A lad’s holiday – Corfu 1980, part two

A full day on the beach followed during which we covered our selves liberally in the “Team sunblock” to prevent burning, all except Charlie who had brought a glass medicine bottle full of  olive oil and vinegar, he spread the concoction all over him and laid on the pebble beach gently frying, gleaming like an oiled-up body builder but smelling like an old chip pan.

As we left the beach in the golden light of a late Corfu’en afternoon, tired from lying around all day, salty from numerous forays into the sea to cool down and glowing a slight pink despite our liberal applications of Bergasol sun block factor 25, (apart from Charlie who was bright red and visibly sizzling like a sausage in a chip fryer), we noticed an old lady sat at the side of the road under a tarpaulin who appeared to be selling fruit.

Charlie offered to go across to her to see if she had any melon for the next mornings breakfast, it would sort of make up for the lard toast he’d given us, we left him to it and began the long walk up the mountainside to our villa.

Half an hour later and Charlie still hadn’t returned to the villa, we weren’t concerned, just curious, we’d dragged the kitchen chairs out onto the street again and sat there with a bottle of beer each waving at the locals and returning their greetings of “Yassa” even though we knew not what it meant when suddenly Charlie appeared around the corner at the bottom end of the square, bent double over something on the floor.

We sat and stared for a minute or more, as did several other people who were in the small church square at the time. Wearing only a pair of shorts Charlies legs and upper body were by now a lovely shade of scarlet, but it was his purple face that attracted our attention, he was soaked in sweat and constantly mopped his forehead with his wet tee shirt before sitting down to rest on the huge boulder that he appeared to be pushing into the square.

He sat on the boulder for a minute or so leaning forward, elbows on knees, head bowed, trying to get his breath back in the hot, dry august afternoon, then looked up and beckoned us towards him, we stood and cautiously approached him across the square wondering why the hell he had bothered to push this huge boulder all the way up the mountainside from the beach.

As we got closer and he regained his posture a little we could see that in fact it wasn’t a boulder at all but a melon, the biggest melon that I have ever seen, it was without one word of a lie at least one metre in diameter and by now the surface of it was scarred and embedded with small pebbles from its long push up from the beach.

“Give us a bloody hand you lazy bastards” Charlie urged

We just stood and stared in amazement, as did everyone else in the square, a small crowd was now gathering to look at the strange holidaymakers.

“Didn’t she have a smaller melon” Steve asked

“This is the small one” Charlie replied

It took the four of us to roll the melon across the square to the great amusement of the locals and when we reached the doorway to our villa it was too wide to go through.

Charlie stood upright for the first time in forty minutes, he was glowing an angry red now, the olive oil and vinegar really doing a spectacular job in protecting him from the merciless Corfu August sun.

“Theres enough here for breakfast for the whole fortneet” he proclaimed proudly

“I don’t like melon” said Richard

“Shall we just leave it here then” I asked

“How the hell are we going to get it all in the fridge” asked Steve, once again the practical thinker among us.

It was true, we only had a small fridge and at the moment it was full of bottles of beer, but undaunted Charlie went into the corridor kitchen and came out with a bread knife and at the third attempt managed to find a soft enough spot on the melons surface to plunge the knife inside it.

We butchered the melon right there on the doorstep, carving it up into giant crescent shaped slices almost one metre across and  at least 30cm deep. At least half of the huge fruit was thrown in the bin, we tried to give it away to some of the local women but they ran away from us when we approached them shouting at their children to keep away from the foreigners and their giant fruit habit.

The next morning, once again bleary eyed and bleary eared I staggered into the corridor kitchen to find Charlie sitting bright eyed and bushy tailed at the table, on his own, with one of the giant melon slices in front of him, he beckoned me to take my seat and went into the kitchen to bring out another unfeasibly large slice for me, carrying it across both arms. Sitting staring at it I pondered on the practicalities of eating so much fruit for breakfast and also the best way of getting through the 30cm of red flesh and seeds before you got to the edible bit underneath the skin.

Taking the bread knife I started to hack off big chunks of the red seedy flesh at which point Charlie asked me what I was doing. I explained that I was trying to get down to the bit that you eat at which he rolled his eyes and tut-tutted at me and showed me how he was tackling his own giant portion.

According to the Charlie Smith method of eating melon you used your hands to tear great chunks of the red flesh and stuff the whole lot in your mouth, seeds and all, then suck the mess for a short while before spitting out the seeds into a breakfast cereal bowl that he’d placed on the table for the purpose. The bowl was already almost full, he must have spat out at least two hundred seeds already and he had hardly yet started on his melon.

I shook my head in despair, he had some weird ideas and habits sometimes, for instance banging his head on the pillow just before he went to sleep, seven bangs to wake up at 7am, eight for an 8am call etc, strangely enough though that one seemed to work.

“Where’s the Burts” I asked still trying to cut my way down to edible flesh.

“Dunno” replied Charlie, barely legible with another mouth full of melon seed

And just then the door to their bedroom opened and out came Steve looking a lot more disheveled than normal and obviously agitated about something, we also noticed that his face had several angry looking red spots on it that had risen into miniature cones and given him the appearance of someone with a severe pox infection.

Not saying a word to us he stomped across the corridor and slammed the bathroom door behind him, Charlie and I just stared across the table at each other, someone had obviously had a bad night.

A few minutes later Richard appeared from their bedroom, sat at the table, folded his arms on the table top and flopped his head onto them, we couldn’t help but notice that his pox infection was much, much worse than Steves especially his knuckles and fingers which were one huge angry mass of bleeding sores.

Charlie and I backed off from the table a little and asked Richard (aka “the lad”) what was wrong with him.

“Haven’t slept all night” he mumbled from the table top, “fuckin mosquitoes” he added.

Just then Steve emerged from the bathroom, dabbing at his mosquito bitten face with a damp face cloth, “bastard mosquitoes everywhere last night” he offered.

Charlie and I had not seen one single mosquito during the night and we told them so

“No you fuckin won’t in your room” Steve politely explained, “they come out of the fuckin grape vines outside of our window”

A bleary voice from the table top added “we’ve spent all night bouncing on our beds trying to squash them off the ceiling”

“Couldn’t get them all so in the end we laid under the sheet like this” and Steve showed us how the two brothers had hidden under the single cotton sheet that we’d been provided with, how they’d laid on the bed and pulled the sheet up over their heads and held it there all night with just their knuckles and fingers exposed to the killer mosquitoes – their knuckles and fingers were simply bitten to buggery.

Charlie was now standing at their bedroom door and beckoned me to have a look, inside the bedroom was a scene of biblical massacre, the walls and ceiling was covered in bloody splatters where they’d managed to kill the unluckiest of the mosquitoes, Steve joined us in the room

“We only killed a few of them” he explained “the whole room was buzzing with them, there were hundreds and hundreds of them, they were crawling all over us they suck your blood you know, look at me, just bloody look at the state of me”

And while we agreed that yes indeed he was a bloody mess he pointed out that the blood on the walls and ceilings was Burt blood, they could only hit the mosquitoes when they’d become full of blood and couldn’t fly away fast enough but as fast as they killed them more had come from the grape vine outside the window to take their place, and he pointed to the offending window with its beautiful view of the Mediterranean surrounded by the grape vine that we now knew was full of deadly blood sucking mosquitoes.

“Why didn’t you close the window” Charlie asked, it was a reasonable question I thought.

“We did, but its just a shutter, they fly through the slats on the shutter” Steve explained in his best impatient schoolteachers voice, like he was trying to explain for the umpteenth time to a seven year old how to tie his shoes properly.

“No, you just closed the shutters outside” explained Charlie “You should have closed the windows as well” and Charlie demonstrated to Steve that the room also had a pair of windows which opened inwards and folded back against the wall, “If you close the windows they can’t get through the glass” with foresight like this it was obvious why Charlie was a policeman.

Steve stood and stared at the windows like he’d never seen windows before

“Where were they” he asked in a dazed voice, “Richard, come here”

“They were here all the time Steve, just folded back against the wall”

“Richard, did you see these bloody windows last night” and a blurred “No” from the doorway confirmed that the youngest of the Burt brothers had not noticed any windows in the room during last nights carnage.

to be continued

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