Now, at the end of August one of my beautiful nieces went and got married to a lovely half Scandinavian fellow. It was a lovely day, and the ceremony took place in the middle of Brighton, that tawdry whore of a town just a large artillery piece’s throw along the coast from here. There was a gap of an hour or so between the wedding itself and the afternoon drinks, food and speeches session which was held in a village hall in one of the many small picturesque villages tucked away in one of the many secluded valleys in these here Downs. There were fields, a lake, bales of straw to sit on outside and a vast and welcome supply of prosecco, Pimms and other lovely refreshments. This handy gap in the day’s schedule gave me time to dash into town to grab a pair of holiday shorts, and luckily for the shop assistants I found the perfect pair after less than two minutes search. Deep blue, cotton and plenty of discreet pockets. And a waistband that clings lovingly to my middle without the need for a belt. Go me. Go next. It was with a quite skin-prickling sense of abandon that the two of us strolled in our wedding best through the streets full of casually dressed shoppers and holiday makers and general derelicts.
At the afternoon reception we enjoyed the previously mentioned refreshments and I kept noticing a large man dressed something like a gambler from a Mississippi paddle steamer in 1856 or it may have been 1857, I’m not too good on dates. I always like meeting up with my sister-in-law’s (mother of the bride, married to Juanita’s brother, should these details be relevant or interesting) older sister, a spinster of her parish, mainly because she’s a good laugh, but also on this occasion because we were the only two people on our table of ten with a taste for the bottles of Rioja which kept appearing and being replaced as soon as we emptied them. Anita was on fruit juice and the odd spritzer as she was driving. I can’t. The gambler was on our table and it turned out that he was the only non-English speaking giant Swede at the table. Some of his Norse family were also on our table, and they were able to translate. But me and Tone (sister-in-law’s unmarried but quite fruity sister) were able to say cheers and prost and skol and yammas and sante to him with every swig of the red and he understood perfectly. He was sipping quite austerely at a slow long pale beer and smiling in a pained manner at us and not even trying to follow the convo, which was probably just as well, but in which we did try a couple of times to include him.
My little wife and I had six weeks previously booked a room at a nearby hotel for the night despite it all being pretty close to home. Because it’s a new hotel and this was its opening night, and we’d already decided we liked the look of the menu in the restaurant. So we went there late in the evening and had a bloody nice dinner and a lovely night and a good restorative breakfast before heading for home late the next morning.
A week later found us on our way to Crete for a late summer holiday. Lovely island, gorgeous weather and a sea made for swimming. We stayed in a small studio complex set just back from the new National Road in Stalida, which while not the type of traditional, quiet Greek village where I’d normally stay if I were going by myself, is a relatively pleasant resort halfway between the slightly less attractive Hersonissos and the truly awful hell that is Malia. The owners, a couple maybe ten years older than us, have something of a name for ostracising or even turfing out from their rooms guests who give them a reason to dislike them and there are warnings on tripadvisor from the disgruntled and the dispossessed. We got on famously with them and we were invited to the barbecue, which one of the regular guests told us was a quick gesture of approval by Maria. At the barbecue, the food was mouthwatering, the wine and raki kept flowing and much drink was taken people danced and laughed and stuff, and I woke at five the next morning thirsty but with no other ill effects from the night before. Good home made raki, I think, should only affect you in a good way. This certainly did. Costas has got the gift, obviously. I always wake in the dark in Greece, despite their being two hours ahead of BST. It’s usually the donkeys and the cockerels which do it, but there were no donkeys to be heard, and most mornings I awoke shortly before the cock started crowing. It’s lovely to go outside and sit under the stars with some hemo busino, waiting for the day to come awake.
Lots of swimming, a few walks, lots of lovely food and drink and we made new friends, which I’ve always tried to avoid in the past but the place cast something of a spell. One night we were part of the usually extremely irritating party of four who sit there in the taverna long after everyone else has gone home while the waiters stand around patiently hoping to close up sometime before dawn. The last waiter ended up joining us with some ouzo. We watched a cat climb a tree and get all upset when it tried to climb out along a thin branch which couldn’t hold its weight and snapped with a crack. We raised a glass to it when it climbed up again.
Maria has told us we must come back next year, which sounds like a good idea, especially as we’d already arranged with two or three of the other guests that we’ll all try to book up to go there within the first fortnight of September again, probably now and into perpetuity.
So, that’s it for now. No more holidays until 2017. It’s my birthday next week. I’ve totalled up 690 miles out of my annual goal of 1000 on the bike rides, which have now stopped including a halt for a dip in the sea, on account of the air temperature is dropping faster than that of the water. It’s stopped raining now. But baby it’s dark outside. Life could be worse.