Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Paint, paint, paint!

I first have to come clean and admit to a misleading headline. I've not painted any models today. I have instead been painting the bathroom. You may remember that I had begun to do so around the end of January and start of February. If you remember that, you may remember that the appendix went kaboom back them, so things were on hold while I recuperated, then the thought slid off the back burner and hid down the back of the cooker, as it were. Today, several weeks after I first decided I'd start again, I have done so. Now all the woodwork has received two coats of undercoat, so tomorrow I'll start applying the first of two coats of Magnolia to the wallpaper. Fascinating stuff, eh, readers? People who read this for the wargaming stuff may be disappointed that there will be no shading or highlighting involved, just flat coats of paint. More shocking still, the woodwork will receive a gloss coat, and yet won't have any matte varnish applied. Egad!

The weather these last few days has been rather pleasant. Naturally, as soon as I type that, a spattering of rain assails the garden. However, there hasn't been enough sun for my liking. "What? Who are you and where is Pete?" I have been slowly coming to a realisation over the last couple of years that I'm not so susceptible to sunburn as I have long thought. Si and Si, if reading this, will remember our trip to Greece in 2000,a when I ran out of sun cream and used some old stuff that had been in the flat since the Spartan hoplites erected it in the fourth century BC. I didn't read the bottle, and so didn't learn it wasn't water-proof at once. You must picture it in your mind's eye. Tight-bodied, lithe young chap grabs a lilo and leaps from the beach into the water, and everyone bursts out laughing as he leaves a white wake of oil behind him! It was rather a good holiday, that. In fact, dear reader, take a pause right now, and go fetch yourself a spot of coke, add a few ice cubes, and a dash of your preferred spirit, then settle down for the tale. Go on. I shan't start until you do. Go.

Are you ready? Got your drink? Then I'll begin. 'Twas the summer holiday after the first year of university, and I'd asked Si P, his then girlfriend, Si C, and some other couple over to the flat. The two Sis and I headed out a week early, and so begins the tale. Arriving in pitch black at half past argh! in the morning, we got a bus from the airport to the harbour of Athens. I knew full well that a passenger service ran between Athens and the sleepy little seaside town. I was a naive little chap, and when the first travel agent we asked said it had been discontinued, I believed him. Note, o traveller, that he was working on commission, and his company didn't sell tickets on the Dolphin (some sort of very fast boat that raced along on skis). Disappointed, yet determined to get there avoiding the horrifying Greek bus service, we purchased tickets to the island of Poros. It's about forty minutes by car from the flat, less these days. We weren't sure how we'd get from Poros to the flat, but surely it could be done! Si P and I had been there on a school trip a year before.

So we sat at a cafe, drinking orange juice and coffee for about five hours until about half nine, when we lugged our suitcases aboard, and the slow ferry eased its lethargic body across the Saronic Gulf to Poros. Another couple of hours went by in the slow trip before we reached Poros and disembarked. I had a nap, as we'd all been awake since, well, the previous morning. So what now? Were we stuck on an island just off the Greek coast? No! For there were water taxis! To the mainland! Right, maybe there's a bus. I shall go peer at this schedule. "Aha! Si, Si, behold! This bus service will take us to A. Epidavros. I shall check when we board whether this refers to the town or to the famous theatre." To the bus, a quick chat with the driver confirmed it was indeed going to the town, albeit through the mountains. "All hands aboard!" Greece may have wonderful modern buses these days. Back in 2000 we were travelling on a bus which had been designed for a country with a British climate. It was about as hot as Hell would be if someone had left the oven door open. I drifted off a couple of times, far too savvy about the propensity of local drivers to be deranged to worry myself.

If you have a fear of heights, a fear of claustrophobia and are sensitive to high temperatures, the Greek bus service may not be for you. Greek mountain roads peer over vertiginous drops, and anyone who has ever seen The Italian Job will have flashbacks. When you first see the pretty little boxes that appear every few hundred yards along Greek mountain roads, you will wonder at them. Wonder no more, friend! When someone careens off a cliff and crashes several hundred feet to his death, his family erect a small shrine to him. I see fewer of them these days, so either Greece is less religious or drivers are more aware that a road is dangerous because they are so frequently reminded of those who have gone before. So I had a broken sleep rather than worry about it. Si and Si, oppressed by the heat, and with an admirable sense of keeping our belongings safe, stayed awake, perhaps starting when the bus narrowly avoided pushing cars off the edge, perhaps with bulging eyes when mopeds whined by and just avoided getting squashed like insects by oncoming lorries. But I am theorising. It's quite possible that they just marvelled at the natural beauty of Greece. The thickly-forested green slopes of the ubiquitous mountains are delightful to behold, and to see the wine-dark sea is to know that you must dive into it.

Around two o'clock in the afternoon we approached a dusty crossroads. "Hang on!" I thought. I scrambled toward the front of the bus and again asked the driver whether we were going to the town of A. Epidavros or the theatre. "The theatre, of course." Infamy! Treachery! I had asked about a direct sea route to the town and been deceived! I asked whether a bus went there, and had been lied to! This might have upset some people, but I knew we were only five miles from the town. So we lugged our suitcases and hand-luggage off the bus, and straggled into town. It was siesta time. Nobody was awake, and barely anywhere was open. We had been without sleep for about a day and a half. We were five miles - at best! - from the flat along a road I had never walked, with a mass of suitcases and almost no water. We did what anyone would do: we fell about laughing in the middle of the road. I fancied we would have to walk to the flat. But first the Sis went to see if a supermarket was open. I sat down on my suitcase, giggling in the sun.

Someone was smiling on us that day. As Si and Si came back up the road, nibbling on some ice creams, they espied a silver Mercedes. A silver Mercedes with two women in it. A silver Mercedes with two women in it and a sign on the roof. The sign declared that it was a taxi. In they got, and it was the best sight I had seen when they appeared in front of me. We loaded the luggage into the huge boot, and tumbled into the glorious, luxurious air-conditioned interior. We were pathetically, ridiculously, completely grateful and happy. I recognised a bridge as one on the road to the flat, and knew we were on the right road. We stopped at a crash so the lady driving the taxi and her friend? Lover? (the Sis' shared theory, and they're generally better at noticing these things than I am) could have a row with two people who had crashed into one another nearby. We didn't care. We just sat there groggily. We got to the flat and could not have been happier. If they'd asked us for a hundred quid, we would have given it them. So we lugged everything upstairs. I offered the others the fold-out settee, since it's directly below the aircon system, but Si P wanted a bed, while Si C was thoroughly put off when a foot-long millipede, terrified by my moving the sofa, raced away and hid itself in the gap between the sliding balcony door and the wall. Then Si P crashed down onto a mattress gladly, and then Si C in the other bedroom thudded down equally happy. I drooped merrily onto the sofa. Neither of them had slept in about a day and a half, so they slept for about fourteen hours!

The next day I gathered them with me, and we set out to do a bit of shopping. As befits twenty-year olds, on entering the local supermarket (a lovely place about the size of a Tesco Express) we headed straight for the alcohol section. Nobody else in the town can ever have bought anything there, as every bottle had a thick layer of dust on it. So we bought four or five - all of the small selection - and then got back to sensible shopping. A spot of swimming, and then dinner at one of the lovely restaurants in the town, then back home for drinking Monopoly! A few days followed much the same pattern of swimming, dinner and drunken Monopoly, until one night we ran low on alcohol, and opened an old bottle of gin, long abandoned in the fridge. I dodged that bullet, not being sure of its veganicity, but the others' expressions spoke volumes of its palatability. Even now I suspect both are less than fans of Beefeater Gin.

There was a small tourist booth in the town, and we worked out that the direct sea-route was still running. So when the other three of our party arrived, we directed them on what to do. So they arrived fresh one afternoon. But Silver (I think was his name? A decade eats memories, you know) and Tor (Victoria) wanted to go swimming at once, but had no sandals. "Mm, it's dangerous," quoth yours truly, voice of spoilsportism, "because there are lots of sea urchins on the beach we've been going to. You should probably wait. I put my hand on one once, and spent forever digging out spines with needle and tweezers. In fact, some may still be in there."

"But, Pete, we just want a little paddle. Surely that's harmless."

"Hm, well, on your heads be it!"

So off to the beach, about two minutes walk away. Into the sea strode Tor, and not an urchin dared touch her! How would Silver fare? He picked his way cautiously...carefully...placidly one step at a ti- "ARGH! It was just on the underside of that rock!" So Tor and Silver spent the next hour or so digging sharp, stabbing, black spears from his skewered foot. Thus impaled, their first purchase the next day was sandals. Sensibly. It was a grand time, all in all, though I hope none involved would take it amiss if I were to say I enjoyed the trip to Greece two years ago more, and last year's even more! But those are tales for some other time. I hope you enjoyed your rum and coke, dear reader!

a. There are small dots at the centre of those zeros. I refer to Greece and the numbers become passable simulacra of thetas? Splendid!

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