Greek rain

Athens. The birthplace of democracy, the home of modern philosophy, over 3,400 years old, full of Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman monuments… and for one day, me.

view of athens

With map in hand I wondered up to the Acropolis, built for the goddess Athena (Goddess of intelligence, skill, peace, warfare, battle strategy, handicrafts, and wisdom), the protector of Athens. It’s a bit of a hike up to the temple which sits on top of a hill right in the middle of Athens. Of course there were plenty of buses pulling up at the main gates unloading overweight tourists in socks and sandals, with massive cameras hanging off their necks and immediately complaining of the heat; I arrived slightly frazzled and trying to hide the sweat patches earned from the walk. Side stepping the other tourists, I left the main roads and found myself high above the city amongst the olive trees, their sent creating the sweetest of air.

walk up to acropolis

The Acropolis was packed; people sat on giant marble stairs in whatever shade the old temple could offer, snapping shots of the sweeping view of Athens below before turning the camera on themselves and dangerously teetering on the edge of steps to take 20 pictures of their pouting duck face, with the temple behind them. That aside, sitting against the cold marble in the hot sun, it was almost possible to filter back two thousand years and picture Plato walking alongside Aristotle debating the meaning of the universe whilst lifting togas to free the legs in order to climb the steep steps. Eventually I arose and went off to explore the Acropolis for myself.

building work acropolis

As they are still part way through a huge restoration project, much of the structure was covered in scaffolding however impressively they are using as many traditional materials and building techniques as is possible in modern times to bring it back to life. I’m sure there is a huge amount of information and history to the building but I didn’t get the audio guide so couldn’t tell you, it looked impressive though. Plus great views! I wandered around the other structures on the sight – Sanctuary of Zeus, Theatre of Dionysus Eleuthereus, Odeon of Herodes Atticus, my favourite of which was the Temple of Hephaestus, technically not on the same sight but just down the hill slightly and the most preserved of all ancient Greek temples.

Temple of Hephaestus,

With that awkward amount of time between flights where it’s not quite long enough to go and do anything productive but too long to just sit in a cafe, I resided myself to wonder around the flea markets. Typically, the Greek gods hearing this plan and well known for their love of meddling with humans decided to send a thunder storm my way instead.

greek gods

This was not London rain which comes down suddenly in great drops, flooding the ground for five minutes before turning into that drizzling, miserable stuff the Brits love to moan about, nor was it the kind of rain that hits the Isle of Man, flying off the sea, almost invisible and striking you sideways like a thousand icy spears. This rain was a shower someone had left on, it poured and it poured. The tourists took shelter under cafe coverings, designed for shade not storms, under trees who’s leaves let surprise drops slip down the back of collars. There was nothing for anyone to do but stand and stare as the square turned to liquid. Occasionally someone with somewhere to be would break free, bravely dashing out, shoulders hunched and face scrowled as if that provided any protection at all.

greek rain

I waited an hour, crowded between locals and tourists, all of us huddled up under the one bit of covering that wasn’t leaking. Eventually I had to get to the airport, the cafe gave me a sheet of plastic and so, with my flip flops slipping I ran through the Greek streets, wrapped in plastic looking like a mixture between an old washer woman, homeless bum and I’d like to think, superhero – the plastic waving out behind me like a cape as I sprinted.

batman in the rain

Arriving at the airport like a drowned rat, I disappeared into the first toilet I could find and, like a seasoned traveller, emerged five minutes later, changed, dry, brushed haired, touched up mascara and laptop under arm.

I boarded a tiny plane, two seats either side, pulled out my headphones, a book and the laptop; all ready to escape into my own little world when a business man sat down next to me. We did the usual pleasantries, you know, moving for each other to sit down, lifting your ass of their seat belt, sharing the arm rest etc, and then I went back to my book. We took off. He kept looking over. ‘Oh god, he wants to talk, I really can’t be arsed, it’s 11pm, I just want to read my book’. He kept looking. ‘What are you reading?’ he finally asked. ‘It’s Bill Bryson’s Short History of Every thing’ I replied trying not to engage. ‘What’s it about?’ he pursued. ‘Umm well everything’ I offered ‘it’s about the birth of the universe and the history of physics and chemistry and evolution and how the mountains were formed and how we discovered the dinosaurs and what the tectonic plates mean for life in the oceans and why mineral deposits are so important and how the moon was formed and why without it we wouldn’t exist’ I tried to explain but his English wasn’t brilliant and it was late so I probably articulated it more like ‘err it’s about the big bang and shit’s that happened since’.

plane conversations

He turned out to be a hotelier, he spent half the year in Athens and half in Santorini. He owned five, five star hotels in Santorini. He took regular trips to Germany and London for trade shows, he loved London but not as much as Athens. He was in is early 40’s, had never been married, no kids and had spent too many years having fun. He knew all the clubs in Athens. He was very Greek. He told me all about his posh hotels. He asked where I was staying, clearly ready to judge me on my hotel choice. I explained I was staying in a hostel. I asked if the bus would still be running when we landed. He didn’t know, he said he was being picked up by one of his staff.

The bus wasn’t running. I waited at the taxi rank at midnight, he drove past in his Mercedes ‘have a nice stay’ he yelled from the back seat. I’m pretty sure in the movies he would have been better looking, have offered me a lift and we’d have gone on some grand adventure discovering buried treasure and hanging out on posh yachts.

Fireworks went off across the bay as the taxi took me the short drive to the hostel, probably celebrating a wedding but I liked to think welcoming me to the island. One of the most romantic places in the world and I was alone,  just as soon as I had wifi I checked my phone for messages from the Bank Manager.

santorini fireworks

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The rock

You can only call it ‘the rock’ if you’re from there. That’s the rule. To everyone else it’s the Isle of Man. Technically I’m not from there, if any one asks, which they do once hearing my accent, I say I grew up there. My accent is distinctly unmanx though. In fact it’s rather unplaceable, a weird hybrid of southern England married with the hard ‘Ah’ of the North and then accompanied by random sayings of ‘Oh I’ and ‘it’s blowing a hoolie out there’. Throw in the hint of the speech impediment left over my my childhood (generally noticeable when I’m nervous or reciting any type of tongue twister) and I probably sound a bit of a mess.

 peel castle peel hill

My accent has no home, I don’t belong in the south or the north, you might suggest I try the Midlands but I fear they would close their door to me too, my accent is a nomad, just like I have become. Of course if you add alcohol to this mix, I suddenly become a rather strange mash up of ‘posh Manx’ which really isn’t a thing at all, imagine if you will, the Queen’s English with a Northern twang. I write this post from Australia where I can’t seem to have a conversation with a native without receiving a poor cockney imitation of my request to ‘pass the water’. Cockney doesn’t fit anywhere in my Northern/Southern dialect so who knows what’s going on now! Any way, enough of the way I form my words, back to the rock…

isle of man

This is how a conversation with someone not from the island usually goes –
Them ‘Ah yes, the Isle of Man, near Portsmouth’
Me ‘No, that’s the Isle of Wight, it’s very different’
Them ‘Oh you mean the one near Scotland?’
Me ‘No, that’s the Isle of Skye’
Them ‘Oh, the one with the bike race?’
Me, in exhausted breath ‘yes, the TT, that’s the one’
Them ‘So do you like, have electricity and running water and stuff there?’
Me ‘UGHHH!!’

Right this rock then, this tiny lump of earth dumped perfectly between England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales and yet technically not part of the United Kingdom. Climb up the one mountain on a clear day and you can see the seven kingdoms of Mann, the four mentioned above, plus the island itself, Neptune’s kingdom and then look up to heaven.

peel isle of man

They’re fiercely proud people and why wouldn’t they be?! They have more history than most can boast, the oldest continuous parliament in the whole world, ancestors who can be traced back to the Vikings and Celts, a place where you can legally drive at 16, the cats have no tails, the national dish is the delicious combination of chips, cheese and gravy and when driving over a certain bridge, all the locals say hello to the fairies for luck. The roads in non-residential areas have no speed limits (not that you can get up much speed before you run off a cliff or into a hill) and there are still some bizarre laws floating about such as it is legal for a Manx person to kill a Scotsman with a bow and arrow if he lands on the beach. Saying that England has some strange old laws too – it being illegal to eat Christmas pudding and mince pies on Christmas day – thanks Cromwell!

fairy bridge isle of man

Plus it’s beautiful, well in summer at least but dear god the winters are brutal! There is a reason the trees grow sideways!  I would roll my eyes upon moving to London and hearing people complain of a windy day; they had no idea! Once, back as a student on a particularly blustery day, the wind caught my car door, bent the thing backwards requiring two burly blokes to force it back into place. As my passenger door wouldn’t unlock from the outside I spent the rest of that summer climbing in and out of the car through the boot – there is no way to play it cool when back flipping into the back seat!

windy peel isle of man

I have a love/hate relationship with this rock, growing up I felt trapped, desperate to spread my wings, fly away and see the world. As an adult I think of it fondly, it’s special, it’s become more of a sanctuary these days. I mean some of my favourite people live there after all, but beyond that, the air is clean, people make eye contact in the street – they seem to know what you’re doing before you know yourself and you can just simply breath there.

peel castle isle of man

So I stepped off the plane, as always surprised by the intensity of the wind. My best friend late to pick me up, she arrives in a whirlwind of mania ‘sorry sorry sorry, I had to go and do this and then I couldn’t get that and sorry about the mess, I need to clean my car, here let me move this, oh ignore that, hi, how are you?’ She’ll launch at me. Which I love because it’s so her, it could go years and we’d both be the same even though she’s now married with a kid and a mortgage and I’m, well I’m a mess but never mind, we’re the same as we’ve always been when we’re together, it doesn’t really matter what’s been going on in our lives. So I launch into an entire drives worth of woes on my latest meltdown/love failure/first world problems all whilst peeking over my shoulder at my beautiful God-daughter asleep in the back seat, hoping that this time she won’t puke on me when I hold her.

sleeping baby

Within no time I’m propped up on the sofa, cava in hand, munching my way through a block of that Wensleydale and cranberry cheese that just seems to melt away in the mouth and telling my tales, not at all obsessing over every detail of the Bank Manager to her, all between replying to messages from said Bank Manager as my friend rushes about hunting for her mascara/checking on the baby/getting more Cava from the freezer.

cava

The wonderful thing about my friends is they’re all such different people, I’m not sure how I’ve managed to pick up so many people at the different ends of the scale but I find each of them fascinating. I’ve got a hardcore rocker in leg warmers, piercings and festival bands in Bristol, a random fasionista in Milton Keynes, a vegan traveller cycling through Europe, a pair of creative geniuses in Canterbury, socialites in Dubai, film makers, actors, teachers, press managers, musicians, council workers. I’m not sure they’d all necessarily get on if you plonked them in a room together but luckily they get on with me (most of the time when I’m not loosing the plot too much). Maybe I’m just super lucky to be surrounded by awesome people.

weird friends

So this particular legend on the island has what I consider one of the most lovely engagement stories. A story which I hope she doesn’t mind me sharing now. ‘I’m going to band practice’ her rather talented husband-to-be told my friend one summer evening. ‘Do you think you could maybe have a shower and get dressed by the time I get back so we can get some dinner?’ he asked staring at my friend who had promptly got home from work and changed into her PJ’s and was at that moment sat munching peanuts on the sofa. A couple of hours later he returned from practice and got set to fixing up the new kitchen shelf he’d hand carved (I told you he was talented).

‘Hey, can you climb on this chair and check you’re happy it’s straight?’ he requested of her. She, thinking this an odd request, did so any way. On top of the shelf this man had carved ‘I will love you forever, please marry me’. My friend stood there in shock before finally turning around to find him on his knee, ring in hand, steaks and champagne in the fridge. I think this tells you everything you need to know about this couple. I’d also like to draw a comparison against Bridezilla who was flown to Bali for her 30th, her groom-to-be had a swimming pool scattered with flowers, a private singing trio perform and a three course meal. Within five minutes of saying yes she had put the announcement of Facebook along with a picture of the ring – again, I think that tells you everything you need to know about that couple.

marry me

There I was, staying in this lovely couples home, slightly pinning for Bank Manager because well you know, he was all ‘I’m falling in love with you, I will come to Europe with you, I’ll come to Australia to be with you’ and well, I was a battered shell of a person so any hot man saying these things to me was going to get me hooked. Come on, we’ve all been there!

And it’s my God-daughters first birthday and there is a family party and I get to be involved and although I’m not related, it’s still nice to get to participate in someone’s family, especially a big family like theirs, one with all the stress and emotions and managed egos that go with any large gathering. It’s nice to be part of something.

first birthday

The next day my friend attempts to encourage me to do an exercise video which she assures me is easy but with a name like ‘Insanity’ I have my doubts. Doubts that were justified when after five minutes, I was a hot, sweaty mess lying on the sofa struggling to breath and she’s was on her fourth set! We then hiked up a rather steep hill, Corrin’s Folly, her with the baby strapped to her back (she’s not human!) and me trying to keep my dress from blowing up and all so we can catch a birds eye view of the town we grew up in.

From up there I could point out exactly where I was sick on New Year’s Eve 2002, the multiple spots I’d fallen over drunk and split open my knees, the various alleyways I’d kissed the local talent (or lack of in some cases) in my teens. The beach my brother and friends, on their way home from the pub found an abandoned kayak and decided a midnight paddle was in order, that was until the thing sank and residents threatened to call out the Coast guard. And of course, my old house, the one my mum brought after the divorce where she hid her money worries and credit card debt to build a home for us. Back when my father grieved for my mother, something he would do until she died. A home that was a refuge for more than one of my friends in those teenage years of turbulence. A house who’s back door was never locked, that was always the before and post party, that saw people sleeping in the bath on New Year’s Day, that was some of the happiest years and in some ways, the most trying of my life. Maybe that’s why it’s so hard to go home sometimes, because you want to go home to the memory not the modern day version of it?

view from collens volly isle of man peel hil

Of course, before long its time to say good bye. I’m so sick of goodbyes, goodbyes suck! Will someone just invent a teleporter so I can go sit on my best friends couch, drink cava, eat cheese and tell her about the latest man episode?
Goodbye little island, I don’t know when I’ll be back. And the plane takes off.

Just as soon as I land back in London, Bank Manager comes to see me which eases the pain a little. The next day he takes me to the train station, we sit opposite each other, his blue eyes, me trying to be optimist. He promised to come to Europe, he pinky promised it. I flew to Athens.

One night stands and that first rush of something

The thing about one night stands is you generally feel absolutely rotten in the morning. You lie there staring at the ceiling, usually hungover and desperately trying to piece together why it was such a good idea to bring this man home and who this snoring lump with their back to you even is. Or worse, their limbs are all wrapped around you and your arm is going numb, wondering how to untangle yourself without waking them. It’s even more soul destroying if you actually like the person too – this is usually the girl reaction, the boy just wants to go high five his mate and then delete your number. Sadly us girls find it hard to separate sex and emotions, plus even if you’re not interested in him, you don’t want to feel cheap, no one wants to be the rejected one. So I laid there, waiting for him to wake up, wondering how long it would take him to bolt from my bed, telling myself it was all ok because I had no feelings left inside me and I’d be leaving the country soon so it couldn’t have gone anywhere any way and regardless, it had all been on my terms, it was ok, I was ok.

 one night stand

And then he opened his big blue eyes and stared into mine. And right then, then I knew I was in trouble.

‘Damn it! Why was I not thinner, damn all those chocolate mini eggs and the stone of grief hanging off my bones! How far away are my clothes, can I reach them with my foot, nope, too far, how can I get him to look the other way whilst I slip out of bed, please don’t notice my morning breath, oh please don’t try and kiss me until I’ve brushed my teeth! Oh god, oh god why is he so sexy! Where is the water! I’m way to hungover for this! I kind of need to poop too, what if he hears! Did I just let out a little fart?! Ugghhh! Nooo is that the time, I’ve got places to be! Stop looking at me! Yes I always walk out of rooms backwards and no it’s nothing to do with trying to avoid you from seeing the size of my ass! Great, now he thinks I’m a freak!’

morning after

Only he doesn’t leap out of bed and bolt for the door. He sticks around and I don’t know what to do. He skives work, he offers to come visit the family and friends I’d taken the day off to go visit and say goodbye to. Reluctantly I decline his offer, unable to think of a way to explain this random man I’d brought along with me. I dropped him at the train station instead, him promising to text me, me presuming never to hear from him again.

He text me.

happy carlton dance

It’s that first rush of something, the decades between text messages. Will he reply? Why hasn’t he replied? What did he last say? What did I say back? Was I funny? Did I sound too weird? Does he think I’m odd? Play it cool Bec, play it cool! Screw him, that’s it, he’s getting deleted!

And then your phone makes that glorious little ding sound and suddenly all the butterflies you thought long dead suddenly wake up and flutter around your belly ‘hey what you up to?’ he asks. This stupid little puppy dog smile spreads uncontrollably across your face and your eyes light us as you read his words and you just turn to mush. This little ball of excited energy, bouncing down the road to Aretha Franklin in the sun, oh it’s always sunny. You’re buzzing and it’s uncontrollable and you’re just ‘yayy’ you’re ‘yay yay yay yay yayyyyyyyy!!!!!” There are no other words, well there are but they are reserved for people far more articulate than I.  All I could do was dance about in my pants to songs from the 60’s feeling glad to be alive and thinking this the most wonderful feeling in the world; that first flirtation, the hint of something. All new and sparkly, before any angry words, difficult situations, untarnished by your history. A new face, an unknown body, fun. And all from a text message, it’s the sweetest feeling, full of raw excitement, passion, desire and wonder; just burning through your skin. Play it cool Bec, play it cool ‘hey, not much, you?’ you type back.

butterflies coming to life

Two days later we met at the train station. I was late. I’m always late. I didn’t spot him at first, I stared at my phone to find his number, when I lifted my eyes there he was, right in front of me. Shit he was hot! Was he this hot the other day? What the hell was he doing hanging out with me?! He knew I was leaving the country, why was he bothering, couldn’t he see I was all damaged inside? Can’t he spot the rain cloud over my head? But then he was the first guy in such a long time, the first anyone to notice me since every thing fell apart, like the universe was saying ‘hey you’ve had a corker, here’s a little gift to perk you up and keep you going, have fun’ even if it was just sex he wanted, that was fine with me!

He was hot, I was awkward. I tripped over my own feet, bumped into him and narrowly missed walking into a pole. I didn’t know what to say, I felt intimidated. Was he regretting coming now he’d seen me in day light? We climbed the stairs to the roof top bar, I tried to control my breathing so he wouldn’t realise how out of breath I was.

 london skyline

With a sunset falling over the London sky line as our back drop we turned into each other and talked. I had nothing to talk about, all I’d known for months was depressing gloom, obviously that would be winning date conversation, who wouldn’t want to talk about dead mums and eating your way through depression? Shit what do people talk about on dates?! I’m not good at this!! Why is he so attractive!

He told me how he wasn’t just a bank manager, he was writing a book. He took regular trips to museums for research, he sat in St James park opposite the pelicans and wrote. Ah crap, I’m going to like this one! ‘Please just kiss me’ I thought!

st james park pelicans

He was suppose to be somewhere else but he spent the entire evening with me instead. We ended up in one of those cinemas that sell alcohol, I have no idea what we watched, it must have been a comedy because I laughed a lot. We found our way back to mine. I felt irrationally annoyed at the world ‘where were you six months ago? why couldn’t you have come along then? You could have saved me!’. We spent the next day together, he brought me food whilst I packed up my room.

That night my flatmates held a house party, he stayed. Somehow we started talking about musicals, he confessed his favourite was ‘Seven Brides for Seven Brothers’ which isn’t exactly what you’d expect to hear from this muscled up, northern man. I’m such a sucker, it just made me like him more! Everyone else was peeling off to head to a club, we decided to stay in and watch ‘Seven Brides’. He knew the songs, he sang along, it was ridiculously cute, I melted inside a little. He turned to me, drunk ‘I’m falling in love with you’. It had been three days! I didn’t say it back. Please don’t fall in love with me, I’m dark inside, you’ll break my heart and I don’t think I can handle any more pain right now.

SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS

The next day I loaded all my belongings into my car about to drive across the country to my brothers, I’d only be gone a few days but he offered to come with me. We drove the three hours across England and then he got the train back to London and all so he could spend a few more hours with me. Yep, I was a goner by then! How could you not be! Those muscles, the arms, he writes, he likes musicals, and history, his accent, those eyes, uggh those eyes!! Actually that makes him sounds a little gay, umm did I mention the arms? The eyes? Never mind, I can’t save it, let’s just say, trust me, he wasn’t gay!

Any way, so there I was, suppose to be spending quality time with my nephew and family but all I can do is stare at my phone waiting for text messages and then desperately trying to play it cool in my replies like I’m not at all bothered about him at all. I’m fine, I’m chilled, all good here.

playing it cool

My brother and I continued to go through mum stuff, I found letters from the uncle I’d never met, who’d died before I existed. He too had gone to Australia around my age, he’d written home, his letters were so of their time –

From New Zealand ‘The rains not that English stuff, it comes down like the Thames’
From Australia ‘I won’t mention the weather as I know it’s minitive in England only to say that most people wear shorst a this time of year’
From Darwin in northern Australia ‘it’s a dirty place, red dust is everywhere, you could have ten showers a day and still not be clean’ and ‘I’m told you have been on holiday, I hope the weather was kind to you but who can rely on the English weather?’

Us Brits, we just love to talk about the weather!
I found random notes ‘August 15 1948, Clifford cuts first tooth, discovered by grandma at tea time’. It’s strange what people keep in boxes, snippets of stories. Are we destined to repeat family history? Does it come in waves per generation?

darwin australia

Well any way, no time to think of that now. It wasn’t that I wanted to say goodbye to my family, I didn’t want to miss out on all my nephews firsts, not to see him grow, for him not to know me or only ever see me inside a computer screen but I so desperately wanted to get back to London to see the bank manager. Now officially homeless, my room filled by someone else, my house-mates were very kindly letting me sleep on the couch. The bank manager and I arranged to meet up the next day. He said I could stay at his, that seemed like a much better offer than the couch.

We met after work, we went for dinner, we drank. Actually we drank quite a lot. Somehow, once again, we ended up having a lock in with the waiting staff who kept providing us with free cocktails. He paid for the meal and we got a taxi to north London, to his. It was gone 2am, I was more than a little tipsy, we both were. He made us get out at a cash machine to pay the taxi driver and insisted we walk the five minutes around the corner to his flat. After half an hour of walking up and down the streets, my heeled feet were screaming for mercy and I demanded to know where his house was and why we weren’t there yet!

Finally he explained ‘well I didn’t know how to tell you this but I live with my ex-girlfriend and we can”t go back to mine’.

angry girl

WHAT! Ex? Sure she’s your ex? Why did you even invite me to stay over? Why did you let us get a taxi here? Where am I suppose to go now! I can’t go back to my flat, I don’t live there now and I can’t just show up in the middle of the night to sleep on the couch, plus that’s all the way in South London it would cost a fortune in a taxi. My phone was dead so I couldn’t call any friends. I contemplated sleeping in my office. What was I suppose to do?!

I slumped down on the wall, every thing rushed up, every thing that had happened that year, and now, finally something good had come along and it wasn’t good, it was just as crappy as every thing else, I felt cheated, like the universe was playing a cruel joke on me, like the stars were laughing down at me, I was so sad. He just stood there.

He stood there offering no solutions. ‘I don’t understand why we can’t go to yours if she’s your ex-girlfriend and in another room!’ he couldn’t really explain this other than her getting prickly about it. I didn’t care about her being prickly, I wanted somewhere to sleep. ‘I’ll get us a hotel’ he offered. What other choice was there. ‘I want a five star hotel! We’re going to the Renaissance’ I demanded! I was so angry at him. Drunk and hurt and angry. I was angry at the world. He made a comment, I forget what now but it riled me, I swung for him. I’d never punched anyone before, I aimed for his eye, I got his lip. I found it funny, surprised at my own reaction. Him less so. I think I might have freaked him out a bit.

woman-slapping-man

We tried the Premier Inn, they were full. Everywhere was full. We walked the London streets. Finally we went to the Renaissance Hotel which is probably the poshest hotel in London. It’s actually where they filmed the Spice Girl Wannabe video back before millions had been invested and it was derelict, but now it was beautiful, ornate, historic and dripping with class. Well class and my angry, drunken self. They had a room, in fact they upgraded us at 3.30am to a suite. I made him pay. I was so mad. And yet I still liked him. I think I swung for him again in the hotel room – I probably shouldn’t be allowed so much alcohol and have sudden shifts of emotions, turns out it’s a bad combination.

I made him sleep on the couch. Well I tried to but you know,  I didn’t want to waste the room and I still liked him! I was mean though, I called him an asshole, told him he was rubbish, I basically let all my pain come out as aggression. I felt tricked and cheated, I was so destroyed at the universe, I just wanted to be angry at someone, not just for bizarrely inviting me home and then not letting me get in the door but for all the struggles, the constant moving, the lost friendships, my dead mother, the burden of it all, I was so pissed off at every thing. I hated him.

rennaisance hotel

We met after work the next day, he was despondent, I felt bad about hitting him. He didn’t like me so much any more, I could see it in his eyes, I wanted him to like me. We sat by the pelicans in the place he liked to write, I didn’t want to ever leave. I tried to make him like me again. I apologised for hitting, it wasn’t something I’d ever done before, sure I’d slapped a guy for groping me on a night out but I don’t think that really counts, this was different,  I was embarrassed by myself.

The next day I flew to the Isle of Man for some more goodbyes.

Iceland craziness and getting back on the horse

Back whilst we were packing up mum’s house, during a much needed coffee break where my brother played candy crush and I checked status updates on Facebook; Iceland popped into my head and seemed like a great idea. Five minutes later my bank account was £100 lighter and I was back scrubbing the oven.

cinderella

As things go, Iceland came around in no time at all, sandwiched between Barcelona and a trip back home. With my suitcase stuffed full of thermals and winter jackets I was ready to once again sneak out of work, airport bound.

First though a quick lunch time meeting at the bank. I hadn’t thought anything of the bank manager at the time but somehow we ended up swapping emails – this will all come into play later, for now though, back to Iceland.

So I arrived at my hostel at 2am, having never stayed in a proper hostel before I didn’t understand how things worked. A little hyper active at being in a new country, I bounced into my room only to find it pitch black and everyone asleep. Wheeling my suitcase back and forth I finally whispered into the dark ‘how do you know which bed is yours’ an angry sleepy voice floated back ‘just pick one!’. After a bit of poking I finally crawled into a top bunk, possibly waking everyone up in the process.

Hostel iceland

The following morning was spent horse riding. Icelandic ponies are different, they have really long backs and short stubby legs, they also have four speeds unlike the rest of the ponies in the world which I was informed, have three. Apparently if an animal leaves Iceland, it can never return because the laws are so strict so when Icelandic ponies go to horse shows etc, that’s it, they’re not coming back. As I’d discovered magical riding abilities in Easter Island, I ended up in the experienced rider group, pretending I belonged there and trying my best not to fall off.

icelandic ponies

This was followed by a spot of whale watching. We saw a black fin in the distance – it could have been a bin bag but the boats followed it regardless, then we saw some white splashes – dolphins, they could have just been waves. It was cold, I pulled my hood tight so that only a small hole remained to see through and hugged myself for warmth. Surrounded by couples and families I sat alone and wondered ‘what the hell was I doing, travelling alone was hard!’.

iceland whale watching

Dejected I headed back to the hostel, only to find it had come alive since I’d left in the morning. My room was now filled with 19 and 20 year olds; all either on gap years or heading to/returning from studying abroad. We went for dinner. We went for drinks. We swapped stories. Finally at one bar the bouncer asked for ID’s. I didn’t have ID so he asked my age, I whispered ’30’ he didn’t hear. I tried again ‘thirrtyyyy’ giving him the ‘keep it on the down low look’. ‘THIRTY’ he boomed for all to hear which was quickly followed by a chorus from my 19/20 year old companions ’30?! Oh my god, you’re so old!’. When exactly did I become the old person of a group?! Ughh!

We each put a 1000 kroner in and ordered a round of ‘Black death’ shots; leaving just enough money left over for one shot of the bar’s strongest tipple. The problem came in deciding who should be forced to drink this shot of doom. After much discussion I had the bright idea to suggest the person who had taken the most flights that year. Surely the girl from Arizona studying in Hawaii must have flown back and forth a whole bunch of times, or the guy from Seattle studying in Germany and who had visited 15 countries that very summer, or what about the two students from Hong Kong, that’s a lot of connections to get to Iceland from Hong Kong! And of course, we could definitely rely on the 19 year old guy from Newcastle, UK coming to the end of his gap year travels. As we went round the table revealing our numbers, much to my dismay and building panic, all their numbers were relatively low, not coming close to my stupid 17 flights meaning I was forced to drink hell’s liquor. I wasn’t letting them all off though so I returned from the bar with a round for everyone. If I was going down, they were coming with me!

icelandic shots

Somehow I’d managed to pick the one weekend that Iceland had its largest festival and I was staying right in the heart of it all. Unfortunately I’d also managed to book in a glacier hike, taking my hungover self away from the festival, live music and free street waffles (which according to one guy were awesome and could be made into chocolate, ice cream, tripple layer waffle sandwiches).

iceland scenery

The truck drove me straight through the North American and European tectonic plates, which are slowly splitting Iceland apart by about an inch a year. The scenery is exposed and raw, sharp cliffs, black ash covered mountain, great plains, sulphur fumes rising out the ground and giant rock formations. It feels completely prehistoric, I half expected to see some great beast sweep down from the rocks, it’s shadow casting a cloud over an unsuspecting pony right before being seized in the creatures claws and carried away to feast on. It’s easy to see why Jules Verne set ‘Journey to the centre of the earth’ there, the places just inspires you.

iceland glacier

We donned our snow shoes, grabbed our pick axes and made our way out over the glacier. If you cut a glacier in half it would look like swiss cheese, there are tales of people falling down a hole and managing to walk out the other end however most who fall down a glacier hole die, so probably not worth trying.

glacier hiking iceland

Returning to Reykjavik that evening, we all re-grouped and headed out for the festivities. I’m not entirely sure what was going on, I’m convinced Liberace was on stage at one point in his white suit and cape, there was also an extremely impressive firework display – for a full five minutes where they basically set off all the fireworks in one go to some classical music and then we met a drag queen who called herself ‘The Queen of Iceland’ and told us tales of the boyfriend in Paris who had broken her heart.

glacier walking

The next day, once again feeling a little delicate I made my way  to the Golden Circle tour. On route I learnt all about moss. There are not many trees in Iceland but what they do have is moss; moss that is protected by the government! You are forbidden to stand on or pull any up, the fines are extremely steep if you’re caught doing this, we’re talking half a million kroner steep! . On one lava cliff face some boy scouts had pulled out clumps of moss to write their troops name. This was visible to read as we drove to the golden circle, the boy scouts had done this in 1951! It will take almost 200 years for the moss to grow back!

geysir iceland

By the third night all the young’ns had left (how old do I sound?!), tired of pretending to be a 20 year old student and eating nothing but cereal bars, supermarket sandwiches and dodgy slices of pizza from takeaways I decided to be an adult and went for a proper meal which turned out to be in a raw food restaurant. It was actually amazing food, raw, uncooked, super healthy and delicious, who knew!
Being an adult lasted all of an hour, just as soon as I got back to my hostel and put my pj’s on these three American 25 year old guys on a five week European tour burst into the room and off to the pub we went.

We got a bit drunk, I learnt all about American fraternities and sororities which was fascinating and from what I can gather is basically a popularity contest thrown in with making freshers your bitch and being smacked on the ass by a paddle.

Sitting in the Big Lebowski bar, drinking too many White Russians, Elton John’s ‘Tiny Dancer’ came on the radio. Two of us drunkenly declared it the best song ever and then attempted to recreate that scene in ‘Almost Famous’ complete with closed eyes and clenched fists at the chorus which I can only imagine did not look as cool as it felt at the time.

almost famous

Eventually we ended up back at the dorm in our connecting bunks. My feet made contact with one of the American’s, I pushed his feet away from my space. This was interpreted as a come on, maybe it was, we were all pretty drunk, it’s hard to tell now, either way, he appeared up my end of the bunk bed and some active kissing took place. Only I was very aware of the other 9 people in the room. Footsie guy declared he had a condom in his bag which for was pretty presumptuous of him. ‘Ummm yeah I’m not having sex in a room with 12 people in it!’ I replied. We returned to our respective bunks, or more accurately him to his.

The next day we all went for pancakes and nothing further was said of the night before. They then got a flight to Amsterdam and I went to hang out in the blue lagoon on my own surrounded by couples. Word of advise – do not put your hair in the pool, it turns to concrete for days.

blue lagoon iceland

That afternoon, I finally plucked up the courage to visit the Icelandic penis museum. A museum dedicated to nothing but animal penis’ (Peni? Penises? What is the plural?!). There was the 5 foot whale penis, the tiny snail penis, the horse’s one, the elephant penis. There was even a mythological room with a troll’s, a mermans (his looked infected!) and a vampires. The crown jewel’s of the collection was the homosapien specimen – a 90 year old man’s, let’s just say, for his sake, I hope things had shrunk with age! I pretty much spent the entire visit (and walk back to the hostel) giggling like a school girl.

penis museum iceland

That night, the last night, desperate for sleep and a nice little quiet night in but still keen for some company, I told myself I’d had three nights in a row, expecting a fourth was probably pushing it. And then two Australians turned up…

One had been on Tinder and managed to score a date with an Icelandic girl. Now I should tell you here, everyone in Iceland looked like a model! The men were tall and broad, blue eyed and blonde haired. With those natural muscles an Englishman would spend hours in the gym to achieve and still fail. The women were also tall, slim limbed, perfect pale skin, big blue eyes and long blonde hair which always seemed to be blowing away from their face unlike mine which did nothing but try to blind and strangle me. It is just a beautiful race. Unfortunately my new Australia friend didn’t manage to secure a date with the traditional Icelandic ladies and in walked a rather large Goth girl; luckily neither felt a love connection so we quickly got past that and got on with drinking beer and hearing what life was like in Iceland from our new Goth friend.

It turns out dating in Iceland is very different than that in the UK. For a start, if you see someone in a bar, it is the girl who approaches the guy. If they are both keen then they go home with each other that night. This is followed by a few weeks of casual sex and then finally, the guy might ask the girl on a date and they decide to start seeing each other, if that goes well, then they become boyfriend and girlfriend.

A typical Icelandic date pretty much consists of going on an ‘ice cream drive’. The Icelandic love their ice cream which seems odd because it’s bloody cold there! An ice cream drive literally means driving to the next village/town over and getting ice cream together.

ice cream date

Another nugget I found out about Iceland is that they have a Facebook page for hugging. So you know sometimes late at night when you’re just a little bit low and just need a hug? Well in Iceland they go on Facebook, put a little status up and say they are looking for a hug. It gets arranged and someone comes round to hug. Goth girl showed us the page ’26 female looking for a hug tonight’ ’24 year old man, wanting to spoon this evening’ ’23 year old female, looking to hug and a little bit more…’. I had a lot of questions about this, like do they just turn up, hug and leave? Do they spend the night? What about body odour? Do you offer them a beverage? What if they’re not a good hugger?

This would never work in England! Can you imagine how awkward it would be?! ‘Would you like some tea before we participate in this practice of hugging? How do you want to do it? Arms over or under? How long should we hug for? How do you feel about a firm handshake instead? Spiffing old chap, now let’s talk about the weather!’.

awkward hug

I got off the plane at Gatwick the next morning having had 1 hour of sleep. That night I went on my very own Icelandic date for ice cream with the bank manager. Only at the time I hadn’t realised it was a date, I hadn’t really given it much though and just presumed naively that it was two people randomly meeting up for ice cream, as you do.

He walked in and was SO much hotter than I remembered, how had I missed that?! I wasn’t prepared for it. I wasn’t wearing the right outfit, I wasn’t thin enough, I didn’t know how to date, it had been too long, was it even a date?!! Did he think it was a date? Shit! Why was he so hot! I dripped my ice cream all down my top. Beer came out my mouth when I laughed. I flicked my hair in his eyes. He was hot. And nice. I was just an idiot. Damn it.

hot man

He came back from the bar with shots of tequila, and sambuca and jagerbombs. We got drunk. It was fun. The bar, on Oxford street let us hold our own private lock in. We talked and we flirted, we discussed our moves, you know those moves you play at the bar when you’re trying to get the attention of the opposite sex. Apparently my moves worked (or at least they worked better than dripping ice cream down my clothes). The bar tender kept giving us more free shots. ‘Screw it’ I thought ‘I’m leaving the country in a matter of weeks, it’s been a whole load of shit these last two years, I deserve to go a little wild, I’m suppose to go wild, that’s how it works’ I told myself.

‘You can stay at mine but there will be absolutely no sex! No sex! Nope, none, no!…Ok, well maybe there can be a little sex’ I drunkenly slurred into his big stupidly smoking hot blue eyes. And suddenly, after a year of no one looking in your direction and feeling like the most hideously ugly person ever, someone likes you and just like that, you’re back in the game.

Winning-GIF