Saturday, 23 September 2017

Did I tell you about when... I went to a party half-cocked

12.30, I’d just finished work and I was on a mission. Word had reached me of a major party at the hotel where I had stayed when I first arrived and It wasn't going to happen without me. I had borrowed a 50 Vespa and I was on my way. Gerakina beach was some fifty kilometres away and with a top speed of about sixty, I would have to be patient. Very patient.


The road stretched out ahead of me and at sixty kilometres an hour it stretches a lot. I went through a village set on the main road which was still bustling with tourists and locals alike but after that I knew I had a lot of road that went through nowhere in particular so I settled in.
Vespas have a distinctive buzz, you know vespa means wasp in Italian, of course you did, well after twenty minutes that can become quite hypnotic. I've ridden the length and breadth of the UK on a Vespa, Exmouth, Skegness, Isle of Wight but always with a lot of company and always at more than 60kph.
Twitshot
The road ahead stretched and stretched and faded.
The handlebars were snapped out of my hands and my legs flung in the air. I awoke with rocks and a dense patch of nature ahead. No time for coffee! I grabbed control and pulled the levers hard. I was only a couple of metres from the road but only a couple of metres from the edge that would have had me swimming home or worse. Fortunately, both wheels were pointing at the ground and my feet planted firmly in the dust.
I dismounted, sat on one of the boulders I had so nearly painted with my face and sucked the calm from a camel cigarette. Ok, I know smoking isn't good for my health but it tended to hover so low on my list of activities that I lit another with the first.
The second leg of my journey was filled with singing and wide open eye exercises to ensure my family would not have to fork out for one of those little shrines by the road and a mangled 50 Vespa.
It was around two when I indicated the right into the Gerakina resort and it did cross my mind that the party may have begun to wane by my arrival. No chance. The bar was heaving. I rolled in, hugging, cheek-kissing and high-fiving to the bar and got straight down to business. There was Michaili who I’d rented my first scooter from and who had given me my first left-hacker to drive, Tina the lovely barmaid and Tim. Tim had arrived in Greece the same day as me but he was working for Thomson holidays as a rep. He spoke in a northern tainted RP accent and clearly hadn't got out much before getting here, I had taken him under my wing which probably wasn't a good thing, I was fully expecting his parents’ lawyers to be contacting mine when he got back to Lincolnshire in the autumn.
I’ll tell you some day how I came to be in Greece and while love has a lot to do with it, it’s not how most think it is. For now, me and life were having a torrid affair.
Now, among the throng was Pasqual, Tim’s boss and head rep for the area. He had been working in the industry for years and had seen most of the world, in little blue shorts and a logo’d polo shirt but he’d been around and had tales to tell. We had a laugh and joke until he asked me what my plans were for the night, I obviously wouldn't be taking the Vespa the fifty kilometres home, not anytime soon. I told him that I didn't have any plans but I was sure Tim could put me up. Tim kicked me in the ankle.
“He most certainly will not!” was Pasqual’s curt answer. Whereupon he went into a diatribe about going off half-cocked and without making appropriate arrangements. Damn! I never did anything half-cocked! As for the arrangements, he had a good point. I think he was still going on when I left him to revisit the bar. Tim came and scalded me for getting him in shit. I told him not to worry and his boss would never know. Tim was making significant progress but was still decidedly risk-averse.
So, I had nowhere to stay. This bombshell had me upended so I danced to Happy Mondays on a table with Amanda, the new kiddies rep who had transferred from Corfu, or some such island.
By the time the sun began to yawn over the horizon there were just a few of us sitting in the bar. Tim had slipped off, possibly to avoid having to say no to me. Pasqual had waited for Tim to leave but was now gone, Michaili was still as chilled as always but still in full effect. Tina the lovely barmaid had been relieved by the owner, much to my disappointment so I was sitting with Amanda, who was just as lovely. She asked me where I was staying. She wasn't familiar with my village so I explained where it was and how far.
“How did you get here?” she asked.
I pointed at the diminutive scooter sitting outside.
“You came on that? Yor mental!”
“Chicken oriental!” I replied.
She asked when I was going back and if I would be sticking around for a while.
I shook my head, “Gotta get back tomorrow, today. At some point.”
She reached her hand across the table and I took it, I'm nothing if not polite. “You could stay with me but I share.” I concealed my disappointment. “But, but I might have something.” She stood suddenly. “Come on!”
The hotel was quiet, apart from some Germans laying their towels on the sunloungers. She smiled at the guy on reception and led me by the hand. Eventually we reached a door and she tried the handle, it opened. She raised a finger to her lips. She didn’t give me much time to survey my surrounding but I got the impression that it was some kind of store room. It had no windows so I went to turn on the light. She stopped me, whispering ‘no’ into my ear.
We bounced around the room, bumping into furniture. There was a big soft pile of something that was probably towels in plastic bags which suited our needs for a while then another stack of something harder. As my eyes became accustomed to the dark I spotted a pile of mattresses. I told her breathlessly to wait while I pulled one down onto the floor. We continued. I thought we were being quite quiet but to be honest I couldn’t be sure.
Finally, we were finished and laid out on the single mattress when she leapt to her feet swearing in a loud whisper.
“Oh shit! Oh my god!”
“What’s up?” I knew she had work but surely we hadn’t lost complete sense of time. She continued swearing and pulling her clothes from around the room pulling on my t-shirt in her panic. I asked again. She said it was nothing.
Not to be dissuaded. “You late for work?”
“I got my period! Satisfied?” Then slipped out of the door.
I grabbed half an hour sleep then slipped out myself, looking both ways before exiting.
In a cafe across the road I had two strong coffees, a spinach pie and the rest of the camels in my box before kicking the Vespa into life.
As I left the resort I nearly had a head-on with a police car that was in a hurry for something. I looked over my shoulder to check that he didn't turn. I wasn't wearing a helmet and although they rarely pulled anyone for such transgressions in those days, it did happen if they were in a bad mood.
I broke the return journey into manageable legs punctuated by coffee and camels. I laughed at myself, I had a couple of spots of blood on my trousers and even my t-shirt. Poor girl, she must have been mortified. I resolved to call her when I got back to reassure her that it was no biggy.
I didn't call, we had no mobiles then and I didn't know her surname. I could have sent a message through Natasha, the Thompson girl in my village but I got distracted and forgot.
A few weeks later Tim was transferred to my village. We went out for drinks which he insisted on paying for in lieu of letting me down that night. I told him it was fine but he felt in my debt. I had been helping him with some of the apartment owners, his Greek had not progressed as fast as mine. He had exhausted his tales of difficult holidaymakers when his eyes lit up.
“You know, the police made us give them all our lists!”
“When?” I asked.
“Must have been after the party.”
“Why?”
“There was a murder at the hotel! One of the rooms was covered in blood.”
“My round,” I offered…


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