With little, or no, chance of securing a holiday abroad for the foreseeable future, earlier I spent a quiet hour recollecting the verve and vigour resultant from Mediterranean odysseys of yore.
One of these sojourns a vacation to Corfu Town with buddy, Dave. Leaving any form of serendipity in the departure lounge of Newcastle airport, we tarried within a decidedly ropey accommodation about fourteen yards from the parameter fence of the islands main airport. A locale which in the height of that summer offered as few opportunities of serenity as I’d expect attending a Tourettes Association conference.
With a soundscape akin to passenger airlines landing in our bathroom, the apartment was be no means conducive to a relaxing holiday. Our fellow Brits who shared our kitchen and bathroom, eight individuals of our late teen/early twenties age group.
An amalgam of five lasses and three lads, I’d love to report these likeminded youngsters were a splendid bunch; but if truth be told we barely had a conversation exchange which wasn’t punctuated by a low flying Boeing 737.
After losing the first night of our holiday due to mechanical problems with the outbound aircraft in Newcastle, arriving on the Greek island to witness a hostelry possessed all the charm of a Japanese POW camp was irksome. On opening the room door, Dave’s proffering of “This is s***e!” bore a poetry little seen from the oft heard trinity of locutions.
Even returning to the heinous base after several bowls of loudmouth soup at a local bar, couldn’t dull the senses enough to persuade us the apartment ‘had potential’. If TripAdvisor had’ve been around back then (1982) it would’ve had course to purchase significantly more disk space just to register customer complaints.
This was a fortnight where my buddy and me existed on the cliched late teen holiday diet of toasties and beer. Accompanied by a series of vocational mishaps which at the time incurred our chagrin, but in retrospect are rattling good yarns. Anecdotes which we dined out upon; well to be more accurate drank out upon.
One of these narratives of misfortune occurring on our first full day on the island. when we hired mopeds one scorching Mediterranean day.
With both fuel tanks practically empty on pick up, without helmets and our common sense, we headed off to refill them. A simple enough task which for most of automobile history has been predominantly undertaken without drama. Always the one’s whose youthful exuberance led to occasionally take our eye of the ball, subliminally Dave and me were seemingly determined to rectify the disparity.
On arrival at a large petrol station on Corfu Town’s main thoroughfare, I came to a halt and shut the engine at a two-star fuel pump. Dave following suit at the pump adjacent to mine.
After refuelling the mopeds, we paid the cashier, bode him an amenable farewell and bound towards our cycles. As I prepared to start the ignition on my vehicle, I was halted in my tracks by becoming aware of a commotion at Dave’s pump.
Unbeknown to him the spark plug guard was missing, ordinarily not a huge feature unless, like my mate, during a refuel you inadvertently spill gas down the side of the tank.
As a result of this faux pas, on starting his ignition the fuel tank almost instantly became engulfed in flames. It goes without saying, this is highly dangerous at the best of times. However, when you ignite a moped fuel tank in a petrol station you’re rocketed into an altogether more urgent health and safety stratosphere!
Climbing away from our mopeds the pair of us momentarily froze! A paralysis broken when wee both exclaimed a word that rhymes with duck, prior to my pal’s panic ridden yell of “Blow the flames out!”
Now I wasn’t an expert on pyrotechnics (and still aren’t), however, I was pretty sure a human wasn’t capable of blowing out a fire fuelled by petrol….. I was 19 years old and naive leading to notions I could’ve been wrong, but I sure as hell wasn’t prepared to test the theory!
So as other vehicles on the forecourt, including a bus of holidaymakers, beeped to alert the owner one of us yelled “Run you daft b*****d!”…… A well chosen advocacy that was the catalyst to us frantically running from the station; coming to a halt round 50 yards down the road, where we hid behind a parked car.
From this position of assumed safety, we watched in terror as the fuel station owner ran around in blind panic, until he eventually put out the fire with a hose pipe which’d lain at the side of the pay kiosk!
With the fire out we sheepishly walked back as the station owner contacted the moped proprietor to come retrieve his badly burnt vehicle! When the owner arrived he wasn’t best happy surprisingly enough! I don’t speak Greek but from his body language and prodding I suspect he wasn’t asking Dave if he could add him to his Christmas card list!
A moped not too dissimilar to Dave’s after the fire!
Eventually he calmed down after the petrol station owner told him it wasn’t Dave’s fault, but his for being stupid enough to not have a guard covering the spark plug! Consequently, Dave received a replacement moped and off we rode, mightily relieved that we’d not been responsible for blowing up half of Corfu!!
It wasn’t the last we saw of the moped owner that day, as I crashed mine into a lamp post racing in the afternoon, rendering that unrideable! Leading for him to trail out with his truck to retrieve the second of his cycles we’d written off in one day!
As I can see you nodding off, though, I’ll share that tale on another occasion!