Dragging my cold, wet feet through the large puddle Edinburgh had become, I draw my jacket collar to my chin and hunch forward hurrying towards the bus shelter. It’s my day off work and my mood reflects the sky, cold and miserable.
While contemplating my place in the world I raise my head just in time to watch the bus fly by and as my eyes fix upon a the green illuminated sign above the building across from me reading Army Careers I shout “Fuck it” and step inside the warm reception room.
I’d always wondered how my physical fitness compared to that of trained soldiers and needing a break from being me I arrange an Interview beginning the process of singing up to The Royal Regiment Of Scotland.
It went much faster that I could have imagined and before I knew it I was going to camps and laying down run times, strength tests and urine samples that would eventually see me precede towards a stretch at Catterick’s training barracks.
Having already made an impression in pre-training demolishing an obstacle course that had obviously been too well camouflaged for me (I ran over the top of a netted crawl obstacle and fucked it up), getting lost during my timed run and turning up with a long beard and mow hawk hairstyle, I earn the nicknames Mad Monk and Lieutenant Dan before making plans to visit friends in Italy and Germany for one last big blow out.
Losing a whole week of holiday due to an Icelandic volcano spewing ash all over Europe, I land in Bari with the flu and ears that won’t pop for the next few days. So far so good eh!
I’m shown some spectacular places in the South of Italy including Matera (Passion of the Christ) before making my own way North through Rome where I finally step inside the Colosseum , Florence where my train smashes on the brakes due to a drunk falling on the tracks (British tourist) and Venice where I book into a one star hotel. After two days lost in the land of gondoliers I say adios to Italy and guten Tag to Germany.
Arriving in Munich I buy a ticket for a later train to Hamburg and set out in search of an Internet cafe at six am. It doesn’t open until nine and while I wait in the rain I’m treated to a pair of drunk German nutters staggering out of a hotel, throwing out a series of salutes while shouting “Sieg heil, sieg heil” then beating the crap out of a lamp-post. Welcome to Germany I quietly muse to myself.
In Hamburg my friend takes me for a kebab where we reminisce about our time in Turkey and I tell her news from Italy and how our friend Lucia is getting on. I tear into a tough part of cheese drenched kebab only to hear Wiebkes cry of “No Andy, that’s the napkin”!
Returning from her house one evening I pass through the infamous Reeperbahn for the first time and find myself at the mercy of one pretty yet forceful prostitute outside the steps of the equally infamous Reeperbahn Police Station.
Explaining that I’m only having a look around she responds with “You would have a better look with empty balls”. Something about the German accent does it for me. I don’t know what but, I laugh a little when I’m asked “You come with me and make some sex”? No doesn’t seem to be in this girl’s vocabulary and my hands only freed after I promise I’m on my way home to get more money.
A Kiwi friend I’ve made here shares his first time experience of Reeperbahn with me and tells of how he was asked by a club owner if he’d like a glass of champagne. After taking a sip the owner explains that it’s going to cost 300 euros since it’s by the bottle. If he doesn’t pay up the police will be called! FUCK THAT!
Still lying in my room that’s shared with seven other people, I wake in the morning to the sound of my own voice shouting “You think that’s funny? You can go and fuck yourself”! I scan the room and find one old German lady sneaking a nervous look in my direction -the same woman who freaked out when she saw my novelty pen in the shape of a syringe. Shit, I’m not a great fan of shared accommodation and this is exactly why. Finding me every other morning with covers around my ankles, arm draped over a pillow and one hand planted over my groin threatening the world in my sleep, would lead me to believe that my room-mates aren’t so fond of sharing with me either.
Three weeks of holiday come to an end all too quickly and I start preparing myself for life in the army after now gaining a beer gut from antics in Germany. I lose the beard. I shave my head. I board a train for Darlington.