us at nine in the morning, to take us on the first leg of our eventual homecoming. True to form, a mini bus arrives, too small for the forty or so travellers and thirty minutes late. Another delay whilst we await more suitable mode of transportation. Finally, we are dropped off at what they called terminal three at the airport. Surely, nothing could go wrong know. Seeking information, we are told that our appointment with our flight ushers would be at terminal one, and that we should await transportation outside. A ten minute journey takes us to our destination where we are then interrogated about our stay, once inside the building, by officials of the local peace keeping force. We are herded upstairs only to be greeted by communication advising us of the need to report back to terminal three, from where our next mode of transport would depart!
At last, re-united with my trusty steed back in the land of our fathers, we bid a fond farewell to Sir Oleg and Artium. On-route to my abode, I leave Sir Drew and Sir George just outside the city walls of Sittingbourne, before concluding this epic adventure.

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