After jacking in the police force on May 3rd I really needed to clear my head of all the self pity and other negative crap that was lying about. By the time my notice period was up I had sold, given away, burned or binned most of my gear and put the rest in storage with a couple of mates.
June 15th and I was on my way to Crete so see my dad. Got nicely drunk on the flight over which for Easyjet was relatively swish with an in-flight movie. Only problem was it was on those flip down tv screens so if you're 3 rows from the nearest one it's like watching the film on a mobile phone. Two posh twats had sat at the very front and blagged the middle seat by saying it was taken whenever anyone tried to park their bot. Couple of arrogant twerps so as Fantastic Four 2: Rise of the Silver Surfer was about to start I got one of them so shift up and whiled away the time getting ratted on whisky and giggling at the lousy acting. Woke up during a snooze by the posh guy trying to prise open the armrest even though I had my elbow on it.
"Excuse me will work. I can hear you"
"I said I'm sorry mate.....WHAT'S YOUR PROBLEM?"
Wish I'd slammed his fingers in the thing. His rancid wife took out an organic salad from Marks and Sparks and asked the stewardess to pass her her bag "the one with my children on it". Cue some ghastly pile of tat with 2 grinning brats photoshopped on either side. You want Business Class then pay for it. Hope their luggage went to Brazil. Wankers!
Got to Heraklion to find an ansaphone message from my dad saying the arranged lift had the lurgy and I'd either have to cough 90 Euros for a cab or stay the night in the airport. Took the cab and the guy ran out of oil, necessitating a car switch. Even though there were two girls in the back of the other cab he refused to knock more than 10 Euros off the bill and refused to let me smoke in the taxi. Got to Plakias with a thinner wallet and a bad mood which lifted when I saw Dad in Joe's Bar and drank myself into oblivion.
Dad specifically told me not to bring women home as my mattress on the kitchen floor would have to be stepped over by him and while my snoring carcass was ok, he didn't want the embarrasment of having to circumnavigate some bird's bare arse.
Only broke this rule once when I woke up with a thumping head to find an equally hungover French Army Captain lying next to me. Cue lots of grabbing for sheets as Dad came in to make toast and I mumbled my excuses.
Another time we had an Australia Day down the Youth Hostel and an American lady had a bit too much red wine and ended up coming home with me. Took her to the pub and introduced her to my pal sat at the bar. Within 5 minutes she had her tongue down his gob. Can't say I wasn't jealous but as I'd already got what I wanted I wasn't that bothered. She then breaks off snogging him to snog me and then looks at both of us and expectantly raises an eyebrow.
"Sorry luv" I tell her, "I'm not into spit roasts"
She goes home with him and when I saw her next day wearing sunglasses indoors at 4pm she says "did we have sex last night?
"Err, yeah. Twice and a shower"
"Uggghhh! I've got a boyfriend"
"I know, you kept telling me that".
The Youth Hostel in Plakias is run by a bloke named Chris who has a laugh that can be heard from my Dad's flat (a 3 minute walk uphill). He's very proud of the hostel's positive reputation and when people are inducted on their first visit, over a glass of Raki he extolls the virtues of just how great the place is and that 8 marriages have occurred from people who met there. Security is almost none existent mainly because everyone there actually "gets on" and keeps an eye out for the odd light fingered little git or outsider. Booze features prominently in the lives of both Chris and the majority of his guests and the huge, 8 feet tall fridge in the reception area is stuffed with mineral water bottles of homemade black wine and clinking bottles of Mythos & Heineken beer. I got a job frying egg breakfasts for the headache and shades crowd and when one bloke was being a pain in the arse, repeatedly asking for "sunny side up" when I told him to fuck off I presented him with his food with the words "enjoy your ovulation". Walked off to hear the muttering "Jesus! I don't think I want it now".
Room 1 is kept for women only (got shouted at for going in there but I didn't know, honest) and kids while Room 2 is for "LongStayers" (more than 2 weeks) and 3 to 6 are for everyone else. A really gorgeous, friendly, pretty 21 year old Ozzy girl was in room 2 and for the first time in 12 years a tourist got mugged in Plakias. Unfortunately it was her and while walking to the bar she worked in, some little turd punched her to the ground near the bridge and grabbed her purse. She kicked up such a din she could be heard all the way back at the hostel and we reckon that was what made him scarper before it could get any worse.
Her boss is both violent and connected (he once systematically smashed 3 whisky glasses in a drunk Scottish guy's face because the dude took a swing at him) and was very angry about the abuse on his barmaid. Next day him, his brother and another bar owner found the perceived culprit and gave him a right thrashing. Turns out he was innocent of the crime and the only epitaph this mistake got was "well, at the time I was 100% certain it was the right person".
The beaches in Plakias are Cretan magnificence and the loveliest is imaginatively nicknamed One Rock Beach, a 45 minute walk from the youth hostel. It has a fairly inaccessible climb down the cliff face, onto a pebbled beach where you can soak up the rays or just for fun try cliff jumping from a 10 metre high launch point. Best bit of all is the underwater tunnel linking One Rock to its neighbour Pig Bay (so called because of all the naked, bronzed fat tourists sizzling on it). It's 3 metres long, 2 metres down and is like Marmite in that you either love it or hate it because some people refuse to even consider doing it while others use it as a cure for a bad hangover (adrenalin can purge too much booze believe me).
One day we took a German mum and her two adorable kids, a boy and girl aged 5 and 8 to One Rock with their aunt and while the mum and kids played on the beach me and the aunty swam the tunnel. I emerged with a cramp in my foot and spent 10 minutes kneading it out before going back. The little boy was practically crimson with rage and was yelling at us both in German and shaking his finger, his face red with dried tears. After he calmed down his mum explained that he had been watching me and the aunty swimming , saw us go under but not come up again and thought we'd drowned. Poor little sod spent the entire time we were gone blubbing with fear. Oops!
Joe's Bar in Plakias is the favourite haunt of many tourists and the resident ex pats. Joe's a larger than life mountain of a man with a big laugh and a generous disposition. Like most Cretans he has a temper if pushed and despite his gentle demeanour knocked down and then proceeded to kick and punch a local who tried to stab him with a broken bottle before the scrap was broken up by the DJ hurtling down from behind the PC.
Met some wild and colourful people the whole summer and relationships with folk that only last a fortnight in the majority was good for my fractured soul. Two Irish girls stayed in July and were absolutely gorgeous and good fun to go out drinking with. Unfortunately they didn't hit it off with the 59 year old grizzled backpacker of 30 years a-wandering sharing their bungalow and things came to a head in the bar one night when they had a childish slanging spat over a beer. I lost my rag and roared at them both to knock it off and thought no more of it until Big Colin came over at the bar, put his arm round my shoulder and said in his best debt collector's voice to debtee late on repayment plan "Err...Lance. Is my friend going to get beaten up tonight?". Turns out the words "KNOCK IF OFF THE PAIR OF YOU, YOU'RE BOTH AS BAD AS EACH OTHER LIKE A COUPLE OF KIDS FOR FUXAKE!!!" had reduced him to a gibbering pile of jelly and he'd sent an emissary to check if me and the young ladies were going to kick his head in while he was asleep. I assured Colin not and he lurched back to his pal who, an hour later came over to ask me himself the same question and again I reiterated that what needed to be said had been and it was a non-event.
Next morning he packed his bags and left, moaning to everyone that would listen that he was being forced out because people wanted to give him a good hiding. Funniest of all was that a lad who'd only arrived the night before and had sat there good as gold all through this quarrel without saying a dicky bird, was approached by two rancid women over breakfast who thought he'd upset the old fart and told him to go and say sorry. My repeated attempts to intervene with "actually it was me not him" went ignored until I eventually shouted "YOU WEREN'T THERE SO WHY DON'T YOU JUST FUCK OFF AND MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS!!" to which they placed their hands on their hips, tsked loudly and told me there was no need to be aggressive.
Talking of which.
Police in the UK are in the main tourist-friendly and even SO13 at the Royal Palaces will happily pose with their Glock and machine gun for a holiday snap. Cops in Crete are a different kettle of Calamari and one night two of them came into the bar to check ID. With Greece being into Europe the cops are slowly tightening up on the formerly lax enforcement of noise pollution and licensing and the DJ, the second they walked in, turned the music down and sat at the bar as if he'd been there all night and wouldn't know how to work a stack if his life depended on it. Everyone became quietly subdued while the owner showed his papers to the visiting, gun-wearing, bored-looking Bobbies. All accept two drunken Ozzy girls who ran over squeaking with a camera to ask for a photo opportunity. I grabbed one by the arm and tried to tell her the perils of pissing off Greek gavvers but was met with blustering indignation and the advice that I was overreacting.