Where do you go in the wintertime? Many gay people know only one answer: to Gran Canaria. There they feel free, there they can live their life. And they do it in a way they wouldn't have the courage to do it at home! This novel has been written in 1992, but it is nice to reed it in holidays still now.
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Elvira Totterheels in Gran Canaria
Sea, Sun, Sand and a New Pair of Shoes!
Translated and Adapted for English Readersby Ashley Lancaster
Männerschwarm VerlagHamburg 2015
ARE ALL THE HATBOXES ON BOARD?OFF ON HOLS FROM BLIGHTY TO PLAYA DEL INGLESOR: DIDN’T NEFERTITI HAVE A CHARWOMAN THEN?
I’m really not superstitious, but when Brenda, my very, very best friend in the whole wide world, plans to travel down from Preston to London on Friday the thirteenth then it’s just highly improbable that nothing’ll go wrong! Either she’ll leap up from ’er seat on an irresistible impulse and pull the emergency cord just outside Wigan because she’s just realised she left her favourite chapeau on the platform, or she’ll get on the wrong train, go in the completely wrong direction and end up in Glasgow, wondering why I’m not there to pick her up and why (having nodded off in the compartment and dreamt of rippling, bronzed, Spanish hunks) the locals are all a pale blue colour and even the naffs are wearing skirts in rather quaint olde worlde tartan patterns!
Usually Brenda is an utterly reliable thing. When she says, «I’m coming», then generally she comes! She just gets a bit flustered at times. Especially when she’s been flitting around at work like a humming bird on acid and is totally knackered. And that’s exactly why we flew off on our hols to Gran Canaria. For four whole weeks!
In case you’re wondering why we call her Brenda, when in fact she was actually christened Brendan, (after some sporting type who apparently won lots and lots of prizes for running around and jumping over things, or something like that), it all has to do with milk shakes. You see, Brenda is a real whizz in the kitchen and works absolute wonders with a blender. Her milk shakes are famous right across the north west. Hence: Brenda’s Blender!
Because I know Brenda and the chaos that is her life only too well, I made a special point of calling up our mutual girlfriend Molly (because when I met her she was off her trolley!) in Preston and said: «Dearest Molly, please do us a huge favour luvvie and see to it that your Auntie Brenda gets her act together re. holiday plans! Disconnect the phone, hide the voddy, make sure she packs her passport, plastic, keys for the apartment in Playa, electric razor and Christmas pud, and don’t let her out of your sight until she’s on that train and it‘s pulling out of the station!»
«Right you are,» says Molly, «I will. And what about the plane tickets, shouldn’t I remind her about them an’ all?»
«Don’t even think about it! Otherwise she’ll get completely hysterical and turn the entire flat upside down looking for them. I’ve got the tickets here.»
«All right then, that’s okay,» said Molly, but of course, as it turned out, nothing was okay!
So there I was on Friday the thirteenth of December in the madding crowds at Euston station like a pearl among swine (I was premiering this catchy little red ensemble I had snapped up from a boutique off the King’s Road the day before – far beyond my means if I’m honest, next month’s rent will be late again, but a girl has to get her priorities right!) and guess who was nowhere to be seen? Brenda, who else?!
I ran around everywhere looking for her; had she gone down into the Tube remembering we’d be taking the Northern Line to my humble abode off Soho Square? No! Had she popped intoW.H.’s to stock up onCosmo andHarpers & Queens for the flight? No! I even ventured into the cottage to see if she had succumbed to one of her irresistible urges again. No! Once I eventually found a phone that worked – I’m sure the main reason for having those phone boxes there is so that illicit local businesses can advertise their services; is there really such a call for French polishing in Central London? – I tried calling Molly to see if she could shed any light on the problem. Unfortunately I only got her answering machine with that infuriating opera music and her shrieking her lungs out with «cheer up if you’re all alone, and leave a message after the tone!» to the tune of some wellknown opera that everybody knows from some advert when they were a kid but I certainly couldn’t identify; I’m not that sort of queen! For want of anything better to do and to vent at least just a little of my frustration, I screamed «I haaaaaaate opera» at the top of my voice in the best soprano I could muster down the phone and slammed the receiver down. This prompted a few strange looks from passers-by but made me feel quite a bit better for at least two and a half seconds!
After about an hour of semi-panic and visions of Brenda standing all alone like a lost sheep in an enormous floral sun hat on a platform in Glasgow wondering just what had happened, I decided there was nothing more I could do there. So I decided to head home and hope that she’d have the initiative to attempt to make contact via that newfangled gadget, the electric telephone! (Brenda is not hot on technology! She’s got the most ancient television set because she kept losing the remote to the new one she’d rented – she got through four in two months before finally giving up and returning it to Radio Rentals. The man was not best pleased! – and anyway she likes fiddling with knobs, she says!!)
As I rounded the corner of my street, what sight should greet my tired eyes but Brenda in an enormous sun hat, plonked down on an enormous suitcase, reigning over a bizarre array of luggage piled up around her.
«Where ’ave you come from?» was all I could gasp out in my surprise.
«From t’station duckie, I got a taxi in the end, since you weren’t there to pick uz up! D’ya know, I had to lug this lot all by meself as muggins ’ere naturally had the good luck to hazard upon London’s fattest cabby who simply refused to shift his fat arse and ’elp me!»
After we had somehow managed to haul what had to have been everything she owned up to my third floor flat (I’m sure I heard the kitchen sink clanking in one of those bags!), with me frantically wracking my brains for ideas as to how I could persuade her to leave at least 90% of it at home, the puzzle was solved as to what had happened. On one of her irresistible urges Brenda had, at the last minute, persuaded Molly to drive her across to Leeds to pick up this «simply fabulous pair of shoes» that she had seen the week before but for some reason had not bought and «just had to have for the hols», and had taken the train down from there. Of course it didn’t occur to the dozy cow that trains from Leeds come into King’s Cross and not Euston as they «only ever have one station per town in the north which makes life so much easier duckie ...»Provincial queens can be so trying at times!!
Having finally got to the bottom of that one (an expression the lovely Brenda can never resist slipping in when she’s just managed to seduce the latest man of her dreams), she leapt to her feet, impulsive as ever, and shrieked:
«Elvira, darling, this is an emergency, I simply must have chips! After all this excitement I require nutritious sustenance immediately.»
So off we trolled to the local chippy to drown our sorrows in grease and non-brewed condiment!
Having thus strengthened ourselves, on arriving home I immediately tackled the dilemma of Brenda’s excessive luggage.
«But it isn’t excessive at all dearest, I only packed the barest essentials, honest!» I tried explaining that airlines have weight limits and if everyone packed that much there’d only be enough room for about six people on the plane. «Well they should get a bigger plane then, sweetie shouldn’t they, and besides which I’ve lost eight pounds in the last six weeks which surely more than makes up for a few cosmetics that weigh absolutely nothing anyway ...»There’s no point trying to argue with logic like that at two minutes to midnight on Friday the thirteenth.I only had to wait two more minutes and this day would be over.
«So now that we have sampled the culinary delights of this fabulous metropolis what’s next on the agenda? If I’m in London I simply have to let it take advantage of me. Where shall we go, what shall we do, who shall we sweep off their feet and show a good time?»
I held my breath and watched the second hand on the kitchen clock tick painfully slowly up to twelve, and sure enough it was tomorrow. As soon as I pointed out that our flight was at 9 o’clock and that we had to be at Gatwick by 7.30 which meant getting up at the crack of dawn at the very latest, all ideas of merrymaking suddenly evaporated, and with a gasp and some incomprehensible reference to beauty sleep Brenda flitted off to my spare room.
I set all the alarm clocks I could get my hands on, and not being able to bear the thought of having to struggle with all that luggage in the small hours I waited till Brenda was fast asleep and snoring like a juggernaut and simply repacked. Although we do have our little differences from time to time (I would not describe twelve pairs of shoes as the barest essentials) she really is a jewel!
Having stashed the excess I hit the sack myself but just could not get to sleep. I don’t know what you think about in bed the night before going on your hols. Usually people worry about having forgotten something important. Not me. Not since my girlfriend Varicose Vera gave me this holiday-thingies-check-list (see page 187) which is just so handy. She had this long affair with an accountant and he developed this system for her on a computer.
No, I always ask myself if I’ve really packed the right things. For example, Brenda mentioned to me that you can’t drink the tap water in Playa and so you have to fetch water from somewhere else for making tea or cooking. Where from, I naturally forgot to ask, and had this romantic image of a village well with palm trees and all! I saw something dinky like that in this nature programme about Africa on the telly, and if you look on a map at where Gran Canaria actually is, then it’s just left a bit of the Sahara Desert, and the Bedouins that troll about in the desert fetch their water from the well as well. The Bedouins don’t actually fetch the water themselves but get their wives, the Bedouwimin, to fetch it! But knowing Brenda she’ll refuse point blank to go out on the street dragged up as a Bedouwoman so I’ll have to do it!
As I lay there awake in bed I went through all my clothes in my mind’s eye and realised to my horror that I didn’t have anything suitable for fetching water. Something long and flowing would have been just the job. And to think I could’ve borrowed something from my girlfriend Stilly (not only due to her favourite shoes but also because it rhymes with silly!) if only I’d’ve thought of it in time. Yes, and then I could’ve practised balancing one of them enormous terracotta water pots on my head without it crashing down to the ground, shattering into a million pieces and wasting all that precious water. Those pots aren’t cheap you know! But you can start off with a tin pot for beginners can’t you? But those are just the sort of things you only ever think of at the last minute and then you just have to wait and see what happens.
«Maybe there’s some old curtain or a bed sheet in the house we’ve rented that could be run up into something fitting in a jiffy,» I thought, and was really looking forward to my first holiday in Gran Canaria.
At 5 o’clock the next morning when all the alarm clocks started buzzing and clanking I felt as though I hadn’t slept at all. But when the clock radio went off with Cliff Richard singing, «We’re all goin’ on a summer holiday, doin’ things we always wanted to ...»(and I can imagine just what things too!)I suddenly felt fabulous again.
After what she insisted was a traditional Lancashire breakfast (a pot of tea and twenty ciggies), darling Brenda was in such good spirits, bless ’er heart, she didn’t even notice most of her luggage had gone walkies. Thrilled at the prospect of four full weeks of sea, sun, sand and showing off her fabulous new shoes, we set off for Victoria. Brenda, whose first sexual experience had been an encounter with a ticket collector at Lancaster station that had left her with a thing about British Rail uniforms, was delighted to see yet another station. «So many stations and so little time!» she squealed as we swished from our taxi to the ticket office (some people are so easy to please!).
The first blow to our spirits came when we went to buy our tickets for the Gatwick Express. It’s called «Express» not coz it’s so quick but coz you need an American Express card to pay for it! Nobody carries that much cash with them these days!
By the time we arrived at Gatwick most of the queue was through and we didn’t have to wait long at all until it was our turn. I noticed straight away that the check-in lady was also a friend of Dorothy’s. She kept fanning herself with people‘s tickets as if she was having trouble breathing, and couldn’t stop hopping about on her seat like a demented sparrow.
But as is so often the case with these uniform queens, she had no sympathy for her own kind. The baggage allowance was 30 kilos and I really only did have 32 kilos. She didn’t have anything against the few grams I was over, but somehow I must have not distributed the weight correctly or something. Then as I put my case and my dinky little beach bag on the conveyor the stupid cow asked:
«Do you have any hand luggage?»
«No,» I answered quite innocently, not having a clue what she was on about, when all of a sudden she slapped one of her sticky labels on my beach bag and off it sailed.
«Stop, stop, bring it back,» I screamed. «Me beach bag, I ’ave to take it on board with me.»
«It weighs nine kilos. It’s too heavy.»
«So what? I lugged it all the way ’ere. I’ll certainly be able to lug it onto the plane.»
«That’s as maybe,» she said fanning herself with our tickets and rolling her eyes all the way back like some faded diva! «But you’re only allowed three kilos.» What was I supposed to say to that? Just one of my toilet bags weighed three kilos by itself.
«Listen to me,» I said, «in the last five months I’ve been on a crash diet and ’ave lost six and a half kilos,» I said calmly. «Does that mean that five months ago you wouldn’t ’ave taken me with a three kilo bag, or what?»
«That’s not the point. Just check in your beach bag and everything will be fine.»
«Not on your life Missy! It’ll get so shaken up I won’t be able to find a thing afterwards.»
«Then why don’t you just take out what you need for the flight and put it in a plastic bag?»
«I don’t think so dear! I’ll have you know I’ve got a Gold Card at Harrods, and you expect me to travel with aTesco’s carrier bag. Well really!»
The ridiculous battle of the bags went on for quite a while, and Brenda and I had to confer as to what we should do with my oh-so-important little things. Eventually we had the fabulous idea of simply checking Brenda’s bag. The snotty little jumped-up ticket collector agreed to that, Thank God! Of course we put all the important things from Brenda’s bag into mine first so hers weighed at least three kilos more. And so we finally managed to get on board the plane all in one piece.
We found our seats pretty much smack in the middle of the plane, right by the gangway in the middle row. So there was no looking out of the window, but at least I could stretch my lallies out a bit.
Brenda dropped right off to sleep and I leafed through one of those duty free mags and had a listen to the radio programme that they always have coming out of the armrest. Then I reclined my seat back as far as it would go (about three and a half inches by the feel of it) and tried to sleep a bit.
Unfortunately though I couldn’t get off at all as a man and woman behind me kept rabbiting on. It was so annoying that I just gave in and had to listen to what they were saying. First they went on about Auntie Ethel’s Christmas present, and then about what they were going to cook for lunch on Christmas Day. Somehow though they really didn’t sound like a normal straight couple.
«I really must take a look at Cynthia,» said the chap all of a sudden.
«No Geoffrey, just let her sleep a bit more!»
«Oh I don’t know, do you think she really is asleep? I’d better just take a quick peek, Mummy.»
SLAP! And then all was quiet!
«Geoffrey’s probably just got a clip round the ear off his mummy by the sound of it,» I thought, and just then Brenda came to. She straightened up, glanced around quite nonchalantly from left to right and whispered to me: «Strange, I can’t see any Jessies on here. Do you think we’re the only ones?»
Now sometimes Brenda really can be a bit thick. The plane was over half full and the dozy cow hadn’t even noticed! In the row in front of us there was a couple, obviously on their honeymoon. They were all over each other all the time, it was so sweet. Two rows further forward on the right were three Marys that I knew by sight from off the scene. And a couple of rows further down on the left were two boys who were just so good-looking they couldn’t possibly have been straight. Unfortunately I couldn’t see any further. Behind us, this much I had realised by now, was at least one more.
«Well, you must be really exhausted,» I said to Brenda. «Or are you sittin’ on your ears? ’Ave an earwig to them two behind us.»
And then it went on just as it had started. «We’ve been flying for two hours now Mummy. Cynthia can’t be asleep any more.»
«Can’t you just read for a bit or something my boy? Cynthia needs her P and Q too you know.»
«It’ll be too hot for her. I’ll just take off the rain cape.»
«Leave it!» SLAP! Geoffrey got it again.
«Have they smuggled a stowaway on board or what?» whispered Brenda.
«No,» I said, «that can’t be a person.»
«Oh God, not a python?»
«I don’t think so, it must be some kind of furry animal.»
«How on earth d’ya know that? Cynthia sounds more like a python to me.»
«Most queens that go on holiday with their mothers don’t have pythons with rain capes. They usually have some little doggy or something.»
«In the luggage rack? Are you mad?»
«Have a listen then. Geoffrey’s always talking down to the floor.»
Brenda lifted her legs up off the floor just to be on the safe side and peered through them like some deranged rabbit.
«Well, I’m just going to take her cape off now Mummy. It’s just far too hot for her otherwise.»
«Well, go on then.»
I felt Geoffrey pushing his head against the back of my seat as he rummaged around with something on the floor. They must have some piece of luggage down there, I thought. Then suddenly I heard a strange squeaking sound.
«I just can’t stand it any more. I simply have to take a look,» whispered Brenda, and ogled as unobtrusively as possible backwards over the seat.
«Well, what is it then?» I asked on tenterhooks.
«A long-legged white rat.»
«I don’t believe it, that’s against quarantine regulations.»
«It is. A small white creature with fur.»
«Come off it. I’m sure it’s a doggy.Probably one o’ them chee-wow-wows or whatever they’re called. They’re very fashionable at the moment.»
«I’m sure the little thing’s handy, but it’s as ugly as sin!»
«No, the doggy.«
Behind us there was a rustling and then Geoffrey said: «There my darling, but now you have to go back to bed. Soon we’ll be in Playa and then we’ll go to the beach for a swim. Or would you rather stay up a bit now?»
«Now put her back in her basket. People are looking.» That was the mother.
«Basket? That’s not a basket, it’s a customised vanity case with iron bars on the front.»
«What does Geoffrey look like then?» I asked.
«Like a naff, just a bit more queeny.»
«And the mother?»
«Like Mrs. Slocombe.»
«Well, I think it’s nice that they’re going on holiday together.»
«Oh I don’t know,» said Brenda. «It can be hell on earth.»
«Oh I think you’re being too severe.»
Then we had a really good long chat about how it is with queens and their mothers, and all in all somehow the hours on the flight just flew by.
Around about lunch time we landed at the airport in Gran Canaria. We got there so quickly that by the time we arrived we didn’t even have to put our watches back! It took an absolute age till our cases finally came trollin’ down the conveyor belt. I was beginning to think the dizzy ticket collector had sent ’em off on a tugboat from Docklands. But the waiting around did have its good side coz all of a sudden two blokes came up and spoke to us.
«Are you goin’ to Playa?»
«Yeah, straight to Playa.»
«Us too. We can go together and share the taxi if you like.»
«Yeah,» piped up Brenda, «that’d save us all a bob or two.»
Once the last hat box had finally turned up we got a taxi straight away and set off.The weather was absolutely fabulous. At least 25 degrees and a very pleasant little breezette that made me feel like a completely new woman!
But what I saw next really was very disappointing. Wherever you looked there was only this horrid grey gravel lying all about. Nothing green as far as the eye could see as we drove down the motorway through this barren lunar landscape. To the left, ever so far away, was the blue sea, and to the right in the distance only barren, dried out stony mountains. Every now and again you could see a few little groups of shacks thrown together and long rows of plastic sheeting under which the natives were presumably hiding something. But, as I found out later, they were only tomato fields.
To be honest, the very thought of spending the hols in all this gravel wasn’t exactly thrilling. In the brochures it really had looked very different.
After we’d been hacking it down the motorway for quite a while we suddenly came to an enormous sign in front of a gravel slope saying «Sioux City».
«Do they make cowboy films here or what?» I asked Brenda.
«No, that’s a kind of western theme park where the naffs can go and play cops and robbers or something,» she said.
«They built that for the tourists,» said one of the blokes from the airport, «so we can recover from the hard life on the beach!»
«Well I think it’s all terribly bleak here,» I said completely frustrated. «Where are all the white beaches and the palm trees?»
»There’s a little while to go yet.»
Then we drove up onto a sort of mountain and through a sharp right hand bend and suddenly everything completely changed.
«That’s San Agustin and it leads straight into Playa del Ingles and Maspalomas,» Brenda explained.
As I saw it I couldn’t believe my eyes. In the middle of this gravel desert they’d thrown up a tourist resort right by the sea.
«That looks like a council estate in the East End!» I exclaimed most disappointed.
«Well that’s just the way it is here. But at least you can swim and enjoy the sun the whole year round.»
Everywhere there were modern blocks of flats and terraced houses on the streets with complexes of fenced-in bungalows in between. And naturally loads of restaurants and bars and shops along the Avenidas. I couldn’t see anything typically Spanish at all, except of course for the gardens with lots of foreign trees and bushes growing in them. If it hadn’t’ve been for the greenery and if the sun hadn’t been shining so fabulously I think I would’ve screamed. And then I suddenly realised that the whole town seemed strangely empty.
«Everybody’s down at the beach now, tryin’ to get a suntan,» Brenda explained.
«Oh yes o’ course, that’s why we’re here isn’t it?»
The two that shared the taxi with us were staying in a kind of round high tower block called HotelWaikiki. So we dropped them off there and they gave us 1,500 pesetas as the whole journey had cost about 3,000.
Then it didn’t take long till we came to theEuroplaya Club. It was directly on Avenida de Tirajana, which is the main drag in Playa where the traffic thunders up and down. And that’s where we were staying. Two rows of little square housettes with tidy little gardens. The whole complex looked really cosy. Our house was on the right-hand side in the second row and – Thank God! – we couldn’t hear the noise from the street at all.
And then all of a sudden I was really enthralled: a garden with a lawn and fantastic palm trees and cacti, red hibiscus flowers, oleander and then a sort of flowering purple grass that was called bougainvilla or something like that, and genuine strelitzia and everywhere in between some other gay bushy stuff. A really pretty little wild garden with a hammock in it and with sun loungers. The whole thing was surrounded by a vine-covered wall so no one could see in.
«Well, now what d’ya reckon?» Brenda asked.
«I never said a word!» I said. «It’s absolutely fabulous!»
The house was just as good, and fabulously furnished. Everything a girl could possibly want. From a hair dryer to an iron and great big fluffy white bath towels. And when Brenda inspected the kitchen she just couldn’t stop squealing «fabulous, fabulous ... !»
«Shall I cook something?» she called out.
«Is there anything in the fridge then?»
«No, just a bottle of sparkling wine.»
«Great, well let’s cook that then.»
So we drank the wine while we unpacked our things. The bedrooms were on the first floor. Of course Brenda nabbed the one with the TV and the video in it for herself didn’t she. Typical! But downstairs in the living room there was another one, and as I started to fiddle about with it I noticed there was a Bette Davis film in it. It was the one where Bette plays Charlotte and gets so terrorised by her wicked sister that in the end she does both her and her lover in with a large flower pot over the head. Well, that scene where Bette’s standing on the balcony, drops the pot on their heads and opens her eyes really wide in glee, that we had to watch three times. Somehow that really got us in the mood for Playa, we decided. Then I had to have a quick lie down for half an hour. At about half past four Brenda suddenly appeared in my room all impatient and woke me up.
«We must get going now orMarlene’s will be as dead as a dodo,» she said, and already had her summery outfit on.
So I just had a quick shower and freshened up my hair with the hair dryer so it looked all bouncy and natural again.
Then we shot down the Avenida and soon came to a shopping centre that was calledLa Cita and was a total maze. You have to keep going up and down stairs all the time and round dozens of corners, and I was simply amazed that Brenda could find her way through all the confusion of little alleys. Somehow they all looked the same. One boutique after another, and each hardly bigger than a shoe box. There were those ghastly shiny tracksuits hanging all over the place and I was just thinking to myself: «Who actually buys this load of old cat shit?» when suddenly Brenda cried out: «Here we are.»
Well,CaféMarlene is one of those slightly larger shoe boxes without walls on three sides so that you sit under a roof in the alley and can have a really good look at everything that flits by.
First of all we ordered coffee with brandy to celebrate our arrival. And just as I was having a good peek round to see who was there, suddenly this really good-looking guy sat down a couple of tables away from us, unfortunately not alone.
Just as I was having a closer look at the guy, both of them smiled sweetly over at us.
«Well that’s a fine start,» I thought, and felt really good.
But not for long. You see the other one was smiling back much more than the really good-looking guy. So I decided to hold back a bit until I could judge the situation better. Unfortunately it didn’t improve. After a while the good-looking boy stopped looking over. His mate though couldn’t stop.
I didn’t want to be impolite on the first day though, so every now and then I grinned over at him for the sake of etiquette and just chatted with Brenda.
And so the time passed and I didn’t think of the dishy guy any more until suddenly they stood up and both went off in separate directions. But just as I threw a last look after the good-looking one, the other one was suddenly right in front of me and said:
«Will I see you atYumbo tonight then?»
«Sure,» I said in the butchest voice I could muster.
«Great,» he replied, and with that he was gone.
Brenda had already started drumming her fingers on her temples (she always does that when she’s nervous) and said, «I just don’t believe it.»
I think it’s a great feeling when someone tries to chat you up. At least it proves you’re still in demand. After all, it would be really daft to spend the whole holiday sittin’ around in pubs if not a soul showed the blindest bit of interest.
But of course it’s always a little tricky if you’re out and about with your best girlfriend.
Now there’s never been anything between Brenda and myself. That’s why we have such a relaxed relationship with each other. But a little competitive jealousy does rear its ugly little head from time to time.
«Do you really want to meet that gentleman later on atYumbo?» she asked with just the tiniest touch of sarcasm.
«I don’t even know whatYumbo is. What kind of a place is it?»
«It’s another shopping centre likeCita.»
«What, another maze?»
«No,Yumbo looks somehow sort of Roman, with different levels and little columns all over the place.»
«And that’s why the girls all go running off there at night or what?»
«Not coz o’ the columns. Because of all the gay bars that are there.»
«Oh, so that’s why we’re staying directly oppositeYumbo.»
«O’ course. You don’t think I’d stay out in the sticks somewhere and ’ave to trek miles and miles every night like some madwoman just to go to some nelly bar do ya? In Playa everything is really well organised anyway. After breakfast everyone goes to the beach. And after the beach everyone comes straight here toMarlene’s.»
«Straight here? With beach bags and without doing their hair?»
«O’ course, it’s really relaxed here. That goes on until about six o’clock, and then more and more naffs start coming in.»
«And where does everyone go after that?»
«AfterMarlene everyone runs home an’ freshens up. That takes a little while doesn’t it? Then ya go out to eat. At about half past ten you have to be in PubNestor though. That’s in theYumbo Centre. And then at eleven thirty at the earliest ya just go up the steps round the corner fromNestor’s toTubos orMykonos. They’re a sort of mixture of bar an’ disco. It’s really good there for just standing around, chatting and havin’ a good vada at everything that flits by.»
«And how long d’ya stay there then?»
«Up till about twelve thirty everyone gathers atMykonos, and then at around one thirty the first start to shoot off intoMetropol, that’s like a real club for dancin’. It’s on the same floor just a few metres further along, that goes on till about four. Then it dies a death. If you’re still up for it ya can then dash off toXL andKings Club. But that’s over on the other side, I’ll show you that later. Right now I’m simply dyin’ o’ hunger!»
So then we went off to eat. We ended up in this place where you could stuff yourself stupid for 950 pesetas. I took total advantage of it whereas Brenda, who’s always trying to lose weight, just sat peeling prawns for hours. I stuffed myself so full I started to fall asleep. «Now I really need a coffee,» I said, and peered searchingly over to the buffet.
«Oh Bloody Nora!» cried Brenda, and thrust her watch under my nose. It was twenty past ten. «You can’t ’ave one, we haven’t got time. We ’ave to get toNestor’s.»
«Why all the stress? We’re on holiday.»
«Yes, it’s always like that here.»
So we quickly paid the bill and scurried back up the Avenida to where we lived. From there we only had to scoot across the road and we were in theYumbo Centre and standing in front ofNestor’s.
«How handy,» I thought, and looked around to see if I could find a couple of free chairs in the throng. Suddenly, just as I was standing there scanning the area like one of those dinky radar thingies on ships, someone screeched into my ear: «Yoo-hoo!»
Well, that really was a surprise. It was Vera from Manchester who I’ve known for absolutely years (Vera because she is to gin what fish are to water!). She was as brown as a berry, enough to make a girl really jealous.
«My God, you’re so brown,» I cried.
«Well, a girl does what a girl can,» she replied. «Why don’t ya come an’ join us?»
We somehow managed to find a couple of chairs, and as we sat down at the table there was another screech as there sat Gerty (due to a certain habit, she quickly became known in certain circles as Dirty Gerty!) who was one of Vera’s discarded spouses, and a couple of very nice-looking numbers – a geriatric nurse from Wolverhampton and a roofer from Palermo.
After we’d all been introduced the first necessity was, of course, to find out who was with who!
«’Ave you two got married again?» I asked Gerty at an opportune moment.
«Not really,» she said, and gazed longingly across at Luigi, the roofer from Palermo. Therefore she must have something goin’ with the bloke from Wolverhampton, I thought. Funny, he looked so straight, I was really amazed at what turns out to be gay these days. Apparently though he wasn’t properly queer, he just helps out when there’s a rush on! Then Gerty explained to me that her real husband was sulking back home in Manchester coz he couldn’t get any time off work.
Now this Luigi was a really international number. He looked Italian, but he spoke with such a broad Geordie accent I could hardly understand a word he said, being a proper London girl myself. Obviously spent half his waking hours in the gym coz he had tits that made Brenda’s eyes stand out on stalks.
So, as we were just sitting there and chitt-chattin’ about the weather and this and that all of a sudden this bloke that Brenda had met on her last holiday came up. Freddie. He was a blacksmith, or at least he claimed to be and sat down next to me.
Then I learned an awful lot about shoein’ horses and how different types of horses had different types of hooves. You see Arabian horses generally only need six-inch nails under their feet whereas police horses need eight. In general the horseshoes depend on whether the horse is a steeplechaser, a dressage horse or just some old nag. And when the horse trots about on the street in winter it has to have a special plate inserted between the hoof and the shoe to stop it getting clogged up with mush so the horse doesn’t slip up and land on its arse. But then when the horses go out into the fields in summer they put Pirelli shoes on because the ground is soft.
All of this was really totally fascinating, but I thought this business with the Pirelli shoes was a bit odd. Up till then I’d only ever heard of Pirelli tyres. But then maybe Freddie had nailed the odd tyre onto the occasional old nag by accident. Anyway, all of a sudden it was midnight so we didn’t hold our horses and galloped up the stairs toMykonos.
Mykonos is like two shoe boxes built around a corner with the fronts open. And on the walls there are these kind of chicken ladders which you can sit on and from which you have a good view over all the comings and goings.
I trolled up to the bar to fetch a wee drinkee just as this wrinkled old queen in yachting drag – she looked like she’d just popped over from Henley – ordered her drink in this loud upper class twit voice:
«G and T please,» she boomed, and just in case the Spanish barman didn’t understand her she added, «that’s a gin and tonic to you, dearie.»
Without batting an eyelid the barman poured the drink and shot back, «Ice and a slice? That’s lemon and frozen water to you, dearie!»
I’d just got me voddy when someone tapped me on the shoulder and said: «Hello! Elvira? Is that you?»
Well who did we have here? It was Hakon and Kenneth. This was getting to be a regular reunion. I’d met both of ’em years and years before at a party when Kenneth ran in the London marathon. «Yes,» I said delighted, «yeeees.» You see Kenneth and Hakon were two extremely good-looking policemen from Stockholm. And these two gorgeous Swedes were there with a whole gang. As we were all being introduced I kept looking around to see if that good-looking bloke fromMarlene’s had popped up anywhere. But of course he hadn’t, so I passed the time chatting to this Scottish pensioner who was part of the Swedish group.
«So what took you from Scotland to Sweden?» I asked her, thinking it couldn’t be that much colder. Maybe she’d been caught having indecent relations with a haggis and had to leave the country in disgrace! I couldn’t help grimacing slightly at her extremely daring hotpants which she’d obviously stitched together from the remains of an old pair of jeans.
«I married a Swede.» So she was into vegetables after all!
«What? The full Monty? White dress, in front of an altar with confetti?»
«Och no. Gays can’t get prroperly married in Sweden till next yearr or the yearr after. At the moment we’rre still living in sin.»
«What, really in sin?»
«Aye. For more ’an forty years noo. I met me man on thae platform at Glasgow station in 1952. He wanted to go to Sweden too. Since then we’ve been trravelling together.»
«Great! Every day?»
«Aye, o’ course. Arre you married too, hen?»
«No, I’m just on the lookout to see if I can find something.» I quickly looked around again to see if theMarlene chap had appeared with his other half.
«Are ye at least havin’ a wee holiday rromance, dolly?» the OAP drilled further into my wounds.
«I only just arrived today.»
«Well if I werre yooo I’d at least get mesel’ a wee holiday rromance, petal.»
«I fully intend to,» I said, and looked around again.
«That’s goood. Particularly in these harrsh times.»
«It’s not that easy ya know. How d’ya know that the gorgeous Adonis you’ve been making eyes at all evening isn’t on the last day of his holiday and is gonna shoot off home first thing in the morning? Then the whole palaver would’ve been a complete waste of time.»
«Oh girrl, herre in Playa therre’s a really simple trick to solve that ’un. The white ’uns ’ve just arrived, the bronze, tanned ’uns could leave any time! It’s as simple as that, dolly.»
One really shouldn’t underestimate the wisdom of such elderly ladies! I’d never’ve thought of that all on my own!
«I must say I’m g’tting a wee bit nerrvous too,» exclaimed the OAP all of a sudden. «Where has me hubby got to? He should’ve been done ages ago.»
«Done? What with?»
«Well, he had to clean the wee bungalow.»
«What, in the middle of the night?»
«Aye petal, yoo see we have our responsibilites. Yoo see all that young meat sitting at that barr yonder? Those are all our wee children. Seven of ’em,» she said, and pointed proudly at the group of Swedes that were sitting at the bar inMykonos and partly inTubos and were knocking it back as fast as they could.
«You have to watch out that they don’t fall off their stools I suppose, eh?»
«Aye, that’s just it,» said the OAP. «They just can’t take it cause the whisky in Scandinavia is sooo expensive. So ’ere they rreally let themselves goo. Then as soon as they get tirred they throw up all o’er the place and we have to crawl around on our hands and knees mopping it all up.»
How practical for the Swedish kiddies to bring along a couple of OAPs for the dirty work, I was just thinking as Brenda flitted up and whispered into my ear: «Look over there, there’s your lover boy fromMarlene’s. Don’t you want to go over and say hello?»
«Oh, no doubt he’ll come over of his own accord,» I said but of course had to look over to see if the cute guy was there too. He was, of course, and of course I then had to look to see if he was looking, which, as atMarlene’s, he wasn’t of course. So I just continued chatting to the Scottish OAP about childcare. She told me exactly what drag she wore on the day of Queen Silvia’s coronation, and all these special little tricks she’s developed for cleaning windows so as not to leave those really annoying little smears that always stand out a mile as soon as the sun shines on them. She really was such a wealth of knowledge!
The first thing I had to do though was look over to see what colour the chap fromMarlene’s was. Well, he was so brown that he really shouldn’t have been there any more. His friend on the other hand was still totally pale. Just as I was battling with the momentous decision as to whether or not I should smile sweetly over at them or not, suddenly the brown one waved jovially in my direction. This, of course, came as quite a surprise, but naturally I gleefully waved back and within two shakes of a pedigree siamese cat’s tail they came shimmying over!
«It’s really full here isn’t it?» the pale one said. «What are you gonna do tonight?»
«Well, go to bed I expect!» I replied, and looked at the brown one.
«All on your own?» he asked. Now what was that supposed to mean? Was he trying to set me up with the pale one? Or were they thinking of a threesome?
«I think I could really do with a good night’s sleep,» I said, as I really had no idea what was goin’ on. What were they up to and who wanted what?
And then, as we got chatting the pale one suddenly asked me, «What star sign are you by the way?»
That was the last thing I wanted, all that ridiculous star sign claptrap. I was just considering saying that actually I’m a kangaroo with wallaby in ascendance when Brenda came shooting up to me rescue.
«You know what, I’m really tired, why don’t we take a quick look intoMetropol and then head for home?»
«But really only a quick look,» I said to her, and then to the other two: «It was nice chatting to you. I’m sure we’ll see you at the beach tomorrow, won’t we?»
«Where will you be then?» the pale number asked.
«Somewhere in the first five rows,» answered Brenda.
I quickly gave the cute one a fiery look and then said goodbye to the Swedish girlies. Then we shot over toMetropol.
It really is only a couple of steps away, so being a thrifty gal I naturally took my half-full glass with me. But hardly had we battled our way through the madding crowds at the entrance when an overenthusiastic waitress dashed up to me and cried: «Please go back outside! That’s aMykonos glass!»
I mean really! How prissy can a girl get? Naturally I was so shocked that I threw my arms up into the air and as chance would have it the offending glass slipped outta my grasp. Then she started running around like a madwoman on acid coz she ’ad to sweep up the glass. But I must say that left me completely cold. Well, really! If they insist on building their club right next door toMykonos they must surely expect the occasional queen to troll in with a glass from next door, mustn’t they?
Anyway, the music inMetropol really was fab. They were just playing the extended version ofCrucified, and then cameRitmo della Notte which I just simply adore. And it was so full that a girl could hardly breathe.
«Well, I think we’d better save this for tomorrow, don’t you?» I said to Brenda and so we set off home. I fell straight into bed without even taking my face off and went out like a light.
«Elvira, get up! Come and water the palms!» I heard Brenda calling after a while from somewhere miles away.
«What is it? It’s still dark,» I groaned, still half asleep.
«Well open your eyes, and it’ll be light then won’t it!»
And so it was all of a sudden. The sun was shining like mad and the sky was so blue like it only very occasionally is at home in summer. So I sprang right up outta bed, though a slightly more subtle wake-up would’ve been nice, but then that’s just the way she is, darling Brenda.
After me mornin’ ablutions Brenda told me where theAnsoco supermarket was. It’s the cheapest place in town for food shopping.
«Yes, and bring drinking water, too,» she said.
«Why? Is the well in the supermarket?»
«The one where I should get the water from!»
«Oh that one! Yeah, it’s right next to the deli counter. But you’d better be careful you don’t fall in!» she laughed.
So off I trotted, pastNestor and over the third planta inYumbo where I then foundAnsoco straight away.
There wasn’t a well next to the deli counter though. There were just thousands of plastic bottles standing around with the word ’agua’ on ’em. That’s what everyone was taking. That’s when I realised I would have been quite out of place in my special water-fetching drag!
When I finally got back home with the jam, butter, rolls, bog roll, water and all the other household essentials, darling Brenda had already laid the table and made tea.
«Oh, I really don’t know what beach ensemble I should wear,» she complained. «What are you gonna wear then?»
«I’m wearing me light blue sun top with the wide neckline and pretty buttons.»
«What about a skirt?»
«Oh, I think something with a summery naval feel don’t you? Me blue an’ white striped shorts I think. What about you?»
«D’ya think I should wear the green and yellow cycling shorts?»
«They’re a bit bold don’t ya think?»
«Well, what else should I wear? I haven’t got anything else.»
«You’ve got that pretty T-shirt with the block stripes and stitching. Why don’t ya wear that? And those frayed bermuda jean shorts. That’s always perfect for the beach, ain’t it?»
So that’s what she wore. Straight after breakfast we packed our dinky little beach bags and set off for the Atlantic.
To get there we had to traipse down the whole length of the Avenida de Tirajana till we got to an enormous hotel calledRiu Palace. There we shimmied through a high archway and came out onto a massive terrace.
«Oh Gawd! It’s the Sahara Desert, dear!» I said. I was totally amazed. Suddenly, all I could see was sand. As far as the eye could see, nothing but sand dunes!
«These are those world-famous dunes you usually only see on postcards sent from Playa,» Brenda very patiently explained to me.
At the end of the dunes you could see the sea just sitting there sparkling fabulously in the sun.
After I’d finally seen enough of this wonderful view I wanted to continue on to the sea. We couldn’t though because the terrace was completely surrounded by an iron fence.
«So what now?» I asked, somewhat perplexed.
Brenda had already taken off her shoes and shirt and said: «Well, you’ll just have to climb through the fence won’t you?»
On closer examination I saw that one of the iron bars had been sawn out of the fence and people were crawling through the hole.
So that’s what I did too. Well, that’s not entirely true. The little gap was just somehow too cute so I decided to climb over the fence, just like you have to climb onto a boy’s bike. That’s when I noticed that most queens can’t climb over a fence in the normal way! Brenda couldn’t either.
«It’s just not me, dear!» she said after she’d just squeezed herself through the gap in the fence.
«It’s a bit like throwing a ball. Most queens can’t do that either,» I said.
«Funny that. It’s the same with whistling. Now, the lollipop lady, that’s a girlfriend of mine, she’s completely forgotten how to whistle. When she was still a naff she could whistle away like a good’un. And then after she came out she just couldn’t do it any more. All she got was this quiet hiss! That really shocked her, I can tell you.»
It’s really odd ain’t it? I can’t really throw properly either. Anyway, I was just about to set off, straight across the dunes to the sea. A normal person would always take the shortest route, wouldn’t they?
«For heaven’s sake,» cried Brenda, «that’ll take you hours to get to the sea!»
«Why?» I said, «the sea is only just over there behind them dunes.»
«It just looks like that, believe me. The lollipop lady wandered around over there for two weeks the year before last and never found the sea. There are thousands of valleys between the dunes. You’d ’ave to keep goin’ down one and up t’other and before long you’d come over all squiffy.» Now I really couldn’t imagine that because it all looked so near but I trusted my best girlfriend, who is pure goodness through and through, and off we set diagonally to the right into the dunes. After a while we came to an area where there were a whole lot of crippled-looking trees and bushes and thorny rushes standing about. And we waded right through the middle, sometimes going off to the right, sometimes to the left, then straight ahead again and then diagonally. Between all this undergrowth there were always people lying around in the sand sunning themselves. At first it didn’t seem all that odd; I just wondered what they were all doing lying around here, so far away from the water?
After a while we really did come to the Atlantic Ocean. It was at least two miles away from our house.
I added up just how far a girl could end up trolling in four weeks. Two there and two back, that’s four miles already and if you do that every day for four weeks it’s over 100 miles. But that doesn’t matter on holiday, and a bit of exercise is good for the old tootsies anyway.
As I stood there at the ocean shore and looked out to sea I could really understand what Shirley Maclaine was on about. She really loved the sea and the salt, and I really loved her too.
«First of all we have to decide where we want to plant ourselves,» said Brenda. «On the sand or on a sun lounger?»
«Well, I’d prefer to have a sun lounger. I’m sure it’s much more comfortable,» I said.
«I think so too. Especially as it’s so windy today. We’d look like lady mud wrestlers if we got all nicely oiled up and then covered in sand.»
So we went on the sun loungers. They were all stood together in pairs with a big umbrella in between called a sombrilla in Spanish. I learnt that from this Spanish bloke who came shooting over to get his 900 pesetas for the two sun loungers and the umbrella. That wasn’t exactly cheap. And there wasn’t a shower either. But then again the sea and the sun were free. And of course, as I noticed straight away, this section of the beach was completely gay. There were some really gorgeous numbers lying around, and somehow everything was really relaxed and friendly. With quite a bit of squealing and furtive looking this way and that of course! After I’d been in the water and really enjoyed the waves, the holiday really started for me. The sun was shining fabulously, the sea was roaring, and no naffs as far as the eye could see! Now I could do with this at least once a year!
As I really didn’t want to get totally burnt to a cinder I larded on the suntan lotion from head to toe. Then I realised that, even though it was a nude beach some of the guys still had their swimming cozzies on.
«Well, they’re just shy,» said Brenda, and looked up from her Jackie Collins.
«D’ya think so, really?»
«Well, what else can it be?» she said.
«I think they just like havin’ white arses!»
«Well let ’em then.»
«Ya know, I don’t think that looks bad at all. In porn films they always ’ave white arses, don’t they?»
«So? You thinking of the Hollywood career now, are ya.»
«Oh no, it’s a bit late for that. I just think it looks good.»
«It doesn’t look bad I s’pose.» Quite undecided, Brenda put down her book. «Should I put me cozzie back on then?»
«We’ll ’ave to decide now. Otherwise it’ll be too late.»
«Whata ya gonna do then? D’ya wanna stay white?»
«I’d like to. But I always go swimming in the nude and then I’m bound to forget to put me cozzie back on.»
«Why don’t you just leave yourself a note on the sun lounger with ’Elvira, put your cozzie back on!’»
«Don’t be daft. That’s far too much of a palaver.»
«Well, I’m puttin’ me cozzie back on. A white arse just looks better than brown all over.» And in a flash she had it back on.
On the other hand though, I really didn’t think a brown arse is so ugly as to have to go through all that fuss with the ridiculous note!
Now I don’t know about you, but when I’m on a nude beach I just can’t help having a good old vada at other people’s dangly bits, just to see what they look like. Sometimes you really do see the oddest things. But what really struck me this time was that most people had their pubic hair very short this year. Really short and well groomed. I must admit that was something I’d never considered until then.
But this pubic hair care thing really is a good idea. I mean, you don’t just let the hair on your head grow totally wild, do you? You get it cut and shaped to set your head off to its best advantage, don’t you? Now I’m not suggesting we should all rush off to Vidal’s for a wash, cut and blow job, I mean blow dry, who would be able to afford that every couple of weeks? But a bit more care certainly seems like a good idea.
Anyway, I decided then and there to get the scissors out that very evening and thin out me riah down below and give it a nice shapely cut.
Just as I’d plugged in my Walkman, was having a good earwig ofArmy of Lovers and was nicely browning away with my eyes closed, all of a sudden something pinched my toe.
With a screech I leapt up and there was the pale bloke fromMarlene’s from the day before standing in front of me. His name was Jeffrey, and he was wearing beige bermuda shorts with kind of Egyptian hieroglyphics on them. On top he had an eau-de-nilLacoste T-shirt on and the whole ensemble was set off by a charm around his neck with wings that also looked typically Egyptian.
«Well,» he said, «that’s very nice of you to keep the sun lounger next to you free for me. Lovely weather isn’t it?»
And all of a sudden he’d made himself completely at home and spread out a white sheet over the sun lounger, set up a dinky little head rest, and then spread a towel over the lot. Now the fact that the sun lounger next to mine was free really was a complete coincidence.
«Are you all on your own then today?» was of course my first question.
«Yes, Peter’s got things to do,» he replied, and then he didn’t say any more at all but just pulled this enormous book out of his bag and started reading it.
It was something about ancient Egypt. Yes, and then after a while he started rabbiting on about star signs again and just didn’t stop.
«Yes,» he said,» before my present life I’d already lived twice. Once in ancient Egypt and once in ancient Rome.»
«How d’ya know that?» I asked, completely astounded.
«Well, my druid told me, of course.»
Then of course I had to ask the stupid question: «What’s a druid?»
«Haven’t you readThe Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer-Bradley?» he asked, quite accusingly. «A druid is a Celtic priest.»
«Didn’t the Celts die out ages ago?»
«Of course. But their secret knowledge survived, and that’s why there are druids again today. I just had a weekend seminar with my druid last September. It was fab and only cost £ 200.»
«And why d’ya do it?»
«I need it for my spiritual well-being. For finding myself in the widest possible sense. Otherwise we are all just drifting in soulless nothingness, neither Yin nor Yang, somewhere in between, do you understand?»
«Yes,» I said. Of course I didn’t have a clue what she was on about! «And what did the druid actually do then?»
«Well, first of all we all stood around outside like the stones at Stonehenge. Then the druid calculated the precise cosmic energies and then we started with the planet dances. I was Saturn. That’s the planet with the rings. We really danced ourselves free. I could feel space, the whole cosmos. It was simply fabulous,» he enthused, still totally high on it. «And then we cleansed ourselves. With sage steam and fans made from eagles’ feathers.»
Well, I really couldn’t picture this Jessy as a planet! She probably just danced the hoola hoop and got dizzy! And then she claims to have been Saturn. I was going to say «What about Uranus?» but thought better of it. In any case he warbled on for ages about metaphysical energies, energetic heaps and waking powers till my head began to spin.
«Yes, an’ how did this druid discover you ’ad already lived as an Egyptian?»
«He simply possesses the power to see people’s previous lives. He just can. You can’t explain everything with logic. I know now that I was a doctor at the court of the Pharaoh Akhenaten.»
Have you ever noticed that these reincarnation queens were always in top-notch positions? I’ve never heard anyone say, «I used to clean Nefertiti’s toilet.»
«I can remember so much,» she went on. «Particularly Akhenaten’s death as I had a really bad time after it.»
Then I had this sinking feeling that he’d tell me all about the move, as in the novelSinuhe the Egyptian, which I particularly enjoyed reading, where it’s described in great depth.
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