A maroon double-decker, number 12 bus to South Gyle passes by Leith Links leaving cloudy sprays of water in its wake. It’s been raining all night and the sky is overcast making it feel muggy and close. Staring out the window at the rear of the bus is me; I am wearing my raincoat on and am listening to UB40. My eyes are heavy but I keep them forced open as I gaze out at all the forgotten images and feelings of the past two weeks. Leith Walk: The Central Bar, William Hill, the Aquarium shop, the Army Supply Centre, Tesco, the Playhouse; shop-front colours and drab, uninspiring facades, that seem as if they were only preserved this way to depress me after a fortnight holiday in Rhodes. Each drooped head on the street, anonymous traffic watcher at every bus stop, and every dog, cat and pigeon are all silently shouting the same thing: “welcome back to Leith, Colin!”
Yes, the holiday is over, and today was my first day back at the day job. We got back around 3am in the early hours of yesterday, but as I also had the day off for school cover, it wasn’t until today that any form of holiday blues fell over me. Choosing to restart the day job on a Friday was a conscious decision to help me ease back into it, and a good one, but when I woke up today it was raining, the clouds were grey and low, and the house silent without the sound of nearby crickets to welcome me into my day.
The holiday was superb; unanimously agreed as the best holiday every had by this leg of the Galbraith clan. Everything from the accommodation, to the staff in the hotel, the friends we made, the weather, and all the fun we had, made Rhodes ’08 the best yet. Not even the earthquake that shook us to our roots could prevent it.
So what did we do? Well, as it happened, not much. The intention of this holiday was to relax, chill, and totally let our hair down. We achieved this with not much to spare. Both Gail and I have been to Rhodes before (long before either of us ever met) and we are both lovers of Greece: the country, its people, its history, its food, and of course, its fabulous weather.
Most days we spent relaxing by the pool and using the hotels extensive facilities. We stayed at the Atlantica Princess hotel, located on the north side of the island in a wee town called Ilyassos, near Ixia. The Atlantica Princess is a cousin of the Atlantica Oasis where we stayed in Cyrpus two years ago. We loved it so much, we booked up for this one almost as soon as we got back. The hotel runs on an all-inclusive basis, which means all the food, drinks, and bevy you can eat. Not good for the wasteline, I hasten to add, but when you see the quality of the food they offer, it’s hard to resist.
We spent a day in Rhodes Town wandering around the harbour area, sightseeing and doing a spot of shopping, and we spent a great day at the Water Park near Faliraki, where it was so hot our feet got burnt from walking around the park barefoot going to and from the water-rides.
Rhodes suffered a “heat wave” while we were there, with temperatures rising from an average of 38C (100F) to 47C (117F). That didn’t stop Gail and I going for a few of walks around the old town on photography/research missions on several occasions, keen to get a feel of the locale and the culture away from the hotel. We watched the most glorious sunset one evening, as at about 8:20pm (local time) the sun fell behind the mountains of Turkey in the distance over the Aegean Sea, filling the sky with all kinds of reds, orange, and purple strokes of light.
When we arrived at the hotel on the evening of the 2nd, we met another Scottish couple checking in at the same time; Hugh and Alison with their 10-year old daughter, Rachel. Rachel and Laura hit it off almost immediately, as did us “grown-ups”. It worked out well, as during the days we all did our own things (apart from the Water Park when we all went together), and in the evenings we got together after dinner for drinks and the evening entertainment. We all got on so well, in fact, that the staff and other guests thought we had come on holiday together!
And so each night a corner of the bar was reserved for the raucous laughter and wild shenanigans of the Galbraith and Streets family, as we blew away life’s pressures and had a fantastic time, winning the bingo and sharing the winnings, sharing bottles of champagne, throwing back cocktails, flirting with the bar staff, and even joining in on the antics on the stage.
A couple of years ago you would have needed to prise me up on a stage with red-hot metal levers and the promise of copious amounts of money, but this year saw me up on stage a couple of times, once being wrapped mummy-style with toilet paper by Gail, and another doing a 10-minute set, singing and dancing to four of the greatest hits by The Village People. Along with another holidaymaker and two of the entertainment staff, we came on stage wearing sailors outfits to In The Navy. We then ripped off our clothes to reveal our Village People outfits; me dressed as an Indian along side David in Army gear, Matt in PVC, and Martin in cowboy chaps. Singing and dancing to YMCA was one of my holiday highlights, as the 300-strong (so Gail says) hotel audience got on to their feet in laughter and dancing.
Gail fond herself on stage too, when she took part in the Battle of the Sexes tournament, managing to thread spoons through her clothes, eat enough dry crackers in a minute, and collect enough strangers shoes to win it for the girls!
Not only did we make friends with other guests, though, but also with some of the staff who worked in the hotel. Giannis became our favourite waiter for the duration, with some of the banter and flirting (between him and Gail) strong enough to make your jaw drop. Alison and Matt (an entertainer) had their own wee thing going, while Anastasia in the restaurant never really found out how hot I was of her! Among the entertainers, though: David, and in particular Aimee, quickly became our top pals, both of whom without which, our holiday would have been poorer.
The most dramatic moment of the holiday happened just after 6am on the morning of Wednesday 15th. At first I thought Gail was shaking me about as I lay in bed in some kind of sleep-walking trauma, but as I soon realised, I was being slid around the bed to the rhythmic motion of the built in wardbrobe squealing, the mirror banging off the wall, and the walls rattling in time to the crunching sound of the hotel infrastructure. Yes, we were in the midst of an earthquake.
I sat up with the weirdest sensation of surrealness I think I have ever experienced. By the time I had come fully round and appreciated that it wasn’t in fact a dream, the shaking had stopped after around 30 seconds of vibration. “Is that what I think it was?” I said to Gail, as I got out of bed and opened the balcony doors. Outside it was warm with the sun low behind the hills, and for miles around an eerie silence seemed to have befallen the island, broken only by the noise of a thousand car alarms.
With the fun over we returned to bed, only to be awoken 20 minutes later by Hugh who was down in reception with his family and the “rest of the hotel” who were out by the pool. I went down and saw tea and cake was being served (itself a very surreal sight), and around a third of the hotel were sitting around waiting for something to happen – not sure what – so I went back to bed for another couple of hours.
The earthquake measured 6.4 on the richter scale, killing one person but not managing to destroy any buildings. Apparently, the women died as she fell trying to run from her house the poor thing. Despite some people deciding there and then to cut short their holiday and leave the island, I found it more exciting than scary. Definitely an experience to remember!
On the literary front, did I manage to get around to anything, I hear you ask? The answer is yes, I surely did. I completed The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (almost had me in tears by the end), The Bridge by Iain Banks (hugely enjoyable and challenging), and am now part-way through Black and Blue by Ian Rankin. On the writing front, poems were slow to come by because most of the ideas I kept having have already been published when I wrote Poolside Poetry two years ago. I did, however, begin work on a novella, based on Rhodes, and in the mystery/crime genre. No title yet, but it’s pouring out of me like Greek olive oil onto feta cheese.
Photos will follow in due course (I promise this time)!
It’s good to be back and writing, but it’s shite to be back in Scotland. Rhodes is a fantastic place and our holiday there will be one to remember for a long, long time. No time to dwell, though, as the Edinburgh Book Festival is only 3 weeks away. No rest for the wicked!