Saturday, 22 November 2014

that was then...























Torremolinos, Spain, circa 1967.

I'm standing in the doorway of the Smuggler's Saloon. It was a funky place, just outside of town in a small fishing village. The locals parked their boats on the beach, and behind, up on a hill, people lived in little troglodyte homes. You could get food at Smuggler's and sit in the eaves of the shaded verandah at back, looking at the white sand and the waves rolling in. Pretty much everyone was stoned or drunk.

One day, I was painting the sign you see, propping it on the pavement. A young guy stopped to talk. I'd never met him before. I told him my first name - Robert - and he said that was his first name as well. We laughed at that - yeah, really? I continued painting and he kept on watching, and then somewhere in the conversation I told him my surname was Knight. He looked at me, we looked at each other when he said his last name was also Knight.

As it turned out, he and I didn't have that much in common, but he had a peach, a darling, of a girlfriend.


Thursday, 20 November 2014

good stuff


Tuesday, 18 November 2014

music...jump around (house of pain)


fucking love it

Monday, 17 November 2014

that was then...

 (Me, Anita, Ottfried)

In the early eighties, when I was thirty-two, I worked for an investment company in the City of London. My duties weren't onerous - I just wrote cheques all day to sellers of stock - but after five years, I'd had enough. I was restless, unsatisfied. I thought that life surely meant something more than sitting on a train each morning and night, sitting at a desk for all the long hours in between.

I handed in my resignation, and the company secretary, full of concern, called me into his office. He was an Oxbridge man, very plummy, but rather sweet. He'd walk around the offices carrying a cushion under his arm as he suffered from chronic haemorrhoids. When he asked why I was leaving, I said I was going to Greece for as long as my savings would allow me. His eyebrows shot up. He was utterly amazed, utterly charmed. He wished me good luck and said that there would always be a position within the company on my return.

I don't remember why I chose Greece - in particular, the Dodecanese in the very south of all the island groups. But I do recall that part of the reason, undoubtedly bizarre now yet powerfully significant then, was that I was utterly sick of the sight of green: England can be filled with that colour, in its streets and parks and gardens and patches of bosky lushness. Perhaps that was it, what England epitomised.

I yearned for something else, dry, sparse, burned down to the elements. Somewhere, in short, thirsty.

To conserve my savings, I went by Magic Bus from Victoria Station in London to Athens, a journey of four days across Europe non-stop aside for piss halts. I'll write about that one day.

Then I took a ferry from Piraeus and twelve hours later arrived in Rhodes Town. I didn't much like all the bustle and commercialism of the town, and two days later took the kaiki, a tiny frolicking ferry that had a very chic lady on a bed in the sole cabin throwing up, to Symi.

I stayed on Symi - one of the most exquisite of islands - for five months.

But I'd also heard about Halki, even smaller, even quieter, even less attuned to foreign visitors. That sounded good to me.

And so it was: a barren outcrop - not a tree, a flower, a softening thing - surrounded by the bluest utterly translucent sea and a sky unblemished by cloud, piercingly sharp, a sight I had never seen before, going on forever.

It was a dry island, bereft of springs. A frigate filled with water came each month to supply the reservoir somewhere up in the hills.

The town itself was small, clustered around the jetty where the ferries brought in supplies. It had a bakery and a butchers, a post office, a church, a few kafenions where the menfold gathered in the evening flicking and musing over their worry beads, houses with their blue or green shutters, and a clutch of tavernas where you could get a breakfast of bread and honey and yoghurt, and fish in the evening.

Men sat mending their nets in the shade of old olive trees along the harbour front.

There was nothing else on the island other than the foundations of a town up in the hills where people would have once fled during periods of occupation, in Homeric times and later by the Turks, and a taverna beside a crescent of white sand and an inlet of sea that you reached by a slender road funded by ex-islanders who had settled in Tarpon Springs, Florida.

The road petered out after the taverna. Where could it go? There was nowhere else for it to go.

That was the setting when I arrived on the island.

I was not alone. This was the time of the independent traveller, before the island was cast as 'getting away from it all' in travel brochures. It was thus inevitable that I should meet Anita, an Austrian, thin and intense, and Ottfried and Gisela, German and married. He was rather a stick, but I liked Gisela - one of those blowsy meaty women, scary because she saw right to the back of your brain without condemnation.

She spoke wonderful colloquial Greek.

Around this time we met Nikos, who was putting back his military service as long as he could by performing as the island doctor. Anita, to my bemusement, seduced him.

As to myself, I don't know what they thought of me - probably one of those unreadable subtle Englischers, obviously gay, but still all fraught and tucked away in his closet.

Nevertheless, we all got on very well.

One evening, in August, when the heat weighed oppressively and we'd all had a lot to drink and couldn't bear the thought of lying on the rack of our beds sweaty and sleepless, the five of us decided to take a walk along the road to the taverna outside of the town.

The taverna, by that time, after midnight, was closed, but you could still sit out on its verandah. Each of us could barely see the other, pitched in darkness as we were, even though the sky was clamorous with stars. 

I'm not sure who suggested the idea that we should go skinny-dipping. I suspect it was me. Perhaps it was just all of us talking, drunk, seeing where things might go.

We went running down to the beach. The air was warm, velvet, succulent, filled with the dizzying scent flowing from the wild thyme clinging to the rocky slopes around us.

We whooped and flung off our clothes at the sea edge.

Nikos, prudish as Greek men can be, called out to me to ask if I was wearing my underpants and I said no and he accused me that I was, but what he was seeing was my white arse. The rest of me was covered by a deep tan by then.

We dove in.

Then a remarkable thing happened.

As we pitched about, laughing, throwing our arms into the air, so the water around us suddenly lit up and cascades and explosions of brilliant silvery-white sparkle and glitter fell from us, churned around us.

We cried out in amazement.

Nikos, somewhere to my left, was calling out anxiously to me, Robert, what is it? What is it?

I didn't know and I didn't care. I was in the softest warmest water, on a black starry night, entranced, transported, by this  magic happening over my arms, my legs, my body.

We stayed in the water a long time not wanting the experience to end. But, eventually, exhausted, we came out onto the beach and found our clothes and walked - perhaps tottered is the better word - back along the road to the town.

It was around three in the morning.

The town was utterly quiet, not a person, not a light.

We hugged each other. We returned to our rooms and the welcome of our beds.


(In case you're wondering, dinoflagellates, or marine phosphorescence).

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Sunday, 9 November 2014