ARRSE Ypres Tour 2009
... or "are you a gay band?"
Ably organised by Oldbaldy and using the professional skills of Flyingmonkey, the various miscreants assembled in the function room of the cafe Het Zilveren Hoofd in Ieper on the evening of Friday 27 March 2009. Ticklish rodent, having made a drunken promise that he really shouldn't have made, organised the T-shirts in what can be only described as "screecher pink". It is rumoured that he agreed to this on the Somme tour when Mrs Baldy told him 'Big boys can wear pink', he failed to realise she meant his beer belly.
As usual, the Arrsers scared most off the locals out of the bar. Those brave enough to remain seemed perplexed by our dress code, and inquired as to whether we represented a gay band. Any allegations that Stoatman may have done nothing to dispel them of this notion, and may even have fanned the flames, are entirely unfounded -- honest!
Upstairs in the function room, both DozyBint andOrd_Sgt were copiously fined for refusing to wear their colours openly (closeted homosexuals, the both of them.) Thus, it was decided that these two would bankroll almost the entire charity effort of the tour. A small contingent went to the main square looking for solids. Finding a place that would serve a motley crew dressed in pink they then despatched us upstairs out of view of anyone who might be scared off. In the next room was a collection of old ladies playing whist, or some other genteel game, who could not believe what they were seeing, especially as WO2 Hamilcar was sat at the head of the table. A photo of WO2 Hamilcar being kissed by a very attractive waitress was obtained and she didn't even charge for it. After paying the bill & deciding it was the most expensive place in Ypres we discovered that where everyone had a beer, Poppy & Tiger-monkey decided to share a bottle of expensive red wine & add it to the bill.
On the way back to the join the rest various young girls in cars were persuaded to have their picture taken with WO2 Hamilcar.
Copious drinking followed, and Stoats when to bed early claiming he was on stag looking after his sprog during the night but more likely he couldn't stand the pace. Eventually all staggered off where ever they were staying..........(fill in the gaps)
Dawn broke with the shocking realisation for Family Stoat that the Ambrosia doesn't serve breakfast until 8 a.m. Being brash, British and abroad, they just helped themselves. Eventually, the remaining Ambrosia residents filtered down into the breakfast room, bedecked in their pinkest finery and displaying various degrees of hangover symptoms.
Assembling at 9 a.m. at the Bedford House Cemetery, new revelations were to strike those that did not already know, namely that Stanley1975 is a splitarse, and had been walting with confidence as a blerk on the forums for years. "The monkey was out of the sleeve", as she might say, being as she is of a wooden-shoed disposition.
Stoatlette, as the trip's youngest participant, was getting to know WO2 Hamilcar rather well, and even got to the point of exchanging bodily fluids with him. Despite being only 15 months old, Tiger-monkey fined her for not having an official T-shirt, proving many people's prejudices about the RMP to be entirely founded.
One of the first stops was the very well named Mud Corner Cemetery and on to Rifle Corner. What Flyingmonkey failed to tell us was that he had arranged for some Belgians to turn the track into a replica of the conditions experienced by the men in WW1. This also turned the clock back for some of us when we had to negotiate an assault course carrying Stoatlette's pushchair.
Then up the road to the site of the 1914 Christmas truce, and Rickshaw-Major becoming deliciously excited upon discovering several pieces of roadside UXO. He then went into overdrive telling everyone within 1000 metres everything they didn't know about every type of fuse known to man and his old muckers who had written books about them. Mrs Baldy thinks the information might come in handy one day!
Lunch was had at the Hooge Crater Museum, at which Rickshaw-Major creamed his shreddies at the sight of all those artillery fuses, and gave ..... a crash course on everything you don't need to know about such things. Stoats was also defeated by a rifle in the display case that he really did not recognise, although he thinks it was probably some sort of Mannlicher with a very odd quadrant rear sight (that's quite enough of that geekery, thank you!)
The scandal of the museum, however, was Rickshaw-Major incorrectly identifying as a German First World War bomb a device intended to be towed behind a minesweeper. Oops!
After lunch it was up on to the extremely windswept ridge to learn about the mining war. Flyingmonkey decided it would be a good idea to asked everyone to wait in driving rain and a howling gale at a rather exposed and misnamed Lone Tree Cemetery whist he and Diplomat repositioned cars. Being good soldiers we did as ordered, you would think we would know better. The Spanbroek Molen crater was rather an impressive sight, as were the others. Where DozyBint wore so many layers of clothes she did a very good impression of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.
About halfway through the afternoon's walk, Stoatlette was becoming a very grumpy bright yellow bundle, and was letting us all know about it. Family Stoat jacked it in and went back to town, leaving Ord-Sgt to take up Stoatlette's mantle as cold, wet, tired, miserable, whinging toddler, a role that I'm reliably assured he slipped into quite naturally.
Own arrangements were made for dinner and some went back to the main square making sure they avoided the the previous night's establishment. The meal was uneventful until someone was heard to say 'I should have brought my xrays for you to see'!!!!!!
They then joined the others at the Cafe t Klein Rijsel by the Lille gate, which surprisingly did not kick us out after its official closing time of 9 p.m.. During the evening there was a tribute to the two recently identified Northern Irish Soldiers by the Northern Ireland Veterans Association. During the evening banjotrooper was presented with a jar of Marmite and Paddington Bear in a presentation case because of his exploits on the 2008 tour. A spare shirt was auctioned by auctioneer Steve with his vivacious assistant Tiger-monkey when ordsgt and DozyBint tried to show who had the deepest pockets, telecoms or banks. Once thrown out, a contingent made it's way to the Novotel and sat telling stories of daring and bullshit. The bar manager then decided to close the bar to us early, even though a function was using the same bar. Oldbaldy told said young man the error of his ways and more drink was obtained before a night was called and everyone went to their respective rooms or back to their own hotels.(details, corrections here please)
As the clocks changed Flyingmonkey gave everyone a lie in. This was not good enough for DozyBint however and she chose to go back to bed after breakfast, proving she is a lightweight.
Unfortunately, JackBint declined to inform anyone of her amended course of action, leaving the rest of us standing around like very pink lemons in the Market Square for 20 minutes waiting for her.
At the Ambrosia, everyone appeared for breakfast... with the exception of OrdSgt, who had last been seen at the bar of the Novotel at dark o'clock the night before. Banging on his hotel room door garnered no response, which caused speculation that he had not made it back to the Ambrosia, and that he had perhaps spent the night up to his back wheels in one of the female Novotel residents -- after all, he had had the proverbial "few" sherbets the night before, and was already reeking of standard telecoms industry brandy by about 10:30 p.m.
Unfortunately for rumour control, and perhaps fortunately for Señora OrdSgt, he was in fact lying in his room, having retired to his pit scant few hours before.
Rickshaw-major and Diplomat left us for the delights of exotic Sarajavo, leaving Stavinki to tell us of all things that go bang. (more needed).