A four-hour flight from UK, Erotes turns out to be a picture postcard image of Greece. Two sandy bays, an ancient acropolis overlooking the village’s sugar cube houses, it’s bathed in hot sun. There’s the smell of lemon and olive trees, the sound of bouzoukis playing “Zorba the Greek”, cobbled streets with shops selling souvlaki, ceramics and silver. Blue, blue sky.
Our room’s set above one of the bays offering a bird’s eye view, steps carved into the rocks. When we arrive, Adonis jumps on one of the beds, bouncing on it. ‘A bit hard, but it’ll do. Someone’s going to get lucky.’
On the first morning I’m woken by the sound of donkeys braying. Mooching onto the roof terrace there’s a train of them being led up from the beach, carrying day-trippers. It’s a long trek up to the acropolis.
The sun’s already burning as I apply suntan lotion, people-watching on the beach below where a few umbrellas are up, bodies sprawled. I’ve bought some new black sports shorts; the biz. Hope they’ll look good with a tan.
Adonis appears. His dark hairs are already glistening with oil and he’s sporting mirror glasses.
‘You look like a milk bottle,’ he says, peering over the lip of the rooftop. ‘Let’s get down there. Might be some action.’ Then gives a little snort, like a donkey.
We set our towels on the sand and I stretch out closing my eyes and bathing in the heat. My head’s still firmly up my arse, stuck at work, reeling from thinking on my feet, preparing lessons, keeping on top of it all. ‘I’m double booked. Forgotten I’ve got duty. Sorry.’
I’ve brought a slim volume of poetry with me to read. “The Whitsun Weddings.” Philip Larkin. It might be something I can talk to Miss Dazzle about. I’ve also looked up “Misogynist.” “A person who dislikes, despises or is strongly prejudiced against women.”
Having flicked to the last line of the last poem in “The Whitsun Weddings” - “What will survive of us is love.” - I’m not sure how I equate the two things. Guess I should read it.
Miss Dazzle still dominates my waking moments. There are no other females on the staff or anywhere else to take my mind off her. Apart from the young French Assistante, who wears a ton of make-up, simpers and giggles foolishly, dresses like she’s going to a disco, most of the female staff are indeed what Princess Anne described at interview as “fossils.”
‘Not my type,’ says Adonis of the French Assistante. ‘Too scrawny.’
I’ve seen Princess Anne once in the grounds. ‘Hello, sir. How are you getting on?’ She’s grown taller and is wearing CCF gear. Uppers is a different planet, a closed world to those of us working in the Prep School, though I think it’s where I should be. Watching the senior cricketers at winter nets I wish I could have a crack with them and I’m pretty sure drama and English might be more interesting.
Adonis disagrees. ‘Not for me. Too much expectation. Top bits of stuff though.’
Later, I’m applying more sun lotion scanning the beach, when someone catches my attention. I’ve brought my battered portable cassette player and purchased new headphones at the airport and am listening to Stephen Stills.
“…If you’re down and confused, and you don’t remember who you’re talking to, concentration slips away, because your baby is so far away…”
A tanned, curved figure wearing scraps of turquoise as a bikini and a green bandana, is stretching, stomach taut, before returning to a magazine.
“…Turn your heartache right into joy, cos she’s a girl and you’re a boy…”
‘Who are you perving at?’ Adonis is standing, shaking his towel.
I take off my headphones and spit sand. The tanned figure puts down her mag and stretches before spreading herself down on her sun bed. A woman nearby gets up and starts to apply cream to her back.
Adonis slips his glasses back on. ‘Need a wazz. Look after my stuff.’
I’m straining my neck later when another shower of sand hits me.
‘Get your things, Robby.’ Adonis is jiggling his towel. ‘We’re moving.’
‘Come on.’ He clicks his teeth as if geeing up a donkey. ‘Giddy up.’
Moving down the beach we pass the turquoise bikini lying face down. A man and woman close by, reading. There’s a magazine by her sunbed. “Textiles and Fashion.” What does she look like? Her hair’s shiny, tumbling golden down her shoulders, slim back, and there’s no mistaking the curves of a shapely seat, sporty thighs and legs honey brown. I have to drag my eyes away.
‘Here.’ Adonis dumps his towel. ‘Totty ahoy.’ There are American accents coming from the water. Female. He grabs the two bats and ball we’ve brought and heads for the waves. ‘Come on, let’s play.’
The two sisters splashing are both about our age. ‘You guys ever been to the U S of A?’ Chalk is tall, blonde, slim, athletic and tanned. Cheese isn’t. She’s a strawberry blancmange. Adonis is splashing water playfully over Chalk, making her giggle and splutter. ‘Gee whizz. You wanna play do you?’ I’m going to be playing gooseberry with the blancmange if I’m not careful.
‘Let’s go for a drink,’ I say. ‘Try something local.’
At the beach bar, “Zorba the Greek” is playing. Of course. Adonis orders ouzos. ‘You like aniseed, don’t you?’ Small glasses arrive with a milky liquid smelling of gobstoppers.
‘Smells great.’ I down it. ‘Wow!’
We order more and talk, but my mind isn’t really on the case. Instead I’m peering across the sands. Where’s the turquoise bikini?
Eventually I see her pulling on a shirt, tying hair back, all graceful movement. The man and woman are packing away their things. A tall dark young man’s chatting to them, a local perhaps.
I squint as they saunter down to the water’s edge where a small boat’s waiting. They clamber aboard and the outboard motor snaps into life.
Bugger. Within minutes it’s disappeared from view. Now I’ll never get to see her properly. It just isn’t fair.
‘Did you hear what I’m saying?’ Adonis is giving me a prod. ‘We’re going to meet up with the Yanks later.’
We return to our towels, my head full of the turquoise bikini.
I’ve hardly more than glanced at her, but what the hell? I’m already making up all sorts of stories that involve her being impossibly pretty, full of seduction and sensuality. A stimulating personality, keen on sport or something creative. Great sense of humour. The ultimate holiday romance which might lead who knows where? For once Miss Dazzle takes a back seat. I keep my eyes peeled on the horizon, earphones on.
“…And if you can’t be with the one you love, honey, love the one you’re with…”
Will I see her again?
That evening Adonis spends longer than usual in front of the mirror. ‘If I score you’re on your own, Robby.’
‘I’m not sleeping with the donkeys.’ I give him my best withering look. ‘This room’s as much mine as yours.’
He just winks at me.
We meet up with the Americans at the Acropolis Bar. For once, it’s not “Zorba The Greek” but Cat Stevens playing over the sound system. Is he Greek?
“…who’ll be my love, you’ll be my love…”
‘Your cheapest shot,’ says Adonis to the barman who’s all teeth and smile, deeply tanned, annoyingly good looking. Zorba. Whatever it is he hands us smells pretty rank. ‘It’s retsina,’ Zorba grins.
The stuff tastes like pine disinfectant, the sort they might use to clean Greek toilets. ‘I think I’ll stick to beer,’ I say, gagging at my first sip.
‘Down in one.’ Adonis swigs before turning to Zorba, gasping. ‘Two beers, please.’
Our table’s in the corner and I’m able to manoeuvre myself into the seat with the best view of the bar at a cost. Cheese is sitting very close, a wobbling jelly, piggy eyes fixed on me. ‘Hi there!’ Adonis is deep in whispered conversation with Chalk. I scan the room which is full of tourists; a buzz of conversation. On a table close by a middle-aged couple catch my attention. Is there something vaguely familiar about them? I strain to catch what they’re saying.
‘Darling, can I have some olives as well?’ The woman’s speaking as the man stands up. She has a cut glass accent, like many of the parents I’ve met at Fitzrovia. They’re both well groomed, wearing expensive looking linen clothes, coolly elegant. With a thump I realise they might be the folks I’ve seen with the turquoise bikini on the beach. Are they?
‘Excuse me.’ Standing, I follow the man to the bar.
He has a clipped accent. ‘Two G and T’s please, and some olives.’
‘Good day, sir?’ Zorba reaches for tumblers.
‘Yes, thanks. Your boat trip was a lovely treat. Our daughter got a bit sunburned, but she was full of it.’
‘Where is she, sir?’ says Zorba returning with drinks.
Yes. Where is she? The man takes the glasses. ‘We left her in the shower. You know what women are like.’
Oh please let it be her.
Zorba turns his attention to me. ‘What can I get you?’
‘Ouzo, please. And make it a double.’ My heart’s thudding. Like waiting for a steepling catch to drop from the sky.
“…you’ll be my love, you’ll be my sky above…”
When I get back to the table, eyes fixed on the door, Adonis is draped round Chalk, and Cheese looks a bit out of it, her piggy eyes glinting as I sit down. ‘Where have you been? I’ve missed you.’ She’s leaning dangerously in, too close for comfort, so that I can smell alcohol on her breath. A sherry trifle. I move my chair away. ‘Who are you looking for?’ she demands.
‘No one. I need to get some fresh air. This stuff’s strong.’ And up I get.
‘I’ll come with you.’ She’s trying to stand, podgy arms on the table.
‘No!’ I try to laugh my way out of sounding harsh. ‘Really. I won’t be long.’
There’s an outdoor terrace where I can keep an eye on the door away from Cheese’s prying eyes and on the table where the man and woman sit. Just as I’m losing hope, I see the daughter.
Oh yes. It’s her. She’s quite short even with heels, wearing a flimsy red sundress, hair tied up, legs, arms and shoulders bare and brown. For the first time I get a good look at her face. Gawp at a cute upturned nose, high forehead glowing, healthy and wholesome. A goddess. Venus.
“…you’ll be my day and night, you’ll be mine tonight…”
I wander back to my table, close to her. She’s sat with the man and woman, but glances up so I can see wide dark brown orbs. Blue eye shadow. Cherry lips.
I can barely stop myself from gawping, staring rudely, not wanting to sit back down near Cheese. What to do? How can I get to talk to her?
Eyes shifting back and forwards from my group to Venus, I hover, and see her glance in my direction forcing me to wrench my eyes away to talk to Adonis. ‘Shall I get us some more drinks in?’
He cheers. ‘Yes! Come on, let’s have some more. Good man.’
But to my horror the folks at the table next door are standing up, the woman dragging on a wrap. Seeing Venus glance over I try to look away. They aren’t leaving are they? I flee to the bar. ‘Four ouzos, please.’ My eyes flick to the table.
The man’s wandering over with empties.
‘You off, sir?’ asks Zorba, taking the glasses.
‘The outdoor disco. Will you be coming later?’
Zorba grins, a mouth full of teeth. ‘See you there, sir.’ He pours from a bottle, turning his attention back to me. ‘There you are. Four ouzos.’ I hate him for his tanned good looks.
The group walks out close to me. I can smell whatever perfume Venus is wearing. Intoxicating.
Oh bollocks. No sooner have I seen her again than she’s off and away.
‘Make this one a double, would you?’ I hand my glass back to Zorba. He waves at Venus when she peeks back, then blows a kiss. If I had daggers...
‘Another ouzo anyone?’ Later, things are strangely out of sync and my chair seems to slip away falling to the ground when I stand up. I’m breathing hard, having to concentrate on my feet. A wave of aniseed’s overwhelming. Hauling myself to the door and out into the street I gag and retch, just about making it to the gutter where nausea overcomes me.
‘You all right, Robby?’ Adonis is standing over me. ‘You want to be careful of that ouzo. We’re all going to the disco. Coming?’
I shake my head and retch again before croaking. ‘I’m going back to the room.’
He laughs and suggests sending Cheese to help. ‘She’s got the hots for you.’ Then gives another of his annoying brays. ‘Plenty to get hold of.’
Love The One You’re With – Stephen Stills
Any readers of my Music to Blow Smoke Rings Across The Floor playlist will know that Stephen Stills – and this album in particular – is a bit of a childhood fave of mine. From “Old Times Good Times” through “Love The One You’re With” to “Drawn to A Flame” it’s an eclectic mix of styles. Stills had that ability to take bossa or rock or blues or country-folk, mix them up good and proper, and come up with something original and melodic. Legend.
Zorba The Greek – Mikis Theodorakis
This man must have made a fortune from this one song! Written in 1964 it’s a trademark for Greece. Mikis led a colourful life, including being exiled for his left-wing political views. The actual piece of music is inspired by a Cretan folk song. I defy anyone who’s been to Greece to say they’ve never heard it! Close your eyes and you’re there with the scent of lemon trees or thyme, the feel of hot sun scorching skin and ground, the air alive with the sound of donkeys braying.
Cat Stevens –Rubylove
Born Steven Demetre Georgiou, of Greek/Cypriot parents in England, he became Cat Stevens as a recording artist in the late 60’s, with the hit like “Matthew and Son” and in the early 70’s with “Moonshadow” and “Morning Has Broken.”
“Rubylove” comes from his 1971 album “Teaser and The Firecat” which I suspect I first heard from my bro’s room…love the bouzoukis…all Greek!
One more interesting fact? He wrote “The First Cut Is The Deepest” which he sold for £30 to P.P. Arnold who turned it into a monster hit.
About the Author: Richard Parsons
I’ve been fascinated with writing since I was a youngster; creative writing in English lessons was my favourite part of school life along with swapping music with mates or playing sport.
When I decided to quit teaching after many happy years, I applied for and won a scholarship to do a Masters at Plymouth Uni in Creative Writing. Drama was really the main string to my bow, but I soon became hooked on the idea of crafting short stories, and, eventually, the longer form of narrative. After graduating with a distinction, I cut my teeth writing for women’s magazines, but this was never in my own “voice” and was always formulaic. “Given Circumstances” is the real me.
Hope you enjoy it!