A lad’s holiday – Corfu 1980, part three

It wasn’t a good start to the day, the two brothers were bitten all over their bodies and they itched like mad and in addition to that Charlie was suffering now from his sunburn of the day before although he would not admit it, he told us that this was the “suffering period” and that when you used the olive oil and vinegar method there was always a few days at the start when you had to suffer with burning, it was well worth it though and he would soon have the best tan amongst us.

We took a little walk along the seafront and popped into a small chemist shop to see if they had a cream or ointment for irritable mosquito bites, the chemist was helpful but spoke little English but we got the message somehow that he had nothing for mosquito bites and although he put on a good expression of sympathy we suspect that he was really having a good laugh at the Burt brothers especially when he called his assistant out from the back of the shop to view the unfortunate victims.

He led us outside his shop and pointed to the fruit stall woman over the road where we’d bought the melon from on the previous day and managed to convey the word liiimon to us.

We all walked over the road and as Charlie had dealt with her over the melon affair we let him do the talking using the strange word liiiimon and pointing at the badly bitten Burt brothers.

She understood perfectly and tutt-tutted in sympathy at the half eaten hands and faces, then took a couple of large lemons from her barrow and made a mime to show us how to cut a slice and lay it on top of the wounds.

The lemons were of the same gigantic proportions as the melon had been, in fact they were about the same size that you’d expect a melon to be in England, we took them on the pebble beach, sat down and carved two slices off the first one.

“I’m not putting lemon on my face” Richard warned

“No lad, it’ll do you good” informed Charlie, “its like my olive oil and vinegar sun block you see, its natures way of healing, you don’t need chemicals” and we all stared at Charlie and wondered if he’d looked in the mirror this morning at his third degree burns.

“Its acid though, it’ll sting like buggery”

“It’ll take your mind off the itching though” and with that Charlie slapped a huge slice of juicy lemon on the worst of Richards bitten flesh

There was a pause of a few seconds while the citric acid oozed into the open bloody wound and then an elongated scream of pain and Richard ran for the sea and with a huge splash submerged himself completely, the lemon slice left bobbing around on the surface.

And there he stayed for most of the day, later on that evening as he reviewed his water-wrinkly skin he declared that the salty Mediterranean had done a good job in reducing the swelling and itchyness and Charlie nodded wisely, if a little stiffly, and proclaimed that yes, that was right, mother nature has a way of self healing, just like his olive oil and vinegar sun block, which was by now easing into the blisters on his shoulders and back.

That night the Burts closed their bedroom window and the still bloodstained room did not see any more nocturnal mosquito suicide attacks on the pair although they still couldn’t sleep as it was stifling hot at night with the windows closed, Charlie and me in the scruffy back room had no such problems and left our window and shutters open permanently, no view to speak of unless you like brick walls but no biting insects either.

The days continued with unabated dry heat, our time was spent on a narrow strip of shingle just a little way down the coastline from Benitses centre, we purchased four strips of matting to lay on but it still didn’t prevent the pebbles from leaving impressions in your ribs every day, every morning we’d buy a big carrier bag of bottled beer from a small shop in the harbour and at our chosen location lay it in the sea right next to where we lay for the whole day. The most energetic thing we did during our time there was to open another bottle of beer, and sometimes roll over into the crystal clear Mediterranean to cool off or take the snorkel masks out for a bit of a swim.

One evening during the first week we met up with Dennis the Thompsons rep in a bar and during a conversation mentioned that we usually went for a boat trip, it was a bit of a tradition, on our holidays. He should have sold us one of the official Thompsons Holidays boat trips but told us they were overpriced crap and instead introduced us to a local fisherman who was drinking with some of his own friends on the same bar, Costas was his name and he promised us a full day out on his boat in the south of the island for half the price that Thompsons would have charged, the boat was ours for the day.

Next morning we were up early, bleary eyed and bleary eared but up early nevertheless and down to the harbour to meet Costas. Sure enough there he was waiting for us and our money, and it seemed waiting also for several other people who seemed to be sharing our boat trip, when his boat was full we set off for the south of the island and true to his word we had a great day, stopping off in small coves and swimming ashore, most of which turned out to be the sort of quiet inaccessible beaches that are only approachable from the sea and tend to be the haunt of nudists and hedonists, Costas seemed to know quite a lot about these sorts of beaches and made sure we visited each one.

And finally we reached the southern tip of Corfu, an area of just outstanding beauty, where Benitses had shingle beaches the southern tip of the island had fine white sandy beaches, we could see them from the boat when Costas anchored it at least half a mile offshore.

“OK you lot, now you go for swim ashore yes” he smiled, his single gold tooth glinting in the sun.

Everyone on the boat looked a little unsure, it seemed like a long way to swim and I for one wasn’t going to attempt it, not even with my 25 yard swimming certificate.

“Can’t you go in a bit closer ?” someone asked

“No, is ok here, you all go for swim now”

I wasn’t going to budge but suddenly Charlie stood up, took off his tee shirt and dived over the edge of the boat, and as we stood up to see where he’d gone he suddenly popped up, stood up rubbing his head, the water only coming up to his waist. We were on a sandbank which ran from the beach for at least half a mile to where Charlie had attempted a perfect dive into what he thought was deep ocean, the water was clear, azure blue and very warm, a more perfect spot for snorkeling you couldn’t wish to find anywhere else in the world.

Week one dragged slowly into week two, by now we were all chestnut brown including Charlie who still insisted on using the olive oil and vinegar treatment and most of the scabs had healed from the blisters incurred on the first few days.

Another boat trip was called for and so we arrived at the harbour bright and early to find Costas and his nearly full boat ready to leave, he greeted us like old friends as we’d spotted him in a few of the local bars and had always bought him a pint and as we came aboard he asked where we wanted to go. As we’d already been south we suggested going north today to which he readily agreed which caused some upset among the passengers already on board as they were under the impression that they were cruising south today, an impression gained from the board on the jetty proclaiming that a cruise to the south of the island was the plan of the day.

“Was mistake” Costas explained to them, as we headed north.

That day was as good as the previous boat trip, but it is better remembered for the evening entertainment.

to be continued

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