School’s Out

School’s Out

Fleeting spring warmth, the partial easing of lockdown and the Easter break brought villagers, young and old, out onto the streets to make the most of the fine weather. And we were no exception. Downing tools for the day, we trotted off to Pyes Mill for a spot of lunch by the sparkling waters of the River Chet. The most direct route to the waterside clearing is across a boggy field which the owner has since barred after (allegedly) irresponsible dog walkers allowed Fido and Rover to trouble his cows. These are the same cows who troubled us the first time we ventured across his field forcing us to run for our lives. Just saying.

So we took the circuitous route via graves ancient and fresh, a tunnel of wild foliage, a babbling brook and a couple of country lanes. Pyes Mill was less busy than expected, though there was a swan having a good lick (and who wouldn’t if they could?), a few young families mucking about on the grass and a gang of naughty lads sharing a spliff. Liam can smell a joint at twenty paces.

We found a bench among the molehills and unpacked our picnic. When I say picnic, it was a meal deal from the Co-op. After months under house arrest, alcohol was first on the menu. Drink was drunk but rather too quickly. We regretted not picking up a second bottle when we had the chance. Lesson learned for next time.

RIP, Lindsay de Feliz, the Saucepans Lady

I was badly shaken and much stirred to hear of the murder of fellow author, Lindsay de Feliz in December. Among her many qualities, Lindsay was very social media savvy and developed an impressive following. Her evergreen blog chronicled the many ups and considerable downs of her fascinating life in the Dominican Republic with her Dominican husband, Danilo, assorted stepchildren and a menagerie of dogs, cats and chickens. Life at times was really tough but she always embraced it without complaint or regret. Lindsay wrote candidly about her journey in her remarkable memoirs, ‘What About Your Saucepans?’ and ‘Life After My Saucepans’.

I never actually met Lindsay in person but we talked on Skype and gelled immediately, sharing the same ironic sense of humour. When we first became acquainted, I was a rookie author and she was generous with her help. I was trying to make a shilling or two from my first book and her advice was spot on. I shall be ever grateful.

The manner of Lindsay’s grizzly death is plain but the circumstances surrounding it are subject to much idle chitter-chatter. What is known is Danilo and two of his adult children have been arrested, and, some say, charged with her murder. The story broke in the press and hit the headlines. As Lindsay’s publisher, a national newspaper came sniffing around for the dirt, particularly about how much money she’d made. Of course, I kept mum. My discretion was not repeated online with some people, many of whom had never even heard of Lindsay, heckling from the cheap seats and baying for blood. It was an ugly spectacle, reflecting the very worst aspects of social media. Let’s not jump the gun. If Danilo is tried (fairly) and convicted, then so be it but, in the meantime, I’m steering well clear of the bear pit.

My thoughts are with Lindsay’s family and actual friends at this truly awful time. Lindsay, may you rest in peace.

Cats

I’m not a big Andrew Lloyd Webber fan and didn’t rate ‘Cats’ when I saw it in the West End. I remember thinking it was okay, that’s all. But when I saw the trailer for the new film version I was amazed. Amazed by its exquisite beauty and amazed by the critical storm that followed. Reviews were overwhelmingly bad and just got worse when the alley cats finally hit the streets of post-war Soho. It must be the most slagged-off release in living memory. It made us determined to judge it for ourselves. Was is that terrible?

Not even close. With a top drawer cast – including Judi Dench doing her regal number and a clowder of superb dancers from the Royal Ballet – ‘Cats’ is a sight for sore eyes on a lousy winter’s day – energetic, inventive, atmospheric and visually stunning. I’m not sure what the catty critics saw but it wasn’t the same film I watched.

Postcards from Corfu

Postcards from Corfu

The A Gays

We chose simple and we got sublime. Our billet is a modest studio (A1 for the A Gays) overlooking a sparkling pool.

The Little Terrace

All we have to do is drag our tired old carcasses the few yards from bed to lounger – perfect for the R&R we crave. Most days we laze about dipping and sipping, reading and dozing. We deliberately booked the week after schools went back – to avoid over-wrought brats who scream and splash. We hadn’t wagered on the toddlers, though. We’re being diverted by the neurotic antics of four nervous grown-ups dancing round Lola, a tiny tot wearing a kamikaze-style sun hat and what looks like a suicide belt. Lola’s only word is ‘NO!’ and she repeats it a lot.

Elleana the Great

Our landlady is a magnificent Corfiot matriarch called Elleana – not one to cross, we think. Liam has charmed her with warm talk and a few well-practised words in Greek. It’s done the trick. She keeps a well-stocked bar which we’re eager to drain. Corfiot wine is surprisingly quaffable given it’s stored out the back in three-litre plastic bottles.

Elleana’s gaff is protected by a shaggy guard dog. He likes to call round for a sniff, frisk and lick. We’re not sure of the make or sex but we call it ‘Hector’.

The dog

Wasps around the honey pot

The vine harvest has brought the last hurrah of the season for squadrons of wasps. Puny by comparison to their angrier British cousins, they’re more annoying than menacing and are only really interested in sipping from the glass Liam keeps topped up by my side. I’m happy to share. Several have drowned during the mid-afternoon Bacchanalia. A leathered Brummie reclining at the far end of the pool keeps insect spray to hand. Every so often we hear ‘pssssst’, ‘pssssst’, pssssst’ then she returns to her chick lit. We call her ‘Ms Raid’. The wasps may be irritating but the mozzies are less voracious than expected. Either that or our four years in Turkey have turned our blood to poison.

The Youngest Gays in the Village

The resort is serene and spartan – just a few tavernas and pizza parlours – and most of our fellow visitors look like they’ve been pickled. It’s a novel experience being (almost) the youngest gays in the village. The locals are friendly and obliging, if a little frayed after a long hot summer. Liam was nearly laid low by an upturned beer crate. Fixed to the pavement with duck tape, it was there to cover a big hole.

Jack on the Road

Overheard

As many know, I’m a subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) eavesdropper. Here’s a few random throwaway lines picked up on the radar as we gadded about:

What’s the wever tomorrer?

‘ow do I know? Do I look like a weather cock?

She’s very end of season, that one.

No, Joan, I don’t ‘ave a pair a woolly knickers.

For maximum effect, such quotes are best recited with a northern accent.

It’s all Greek to me

Sunsets are spent playing cards and Scrabble accompanied by the hard stuff. As the light gradually dims, we resort to mini-torches to read the letters. Liam tries to cheat with Greek and thinks I won’t catch on in the dark.

Wine that glows in the dark

 

Déjà vu

Our soporific Ionian idyll delivers unexpected familiarity. Closing my eyes, I’m transported back in time to another land of barking dogs, crowing cocks, randy crickets, loose cattle, manic drivers, ripe drains, pine-clad hills, goats, potholes, bugs and a nightly spectacle of glorious sunsets.

In the end, who could tell the difference between a grandma riding a donkey in Greece, Bulgaria or trotting through a Turkish village?

Turkey Street, Chapter 13, Blesséd are the Meek

As I observed in a book I once wrote. Ok, headscarves, hassle and the call to prayer are missing and they don’t play cricket in Bodrum but you get my general drift.

Coming soon… Postcards from Albania.

Albania

 

Man About the House

We’re always grateful when old friends spend their hard-earned cash on a pilgrimage to their country cousins, particularly as this invariably means the expense of a hotel stay. Cute as it is, the micro-loft is way too micro for topping and tailing, especially for those in their midriff years who prefer private douching facilities for those intimate moments. Just recently, we’ve had an embarrassment of callers. First on the Norwich trail were a couple of old drinking partners from the Smoke who last graced the city with their designer wear in April. As future exiles to Catalonia, we knew they were partial to a tapas or two, so when a new tapas restaurant called East Twenty Six opened to rave reviews we thought we’d give it spin. The setting was impressive but, sadly, the food was not. We drowned our sorrows in a nearby late night boozer, a place that was once Norwich’s only Irish-themed pub. Delaney’s has now been gutted and relaunched as St Andrew’s Brew House. Whereas Delaney’s oozed fake Oirish ambience with a landlady from Hell, the Brew House now boasts an über-trendy micro-brewery and has been branded to within an inch of its life. Very Shoreditch, apparently.

The next day, like ships that pass in the night, the old reprobates from London exchanged brief pleasantries with our next callers who had driven up from the coiffured hills of Sussex. Jacqueline and Angus have been friends of mine for donkey’s years and brought with them their coffee-coloured Labrador for a spot of dog-walking around the city. After an exhaustive saunter and with Ruby safely tucked up in the loft with an assortment of dog biscuits, dinner was courtesy of Jamie’s Italian. It was delicious. But really Jamie, that much for a bit of pasta?

Angus is a hands-on DIYer with an impressive collection of tools and when I mentioned we were having a bit of bother with a sticking flush, he was at it like a rat up a drain pipe.

A little WD40 will soon sort that out.

And it did. It was good to have a man about the house.