I’m off to Corfu, me

Remember how, for the last six years I have promised, swore that I would never again set foot in an airport?   https://jerrychicken.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/at-last-some-common-sense/

Well, somethings gone wrong somewhere.

For yesterday I found myself on the phone giving my credit card details to a travel agent of my acquaintance (Hello Mark) in order to purchase two weeks in a hotel room in Corfu, in August along with said travel agents parents and two other nutters who we know well.

Thats what happens when you buy me two pints of lager and make me drink them on a warm bank holiday lunchtime.

So now it begins, “I haven’t got a thing to wear”, and to be honest she probably hasn’t since its six years since our last holiday, I have though, its easier for men isn’t it, I still have all the t-shirts in my wardrobe that I wore on our last holiday, so they’ll do then, I couldn’t give a shit whether anyone in Corfu looks at then and says out loud, “Those t-shirts look like you last wore them six years ago”, “they are retro” I shall reply, and instantly appear to be cool.

Men can get away with that sort of thing, but women can’t, women have to take a complete new wardrobe of clothes every time they go on holiday, “I couldn’t possibly wear this stuff again” they say, “after all, I wore this once last month and someone might see me” and knowing my wife she really will bump into someone in Corfu who will smile and then say “oooh you wore that blouse last month when I saw you shopping at White Rose”, because thats what women are like.

I mean, when was the last time you met your blokey mates down the pub and said to one of them “I liked that sweater the first time I saw you wear it, when the old King died…” you don’t do you, it doesn’t even matter if you all turn up at the pub in jeans that you’ve just finished doing the gardening in and it sure as hell doesn’t matter that you’ve not put a comb through your hair before you went out because none of us have any bloody hair left to comb, in fact when I was booking hotel rooms for us all for this summers bike ride I asked for a discount if they didn’t have to leave hair dryers in the rooms – the most pointless accessory that we blokes will ever need.

I last went to Corfu 31 years ago, August 1980, in those far distant yet halcyon days Greece had only just got rid of its military government, they had only just got used to the idea of having a democracy again, The Eagles wrote a song at the time called “The Greeks don’t want no freaks” in reference to the strict entry controls into the country in the early 1970s, if your hair was too long, if your beard was too straggly, if your clothing was too bizarre, if you ticked all of those boxes and you weren’t a Greek Orthodox Priest, then they wouldn’t let you in.

The Greek currency exchange rates were tumbling like a tumbling thing running downhill out of control, we had around 240 drachma to the pound and we couldn’t spend it all, the previous year when we had gone to Rhodes we had only been allowed to exchange £50 worth of currency and you weren’t allowed to leave Greece with any drachmas at all which was a problem as it was really difficult to spend £50 worth of currency in Rhodes that year, everything was so cheap we nearly resorted to throwing the money away in the street on our last day.

Corfu in 1980 was similarly cheap and still not prepared for the influx of tourists every summer who were starting to seep through the brand new airport from the UK, Germany and Scandinavia, we rented a villa in a small fishing village called Benitses and in that small fishing village we were the Thomson Holidays only clients – people who have been to Benitses since tell me that “small fishing village” would lead to a travel operator being sued under the Trade Descriptions Act these days, its apparently fully embraced the tourist Euro and now has its full catalogue of hotels, bars, nightclubs and all the other stuff that is required in order to stay drunk for two weeks – in 1980 the village had four lads from Leeds staying in one villa halfway up the mountain, and every evening we came down from the mountain and tried to spent as many drachma’s as possible in one of three taverna’s on the quayside, we threw away lots of drachmas at the end of the holiday that year too.

Although we didn’t know it at the time that summer of 1980 in Corfu was our swansong of bachelorhood, the last holiday that we took together, Richard had already taken the first steps in his relationship with his now-wife of 30 years and we spent several days looking for a phone anywhere on the island so that he could ring her just the once to find out if she’d passed her A levels, Steve was just a few weeks away from meeting his now-wife of 29 years and I would meet the current wife in November of the same year, Charlie had just joined the Police and would soon drift off and form a long and happy relationship with a German Shepherd Police Dog and thenceforth various Spaniel drugs dogs, he is easily pleased, give him some rolling tobacco, a harmonica and beer and he’ll be your friend for life.

We lived for two weeks as beach bums, long days on a pebble beach that would not really count as a beach in these days of fussy tourism, snorkeling in crystal clear turquoise seas, hiring an old fisherman from the harbour who would take us out to sea on his fishing boat rather than be arsed fishing, “Where do you want to go today boys” he’d ask in broken English, “Surprise us” we’d say and he would, taking us to empty bays with forested cliffs where it seemed that no-one had ever set foot, bung him a fistful of drachma’s and a bottle of Ouzo and he was yours for the day, buy him a drink in his taverna every night and he was your friend for life and the next time he’d take you out on his boat he’d show you how he liked to attract the attention of the Albanian gun boats by venturing just a little too far out into the narrow straits that separate those two countries, mad old bastard.

Nights were spent in the few tavernas on the quayside scoffing food that had been freshly prepared just a few minutes earlier from sea produce that had been caught earlier that day, nothing was microwaved (they didn’t exist), nothing was bought in as catering packs, if you ate prawns in one taverna they didn’t taste exactly like the prawns that you ate last night in another taverna because they’d all been prepared as ready meals in the same factory, we drank copious quantities of beer and wine every night and crunched on as much free, hard dry bread as the waiters could bring, and they’d bring a fresh basket out with every round, then we’d pay them a fistful of drachmas that we couldn’t get rid of and wobble our weary way back up the mountain to our vine covered whitewashed villa with its panoramic views and millions of mosquitoes, to sleep the sleep of the dead and be awoken by the sun tapping on the shuttered windows early the next day, to do it all over again.

I suspect that the island has changed somewhat since then, looking at the exchange rate for the Euro (almost exact parity now) I suspect that it will be slightly easier to spend all of our holiday money, looking at our travelling partners I don’t think that it will be very hard at all to spend our holiday money in various and random bars, will the days be long and beach-bum like, will it be a quiet time of lounging around day and night, will the plane catch fire just before landing like it did in 1980 ?

These and many other questions will be answered in August of this year, wish me luck.

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