Monday, 26 August 2013

love hurts

Hearing shingle explode, seeing it skip,
Crow sucked his tongue.
Seeing sea-grey mash a mountain of itself
Crow tightened his goose-pimples.
Feeling spray from the sea’s root nothinged on his crest
Crow’s toes gripped the wet pebbles.
When the smell of the whale’s den, the gulfing of the crab’s last prayer,
Gimletted in his nostril
He grasped he was on earth.
He knew he grasped
Something fleeting
Of the sea’s ogreish outcry and convulsion.
He knew he was the wrong listener unwanted
To understand or help -

His utmost gaping of his brain in his tiny skull
Was just enough to wonder, about the sea,

What could be hurting so much?

I write this with no sense of schadenfruede. Ironically enough, as I sat on the back door step next to the barbecue cooking a chicken for dinner, I watched two pigeons on a neighbour's roof. One was attempting to mount the other . . . 

On a beach in Gytheon last week we sat looking out to sea after a pleasant meal in the taverna behind us. I had just finished off a plate of about a dozen small sardines beautifully grilled. We swam for a while before we had to head off to catch the boat. As we were drying off in the sun, our gaze wandered across to a couple who had also been dining in the little taverna. We recognised them as being on the same trip as us as he had often been posing around the swimming pool showing off his semi-Illustrated Man physique. They were a lot younger than us and had swum out a little way away from the beach presumably to cool down in the sea. 

Being young and presumably in love, they got quite close. "Are they . .?" asked Mrs Dave. I replied in the affirmative without adding the mental "lucky  b. . . " so we averted our eyes. We've all been there. We were all young once. As it was a small beach on the edge of the little town, it was difficult not to be aware that there was the possibility of passion being aroused in that direction - presumably just far enough away from their mothers who were sunbathing near us. 

A while later as I looked back in their direction, there seemed to be some commotion. The female member of the duo was now standing on the beach whilst the male was rushing around the beach. He ducked down and did some press-ups in the gently lapping sea as it came up to the shore. That seemed a bit bizarre. Then he ran away behind some rocks. Then a moment later he came back bending up and down as one who is in great pain. He held an arm out and indicated that his partner should stay away from him.

By now we were rather fascinated with this passion play that was unfolding before us.

The lady came back to talk to the two older ladies and told them something - unfortunately we were a little way off from them but they appeared to be Italians. We wouldn't have understood anyway.  However, the young man in question didn't seem to be feeling much better. He had changed his trunks by then though. He had a more capacious pair on that perhaps were a little more airy around the legs. They were gently flapping in the breeze.

We had to leave fairly soon. But back on the boat - a small tender to get us to the ship we were travelling on. The couple sat fairly near us. Well, I say 'sat' but the girl didn't sit - her legs appeared horrendously red as though stung possibly by a jelly fish - perhaps she'd squashed one? There was a lot of kerfuffle going on and the guy still looked remarkably upset. Lots of anguish in his facial expressions. They were allowed off of the boat first and quickly taken away to be met by some medical people.

We never saw them again for the rest of the week. We never learned what had actually happened and it means we have to fill in the details ourselves. As an English teacher, I often try to get students to understand that good writers should show and not tell. 

I wonder how he explained to the doctor how he had got so badly injured? But I bet it put them off drinking cocktails like Sex on the Beach forever.

Sunday, 25 August 2013


This beautiful creature spent an hour sitting by my back door this afternoon. A female  Aeshnea Cyanea I believe*. A Hawker, a member of the dragonfly family.

The Dragonfly

Now, when my roses are half buds, half flowers,
And loveliest, the king of flies has come-
It was a fleeting visit, all too brief;
In three short minutes he has seen them all,
And rested, too, upon an apple tree.

There, his round shoulders humped with emeralds,
A gorgeous opal crown set on his head,
And all those shining honours to his breast-
‘My garden is a lovely place’ thought I,
‘But is it worthy of such a guest?’

He rested there, upon the apple leaf -
‘See, see,’ I cried amazed, ‘his opal crown,
And all those emeralds clustered around his head!’
‘His breast, my dear, how lovely was his breast-’
The voice of my Beloved quickly said.

‘See, see his gorgeous crown, that shines
With all those jewels bulging round its rim-’
I cried aloud at night, in broken rest.
Back came the answer quickly, in my dream-
‘His breast, my dear, how lovely was his breast!’
(W. H. Davies)
* more than happy to be proved wrong, of course! No expert me.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

you go montenegro?

And when your ship sets sail do not worry
I'll wipe your sweat away
all your life you travel blind
not a peace, not resigned
at least you get to leave the pain behind
when your ship sets sail

There's definitely a buzz about swimming in the Ionian Sea. Sometimes scrabbling over rocks on a "beach" that many Brits find too rough can be quite a thrill. You can slip into the slightly buoyant - somehow oily - sea  and drift there whilst the morning sun warms you whilst building up its fiercer heat for the afternoon. Even when you're just a tourist, it is possible to get away from the crowd and spend an hour or two away from them. Lovely as they are . . . 

Okay, it was our fault. We hadn't got it together enough to sort a proper holiday out and the Motor Home is in a garage as I write waiting to have its "water problems" sorted out. Anyway, off we went to the so-called Eastern Mediterranean to join HMS Sybarite and watch hundreds of Europeans graze on a continual diet of freshly made pizza and 24 hour-at-your-service-cocktails. If it got too hot we could always go and stand in the small pool and be bombarded by the hundreds of out of control children that had been left to their own devices as their parents were "on us 'olidays" and therefore were negating any responsibility for the behaviour of their offspring. Which is why we made any attempt we could to avoid the crowd and jump into the 'Med' (or which ever sea we were in) as early as possible whilst the rest of the jolly holiday makers were still clambering off the ship and trying to stop their kids from consuming the whole of the European Pizza Mountain before waddling up to find a beach. Any beach.

Truth to tell, we took an opportunity to go to a few places we've always wanted to visit. Mrs Dave has always wanted to go to Venice, which has never been that high on my list of priorities, and I wanted to visit the old city of Dubrovnik as I've only ever seen it from the Franjo Tuđman Bridge on a ridiculous journey* to the Croatian airport a few years ago. So, along with a few Greek ports and one or two other places, they are the places we visited last week.

Ah! I wondered what had happened to Gryphon.
Venice was as busy as the London Embankment on a hot Sunday in August only worse. Yes, I went to the South Bank as well a week or so back. It was the day of a big bicycle race which meant that the World and his wife's extended family had turned up. Anyway, Venice. It was very hot but Mrs Dave was happy (actually "excited" was the way she described it) so that was good. We went back there yesterday and as there weren't so many people, I enjoyed it more. Especially when the reverse gears on the water bus stopped working on the way back to the airport but that's another story!

After visiting a non-descript Italian town at the start of the week, we finally reached Dubrovnik. It was a beautiful city to visit. As it is an old Mediaeval city that is now a World Heritage Site a few inherent problems were made immediately obvious. An ambulance reached the old gates to the city at the same time as we did. Modern vehicles can't get into the old city so it takes time to deal with emergencies. Still, we were entertained musically by a few locals who have taken on board the idea of its World Heritage status whilst waiting to pass through the city gate. Having been to Croatia before, we were aware that pre-EU their currency was the Kuna but as they had just fully joined the EU, we assumed (stupidly) that they accepted Euros. Nope. Not interested. Even when you want to buy something! Oh well, off to Greece for a few days.

Which is where we came in, of course. Swimming in the Ionian away from the crowds and taking in the rural beauty of Greece. We went to Corfu and Kefalonia but the real find was Gytheion (Sparta) which we really enjoyed and can imagine going back to. Helen and Paris supposedly found refuge here on the tiny island of Kranai, which sticks out from the harbour, just before going off to Troy. We found a wonderful small taverna where I was able to eat a big plate of grilled sardines. It's not something I can cook often as I'm the only one who seems to enjoy fish with heads and bones. Excellent.
St Peter's church on the small island of  Kranai

A couple of days ago we pulled in to Kotor, a beautiful ancient city which is the gateway to Montenegro. Nobody knew anything about the place although obviously it was where Casino Royale (the film, Brendan, the film) was set. What an amazing find! It was the highlight of the trip for me. Although we didn't really have time to climb the city wall fully (up and up . . ) we managed to take in a fair amount. We will hopefully return one day. And, yes, they take Euros as they don't actually have their own currency. Italianate in appearance and very like a mini-Dubrovnik, it was a very welcoming town.   It seemed to be full of very beautiful young ladies, er, if you like that sort of thing. Interestingly, of all of these towns we visited, there were generally very few beggars on the streets. Unlike in England. Lots of happy faces too. Again, unlike England . . .

Meanwhile back on board the Sybarite, the entertainment officer was pulling out all the stops. It's good to know that since the virtual demise of the Muppets old has-beens like Kermit can still get a job. No matter what rubbish they threw out each evening as entertainment, there was Kermit introducing us to the "Showwww!" If that wasn't to your tastes, the bars on board all had a different act on to entertain us. For some reason the "Red Bar" provided us with the best: a French couple comprising a piano player in his late fifties with a younger female singer. For some reason she wasn't allowed to sing too much but as she sounded somewhere between Edith Piaf and Marianne Faithfull we would have liked to have heard more of her. Meanwhile the Woody Allen lookalike on piano spoke through a few "hits" and every one of them to the tune of The Girl From Ipanema. They were supposed to perform "your favourites" and do requests. However, Mrs Dave had put me under absolute instructions not to request Je t'aime… moi non plus which I think would have suited them superbly. It could be a hit all over again.

Interestingly, as often happens, I was approached by an attractive young lady who asked if I was "Mr Leeke"? Er, yes . . . "You used to be my form tutor!" Blimey, nearly fifteen years ago. And I haven't changed a bit - unlike them of course.

Oh well, back to Blighty and the rain. Easy Jet managed to land us in the North Terminal of Gatwick instead of the South but we were one step ahead of them and had organised our car to be delivered to whichever terminal we arrived at so they turned up at the North Terminal. It wasn't the best journey home but we got back about two in the morning. 

Whilst all this jollity was going on the school was managing to get some of its worst GCSE results for years so the coming year ahead looks like it's going to be awful. But that's another week away:

I guess it's time to think about moving on again
Stop all this painting in the rain.
The colours only run and merge as one
Oil should be left to dry in the sun.

* A very tired taxi driver stopped on the bridge at our request as we felt we may drop in, literally, to Dubrovnik if he didn't stop and try to wake himself up!