True love strikes

Today it happened. I fell in love. It came quite unexpected to be honest but they say love can strike when you least expect it. I heard him before I saw him and when he called to me I froze for a moment at his sheer beauty; he was mesmerizing and he knew it but to be honest he suited the swagger. When he called to me I went straight to him and we shared a tender moment, looking deep into each others eyes…then he sh*t himself and ran off…

Yes at last I had encountered the beautiful miniature horses of Skyros and this one was one hell of a dude, mane flowing in the breeze he could be a top model for err, Horse and Hound magazine maybe.

I’d had a bit of a headache to get here but it was worth it. First there was locating the actual taxi rank and as I’m finding most people’s English is on par with my Greek here that in itself wasn’t straightforward. Once I’d found the taxi rank and approached the drivers (who looked really p’d off that I dare to interrupt their card game nevermind give them some business) there was the issue of where I wanted to go. Bearing in mind my Geordie accent and the place I wanted to go was called Mouries…
Me: Err Taxi parakelo?
Blank looks from the taxi drivers sitting in the taxi rank
Me: Err I want to go to Mooooreez? In a taxi?
Even blanker looks. One of them says something, another scratches his chin. Thank god there’s a woman there too, someone with a bit of sense
Lady taxi man: Muriesss?
Me: Uhh Yes Mooooreez…Murriess? Err little horses
At this point I pat the air to indicate little horses. I’ve no idea how or why this would indicate little horses but idiot abroad has struck again.
Lady taxi man: I will take you, come
We agree a fare and set off into the countryside. It only takes ten minutes but watching her whizz around the corners, driving with fag in one hand and her phone in the other texting her mate it feels a little longer. When we arrive there’s all of about five other people here on a little farm in Skyros with only little horses for any real company. Perfect. I spend some time there then head for a walk into the countryside as there’s nothing else here but a restaurant but it’s too early for lunch.
It’s at this point that my little grey stallion gallops up out of nowhere, whinnying at me and standing proud as punch on the hilltop. I sneak a few photos before going to meet him in person, he’s an absolute superstar and I’m smitten. He soon gets bored of me though so I’m left to wander on my own, ending up on the other side of the island on another beach before heading back to the restaurant by the farm.
I go to order some food but apparently the kitchen doesn’t open until 1pm (It’s now gone midday) so I entertain myself with a beer and when I hear someone calling the waiter Dimitris it’s only right that I stay for some food too; it’s not so long to wait when you have beer in hand after all. When the kitchen does open I order a traditional Skyrian pie which is possibly the weirdest thing I’ve ever eaten. It’s basically some pastry with a dollop of cheese on the side and it’s enormous. Now I like my food but even for me there are limits on the about of pastry I can eat in one go and I end up defeated by the piebeast, having to leave a third of it. I try to leave at this point as I’ve been here almost two hours and have already said I’m stuffed but rather than the bill a dessert appears ‘on the house’. I think it’s chocolate ice-cream before I stick my spoon in but turns out it’s chocolate torte, possibly one of my favourite desserts and has a hazelnut wafer filled with chocolate stuck in the top of it. Little horses, beer, giant pie and free chocolate torte. Who needs Dimitrius, I’m in heaven! I’ve had enough of being held food hostage though and need to push on. I’ve a one hour 40 minute walk back to Magazia and I’d like to get back on the beach….Oh and by the way the waiter was definitely Dimitris and not Dimitrius in case you were wondering; besides he was far too young and short and clearly wasn’t a fisherman either!
I walk through Aspous, planning on having a drink there as it’s half way between the farm and Magazia and it was also somewhere I had considered staying at one point, however when I get there again there’s nothing there. I settle for a bottle of water in the supermarket and trudge on. By the time I get back to Magazia I’ve walked 18km and did a 6km run in the morning so feel I’ve earned a lie down on the beach. I decide to sit on the opposite side from yesterday, away from the ‘busy’ end and particularly boys who kick you.

I’m soon disturbed though but by far more welcome company…Dimitrus you say?! Has he finally made an appearance to help with suncream and rub my aching feet?

No, a big golden retriever has taken a shine to me and basically decided to plonk himself pretty much on top of me; his owner comes over and drags him off but I was quite happy with that kind of company. When I take a dip later my friend appears again to join me: some people go on holiday and get to swim with dolphins, I get Golden Retrievers instead; trust me, I have to be different.

 

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My new love
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Isn’t be a beauty! Love a male with long hair…
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Just a beach with a parasol and Greek flag in the water, as you do
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The pie that defeated me
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Giz a kiss!
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And my heart belonged to a horse
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Lot’s n lot’s of little horses!

 

 

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Keep on running…not kicking

I wake early and watch the sunrise from my balcony before heading out for a run. Yep, the trainers are back on as I need to get those miles in somehow before the Great North Run; plus it’s a nice way to see more of the island. The resort, if you can even call it that, is tiny and soon enough I’m in countryside with not a soul in sight; only butterflies, geckos and a heap of goats for company (like literally goats lying all together in a heap, just goats, in a heap, yes exactly that) I drop back down by the sea and I’m so happy I just want to sing.

Those familiar with my previous blog will know I have a tendency to want to go with the musical flow however social convention and not wanting to appear to be a total weirdo at home mean I don’t just burst into song…here however… I go for it. Like, really go for it. I’m running along a gravel track belting out ‘I believe in a thing called love’ by The Darkness and I feel great. There’s even a bit of arm waving/air guitar going on. If Dimitrius saw me now he’d probably run a mile: or should I say kilometre being in Europe and all that; either way I couldn’t catch him, not in this heat and quite frankly I’m not seeking him in this moment, in this moment I’m happy running along busting the odd freaky move and looking like a total idiot in the process. Who needs Theseus, I will go down in legend as the Singing Sprinter of Skyros. I reign it in a bit when I hear a car behind me and plus it’s quite gravelly here so if I fall over and injure myself I really would be screwed; sensible me is back in the room. I complete my 5k and feel quite pleased with myself; in 30 degree heat that counts as double the distance right?!
I had planned on trying to get to a farm to see the little horses today but as I don’t know where a taxi rank is I figure it’s best to rearrange my plans. Today I will relax on the beach this morning then head up into Chora early evening for some food and check out where the taxis can be found before trying to get to the little horses tomorrow. Now, I do also feel I’ve been a bit lax in my Dimitrius hunting and really need to up my game so take the opportunity to head down to what appears to be a small docking area for fishing boats at what I assume is the end of Magazia before you get to Molos (I’ve no idea where is what, there’s no street signs here and every time I turn to google for help it just says that bleedin’ ‘unknown road’…again). I find two old blokes chatting on a rickety looking vessel and that’s about it. Not blue shirt in sight, dammit.
I have a lovely few hours on the beach, there’s plenty of space and it appears that not even the ‘lookie lookie’ man can be bothered to try and make me buy anything. Only one person has given me hassle on this trip so far and he appears right now. He’s about nine years old, if that, and waving some baskets at me that have nothing in them. I don’t want a basket, I don’t want anything, whatever it is I just don’t want it. I smile at him and say ‘ohi, efharisto’ (no, thank you). He says something else, I say again ‘ohi efharisto’ and wave my hand in a ‘no thank you’ motion. He persists and I say in English ‘No, thank you’ getting more firm in my tone. He tries again, I say no thank you again. I wave him away and turn back to my phone. He says something again and I ignore him. He says it again and I look at him say firmly ‘ohi’ and wave him away. He says something again and I ignore him. He says something again and kicks my foot. Kicks my foot!! Cheeky little so and so! I glare at him and wave him on again and turn back to my phone again. He kicks me again. I really would love to kick him back right now but I have a feeling that would be construed as child abuse and I really don’t want to end up in a Greek prison; Dimitrius would never find me there. I ignore him. He kicks me. I ignore him and finally he goes away after waving his fingers at me and uttering some sort of curse probably; honestly what is it with kids these days! What happened to respecting your elders?! And if you’re going to kick me for not buying something at least let me know what on earth it was!
In the evening I walk back into the old town Chora, sweating up the steep steps as I go (I’ve found a more direct route than the road). I have simple food at a simple café and watch the world go by and it’s lovely. Only thing that isn’t lovely is the swarm of wasps that appear to have descended when I’m trying to eat. The waiter/owner/barman/manager/chef/only person working there tries to help swotting them away and then brings a tiny shot of orange juice for the table stating that they like orange juice so should leave me alone. Well turns out these must be Geordie wasps mate as they are far more interested in the ouzo and beer than a poxy shot of orange. I leave full but exhausted from waving my arms around like a crazed fool all night. I’ve also succeeded in my goal of getting back down the hill to Magazia before darkness strikes as don’t want to be wandering around the maze on my own. I congratulate myself by sitting on my giant balcony with a glass of wine and watching the sun set over the beautiful if not slightly crazy Chora.

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Sunrise from the balcony
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Magazia beach and Chora in the background
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Boats at Magazia/Molos…but no Dimitrius
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Yeah I know…I took that!
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Look at the view from the balcony!
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Sunset from the balcony…the circle of life!

Wild Google chase

I figure today I will get my bearings and have a walk up to Chora, Skyros town. There must be a footpath but as I don’t know where it is I decide to follow the road the bus came on as at least I know that will get me there without being overly experimental and getting lost, again… which I know I am getting very good at but I’m still not keen to do it. I find a road cutting up the hill though and figure if cars are going up there, there must be something at the top and when I get there find myself at the monument to the English poet Rupert Brooke; which also feels abit random as most things appear to be around here. Maybe one day there’ll be a monument to me and Dimitrius! It’d have to be in his hometown though, I just need to work out where that is…
It’s a sorry state of affairs though when Google maps doesn’t know where you are. There are so many ‘unknown roads’ I begin to think that’s actually just the name of the road: ‘you want to go to Chora huh? Well that’ll be a right at unknown road then take a slight left at unknown road and unknown road will be right in front of you, but make sure you don’t go too far or then you’ll hit unknown road’. In these twisting, winding streets though it’s nice to acknowledge the locals when you pass them and before I know it I’m yiasu’ing everyone. I yiasu old men, yiasu old women, yiasu large groups, yiasu cats, yiasu dogs; everyone gets a yiasu , like it or not. It’s a veritable yiasu-fest and I’m enjoying it. I’ve also noted that the little bits of English that are being spoken are not by English people, which again puts us Brits to shame in the language stakes as we really are generally very ignorant in language terms. It’s also weird that when I’m asked by people where I’m from they mean country, not town. Usually on holiday the answer is ‘Newcastle’ but here I now know to say ‘England’ rather than anything more specific. They definitely wouldn’t know where Newcastle was…or I say that but actually when a man in Alonissos asked me he came straight back with ‘Alan Shearer’ so once more the international language of football transcends all boundaries!
There was a story in the news not so long ago about a man who filmed his entire trip back to front and basically just ended up with a massive recording of a selfie of himself. Well I’ve made that mistake a couple of times so far and ended up with a few photos of me taking photos; it appears I have certain ‘photo-taking-face’ that I adopt which I hadn’t been aware of: have to say it’s not a good look! Fortunately the times I have done this have only been for a few snaps and are pictures I probably already have as I have been taking that many. It highlights the issues though of using cameras in the sunshine as half the time I can’t see a bleedin’ thing!
I’m beginning to wonder as I’m walking this maze whether I’m taking photos because I want the pictures or if it’s actually just to mark some sort of trail; so I can look back at my pictures and think ‘aha! I’ve been here before!’ on the medieval streets. I find myself at the Byzantine Castle which is quite high on the list of tourist attractions but there’s not a soul in sight: well only me, a priest (there’s a church in the castle) and a man working there. I have a bit nosey about before venturing back into the maze.
I wonder what people do for a living here?! It’s a labyrinth of streets and stairs and I’m not sure if I’m walking on a pavement or someone’s house. I’m pleased again that I didn’t stay in the old town and understand why google struggled. There’s no street signs or markers to show where you are and everywhere looks the same. I’ve so far seen two shops: a computer shop and a tap shop. Helpful. Where the heck is the supermarket? I wander still… I’ve been walking for hours now and really want some water. It’s at precisely this point that I finally find it: civilisation! There’s people and supermarkets and bars and tavernas and…stuff!!!! There’s a pretty little square with old men playing backgammon like they do on the films. There’s no fishermen in blue shirts with eyes that change colour like the sea though so the town doesn’t quite have everything but at least it has more than a computer shop and a tap shop.
It’s mid-afternoon so I figure now I’m here I’ll try and find a taverna for lunch. Trip Adviser points me in one direction so like a lamb to the slaughter I trust its ever-correct judgement….except where the restaurant is meant to be there’s….well a garage…that’s shut…turns out Trip Advisor’s ever-correct judgement is, well, not-ever-correct. I find a Euro on the floor and pick it up: for my good luck I will pass it on to a waiter/waitress if ever I can find this place. Nevermind wild goose chase I’ve been sent on a wild google chase! Technology ain’t all that after-all; I tell you give me a quill, some parchment and a pigeon any day.
I give up trying to find this magic restaurant and decide to walk back along the roadside as I appear to have done a massive loop of the hill anyway. A car pulls up next to me. I assume he’s going to say what the heck are you doing/are you lost/you shouldn’t be walking on a road/are you German, but instead he asks if I speak English (Yes!! Yes I do! I can do that! Yes!) and then asks me for directions to some beach I’ve never heard of. I apologise that I don’t know where the heck he’s on about and he drives off. I then burst out laughing on my own in the middle of a deserted road; wow I must’ve gone truly native, people think I look like I know what I’m doing! Who ever would have thought!!

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English Poets Abroad R Us
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Skyros Chora
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One of my yiasu pals
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I’m up a mountain I tell you, a bleedin’ mountain! In sandals!!
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Churches a go go
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Am I in someone’s yard?! I have no idea..
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Just call me a mountain goat getting all the way up here
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Another church?!
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Winding streets. Google doesn’t stand a chance

 

Who am I and where am I going?!

The eagle eyed of you will realise I didn’t post anything yesterday and you may be wondering what was the reason for this? Did I end up on the wrong boat again heading to god knows where?  Was I once again plunged into the dark ages without wifi? Did I run off with Dimitrius on his fishing boat? Pah, if only! No. The reason was quite simple, one little word with one big impact. The reason I did not post anything yesterday was: Ouzo. We’ll get to that story in about a week or so though, for now: Skyros.

I disembark at Linaria and head over to the only bus I can see but looks far too, err, modern and robust to be the island bus, but sure enough it is. I check with the driver that he will go to Magazia and he confirms the destination. Sights of the beautiful Chora come into view after 15 mintes or so and as he pulls into the bottom of the village a woman asks the rest of the bus in English ‘where is this and does he go to the coast?’ The driver at this point has hopped off to open up the luggage compartment.

A German man in front of me says ‘Molos. We are going to Molos’ He said this in perfect English but the lady looks at him as though he’s just spoken alien. I feel like shouting up that ‘this is Chora and that yes he does drop down to the coast as swotty me checked’ but given that I’ve probably as little a clue as her really I keep my mouth shut. When the bus driver comes back on board and checks where the rest of us are going (that lady jumped off, who knows where she ended up) he appears to want to pair me with some American guy sitting across from me – no no no no no Mr Bus Driver! I am not with him!!! I feel like saying I am looking for Dimitrius but I think that may confuse my bus journey somewhat as I could end up in god only knows where (again) so again I keep quiet. When we arrive in Magazia (I know this as Mr Bus Driver tells me so) I rely again on good old google maps to steer me to my destination, suitcase again making a right racket down the cobbled streets. On doing so I spot the name of the apartment and a woman runs out from an adjacent property, smiling and saying what I assume to be a greeting. She doesn’t check my ID, or ask my name, doesn’t check anything, just sees someone with a case and basically goes for it. I could be anyone; I could be an imposter slurring my good name, I could be Vasili the German, I could be anyone at all. I’m lead up some stairs to a large apartment which could easily sleep three if not more and a massive balcony stretching around two corners of the building. The lady can’t speak much English, I can’t speak much Greek, infact we are both pretty much on par in the language stakes but get by with lots of smiling and gesticulating: I’ve gone full on native now in the arm waving. I dread to think how this is going to pan out come check-out but will cross that bridge when I come to it. I’m here now and my main concern is finding a supermarket and somewhere to eat before the sun drops and the town is in near darkness.
Considering this is meant to be the busiest resort on the island and at one point this had put me off from booking it, I’m surprised to find very little going on. I wander for a bit and stumble upon the supermarket, which won’t be challenging Tesco for market share anytime soon given that half the warehouse is just in the shop and there’s clearly no stock rotation given the build up of dust on half the items. I grab some supplies and just as my turn in the queue comes the checkout lady’s phone rings and I spend ten minutes watching her chatting to her mate. Still, no rush, no rush. I have no schedule. The surprising thing given the tumbledown supermarket is the shiny modern hairdressers right next door – which is still open for business and it’s gone 9pm now. This place is rather random…
Back in my room I take the surroundings in a little more. There are some weird 3D pictures of London buses on the walls which I really don’t understand. They’d be odd enough if you were actually in London (looking at them they give the effect of having beer googles on) but on a small island in Greece they appear even more displaced: where’s the usual pictures of boats when you need them? Taking a shower is also an experience as for some reason the shower curtain also stretches over the toilet. Leaving the bathroom I realise as it’s dark and I have the lights on and the curtains are some see through net type material I’ve probably just flashed at the entire town. To be honest though I doubt there’s anyone here to even see; busiest resort my a** …which is pretty much what I’ve just exposed to the world.
I throw on the same dress I wore last night as no one will know and consider that actually no one out here knows me anyway, I could assume a completely different persona and no one would be any different. Maybe that should be my next challenge?! I could put myself in a role, play a new part. Though to be honest given the level of English anyone can speak the only change I possibly could make would be to make my voice more high/low pitched or develop a funny walk…which I kind of did the other day anyway when my sandal broke. I decide I shall continue just being me as that’s what I know best.
I can only find two places open, or at least as far away from the apartment as I want to venture in the dark without knowing my bearings. One appears to be just the waiting staff/owners sitting around chatting so I decide on the other option which is a beach bar with lounge music playing. I take a table and twist around to stretch my back out, after sitting on that plastic chair on the boat all day I’m very stiff. I then note I’m getting peculiar looks from the men on the table next to me and suddenly click why. They seem to think I’m doing some sort of sexy chair dancing thing for them. Oh dear. I stop moving and figure it’s better to put up with the ache than have people thinking I’m trying to do some sort of exotic dance for them, they’re definitely not Dimitrius afterall!

I’m tired after my journey and just want some food and wine and bed; as the waitress takes my order though I look up at the night sky and know it’s all been worthwhile: a brilliant black sky, the brightest stars I have possibly ever seen and a huge orange moon. Beautiful. Life isn’t half bad: life is good.

 

 

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The port of Linaria…with its Shell garage

 

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Linaria
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First sighting of the beach at Magazia

 

2017: A Dimitrius Odyssey

It was my last night in Alonissos and I managed to get to the funky bar without the annoying waiter stalking me so all was well in the world.

I now head off for pastures new; the island I am most intrigued and excited by yet also most nervous about. It’s very slightly off radar for most Brits plus I’m not saying in the port town so have to work out how to get from the port on one side of the island to the resort on the other. This is of course the land of the little horseys: Skyros.

Before my journey though I have a few hours to kill in Alonissos so attempt to find a table in a café which proves somewhat difficult…then I remember the dance festival has ended so all the dancers are now in transit too and waiting for their various boats and buses. When I do find one lone table with one lone chair I know exactly where to put my lone self and entertain myself with a good old game of food roulette.

The good thing about eating anything at all means that even if I don’t know what it means on the menu I will probably like it; I’ve not yet found anything I don’t like so I’m keen to maintain my 100% hit rate. When I see a handwritten scrawl beneath the typed omelettes and sandwiches I know what I will go for: Emanakomita. At least that’s what I think it says. When the waitress appears I point and give my best Em-an -urrr a urr a komita?? And she replies in fluent English: Spinach Pie.
Damn you fluent English speaker you! You’ve ruined my game of food roulette! There’s no mystery now! But at least I can now get my taste buds excited rather than it being a total surprise. I don’t think Dimitrius will be around here, I think he’ll be put off by the crowds and will probably have taken a longer trip out to sea these past few days to escape the hullabaloo. I do however take the opportunity to play another game to pass the time: spot the fit bloke (yes this is sexist)

The best tally ever on this particular game was in Sweden in 2003 when I counted 19 in a straight run: from the men I spied through my window on the plane manning the funny little airport vehicles (I love those!) up to arriving into Gothenburg town an hour or so later. It’s proven a tough tally to beat however I am dedicated to trying. There’s quite a few wannabe Ronaldo-a-likes here but I let them off given they are probably dance heroes in the islands they represent so have earned some swagger rights. In total I count six and a half (I was a bit on the fence with one so gave half marks) so my Sweden record remains intact for now. In the interest of not making this too sexist I would also say that there were an equal number, maybe even more, of attractive women but what did you expect, this is Greece remember, all of the girls are beautiful!
I seek to make a move and note the only trouble I can really find with travelling alone is that there’s no one to watch your stuff when you need to nip to the loo (where is my baggage buddy when I need him?!) so I end up dragging my case into the tiny toilet with me which is err tricky but do-able; it’s these little details that no one seems to talk about when they are waxing lyrical on the benefits of solo travel.
Wandering down the dock the ferry pulling into Patitiri port has ‘Skyros Shipping Co’ emblazoned down the side of it so I’m pretty sure this must be my boat, but given my previous faux pas I’m keen to quadruple check this is the right one: the crew look at me like I’m insane, and I do feel insane asking but better to be safe than encounter Grumpy Officer again. Handing my ticket over to the fourth officer I’ve asked ‘is this the boat to Skyros’ he smiles and welcomes me on board; what a happy ship this is in comparison to last time and how very organised of them to check tickets BEFORE we pull away from port! It’s like being back in civilisation…well I say that until the luggage carnage hits me of people throwing cases at each other at the top of the stairs; I decide to heave mine with me up to the top deck rather than join the bun fight.
Once on deck I grab a plastic chair and head down the starboard (I think?!) side of the ship which is unoccupied and make the place my own; using my case as a footstool I stretch out and enjoy what could be a private cruise given that I can’t see a soul around me as once again they are all cowering in the shade. It’s five and a half hours of sailing before we get to Skyros and there’s a breeze on deck which makes me adopt a certain rasta hair look: I really hope Dimitrius isn’t going to meet me off the ship as quite frankly, I look like ****.

I forgot about this slight issue. I am not one of those women that look good on holiday. You see these women gliding through airports in their nonchalant ‘thrown together’ effortlessly cool outfits; then at the other side of the scale there’s me. I just look wrong. Something appears to happen as soon as I land somewhere that my facial shape changes, I become even more pink and shiny than normal and my clothes just look, well, wrong. So thinking that I may actually entice the man of my dreams whilst looking pretty much my worst is, well, hopeful at least, if not just plain ridiculous. Even if I was in the most loved up relationship on a first holiday together my beloved would probably take a look at me and think ‘jeez, what the hell happened to you?!’ but obviously couldn’t say that as then he’d sound shallow and mean so would just have to ease his pain with a few treble vodkas on arrival and hope the beer goggles kick in asap. So yes, holidays are not by best look and I have no idea how I will get a comb through this mane after more than five hours of being blown about on deck.

I turn my attention from Dimitrius hunting to little horse hunting (but not in an actual hunting-hunting way, that’d just be wrong) as at least they won’t care what I look like and will probably just think of me as a bedraggled one of their own.
I spot the dark mountains of Skyros looming ahead and become more nervous about what I will encounter here….will there just be goats for company? Will no one understand English let alone Geordie? Will I have to survive on ouzo forever more (hmm, silver linings and all that…) All my fears fade away though and I laugh when the first thing I see after the pretty whitewashed houses and church on a hill is…a Shell garage. A bloomin’ Shell bloomin garage! Might as well have stuck a Maccy D’s there and be done with it. To top it off the ship then starts playing 2001: A Space Odyssey. I chuckle, I like this lot, I like this lot a lot.

 

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Is this the boat to Skyros do you think?!