This time last week I was in Cyprus. Summer holidays, whether home or abroad, are embraced for all sorts of reasons. Mostly a holiday is all about taking a step back from busy lives and re-charging the batteries.
It was with a sigh of pleasure that I hopped on a plane and briefly escaped Britain’s dismally wet summer and grey skies. Of course, the moment I jetted off England sniggered behind its Union Jack flag and temperatures soared to 27 degrees for three whole days! But I didn’t care too much. I was about to embrace 40 degrees.
There was a moment of panic on arrival. ‘Where’s the rep?’ asked Mr V. ‘Follow me,’ I instructed and trotted off to a lady waving a Thomas Cook placard. She checked her clipboard to see which coach we should embark upon. The tip of her biro traced the passenger names on her list. ‘Oh dear,’ she chewed her lip, ‘you’re not on the list.’ Now I’ve been suffering from a terrible affliction for the last year. It’s called Menopausal Memory. Every now and again the fog lifts and I have a moment of clarity. The grey matter did a bit of mattress plumping and – ding! – I suddenly remembered that I’d booked the holiday with a completely different tour operator. Thomson. And sure enough, there was another rep – a man this time and not standing a million miles away – waving a placard and searching the crowd. ‘Viggiano?’ he called forlornly. ‘Anybody seen the Viggiano family?’
Hasty apologies were made and we scampered over to the Thomson chappie. ‘Sooooo sorry,’ I murmured to the sweating rep. ‘No problem, you’re here now,’ he smiled, mopping his shiny face with a hanky. ‘All I need is the name of your hotel.’ Ah yes. The name of the hotel. ‘The name of the hotel,’ I rummaged through my handbag for the paperwork, ‘is...er...the name of the hotel is...it’s right here...somewhere...it’s...um–’ No paperwork. Where was the paperwork? Menopausal Memory had returned. I looked at Mr V. Who looked back at me. ‘Where’s the paperwork Debbie?’ This question you understand was delivered through gritted teeth. I had a tiny inkling Mr V’s temper was rising to match the Cypriot weather. ‘No problem,’ I assured my husband and turned back to the rep. ‘I can tell you exactly which hotel we’re staying in.’ The rep looked relieved. ‘Yes, it’s the one with the really massive swimming pool.’ Out of my peripheral vision I could see Mr V rolling his eyes. My daughter, like all teenagers, was being dramatic and whimpering about heat exhaustion. We’d only been on Cypriot soil for ten minutes. How was she going to cope for the best part of a fortnight? The grey fog once again shifted. ‘I remember now!’ I squeaked excitedly, ‘we’re staying at the Hotel Anus.’ There was a stunned silence. Even my teenager shut up moaning. ‘I think you mean the Atlantica Aeneas Hotel,’ the rep said carefully. Yes. That’s what I said.
And so began our holiday. Every day I would stretch out on a sun-lounger. Rivers of water would cascade down my sides. I wasn’t sure if my body was crying from the heat or whether some part of me had simply sprung a leak. The only exertion was to press the page-turning button on my Kindle, take a tug on the straw of my Seven Up drink, or put both aside and take a dip in the pool or sea.
Were there any holiday mishaps? Yes of course. Like getting on a bus one evening to explore and getting lost. We ended up in Protares. Well in all honesty I dragged my husband off the bus after 40 minutes muttering something like, ‘I’ve had enough of being in a sweat box with hundreds of wannabe clubbers necking booze and rolling spliffs and I’m getting off right here right now whether you’re with me or not.’ It was one of those moments when my husband recognised the wild look in his wife’s eyes and didn’t argue. Especially as my previously freshly washed sheet of sleek hair had turned into a sweat drenched mass of wild ringlets turning me into a dead ringer for Medusa. We walked through Protares which was akin to landing on another planet. Clubbers abounded. We were possibly the only three people in the street decently attired. Bare-chested young men were everywhere. And whilst the women weren’t exactly bare-chested let’s just say that nothing much was left to the imagination! Across the road was a nightclub that I myopically mis-read as Boobies. Which was quite appropriate all things considering. ‘Drink,’ Eleanor gasped, ‘I need a drink.’ We headed towards a familiar neon sign. All the way to Cyprus and there we were in McDonalds.
What other mishaps? Oh yes. My husband’s Speedos. Mr V simply will not embrace long swim shorts covered in neon palm trees. I don’t know why. I’ve told him such shorts are trendy. And it would make him look younger. But for some reason he prefers to hang on to his ancient Speedos which are...well...saggy to say the least. Mr V didn’t fully appreciate just how lacking in the elastic department they were until lying sideways on his sun-lounger. And inadvertently exposing himself. Which gave a whole new meaning to that charming English colloquialism dropping a bollock.
There was another sticky moment – quite literally – when my daughter charmingly discarded several pieces of used chewing gum by spitting them in the direction of our bathroom’s toilet. But her aim was off and everything landed on the toilet seat. Being a teenager, she simply left it there. In due course Mr V came along and quietly shut himself away in the bathroom with – triumph – a copy of the Daily Mail bought for an extortionate price in the local souvenir shop. At this point I would like to point out that my husband is...how to put this delicately...hirsute. Indeed I swear his veins contain gorilla blood. So when Mr V sank down gratefully onto the toilet seat, he wasn’t expecting to have one thigh welded to several globules of gum. Or to be shrieking in pain ten minutes later whilst his wife cut him free with a pair of nail scissors.
Meanwhile my daughter had packed a suitcase of shorts that, in all truth, were little more than
Denim underpants. Certainly they gave a whole new meaning to the word cheeky. Boys flocked around and Mr V did an awful lot of huffing and puffing. ‘Debbie, have you seen what Eleanor is wearing? Can’t you do something about it!’ As if I have some sort of control over a fifteen year old. Ha! Has he not yet learned that teenagers are a law unto themselves and there is no reasoning with them until they have passed their 18th birthday? Annoyed, Eleanor stomped off to the bar. ‘And make sure you’re only drinking Coke!’ Mr V shouted after her. ‘Yessss,’ she hissed. In all fairness to her, she did drink Coke. It’s just that it had Malibu in it too. Rather than get involved in a row, I stomped after her and ordered my own Coke. With Bacardi. Foreign measures are nothing like British measures. Within minutes Eleanor and I were absolutely plastered. Mr V pursed his lips and took himself and his one bald thigh off to the bar too. He ordered a gin and tonic. Five minutes later he too was totally smashed.
Now the trouble with extremely short shorts is that they have a habit of finding all your nooks and crannies. By the time we’d finished our drinks and were ready to stagger into the restaurant, it became apparent Eleanor was in difficulties. ‘C’mon,’ I slurred, ‘Geddup.’ Eleanor shook her head. ‘Can’t. Gotta wedgie.’ So Mr V and I had to form a screen around her while she stood up and made the necessary adjustments.
Later, on the way back to our hotel room, I came across a stray cat. It eyed me suspiciously. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a moggy. This pitifully thin creature captured my heart, especially when I spotted five tiny kittens hidden in the cool depths of a nearby geranium plant. Mummy Cat allowed me to peer into the flowery depths. At that moment a stick insect ran down my arm making me jump. Mummy Cat hissed but fortunately didn’t impale her claws on my face. The kittens were adorable but it was obvious they had an eye infection. A couple of them had eyes glued shut with thick gunge. Two children materialised by my side. ‘What’s wrong with them?’ asked the tallest. ‘They have conjunctivitis,’ I said. ‘Oh no,’ said the youngest looking close to tears, ‘can you fix it?’ I looked at them. ‘I think so.’ I went to the local pharmacy and bought antibiotic drops. For the rest of the holiday me and my two nurses – Isabelle and Trinity – would swaddle the kittens with an old t-shirt and drip the drops into their crusty eyes.
Isabelle named all the kittens. There was a dear little tortoiseshell called Tikka. Two tabbies became Tiger and Mischief. And two tabby-and-whites were suddenly finding themselves addressed as Alvin and Chipmunk. ‘I think you need to re-name Alvin,’ I said one day. ‘Why’s that?’ asked Trinity. ‘Because Alvin is female,’ I replied. ‘We haven’t given Mummy Cat a proper name,’ cried Isabelle, ‘what shall we call her?’ ‘I know,’ said Trinity, ‘let’s call her Debbie because she’s a Mummy too.’ So there you have it. Somewhere in Cyprus is a cat called Debbie.
Which reminds me. Did you hear about the cat that swallowed a ball of wool? She went on to have mittens...