Saturday, 21 September 2013

In which I am attacked by a speed boat and Grace plunges under a train

I loved Greece.. I really, really did.  Only there was one ineey meeny mini bikini moment where it could all have gone a bit well ..I believe the expression is ‘tits up’.

We go on this boat to see turtles. We see a turtle. We pootle a bit further around the coast past beautiful coves and cliffs like this. A couple of times the boat stops and everyone jumps off to swim and snorkel. I don’t snorkel anymore but I too dive off the side into the warm, shimmering water and then clamber back up the boat’s ladder.

Only the second time I am clambering up I hear screaming from the boat.  Many people screaming at the top of their lungs in several languages...

Eh?  I think turning around.  That sounds bad for someone.

It is. For me.

You see a man and his wife had hired a twin engine speed boat and had decided for some insane reason, to pull up close to where people from our boat were swimming. A few minutes earlier, my snorkelling brother in law had dived down just in time as the boat had bumbled lethally over his head, engines churning the water to meringue.

The idiot man on the boat jumps off to swim leaving his wife in the boat. She doesn’t know what she is doing.  She pushes a button and the engines rise up from the water, one prop still turning slowly, blades dripping.

Only she hasn’t thrown down the anchor and the boat drifts fast on the current directly into our turtle boat and directly into me – pinning me up against the ladder. One blade of one engine cuts into my waist and the weight of the boat knocks the breath from me and beings to squash me, like a bug, against the side of the turtle boat.

I don’t exactly know what happened next.  I DO know that with my little tunnel of sight I saw exactly what I needed to see.. where to push – and I did - with all my might. And all that crazy intense training worked. The weight lifts and the boat is pushed back and away. I am not fact hardly hurt at all.

When I am dragged up onto our turtle boat by tearful, yelling people who have all assumed I am either dead or horribly mutilated, I am quite calm and cheery. A Frenchwoman, whose kids had climbed the ladder ahead of me, weeps as she wipes blood from my side.

‘It’s a tiny cut,’ I say and it is but she seems not to hear me.

The tour guide Sue’s lips are pure white. ‘I can’t believe it..’ she repeats over and over.

‘I am okay,’ I say.  Her eyes are wide. 

My sister and Steven appear looking grim faced having watched it all from the water.  Tears pop into Rachma’s eyes. 

‘I am really fine,’  I say.  ‘Okay my elbow is a bit sore.’

The captain and crew bring ouzo to toast the miracle of me not being masticated by the motor boat.

‘I am absolutely okay,’ I say again. And I am. I suspect I may be superhuman.

We decide no more boats and spend much of the rest of the holiday at the wonderful little taverna I mentioned a couple of posts ago, Shoestrings, run by beautiful Christina and family and with Chef Jonathon cooking up wonderful food.

I cannot recommend it highly enough. Go there if you are ever in Zante!

And now I am back and my tan is looking grubby but I milk the story as much as possible. In fact I told it a couple of times last week in Liverpool, whilst at a conference. (It was a cracking conference.  ‘Avoidance at the Academy’ and I meet many wonderful, like-minded and passionate fellow academics who may well feature here in the future... )

Tired but happy Grace and I are heading home from said conference and get as far as Bristol Temple Meads Station. 

We step off the end carriage but the platform curves away slightly so the gap is wide. Grace tries to jump across but the harness pulls her back and she slips, back legs first and plunges all the way down and under the train. 

I am not my superhuman self this time. I squat down on the train step, screaming like a banshee, refusing to let go of Grace’s harness even though I can’t see her in the darkness below.  I screech and weep and I don’t care.  People crowd around and in two minutes she is rescued UNHURT from under the train. I shut my mouth and wipe my eyes and carry on screaming silently for the rest of the journey home and for the next 24 hours. I am surprised when my hair doesn’t turn white.

Grace's round
Grace, however, is quite upbeat and cheery. ‘I am fine’ she seems to say.  ‘Really.’ And she is. Super dog.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Acting the Goat part two.

This is a picture of the actual me with the actual goat of the last post. Note the glint in her eye...note the collar...(I didn't realise my sister had taken a snap of me being groomed by the goat earlier in the holiday.)
'I think she is called 'Bella' I say to my sister and brother in law later when the ruckas has died down. 'It's what the farmer was calling her when he was tring to catch her in the veg patch.'
'Erm..what you probably heard 'ella!'' says Steven.
'It's Greek for 'come here!' says my sister.
It's just not quite Narnia, is it.   And I haven't yet told you about the terror of the Turtles...da da daaaaa...

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Acting the Goat in Greece

Veiw from Shoestrings
I apologise for the silence.  These last two weeks I have been researching the impact of tourism on the Greek economy – well, mainly my impact on the beautiful island of Zakynthos.  Turns out that the major impact is on local rose wine sales which went up by at least a third....

It is a lovely island. The sea is all turquoise and aquamarines and in August the skies are bright fierce blue with the occasional build up of cloud over the hills.  It is hot, of course. Very hot. White rutted tracks wind through the olive groves and vineyards and up into the hills if you care to explore.  Many don’t and in the resorts tourists stumble along pavement-less roads between tavernas and bars and shops, eating ice-creams and comparing insect bites.

Myrtle, water and wine
 Currently, excuse the pun; they are drying grapes by the roadside in the sun to make raisins. The thick dark blankets of fruit smell delicious. The next crop is for wine.  They will certainly need more after we have left....

Last Sunday, had you been a seagull gliding high on the warm wind over Alykanas, its long narrow strip of beach littered with sun beds and people bobbing lazily in the warm water, you might have seen the little taverna perched overlooking the sea.   If you had flown past the taverna and a few hundred yards further inland to the nearby fields, you would have glimpsed a middle aged woman running after a goat in her knickers.

Err... that would have been me.

I was trying to lasso the goat with my skirt.  It’s a long story but suffice it to say I had been horribly conned by a kid.  Over the two weeks of our holiday (the couple watching me chase down the goat are my sister and brother-in-law) we had made the almost daily pilgrimage through the white rutted paths amongst the olive groves to our very favourite beach hang out, Shoestrings ( more on that gem to follow.) Being me and in full Disney operational mode, I had begun to befriend the horses we passed with carrots and stolen sugar and had also made passing acquaintance with a couple of goats, a mother and her young daughter, tethered in the field. 

It happens that on the Sunday we find the goats so tangled up together by their ropes that they can barely move. 

‘We can’t leave them like this!’ I say.  I have been listening to far too much ‘Game of Thrones’ on my kindle. If I had a sword I would be waving it.

We all give it a go but we still can’t figure out how they got into such a knot. The rope is wound around the mother goat’s horns and around the younger goat’s legs. They look up at us pathetically.  The little one almost falls over.

Then I have a brainwave.

‘I’ll just take off the little one’s collar,’ I hear myself saying. ‘And we can undo the knot.’

‘Is that wise?’ asks my brother in law.  He is a scientist and likes to debate the evidence and think through consequences.

Too late I realise he has a point.    

The little goat feels the thick leather slide from her neck and leaps gleefully just out of reach.  Freeee eee eee she bleats rapturously and dives on some fresh grass.

‘Shit!’ I say.

‘Holy shit!’ says my sister, the vicar.

She watches horrified as the goat feints sideways as I try a rugby tackle.

‘We will go and get someone to help,’ I hear her and Steven sighing as they pull out the Greek-English dictionary to look up the word ‘goat’ and head away from my shameful attempts at kid wrangling.  By this time I have taken off my skirt and twisted it into a useless kind of lasso and am running around the field like a crazy person.  I wouldn’t blame them if they didn’t come back.

Goats are nimble aren’t they?  This one dances just out of reach of my skirt and disappears into the grape vines and maize.  No amount of swearing or cajoling can get her out. I realise the tangle thing was a ruse. She had this whole thing planned.

Luckily for everyone I had put my skirt back on before my sister and brother in law had got hold of the farmer who took less than a minute to catch the kid and re-tether her. Goat farming was his second job, it turns out. In high season he was mostly off hiring jet skis to tourists.

‘Thank you for untangling the goats,’ he says.  ‘Would you like a jet ski?’

‘We are leaving today,’ says my sister.

The farmer looks rather relieved. The goat bleats something rude.

The Greek word for goat is ‘katsika’, apparently. I however am called an ass.

Next blog involves graphic descriptions of seafood platters, the terrors of turtle spotting and more annoying pictures of sun and sea from Shoestrings.