‘Cause!’ snaps Madam.
Since living with Madam I have learned that words often have many meanings. I examine her statement from both ends and in the middle. I turn it inside out and give it a good shake. I am none the wiser. I try hard but I cannot think of anything I have done wrong this week.
‘Umm… because what my sweet?’ I asked.
‘Not cause! I said KOS!’
‘As in the Greek Island?’ I ask by way of confirmation.
‘Yes. I’m not leaving you to decide after the Izzel of Wigget,’ she said, ‘two weeks, lying by a swimming pool in Greece. No arguments.’
We are more than halfway through September but it is a slow start to autumn this year. I was still wearing shorts and a t-shirt the weekend before our flight. The trees are reluctant to shed their leaves. Flowers are in full bloom. People are still heading to the beach on sunny afternoons.
Madam is sitting with her knitting, fanning herself and complaining it is too hot. ‘Why are we going somewhere even hotter?’ I ask.
‘I won’t have to make the bed. I won’t have to cook. I won’t have to do any laundry, and I certainly won’t be doing any ironing.’
Madam is insistent that this trip involves a lot of lounging by a pool. Personally, I am not so keen on laying prone in the sun and slowly blistering. Compared to, say, a filling at the dentist or the moment the England cricket team lose the Ashes (again), it is not so bad. Throw into the equation a visit to the Musee d’Orsay in Paris or a Pink Floyd reunion concert then it isn’t even in the rankings.
I have tried lying in the sun with Madam. I really have. I read somewhere that you should let your mind go blank as a sort of sun worshiping meditation. I will manage it for five minutes then get bored and ask her ‘Do you need anything from the shop? Can I get you a drink from the bar? What do you think is behind that wall? Where do you think that path goes? Do you fancy a walk?’ I will look at her expectantly and she will say something tender and romantic like ‘shut the fuck up, I’m working on my tan.’
This time I have loaded half a dozen ebooks onto my iPad. I intend finally finishing “The Calculus Diaries – How Maths Can Help You Survive a Zombie Apocalypse.” I will be ready, calculator in hand when the zombies get here, ready to save the human race. You can thank me later.
Did you know that Archimedes came close to inventing integral calculus when he considered how to calculate the area under a curve? He had trouble grasping the concept of an infinite number of ever smaller squares and triangles so never quite perfected the theories. Being killed by a belligerent Roman with a sharp sword didn’t help either. The Greeks didn’t have a concept of zero, so it’s no surprise they struggled with infinity. I’m talking ancient Greeks here of course. Modern Greeks are quite aware when you leave them a zero tip.
It is our first morning and we are up before 7am in spite of a two hour time difference. Three housekeepers are cleaning around the pool and wiping the sun beds. They glance up at the Turkish coast, a few short miles away across the Aegean Sea, as though watching for invading forces or to check that it isn’t creeping closer rock by rock.
There is no love lost historically between the Greeks and the Turkish. They have had four major wars since Greece became an independent nation in 1832. They nearly went to war again in 1987 and 1996 over sovereignty in areas of the Aegean Sea. Since 1998 relations at an official level have improved through diplomacy. Things seem calm to an outsider – several boats offer day trips from Kos to Bodrum in Turkey and there are several boats in Kos harbour flying the Turkish flag.
The breakfast buffet included something labelled “Greek Delight.”
‘That looks like Turkish Delight,’ I said to Madam.
I tasted some. ‘Mmm, nice,’ I said, ‘it tastes like Turkish Delight.’
Maybe there is still a bit of suspicion left between the neighbouring nations.
Breakfast is billed as an American Breakfast between 7:30 and 10:30. They have American style waffles but it was otherwise a standard, if expansive, breakfast buffet with the addition of a few Greek specialities. Madam asked a waitress if they have vegetarian sausages. She is confused (the waitress, not Madam obviously) and fetched another waitress who listens intently. She repeats slowly, the word ‘vegetarian, followed by a long pause, then ‘sausages.’ She thinks for a while then shakes her head.
‘It is like a proper American restaurant then’ I say.
Some years ago, when we were in Texas, we were heading into a small town diner for breakfast. Several pickup trucks were parked outside. All of them displaying bumper stickers with uplifting messages such as “God and Guns – Two Things You Can Still Believe In”, “Keep Honking – I’m Reloading” and “If You Can’t Speak American Get The F***k Out of My Country”. We walked through a cloud of smoke to a table near the back. Republican talk radio was playing in the background. I looked at the menu. “Pork chops and eggs”, “Pork chops, sausage, bacon, and eggs”, Double pork chops, bacon and grits” and “Pork chops, eggs, home fries, sausage and bacon” were offered on the menu.
I may be paraphrasing as it was a long time ago but you get the idea.
‘Umm, could I have the Pork chops, eggs, home fries, sausage and bacon, but without the sausage, bacon or.. err the pork chops?” I asked the waitress.
She paused, her pencil hovering above her notepad. Her brow furrowed. I heard the gentle sound of brain neutrons popping.
‘So what kind of meat do you want?’
‘No meat, just the eggs and potatoes please,’ I replied.
WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU DON’T WANT NO MEAT!?’
A deathly hush fell upon the room. Cigarettes were put down. Guns were cocked. Hats were removed. Texas folk are real polite. They always remove their hat before killing someone.
I’m going to die in a Texas diner I thought. I braced myself for gunfire.
Madam jumped to my rescue. ‘He’s very delicate, it’s his digestion.’ she said, ‘Get me the double pork chops with extra grits and he can have some of mine.’
Guns were reluctantly holstered, hats replaced and conversation resumed.
‘Awww you poor thing,’ said the waitress giving me a look of sympathy. She patted me on the shoulder and said ‘I’ll make sure your eggs get fried in plenty of pork fat.’
I spend the morning exploring the resort and walk along the beach a little way while Madam lays in the sun by the pool. I check in on her now and then and she tries to persuade me to put on my swim trunks and join her. ‘No, not my thing,’ I say and head off for another walk.
In spite of saying we would only have a snack for lunch we head to the buffet for lunch and then back to the room for Madam to change back into her swimsuit.
She asks if I want to lay by the pool all afternoon. ‘No, I’ll be bored and get sunburnt,’ I tell her.
‘Yes, I don’t enjoy laying in the sun with nothing to do.’ I insist.
I pull on my shoes and pick up my phone while Madam looks out towards the pool.
‘You’re absolutely sure? I saved you a sun lounger,’ she said.
‘Yes I’m sure, I might see where that path up the mountain leads.’
She looks out of the window and says ‘There’s a young woman wearing the skimpiest thong bikini I’ve ever seen sitting right next to your sun lounger.’
I stop halfway through tying my shoelace and ask ‘Is the pool water cold?’
‘Fine once you are in the water,’ she says.
‘I suppose I could try it this once I say as I reach for my swimming trunks.
The water is colder than she intimated, so I sit in the shade of an umbrella and open my book. The afternoon drifts onwards, with only the odd interruption to check that Miss Thong Bikini isn’t getting sunburnt or to drink a cocktail. It isn’t so bad.
‘Is it Thursday today my sweet?’ I ask Madam.
‘Yes… no… maybe… how long have we been here?’
I think for a minute. ‘I’m not exactly sure…’ I say.
She does something on her phone. ‘Yes, it’s Thursday,’ she says.
It was starting to blur together. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. Cocktails, one by the pool and one before bed. One or two between. Beer and wine with dinner.
‘We should set an alarm or something for the day we have to go home’ I say.
‘Mmmm, maybe,’ she replies. She looks out over the blue Aegean Sea and smiles.
‘We don’t want to miss our flight,’ I say.
After breakfast, I leave Madam lying in the sun by the pool and walk down to the beach. There is a very important task to perform.
The day before we flew here I read an article in a right-leaning newspaper about how Kos and other Greek islands were being flooded with migrants crossing in small boats from Turkey. The other tabloids took up the mantle and warn us how Europe is being overrun by migrants from Syria, Afghanistan and Africa. Africa is a single country in tabloid terms. Most of the migrants were then heading to England to overwhelm our NHS, claim benefits and steal our jobs. All migrants are given a large detached house in the Tory shires, £35,000 a year allowance and preferential access to a top job according to one report.
I walk a long way along the beach, past the hotels and around rocky coves while I keep a close lookout for migrants flooding across from Turkey. I don’t see a single overloaded dingy. Not a solitary swimmer. I wanted to hand out bottles of water and a bag of pastries from the breakfast buffet, just to piss off a million Daily Mail readers.
Disappointed, I spend the rest of the morning with Madam sitting by the pool a couple of beds away from Miss Thong Bikini. I read my calculus book to take my mind off things. I recommend it. It does appear though that the best advice it can offer for the zombie apocalypse is to run away. You can only use calculus to determine the best time and speed for your escape. I will trade in my calculator for a shotgun should the apocalypse be confirmed. I have every confidence that the tabloid press will mention it first.
Madam is upset that the frozen drink machine at the bar isn’t working and she can’t have a Strawberry Daiquiri. I consider fetching her a pastry and a bottle of water but I see she isn’t in the mood.
After breakfast on Friday we head into Kos town, a few miles to the north. I know it is Friday because Madam looked at her phone. We arrive at the bus stop in time to see the bus pulling away, leaving only fumes behind. I look at the timetable and the next bus is in 45 minutes. ‘We may as well sit in the bar and get a coffee rather than wait in the sun for the bus,’ I say.
We start heading back towards the hotel when another bus appears on the horizon. ‘It’s either the 9:35 that’s eight minutes late or the next bus 45 minutes early’ I say, ‘the one that left must have been the 9:15… or maybe the ten o’clock… but I’m not sure that runs on Fridays…’
‘We are in Greece,’ she says which needs no further explanation.
The final stop of the bus is along the harbour front in Kos town. The tour guide had given us a hand drawn map of the town highlighting the major attractions.
‘We need to see the Tree of Hippocrates’ I tell Madam.
According to legend, Hippocrates of Kos (considered the father of medicine) taught his pupils the art of medicine under the tree. Paul the Apostle purportedly taught here as well.
I look at the map. I look around and all I can see are massive restaurants and gift shops. I turn the map upside down and look again. Nothing has changed. ‘I think it’s this way,’ I say, pointing to my left.
It wasn’t, so we went the other way. It wasn’t there either so we returned to our starting position. I screwed up the map and put it in my pocket.
Madam poked at her phone a couple of times and it led us to the tree. It turned out to be a couple of hundred yards from the bus stop. It’s a big tree, the crown is about twelve metres in diameter and is said to be the largest plane tree in Europe. The current specimen is only 500 years old but may be a descendant of the original tree which stood there 2400 years ago. We stand there for a couple of minutes but there is only so long you can look at a tree, however historic.
‘I need to buy souvenirs,’ says Madam.
She is determined to visit every gift shop in Kos. I don’t know how many there are. I lose count somewhere in the mid twenties. We walk up through the old town to see more gift shops and stop at St. Paraskevi’s Church. The church is now closed after extensive damage from an earthquake in 2017. It doesn’t look too bad from the front but when I walk round to the back, massive cracks make it looked like it is in imminent danger of collapse. A new small shrine, not much larger than a telephone box is opposite the entrance. Here, the faithful can pray and light candles as well as asking God why the church walls are beyond repair while the residential buildings nearby are undamaged. In the interest of religious equality, the nearby minaret of the old Defterdar Mosque was also toppled during the earthquake.
Madam is finally stocked up on essential Christmas ornaments and a selection of expensive souvenirs to stick in a box in the bottom of the cupboard so we head to the Western Archeological Site.
A major earthquake in 1933 unearthed a number of sites, mostly by destroying the buildings above. Archaeologists carried out extensive excavations in the years leading up to the war. Most are the remains of Roman buildings, in turn built on the ruins of Hellenistic houses, from the third century. We walked along a paved road which runs through the western site. Some of the stones were worn from iron cartwheels. Mosaic floors are intact in some of the houses. We took a lot of photographs and spent a long time admiring the mosaics. Madam bent down to touch a corner.
‘I’ve touched a Roman mosaic! A real Roman mosaic!’ says Madam excitedly as we leave the site.
It is hot in Kos town. It isn’t much above thirty degrees but there is no breeze and the narrow lanes are packed with tourists and there is little shade. In spite of drinking a litre of water I start to feel unwell by 1pm, so we have a light lunch of dolmades and chips (you have to maintain some standards, even in foreign parts) in the old town and head towards the bus stop. We get there as the bus back to the hotel pulls out.
‘This seems to be a habit,’ I tell Madam.
I look at the timetable and the next bus is another thirty minutes at 3pm. ‘I’ll get tickets’ says Madam.
She comes back and tells me ‘the next bus is in forty-five minutes at 3:15. The woman in the ticket office insists it isn’t until then.’
I looked at the timetable again. ‘It definitely says 3pm,’ I told her.
‘No 3:15,’ she insists.
We find a somewhat shady spot and sit down to wait.
‘There’s Miss Thong Bikini’ says Madam, pointing with her head.
‘Where?’ I say, looking around.
‘Right there, over by the ticket office.’
‘Oh right, I didn’t recognise her with her clothes on.’
I’ve always wanted to say that, I thought.
The bus pulls in a few minutes before 3pm. ‘It’s supposed to be 3:15!’ said Madam.
‘We are in Greece,’ I say.
The bus pulls out, right on time at 3pm, and leaves Miss Thong Bikini standing at the bus stop looking confused.
‘A real Roman mosaic!’ says Madam as the bus drops us off at the front of the hotel.
It is Saturday morning and I walk down to the beach and around the curve of the bay. I walk past the hotels and the beach club for a mile or so, keeping a wary eye of for the thousands of migrants flooding across from Turkey. I don’t see any. Surely the tabloid press can’t be lying to us? Further along the beach there are steps up to the main road and I trudge up the long hill back to the hotel. There is a line of flags flapping outside in the wind. An EU flag at the end, followed by those from Italy, Greece, France, Germany, Spain and several other European countries. The UK flag is conspicuous by its absence. With Britain due to leave the EU at the end of October we are already written out of the European community.
It is windy today. White caps top the waves. Sun beds are blowing into the pool, hats and towels are being chased into the distance. Bikini tops are blown off with a twang and disappear into the sea. Even shoes are sliding across the ground as though propelled by invisible feet. I may have made up the bit about bikini tops but we are struggling to keep our cocktails from sliding across the table which is about as bad as things get here.
I try to persuade Madam to come and sit on the beach. It is sheltered from the wind and much quieter with only the relaxing sound of the waves hitting the shingle. She tells me she is quite happy by the pool.
The waitresses have gotten friendlier as they start to recognise us. One in the main bar, Gina, stops to chat and always smiles when she sees us. Only one waitress, the one by the pool has maintained a hostile demeanour and is reluctant to take any orders. Madam smiles and says good morning and is ignored. She hasn’t been close enough for me to read her name so, in full sarcasm mode, we call her Miss Congeniality.
I half open one eye. Madam is already up and looking at her iPad.
‘What time is it? I ask.
‘It’s gone seven!’ she says as she pulls open the curtains.
‘Any idea what day it is?’ I ask.
‘It’s a funday!’ she replies.
My brain isn’t awake yet and I try to process this information.
I open both eyes and try to sit up. ‘But every day is a funday. You get to sit by the pool and drink cocktails all day, then last night there was belly dancing in the bar and tonight is a cabaret…’
‘Not funday! I said SUNDAY!’
‘What are you going to do today? I ask.
‘Sunbathe by the pool of course.’ She looks at me as though it is a stupid question.
‘I guess I will go for a walk along the beach then.’
‘The beach?’ she asks suspiciously, ‘what’s on the beach that’s so interesting?’
‘Stones, volcanic sand, the sea and stuff.’
‘Sun beds, a bar and a boardwalk…’ I couldn’t think of anything else. I just like walking by the sea with the sound of the waves.
‘Sun beds and a bar? I’ll come with you.’ she replies.
We end up walking a long way along the beach, clambering over rocks and dodging incoming waves, until we find a steep path back up the hill. We hadn’t intended to walk so far so didn’t bring water or put on sunblock. My watch, which usually underestimates, tells me I had climbed the equivalent of seventeen floors and walked two miles. My knees agree. In spite of keeping a constant lookout we don’t see any of the horde of migrants flooding into the island.
We spend the rest of the day sitting by the pool, but I don’t need to tell you that, do I?
A line of sparrows sit on the railing and watch us eat. We are having dinner in the al-la-carte restaurant overlooking the pool and sea. It is sunset and we are watching the sky glow red, then darken and the constellations come out star by star.
‘Have you seen any seagulls here?’ I ask Madam.
‘Not one,’ she replies.
We have become so used to the constant piercing cry of seagulls at home that they become background noise. We only notice them when they are especially aggressive or swoop down to steal our food. If we eat outside we have to cover food with both hands. Leave a plate unattended and it is covered in gulls within seconds. I always tell Madam that if we lived in Texas I would be able to shoot them. ‘No you wouldn’t’ she insists, but I’m not convinced. You can shoot anything in Texas, even road signs. I’m going to buy a gun if we move there, just in case.
I don’t begrudge the sparrows a few crumbs and have no desire to shoot them unlike the greedy and voracious seagulls.
We normally eat in the buffet restaurant. The food there is good without being exceptional. We discovered the other day that we could eat in the a-la-carte restaurant for no extra charge and be waited on at the table.
George is our waiter and is assisted by the beautiful Maria, whose name tag informed me that she is an assistant waitress. I imagine that to be only a minor step above housekeeper in the hospitality pecking order. Maybe she is employed for her heart-melting smile rather than her ability to balance laden plates.
George turns out to be the friendliest waiter here and comes to chat with us between every course. Before long he and Madam have exchanged life stories and are about to exchange addresses for Christmas cards when he asks ‘what’s the best dessert in Texas?’
‘Banana pudding!’ we both say simultaneously.
Before long, Madam has given him the recipe and said that if she can find the ingredients in Kos she will come into the kitchen and make it.
The food turned out to be fine, much the same standard as the main buffet restaurant. It was nice being waited on but it was a bit like being on a production line. We had to order all three courses at the start and each one came out as we put our fork down on the last. We will stick with the buffet in future as all three courses was too much food at our age. Maria was pretty though – did I mention that?
The hotel has entertainment most evenings of varying quality. An elderly woman, the first drunk we have seen, decides to join in with the cabaret dancing. She is wearing a cheap pastiche of western wear and looks as though she has been ridden hard and put away wet, as the Texans might say. She staggers and swings her denim jacket around her head, cigarette in hand, and generally gets in the way of the professional dancers.
Before we booked an all inclusive resort holiday I had visions of hordes of drunken Brits seeing the included alcohol as a challenge rather than an opportunity. I imagined young men in England football vests staggering unevenly, vomiting copiously, and falling into the pool to the cheers of onlookers. People are drinking cocktails, us included, but space three out over a day and we are hardly noticing the effects. Most of the guests are couples in their twenties more intent of sunbathing than drinking. Maybe the lager-louts are all in Ibiza or Sunny Beach.
‘What are we going to do today?’ I ask Madam.
‘Sit by the pool of course!’
‘We could sit on the beach. It’s lovely down there.’
‘The pool is closer. And the beach has stones.’
I spend most of the morning sheltering under the shade of an umbrella by the pool with Madam. Bikini clad young women are spread on the sun beds in front. ‘Nice scenery,’ I say to Madam absentmindedly.
‘You mean the sea? It’s so blue,’ she replies.
‘Umm, yes, and the sailboats,’ I say.
We go into the main restaurant for a late lunch and immediately see George our friendly waiter from last night.
‘I was dreaming about making banana pudding last night!’ she tells him.
She turns to me and says ‘wasn’t it odd that I dreamed about banana pudding?’
‘I’m sure I dreamt that Maria the (assistant) waitress had slowly removed her clothes and was giving me a massage. Unfortunately I don’t remember it.’ I replied.
She didn’t look amused.
We are walking back from breakfast when Madam says ‘Do you think that cats say “I’m not really a people person to each other” ?’
There are a dozen or more stray cats that wander the hotel grounds. Signs dotted around request that guests only feed them the special dry food sold in the hotel shop. The hotel has a cat house with nearby donation box if you wish to leave money for their care. Most of the cats ignore us but a few look expectantly as though they might allow us to pet them.
We step around a woman stroking a cat and making cooing noises. Another (cat, not woman) is drinking from the corner of the swimming pool. One little push I think as I walk behind it but I manage to resist. I am definitely a dog person.
The speedometer is reading 17 Kilometres per hour. I poke at various buttons and try to change it to MPH but it remains stubbornly stuck on Kilometres. I have travelled 0.7 of a Kilometre. My thighs are aching and my knees are creaking like they need a can of WD40. I am working on the theory that a few minutes on a stationary bike in the gym each day may strengthen my knees so I am putting it to the test.
The gym has four treadmills, three stationary bikes, some free weights and a few other machines whose purpose I cannot determine. I inspect them from all angles, up close and from a distance. They are all ropes and weights and pulleys. I tug tentatively on a few levers but nothing moves. They could be instruments of torture for all I know. They may turn the gym into a BDSM dungeon at night although they don’t mention it in the hotel guide. I will have Madam ask at the front desk.
I don’t want to overdo it on day one so I get off the bike and walk over the the free weights. I try to lift the 20Kg barbell. If I hold it by one end I can lift it off the stand. I move down the weights. I try the 15Kg, then the 12.5Kg. I settle on the 5Kg and practice a few curls. It hurts. There is a man who looks like he might live in a gym at the other end of the room. He is lifting 75Kg above his head. He looks at my weight and smirks. I put down my weight and head up to the library to see if they have any new books. That was a great workout I think as I head up the stairs.
The library has a small selection of paperbacks in a variety of languages and a large collection box for the island’s stray cats. People have left two ten Euro notes and about a hundred Euros in coins. I guess you have to be a cat person.
I walk down to check on Madam at the pool. There is a list of rules posted by the pool. One rule has a picture of a high heeled shoe with a crossed red line. Avoid swimming with your clothes it says. I keep well away from the edge of the pool even though I’m not wearing high heels.
Madam gives me instructions to bring her more water and complains again about Miss Congeniality. ‘She completely ignored me this morning! She gave everyone else a drinks menu but not me!’
‘We could sit on the beach. It’s lovely down there and the bar is only a few yards away.’ I tell Madam.
‘No, I’m fine by the pool. ‘Miss Congeniality could be a model you know.’ she says.
Madam thinks for a while, then adds ‘if she was taller and thinner.’
‘And a lot better looking,’ I offer.
‘Precisely! She could be a model.’
I walk up to the the bar area in the main building and order a cappuccino. The waitress says hello and gives me a big smile. Maybe it’s Madam they don’t like but I’m not telling her my theory. You tell her if you like. The waitress brings my coffee and I lean back in my chair. I look out over the pool and wonder what it would cost to stay another week.
I open the sliding glass door and walk out onto the balcony. It rained overnight and the sky is filled with dark clouds. A maid is mopping rain puddles from the deck around the pool. She stops to pull on a cardigan and continues mopping. The maintenance man is sweeping the bottom of the pool with a long broom. I hear three shotgun blasts from the hills above the hotel. A flock of birds wheel into the sky, presumably three less in number.
We walk up the steps to the buffet restaurant for breakfast and find a table near the window. A sparrow watches me from the back of a nearby chair. He tilts his head and chirps ‘crumbs? crumbs? pretty please? crumbs?’
Madam comes back from the buffet with a laden plate. ‘You’re having pork sausages? I ask.
‘I thought I would try them, they are very small.’ she says.
‘Size isn’t everything’ I say.
‘So you keep telling me,’ she replies as she stabs a sausage with her fork.
The sparrow flaps his wings and flies away.
Dark clouds are already disappearing to the east as we leave the restaurant. Fluffy white clouds from the west have appeared on the horizon.
After breakfast, I head to the gym for another session on the exercise bike. I get up to 19KPH and manage 1.1 Kilometres. I can feel my right knee clicking with every turn of the pedals and it hurts. Two days in the gym should be plenty. No need to do it again. I step on the weighing scale on my way out of the gym. It tells me I have gained two kilograms in a week. I stop in at the hotel reception to report the faulty weighing scale.
I’ve only been sitting in the bar area for a couple of minutes when the waitress comes up to me and smiles, ‘Cappuccino?’ she asks.
I am starting to feel like a regular.
Many people who have known me for months fail to recognise me, never mind remembering what I drank yesterday. Most mornings Madam looks at me as though she can’t quite place me.
The waitress brings my coffee with another smile. I manage to see her name tag this time. Her name is Georgia.
The rain clears in the afternoon so Madam announces that she is going to go and sit by the pool.
‘I bet the beach isn’t busy,’ I say, ‘it’s lovely with the sound of the waves and lots of people go swimming.’
‘The pool is closer, it might get cloudy again,’ she says.
‘Is it Wednesday or Thursday today?’ asks Madam.
I think for a minute. ‘Who was dancing last night?’ I ask.
‘The tall graceful woman and the two men.’
‘Then it must be Thursday.’
I sit out on the balcony while Madam gets ready to go to breakfast.
A young woman is by the pool running through several poses while her boyfriend takes photographs. She lays on the edge of the pool, one hand behind her head, a leg gracefully bent. She then sits on the wall of the infinity pool and gazes wistfully over the sea. She jumps in the pool and tries to get the perfect amount of water dripping from her body as she pulls herself out. He struggles to follow her commands. ‘No! My hair can’t be over my face! Take it again! I didn’t spend two hours putting on makeup for nothing! I need a thousand likes on this!’
I’m glad I missed out on being in the Instagram Generation, having to pretend I have the perfect lifestyle, posting selfies every five minutes. Mind you, she probably has half a million followers and gets free trips and sponsorship deals so I guess it isn’t all bad. Makes my 965 followers look a bit sad. I will start posting selfies instead of boring travel pictures. I can have Madam take pictures of my bronzed and muscular torso by the pool. I may have to work up from the 5Kg weights in the gym and go out in the sun first.
We catch the bus into Kos town for a change of scenery. There is a reconstruction of a Roman villa on the edge of the town that I hope will interest Madam. The bus starts from the hotel so we find a seat with plenty of legroom. As we get closer to the town the bus gets more and more crowded until there is standing room only. The driver eventually stops more people from boarding. The next bus is 45 minutes away and he leaves people standing at the bus stops. I wonder if they have considered running more buses.
We walk around the harbour looking at the millionaire’s yachts and gin palaces. One massive catamaran is flying the Australian flag. The couple on board are washing down the decks. ‘You’re a long we from home,’ says Madam as we pass.
‘We are! But we spend eight months here and the go back to Australia for three months.’
‘That must be wonderful,’ says Madam.
I wonder what they do for the other month.
Madam turns to me and says ‘we should do that. Buy a yacht and sail around the Mediterranean.’
Does she have a spare million pounds she hasn’t told me about?
We walk to the end of the harbour and out to the ferry port and back towards the town. The sun is shining and the waterfront thongs with people. Touts are thrusting leaflets towards us offering boat trips. Fishing boats have brought in their meagre catch and a woman is cleaning fish by the side of the harbour.
It is said that elephants can sense water up to twelve miles away. Dogs a mere mile away. In fact, most animals can detect the smell of water, it is only humans that lack this ability. Nature has not neglected us however – it has given women the skill to detect gift and jewellery shops hundreds of yards distant.
‘Look!’ says Madam, ‘More shops! We haven’t seen those!’
She is pulled by an invisible force towards them.
‘I still need olive oil and honey,’ she tells me.
I think I am in for a fun night ahead until she asks the shop assistant which oil is the best for salad dressing.
We get back to the hotel in time for a late lunch then Madam gets ready to lie by the pool. There is only a couple of sun beds left, both of them in full sun and close to the pool bar. They are playing loud music so I finally persuade Madam to sit on the beach. She looks dubious but wades into the sea.
‘This is wonderful! It’s so much warmer than the pool! I can see the bottom! There are fish! I’m going to stay right here! I’m never leaving the water! Why didn’t you tell me about the beach earlier?’ she says.
I bite my tongue and say, ‘Sorry my sweet, I guess I forgot to mention it.’
‘Is it too early to book another trip?’ is her only reply.
It is Friday and we only have four more days left in Kos. Madam heads to the beach soon after nine o’clock.
‘Come down to the beach and put sun lotion on my back,’ she says as she opens the the room door, tucking a towel under her arm. She closes the door behind her before I have time to reply.
I do as instructed then head up to the main building and sit with my iPad. Georgia brings me a cappuccino without me asking.
I sit drinking coffee and watching a long line of people dragging heavy suitcases up the steps, ready to check out.
When we arrived at the hotel the porter loaded our suitcases onto a golf cart and drove us to our room. He lifted the heavy suitcases with a grunt. Madam doesn’t believe in travelling light. He took them into the room and made sure everything was to our satisfaction. I wasn’t looking forward to a long climb up sixty steps bumping cases from step to step.
I collect Madam from the beach and we head up the long climb to lunch. A couple lying by the pool are reading. He is reading “Retail Banking”, her book is “How to be Happy.”
‘We are in Greece! How can she not be happy!’ exclaims Madam.
I suspect that Madam is still harbouring a Shirley Valentine fantasy. I half expect to turn around at the airport check-in to find her missing, off in search of a Tom Conti look-a-like and a trip on his boat.
There is a splash of green and silver as a fish jumps from the water grabbing at a crumb floating on the surface. I am standing in two feet of water and breaking up a piece of stale pitta bread . There are dozens of fish swirling around my legs. They are too shy to take food from my hand but there is a mad rush as soon as I lift my hand above the water.
We had seen a woman feeding fish yesterday evening and saw them thronging and jumping out of the water. And we thought all those people were only standing in the sea for a wee.
It is Saturday morning and I sit in the bar drinking my habitual cappuccino.
An Irishman in a Guinness t-shirt nearby is discussing astronomy with a colleague. I strain my ears but can only catch a few words. It is something about integration with limits and determining star positions from planetary orbits. The hills of Kos get several mentions on the internets as a great place for a spot of stargazing away from the light pollution of modern cities. I will see if I can get Madam to walk up the nearby hill before bed.
A French couple to my left are arguing. The only word I recognise is ‘fromage.’ They say it several times, more stridently each time. Only the French could argue about cheese.
We go into lunch and Madam asks George about the species of fish we are feeding. He says something starting with “S” then fourteen syllables later ends with an “A”. Our mouths sag open and we both look at him. He smiles and says ‘I only know the Greek name, but the fish expert is here.’
He finds a picture on his phone and takes it to a nearby table where the head maintenance man is having lunch. He comes back and says “Sarpa.” The Google tells me that Sarpa Salpa is a variety of sea bream that reportedly causes hallucinations similar to LSD. It is known as “the fish that makes dreams” in Arabic. In certain seasons, the fish eats an algae that render their flesh hallucinogenic. The fish round here seem to exist on a diet exclusively of left overs, so I suspect eating them would be less interesting.
‘I’m exhausted,’ says Madam as we sit down to eat, ‘I have been lying in the sun all morning and swum in the sea twice. I read several pages of my book. I even had to walk along to the bar to get a cocktail!’
‘Do you need a nap? I ask her.
‘No, I will just lie in the sun this afternoon.’
‘Make sure you don’t over do it,’ I say.
I join her on the beach for the afternoon and manage to get a few fish to take bread directly from my hand. The secret is to hold it just below the surface of the water with your hand above the surface. I spend ages just watching them darting around searching for missed crumbs. This is the most fun I have had on holiday. I may get some goldfish when we get home.
‘This is our last day in Greece,’ I tell Madam.
‘There’s tomorrow morning. We don’t check out until noon. The beach until 11:55, back to the room by 11:57, a quick shower and pack by 11:59. Check out at 11:59 and 59 seconds. We will be a whole second early.’
‘Don’t forget we have to drag our suitcases up several flights of steps.’
‘We will be fine,’ she tells me, ‘I’m off to the beach.’
Madam is obviously smarter than the many guests dragging their suitcases up several flights of steps and calls the front desk to ask them to send a golf cart.
‘Be there in five minutes,’ was their quick reply.
Right on time the porter came, loaded the two 20 kilo suitcases onto the cart with a smile and drove us and the cases up to reception.
It was hard to fault the staff in the resort. Nothing seemed too much trouble and, apart from a couple of exceptions, the staff were warm and friendly. Madam even gained a couple of new Facebook friends from the staff here. None of them wanted to be my friend but my secret special power is my semi-invisibility so they may not have noticed me.
The pool and beach bar staff had received special training that prevents them from smiling even under extreme provocation but they still served us without complaint. They just didn’t look happy about it. We later found that the liberal application of a handful of small coins slightly improved their demeanour. But only a little.
I would be happy to stay there again and we were sad to leave. There were handshakes and hugs when we told people we were leaving and you don’t get that in a Premier Inn.
Kos airport, on the other hand, was awful. Hot and crowded with only enough seats for a quarter of the people waiting. Our flight was delayed and water had been discarded before going through security. Our flight was delayed by almost an hour and we had over two hours to stand and wait in the heat. I joined the line at the food concession. A bottle of coke was ambitiously priced at 4.50 Euros but I could not see a price on the water. I had visions of having to upturn and shake out my wallet for two bottles. They were only 75 cents each which may be the best bargain I have had at any airport
‘It’s sad that our last memory of Kos is the airport,’ says Madam, ‘but the sea was so blue.’