Rathlin trip to mark friend’s milestone birthday

Graeme 'Yer Man' Cousins
Graeme 'Yer Man' Cousins

On Saturday, to celebrate my friend Glyn Dando’s 40th birthday, a group of 10 age-hardened adventurers journeyed to Rathlin Island.

Dando has been my friend since we went camping together on the Isle of Man in 1989.

Quite how our friendship blossomed following what was generally regarded as First Lurgan Scout troop’s most pitiful annual camp of all time is beyond me.

I was 11 at the time and one of only seven people (four leaders and three Scouts) who went on the week-long camp in a cow-pat riddled field on an island famous for cats with no tails and motorbike racing. Joining myself and Dando was a third Scout who went by the name of Psycho.

While I’ve blanked most of the camp out, my abiding memories are of spotting John Inman in Douglas and watching Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade in a cinema all by myself because I wasn’t old enough to see Licence to Kill with Dando and Psycho.

A quarter of a century later Rathlin Island was the location chosen by Dando to mark his four decades on the planet. Sadly John Inman couldn’t be with us for the occasion.

The ferry to Rathlin was an interesting experience. Full of the joys of Spring we decided to sit on the open top deck for the crossing. It seemed like a good idea at the time, and all was going swimmingly until we ended up practically swimming thanks to two particularly big waves which managed to cover all 10 of us in salt water.

The plan had been to go on a big walk around the island to see all the sights including the lighthouse, the puffins and the lighthouse again.

But as has been the situation many times down the years with our group of friends, the pub got in the way. At least we walked there so we got some form of exercise.

It had been hoped there would be some form of entertainment in the pub, a pub quiz would have been ideal. Dando is the sort of person you want on your team in a pub quiz. Not only is he very good at quizzes, but he’s very, very good at pubs.

Sadly there was no pub quiz, the juke box was broken and Mary Black was away for the week so we had to make our own fun.

Our topics of conversation including ‘What genre does Chris de Burgh’s Lady In Red fit into?’ and ‘Is racism an extreme form of OCD?’ before the night culminated in a sing-off against a neighbouring table of locals featuring a rendition of Scorpions’ Wind of Change complete with the whistling bit.

I think we may have lost. Let’s just say we wet our whistles to the point where our whistles were no longer in tune.

While the walk to the pub took us roughly eight minutes, the walk home took considerably longer and resulted in several casualties. Roads Service would do well to address some of the cavernous potholes on Rathlin.

Sunday was a day of suffering for me. My mouth was as dry as Gandhi’s flip-flop, my head pounding like intro to Blue Monday and my eyelids were drooping like a broken Velux blind.

I was in bed for 8pm on Sunday night and while an epic 11-hour sleep did me the world of good, come Monday there were still a few cobwebs. It proved to me that I’m not as young as I used to be nor as young as I think I am, but at least I’m not as old as Dando.