Trip Start Mar 05, 2008
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Greece  , Cyclades,
Friday, August 22, 2008

Sunday 13th July: Paros

I was lying in the bed of the hostel looking up at the ceiling and Heather was all I could think about. I kept asking myself if I was right not to have got off the ferry the night before. I told myself at the time that I was doing the right thing but if I was right then why did I feel so bad. What was this pain in my chest?? She is 17, is it right to be feeling this way about someone so young?? So many emotions were going through my mind. My head was telling me not to go back but my heart ached. Every time I closed my eyes I saw her, I could hear her. It was like she was calling me. It was at that moment I decided that I had to see her. I have always followed my heart in situations where I've had to make a choice, even though those decisions have sometimes brought hurt and heartache. It is the way I want to live my life. I didn't know if there was a ferry going to Paros that night but a Finnish guy staying in my room was getting ready to catch a ferry to Naxos. My limited knowledge of the ferry routes told me that a ferry from Piraeus to Naxos was most likely going to call into Paros first. Once I had the thought in my head there was no getting rid of it, no turning back. In a mixture of excitement and trepidation I packed my bags, ran from the hostel, boarded a train to Piraeus and within 30mins was standing inside a ferry office praying there was a ferry going to Paros. My heart raced as the two girls informed me that there was one leaving in 15Min's and that if I hurried I could be on it. They were two lovely girls and as we waited for the tickets to print they began asking me 'what was in Paros that was so important?' When I said the most amazing girl I had ever met was there they gushed with excitement and while pointing me in the right direction of the ferry they wished me luck and cheered as I ran for the boat. Thankfully I made the ferry just as they were loading the last few cars. As I found a seat, took a deep breath, my heart was still pounding. It was then I realized that I hadn't told Heather I was coming. What if she doesn't want me to come? Panic began to take hold of me. I told myself that of course she would want to see me for she had asked me to get off the ferry only yesterday. If she meant that then she will be glad I'm coming....wont she?? I picked up the phone and text "how do you fancy watching the sunrise with me??" It was probably only a few seconds but it felt like an age before the phone jumped with the reply, "yes I'd love to watch the sunrise with you", "well put some wine on ice because I'm on my way", "what do you mean, when are you getting here??" "I'm on the ferry now; I'll be there in 5 hours". If I was anyway worried that she might not want to see me the next reply eradicated that worry for it was laced with smiley faces and oozing excitement. I told her what I thought was my estimated time of arrival and when she replied that she would wait at the port for me I thought my heart was going to jump out of my chest. I felt like bursting into song.
Arriving into Paros I was standing in the disorderly queue with everyone else and my body was shaking. I checked myself in the mirror to make sure I was looking as good as it was possible for me to look and tried to stroll confidently off the ferry. I was trying to look as casual as possible but I could help my eyes darting around for my first sight of her. As my pace quickened I found myself through all the crowds of waiting people and without seeing Heather. I knew she was there somewhere. On the last night we had spend together the fun bus had come in to the port to meet a ferry and while the camping guys strutted their stuff trying to recruit customers we watched the madness unfurl from the windmill in the center of the town. Doing a lap of the windmill I still didn't find her. I was pulling out my phone to text when she caught my eye and for the second time in my life my breath was taken from me. I stood watching her, I was completely mesmerized. She had her phone in her hand and as I was about to approach mine phone buzzed with a text. It was her asking why I hadn't got off the ferry. I stood there for a few seconds, she was beautiful. I gathered myself, my breath, and strolled over. With the smile she gave me when she saw me approach I knew I had done the right thing in coming back. Having taken a few seconds to steady myself I was able to greet her with how beautiful she looked. She was wearing her jeans but the color of her pashmina and her eye make-up was my favorite shade of blue. She had enchanted me all over again. As Yorgos drove us back to the campsite I could hardly keep my eyes off her. She began telling me a story about how she had to cook for some campsite guests. As cooking is not one of her strong points her story was already an amusing anecdote but it got better still when she divulged that when she discovered the kitchen had run out of what the guests ordered she just made something up and pretended it was what they wanted. She was laughing so much as she thought she might have killed them, they hadn't been seen around the campsite since. I joked that they were probably lying dead in their tents. As she laughed her wonderful laugh I watched her and I wondered if she knew that my return was me telling her my feelings, it was me saying that if she wanted to be with me that I wanted to be with her too. Did she realize?? Did she want it?? On arrival we chatted for awhile, and then began to lie on the lounger looking up at the stars, my arms wrapped around her. As we lay there in the dark I wanted to kiss her, but nervously I wasn't sure if she would want me too, what if she pulled away?? As we talked our mouths slowly grew closer and closer until we kissed. As her lips touched mine my whole body quivered. The kiss was tender at first but growing more passionate all the while. It was nothing short of electric, sparks could have been flying. It was a kiss I'll never forget, perfect in every way.
My return to Paros was a statement of intent. When I last saw Heather I was struggling to come to terms with my growing feelings for her. It was an internal battle between my head and my heart. My heart was telling me that I had just met the most amazing person and that there was chemistry between us. It was telling me that I made a connection with her, a connection on a level I had never experienced with anyone before. It was telling me that if I let her slip away it would be the biggest mistake of my life. My heart was in pain, crying out to be with her but all the while my head was telling me that having such feelings for someone so young was not normal, maybe even not right. By returning to Paros I was following my heart. I was telling Heather that I had feelings for her and that I wasn't going to run away or hide from these feelings. I was telling her that I didn't care what other people thought, that I didn't care about her age, and that I was prepared and ready to accept any of the difficulties that might come from being in a relationship with someone so young. I was telling her that if she wanted to be with me then there was no way I was going to walk away from her. If she wanted it, then I was all in. I knew that Heather liked me and I knew she felt we had a connection together. The night we spent in each other's arms meant as much to her as it did to me but at the same time I wasn't sure what she wanted, did she want to be with me?. Everything had gone amazingly since I returned; we had kissed and spent the night watching the stars before walking down to the beach to watch the sun come up. For me, my return was a statement but it was a statement without words. I wanted to tell her how I felt. In the afternoon I took her into Naoussa for lunch. I was really nervous; the shaking table an outward expression of this as one of my legs just wouldn't sit still. As we ordered some food she said that the choice of wine was mine. I was still a novice in the wine stakes so I didn't have a clue which one to pick so I took a chance. When the waiter brought the bottle over Heather asked if she could have the cork, a memento. I thought that was such a beautiful thing to do. As we drank some wine and waited for our food I told her how I felt. When she told me she felt the same I was delighted. As I watched her lips release the words my heart was thumping. I've got to be the luckiest man in the world.
The girl:
There can be no doubt the highlight of my summer, my year, was meeting Heather. She is the most incredible person I've ever been lucky to meet. Every day with her fills me with complete joy. When I look at her sometimes I can't actually believe this is happening. I feel like I should pinch myself to make sure that it's not just a dream but I never do because if it is a dream I don't ever want to wake up. She is the kind of girl you dream about, definitely the kind of girl I dream about. When I'm with her I feel top of the world, like I'm invincible or something. One afternoon we took a stroll to Cape Korakas, a headland on the northern most tip of the island. With sound of the waves crashing against the rocks and a lone lighthouse looking out to sea it's a beautiful and tranquil spot. The beautiful view was matched only by the beauty of Heather; she looked radiant as she sat on the rocks, the wind blowing through her hair. With the feeling I had inside me when I looked at her I knew I was falling in love. When I arrived back to the campsite Yorgos had offered me the job of running the campsite bar. By accepting the job it meant I could spend the whole summer with Heather, the prospects of which filled me with complete joy. It was not my plan to work while making my way to Australia. I always felt my savings should have been enough to get me there, despite the huge hole that was blown in them by the 3 weeks spent traveling with Boyce.  It was not for the money I said yes but purely because I wanted to spend every possible second with her. To be honest, the job wasn't vital for that as I had already been thinking that I would stay in Greece from the moment Heather said she wanted to be with me. Taking the job just meant it wouldn't cost me money to be there, however I would have quite happily paid for accommodation in order to spend time with her. Now that I had found Heather I didn't want to let her go.
At times it was difficult for me and Heather to spend quality time together. I would class every second we spent together as quality but because of our differing work schedules it was hard to spend time on our own. Heathers working day would involve a split shift in the mini-market, 8am till 1.30pm and then 6pm till 12am, while I would be working every evening 9pm till generally whatever time the bar was empty. It was not the picture I was expecting when I took the job but we did our best and tried to make the most of it. I would generally get up with her in the mornings and spend the day on the sun lounger outside the mini-market. When there were no customers Heather would join me and we would cuddle up together before cursing the person who disturbed us. In the evenings I would cook us some dinner and we would play 'shithead' before I would have to go to work. I love to cook for her, nurture her. When she tells me the dinner is lovely it makes me feel incredible. When she finishes work at 12am she will come down to the bar and spend some time helping me out. She would serenade me with Kelly Clarkson 'because of you', Matchbox Twenty 'push you down' or my favorite Shaggy 'it wasn't me'. I love it when she sings to me. Generally she would leave the bar at 2 or 3am and head for bed and I would finish the night by myself. This was the way our days went for most of the summer. As a result the lunchtime became the most important time of the day for us. It was our best chance to spend some time alone and away from the campsite. There were times I would spend the morning organizing a romantic picnic on the beach. As a couple, we don't really have 'a song', there are many songs that have meaning for the two of us and the few I mentioned above would be examples of that. I guess if you were to push me for a song id say it would have to be 'diamonds on the soles of her shoes', because of the significance to that night we spend together when I was in Paros first. She is very like me in that we are very sentimental, we look for meaning in songs so it would be very tough for us to have one particular song that represents us as a couple. Man, I've just realized I've gone so far from my original point here. OK, we might not have a song but what we do have is a bottle of wine. It's the brand we drank when we had that first lunch together and told each other how we felt. I would walk into Naoussa in the morning and pick up a bottle, have it nice and chilled. I'd get some nice crusty bread and some taziki, some nice fruit and some ice-cream for desert and we would have a romantic picnic down by the beach. One afternoon when we were on Kolimvythres beach and we were joking about whether Heather would be able to fit in my ruck-sac when I left to continue my travels. As a result of that joke she decided that she would love to come with me. From the moment she said it I was in love with the idea but after all the initial excitement died down I was left thinking about the practical thoughts, her family and her studies. In the days that followed we met those challenges head on. It was arranged that at the end of the summer we would both fly to Scotland so I could meet her family and we would then fly to Budapest to meet my parents. She felt really guilty that it would mean my dream to travel completely overland to Australia would be lost. I didn't feel like I was losing out on anything because I had already gained so much from just meeting her. I also felt it was important for her family to meet me and for me to meet them. In any case dreams change. My dream was now replaced with our dream, dreams we had for one another.
I felt her decision to come away was a decision of magnitude and therefore the occasion needed to be marked, be celebrated. I made arrangements with Lisa for us to have the night off and we went into Parikia for the night. We had planned to watch the sunset in a bar called 'pebbles' which is perched above the seafront giving fantastic views. Unfortunately the Greek taxi driver took a rather long detour on the way meaning that we arrived in Parikia with the sun already having disappeared below the skyline. It was so frustrating sitting in the back as he first drove to his house, was then relieved of his duty by his daughter, only for her to drive through the town stopping to saying hello to everyone in the street.  Determined not to let events spoil the occasion we sipped on champagne, ate strawberries and cream while watching the red sky slowly turn to night. Before dinner we took in another few drinks in a bar called 'Alexandros', a converted windmill right on the water's edge. In the day's running up to that night I had been on the verge many times of saying a particular few words to Heather but I always stopped myself thinking that the timing wasn't right or the location didn't fit. Sitting by the windmill and looking out to sea it was a perfect setting. Taking her hand in mine I told her that her decision to come away meant so much to me and that I wanted this night to illustrate that. I told her that she was amazing to me and I felt so lucky to have her in my life. I told her that my life was better for having her in it, and for the first time I told her 'I love you'. When Heather told me that she had been in love with me since I life Paros originally I was elated, her words had me feeling on top of the world. We continued our celebrations with a delicious Italian dinner with Heather saving the cork from our bottle of wine only for me to lose it later in the night, typical. As we were eating dinner an accordion player passed by and I gave him a few Euros to play a few songs. I even had a go at serenading Heather myself but I imagine the noise I was creating from the music box only succeeded in hurting the ears of the other clientele. When the bill came Heather wouldn't let me pay or even half for that matter and instead she treated me something that no previous girlfriend has even done. Nobody has ever made me feel as special as I did then, it was wonderful of her. After dinner we strolled along the promenade and through the various souvenir shops and stalls. We were laughing uncontrollably with the sight of an old woman grilling corn on the cob in the middle of the street with a hairdryer no less. In one of the souvenir shops I bought Heather this ankle bracelet that had a small bell on it. From the moment she put it on it used to give out a little ring every time she made a step. It is a sound that I love, my heart beats faster every time I hear it for with that tiny song I know my babes is approaching. We continued the night in this Irish bar called 'the Dubliner'. It's actually a mix of bars all under the same roof with the title of the Dubliner. There's an Australian, a Scandinavian, and a rock bar too. There is a cover charge of Eur5 but it's free for Irish people. With Heather being on the end of the arm of an Irish man she was able to get in for free also. Being with me was really paying dividends for her ;0). To my surprise Heather is a fan of Guinness although she prefers it with a drop of blackcurrant in it. I was even more surprised to discover that the Irish bar didn't have Guinness but the Australian 'down under bar' did, strange. We got chatting to the barman over a few pints of Guinness and he was plying us with some free shots of Tequila. At one point Heather noticed a small shamrock teddy hanging on the wall and we began trying to persuade our friendly barman to give it to us. There was no budging him at first but when I offered to pay Eur10 for it we started to get somewhere. In the end he didn't take the Eur10 so we used it to buy some more Tequila shots for the three of us. When we left the bar a short time later we were full of Guinness and Tequila but with a green shamrock teddy under our arms. Catching a lift back to Naoussa with Yorgos we finished the night drinking a glass of wine in a bar by the harbor, waves crashing against the rocks. It was magic and easily the best night of my life.
During the summer Heather got the results of her exams, she aced them. I was so proud of her. We celebrated with Lisa throwing her a champagne breakfast while for lunch Heather and I went to the most picturesque restaurant I've ever seen. With tables looking straight onto the beach and a small cove it was gorgeous. By this time we had access to a car at our lunch breaks so we could explore the island looking for private and secluded beaches to spend our time. The purchase of a bat a bat and ball game provided great entertainment as we struggled to reach our target of 100 hits without the ball hitting the sand.  With 36 ending up as our record we were some way short of achieving our goal. We might have made it only Heather couldn't resist the urge to catch the ball in her hand instead of hitting it with the bat. It must have been her basketball background. We would be laughing hysterically with our failed attempts. Laughter is something that comes so easy when the two of us are together. More often than not we would be laughing so much that we would forget the reason we were laughing in the first place. The more she laughed the more I would laugh. After meeting the girl in a hostel in Bergen who thought I was 40 I had been toying with the idea of dying my hair back its original color. I have been going grey since I was 15 so I figure I've been grey enough years at this stage and will have plenty of time for that in later life. One lunch time I decided that I would get Heather to color it for me. We were laughing so much when we were doing it by the time we finished Heather's hands were black along with my forehead, ears and hands. It was hilarity from start to finish.
When I left Heather to continue traveling with Boyce I felt that I had left a piece of me with her. In Santorini I came across this necklace with a heart shaped volcanic stone attached and when I saw it I felt it rather aptly represented the piece of me I had left behind with Heather. I didn't think I would be seeing Heather so my intention was to post it to her when I got back to Athens and because she was intrigued with the idea of black sand I said I would collect her some and post it with the necklace. Obviously when I returned to Paros I was able to give it to her instead. I had all the sand in a salt shaker so before I gave it to her I took half out and put in the necklace before refilling the sand. I gave it to her with the quote, 'pirates bury their treasure in it so I say go fish'. She looked at me strangely but managed to understand my attempted riddle and began pouring out the sand slowly. The expression on her face when she revealed the necklace was remarkable, never in my life have I felt I did anything more perfect. The obvious emotion in her eyes was touching. She brings out the best in me. I love everything about her. I feel like I'm the luckiest man alive, I'm certainly the happiest I've ever been in my entire life.
The campsite:
During the time spent in the campsite I met some really great people but none more so than my fellow employees. We were a small crew but by the summer's end had grown really close. The captain of the good ship 'Camping Naoussa' was Lisa. She had the thankless task of balancing the day to day running of the campsite while also looking after Dimitris, her 10month old son. Yorgos, her boyfriend had the roll of recruiting people getting off the ferries in Parikia to come and stay at our campsite. Although he worked long hours most of his day involved sitting in cafes drinking frappes with all the rest of the owners of hotels, apartments and campsites. Lisa would be on the go from early in the morning and would not finish till late at night. I used to feel for her trying to balance everything and wherever we could Heather and I would take on whatever tasks needed to be done in an attempt to lighten her load make her life easier. Sometimes that would involve us spending our lunch breaks doing the shopping for the bar or the mini-market. Our lunch breaks were important for us to spend quality time together however the campsite was a team and there was a sense we were all in it together, working everyday and for little monetary rewards. Our rewards became personal ones, our true rewards where the relationships we formed, and the friendships we made. Lisa is an incredible person and always encouraged and supported the relationship of me and Heather right from the very beginning. For that alone she would hold a special place in my heart but she is there in her own right for the type of person she is. She is a wonderful mother to Dimitris and in him is raising the happiest little child I can ever remember coming across. I've never been very good with babies, for some reason we don't seem to get on well together. They always seem to cry when I'm holding them. With Dimitris it was different but that says more about him than it does about me. He would happily sit in my arms and eat his dinner when Id feed him. I used to love it when Heather and I would bring him down to the beach some afternoons. He loved the sand and water and as soon as you took him out of the buggy he would be crawling around all over the place. He liked the water so much he would let me carry him out and sit him on my knee so he could go splashing around. While sitting outside the mini-market all day spending time with Heather as she worked I would also get to spend the time with Dimitris. He is such a clever little fella and you could teach him all sorts of tricks. There was one day I was winking at him and he was just staring at me while I did it and then all of a sudden he started closing his eyes trying to copy me. The feeling I got from believing I had taught him something was fantastic. Heather is Dimitris godmother and Lisa once said in passing that I could be like his godfather. These things can get said without really thinking about them so I would never hold much substance to them but at the same time I was touched by the suggestion. You would be proud to be godfather to 'the chief', in fact I'm just proud to be part of his life in any form. It's not something I think about much but I suppose I would hope to be a father one day. If I have a son and he is half the happy and clever child Dimitris is I will be a very lucky father indeed.
The rest of the camping Naoussa crew were a differing mix of characters. The campsite handy man was a guy called Zayed from Afghanistan. His story is incredible. He is a refuge that had to flee the country but not before having to leave his family behind. He found himself caught up in the unenviable position between the American's and the Taliban. The Taliban were threatening to kill him if he didn't help them in their cause while on the opposite side the Americans were trying to get him to help them with information. In the end he fled by traveling through Pakistan and Iran before working in Turkey and now Greece. He was working crazy hours in the campsite for little money but the majority was being sent back to his family. I felt really sorry for him in many ways, leaving his wife and kids behind must have broke his heart but also he was a teacher back in Afghanistan, a good profession but is now reduced to being a handy man on a campsite. The whole thing just seemed so wrong. Every day he was always smiling and a great guy to chat to. I had a lonely planet guide book of central Asia and he was flicking through it one day showing me his village and telling me about the local customs. His objective is to try and get a passport so he can get his family out to join him. Unfortunately Greece is not issuing passports to refugees anymore so he has a dream of trying to get to England where it will be easier there. He will have a long road ahead of him to make it that far.
The mad Monika that had played such an integral part in the chain of events that led to me meeting Heather had been fired in the time that elapsed since I was last on the island. Her madness finally got the better of her it seems. Her replacement was a guy called Christos. He is from Switzerland but is half Greek at the same time. A total gentleman and we would have some nice chats down in the bar while I plied him from of Tequila. His partner in crime was our receptionist, Michalis. He is from a suburb of Athens and as a result of studying in England his spoken English was excellent and his 'borat' style sense of humor very funny. He was not a big drinker but that never prevented me from mixing him mightily strong cocktails to send him to bed happy. Tsip was a Romanian guy who worked in a hotel bar during the day but would work in the port with Yorgos and Christos during the night. With his dark shades and baseball cap he saw himself as a bit of a cool dude. I thought he was a bit odd at first but by the end of the summer I had changed my opinion. I think he was a little misunderstood. As he was a trained barman he was a big help to me with the cocktails in the early days of getting the bar going. We were team camping Naoussa.
The job:
I had absolutely no previous experience working behind before accepting the job; a stint of glass collecting was as much bar experience as I'd ever had, well except for my drinking exploits. My drinking experiences didn't extend too many types of cocktails so I was going to have to learn an extensive list. I was excited by the prospects but to be honest nervousness was the overriding emotion. I felt it was a risk for Yorgos and Lisa to give me the job in the first place and I figured that it was in no small part due to my blossoming relationship with Heather. I was keen to not let any of them down and to make a success of the venture. The first order of business was the bar design. To start with all we had was a bar worktop so everything else was a blank canvas of sorts. In the main it was Heather and Lisa who provided the inspiration and I took the role more of hired muscle. With the promise of endless sunny days and the beautiful Kolimvythres beach being a stone's throw away from the campsite, the surroundings became our muse for creating a beach themed ambiance. To achieve our vision we had shells lining the bar and cushions on the floor next to small tables, inspiration from the beach bars of Goa. With a fridge and the all important alcohol on order, all that was left to do was to give our little project a name. It would be called 'Feathers' after the girl herself
In my role as barman it was my job not just to serve the drinks but also to get the people in the door and parting with their money. From the 16th of July onwards the summer season is at its peak with August traditionally being the busiest month. The campsite can hold up to 500 people and August would generally see numbers in or around that figure. When we opened we were at about 100 to 150 occupancy levels so it was a slow start to the season. The clientele was generally made up of coach tours with school kids from France and Italy so although there were a lot of people around they were not the category of folk I was trying to attract. In the beginning it was tough, I would be organizing theme nights with different drink promotions each night and sometimes it would go well but then other nights the bar would be dead but for just a few people. One of the early success stories was a reggae night which attracted quite a big crowd but the very next night I had a rock night where if you saw a tumble weed blowing through the bar you would not have been surprised, it was like someone died. One advantage to the quiet early nights was that I had some time to practice my cocktail making. It was hit or miss for awhile as you either got paralytic drunk with one or you were as sober as a judge. There was no middle ground. With my chemistry and pharmaceutical background I would have thought that mixing the concoctions would have come easy to me but it was no such luck. However my lack of skill still didn't stop me christening myself with the nickname Dr.Mixer, much to Heathers amusement. In fairness she was the one with all the skills, her taste buds were finely tuned and it was me that provided the donkey work. Under her tutelage I was molded into a bit of an expert and was getting rave reviews for my mojito's, margaritas, sex on the beach, kamakazi, tequila sunrise, cuba libre, pina colada, the list just goes on and on. We even came up with a few of our own, 'sunrise temptation' and 'nice drink' to name but two. I could tell you what went into them but I'd have to kill you all, so their ingredients will remain a secret, we don't want anyone stealing our ideas. However if you're lucky I might get my magic hands to whip you up a sample some day.
There was a BBQ area in the campsite and most people staying in the early days were always in there playing cards and what not. These were my target audience. For one of our promotions we came up with the idea of everybody getting a welcome shot on entry into the bar. I'd whip up a batch of kamakazi every night, made from vodka, triple sec and lemon juice, especially for this purpose but it didn't make the impact I thought it might. I then developed the idea further by actually walking around the campsite with trays of shots to try and get people in the mood. I can't say I ever had much success doing that either. I used to say that Heather was always great for getting people in the door; and once they were in I was able to keep them there. It was a learning process for me in the beginning. It took me a little time to discover what the big draw in terms of drinking promotions was and what type of music best catered for the differing types of people staying at the campsite. By the time we hit August the occupancy levels of the campsite were reaching 350 so it became a great deal easier to draw people in. The one difficulty with this summer compared to previous summers was that the campsite was dominated by Greek holiday makers and the Greeks just aren't big drinkers. They are the type that will sit nursing a beer for hours and then buy a big bottle of water and go to bed. I'm not joking you; the Greeks have this crazy obsession with bottled water. The majority of nights I would close the bar at 4 or 5am and as I would be putting everything away id start to hear this rustling coming from the bushes. The first time it happened I was looking out into the darkness wondering what it could be only to see Greek after Greek emerge looking for bottles of water. It was like a river of Greeks and with every single one I would have the same conversation, 'big or small bottle?'. The best nights the bar had was when there were lots of Australians, Irish, Scottish, American and English staying in the campsite. They know how to party. The biggest night of the summer was a fancy dress with 'superheroes' being the theme. I was a little worried that we might not be able to pull it off, it's not as though people come away on holidays with fancy dress costumes in their luggage. We had a big group of Australians staying at the campsite and they were very enthusiastic about the chance to dress up so I need not have worried. I'd love to say that the event was one of my bright ideas but again I have to hand all the plaudits over to Heather for it was she who came up with the concept. She is so good at coming up with ideas that I often felt she should be running the bar and not me. She seemed to have a better knack at it. We often joked that one day we would own a bar and restaurant where she would run the bar side of things while I looked after the food. We may have been joking but in truth I think it could make for a great venture, I'm pretty sure that between the two of us we could make a right go of something like that. All you would need to do is find a part of the world that is not quite discovered by tourism yet but one that will be attracting interest in years to come, maybe somewhere in central America or even Albania which would be much closer to home. Buy up a nice piece of land by a beach somewhere and get your place up and running. If you get in early enough you could get the land cheap and build yourself a nice little business. Tourism will always be big industry, people will never stop wanting to explore and see the world and if you can offer them sun, sea, and a good time you won't go too far wrong. Heather didn't just stop at the idea for the theme night she also gave birth to the idea of my costume, 'banana man'. It was fantastic and if it wasn't for the fact that the staff couldn't win the general consensus was that I would have taken home the first prize. I had a yellow mop head with a green handle to put over my head and with a yellow towel wrapped around me and yellow marigold rubber gloves for my hands I looked fantastic. Heather went as 'eurotrash girl' while Lisa was a Scottish superhero. Everybody that made the effort looked fantastic and the bar was packed with people. In the nights that had preceded the fancy dress party I had ruffled the feathers of the owner of a small hotel down the road from the campsite. He was constantly on the phone to Yorogs giving out about the music being too loud which in turn resulted in Yorogs giving out to me about it. As the correspondence was never to me directly and always on the phone I didn't give it much thought I have to say, that was until the hotel owner decided to make a complaint in person. Typically the night he chose to express this annoyance was the night of our fancy dress. With a raucous party in full swing and a growing queue looking for drinks I turned to see an old gentleman standing aghast while contemplating the scene in front of him. He looked so out of place that I went over to see if I could help him with anything. He then asked me who was in charge. When I replied that it was me he was dumbfounded as he looked me up and down. Pulling me to one side he explained that he was the owner of the hotel and proceeded to blow a fuse. He was so angry I was nearly expecting steam to start coming from his ears. While he went on about how many times he has had to complain and that every night the music is too loud I was just nodding in agreement. The fact that I was dressed like a banana and had a mop on my head only seemed to antagonize the man further. By the end of his barrage of abuse he was so red in the face and gasping for breath I thought he was in danger of having a heart attack. Promising that I would turn down the music and that it would be the last time he would have to complain he made his exit. Two nights passed before he was on the phone again, at least this time he didn't feel the need to see me face to face, or should I say face to banana. He was probably afraid to come down. For the rest of the summer it was a battle of wills but from my point of view with Yorgos getting angrier with each phone call it became a real headache for me. Every night I would get it in the ear about the music so much so that by the end of the summer I had had more than enough.
It might have been Heather that spawned the majority of the successful ideas but I did manage to fit in one or two of my own, the biggest of which turned out to be an 'Irish night'. There were two girls from Cork staying at the campsite and it was one of their birthdays during this time. They were great girls and I got on real well with them. I have to say that most of the Irish people that stayed in the campsite were really nice people and good company to have around. I know I can give my own race of people a bad rap sometimes but I always feel it's deserved when I do. I don't ever mean to offend anyone it's just that I'm honest and I call things as I see them. Having said that nobody can say I can't give credit where credit is due, and this would be one of those times. In fact the only problem I had with a few of the Irish was that because the bar man was Irish they would take liberties and push the boundaries all the time. I always had a problem giving change to people purely because I never had any. To get around this problem I generally ran a bar tab and got people to settle up at the end of the night. In the main it was a good system and it worked well, until it came to some of the Irish that is. So many would just leave the bar and go off into town for the night thinking it was OK to pay the next day. It probably wasn't that big a deal but it's not like they would come up to you to pay what they owe, I would always have to go chasing them for it and listen to excuses as to why they did not have it on them now but would have it for me later. Anyway, I'm getting away from my original story, sorry about that. Where was I, ah yes...these two Cork girls were good craic. The first night they arrived I kept the bar open till 8am, the latest night ever. They were starting to serve breakfast when I was starting to shut the shop, I'm not joking. I didn't have any specific closing times, the bar opened at 9pm and I closed when either the bar emptied or there was no fun to be had. For the night of her birthday I put together an Irish night with tri-color balloons on the walls and id downloaded all kinds of Irish music from Van the man to the Sawdoctors. We threw her a massive party; Heather even bought her a cake. The bar was packed and it turned into one of the best nights of the summer.
There was one problem that came with being successful. The better I became at organizing theme nights the more money we would make but also the busier the night the harder my job became. When Heather finished in the mini-market at 12am she would always come down to the bar and give me a hand but other than that it was a one man operation. The fridge that was ordered at the start of the summer never arrived so I had to use a fridge in the kitchen meaning that anytime somebody ordered a bottle of beer I would have to leave the bar and go to the kitchen to retrieve it. As we didn't have beers on tap this journey would be made continuously over the course of a night. In the main it didn't bother me that much but there were times when it was really busy that I found myself getting really stressed out and feel like I was always chasing my tail running around the place. There was one night when we had a fire performer staying at the site and we got him to put on a show for us. The bar was empty during the show but when it finished everybody came in at the same time. People would be shouting their orders from all parts of the bar I would be struggling to keep up. Then someone would order 4 mojito's for example and to make them takes time so the queue never really got the chance to dissipate. At the same time I'm also trying to keep a track of people's tabs while in between I'd be running over and back to the kitchen getting bottles of beer. It was a real tough night and because I was getting myself so stressed about it I wasn't enjoying myself and customers would be asking 'where is the happy barman?' that I should be the life and soul of the party. To cut a long story short, by the end of the night I had reached breaking point. I struggle to cope with stress and I felt that I was going to crack up. I'm not joking I was close to tears on more than one occasion. The next night I tried to put the previous experience behind me and start with a clean slate but I was nervous and dreading going to work. In an attempt to relax and get into the party mood, be the happy smiling barman that everyone wanted I started to have a few drinks. This was nothing unusual as I always had a few drinks during the night but on this particular night I didn't have any dinner and by the middle of it I was really drunk. I got through the night, somehow, but when I went to cash up I had hardly any money in my till. When I say till I actually mean pint glass. I knew that it had been a good night so I was convinced that I must have lost money or it was stolen from behind the bar. Going to bed I decided that I couldn't do anything about it until the morning and would have to explain what happened to Lisa then. At the end of every night I would have the campsite keys and would leave them in the pint glass with my takings and Heather would collect them both when she went to open the mini-market in the mornings. On this morning Heather couldn't find the keys to the shop and was late opening up. With me being still drunk I couldn't remember where I had left them, I thought they were in the glass as per usual. After 20Min's we still hadn't found them and by this time the normally placid Lisa was starting to get annoyed. Eventually I found them in my shirt pocket and the panic was over. Unfortunately then I had to tell her about the missing money. Needless to say that didn't go down well but she wasn't blaming me, at least not until Yorgos told her that he had gone down to the bar during the night and had seen that I was fairly drunk. On seeing this he thought it best to take the majority of the cash and leave me with just a small float, he told me he was doing it but because of my state I didn't remember. Understandably Lisa went mad at me but also at Heather because she felt it was her fault for not keeping an eye on me. I was already upset because I had let Lisa down and because I felt I couldn't cope doing the job anymore but I was also upset that Lisa was mad at Heather as I felt it wasn't her fault for she had her own job to do and was only in the bar to help me out. I was brought to tears at one point and felt that I had enough so I asked Lisa to find someone better to run the bar. It was horrible; the honeymoon period was well and truly over. Thankfully by the day's end we all sat down to talk and we sorted everything out. I had put myself under so much pressure to make a success of the bar and to not let Lisa down that I took on too much. Instead of asking for help or letting people know I was struggling to cope I tried to sort it out myself but only ended up making things worse. As it was nearing the end of the season I stayed on but I can tell you I didn't drink very much after that. The guilt at letting Lisa down was too much.
To sum up the experience I would have to say that on the whole I enjoyed it. Would I do it again? no chance. I'm not saying that I wouldn't like to work behind a bar again in fact I think I'd like to try it again but in a bar with more staff and properly organized. It was nice to get the experience and I loved making all the cocktails and inventing a few of my own. In my opinion making cocktails is a real science. I also enjoyed getting the chance to work and live on a beautiful island like Paros but I wouldn't do it again, the money just isn't worth it. With the joy that came with meeting and falling in love with Heather, the joy that I got from meeting Lisa and Dimitris, the joy that came from meeting Zayed, Michalis and Christos, I feel like I want to end the Paros chapter on a high point. I think we all deserve that much so it's for this reason that I impart to you one of the more funny experiences I had while running the bar. Actually, it's more of a shocking story but I having a feeling that the majority of you will probably get a kick out of it;
As I mentioned before, Heather was always good at getting people in the door of the bar and I was good at keeping them there once they started drinking. During the course of the summer I would have lots of regulars, some for a few weeks while others were for the entire duration of the summer. This one guy, a retired teacher from Athens, is an annual visitor to the campsite every summer. He taught languages and could speak 5 or 6 different languages himself. He was keen to know about the Irish language so every night I would teach him a few different words and he would return the favor to me with some Greek expressions. He was a nice man if not a little boring at times but talking to him helped to pass the quiet early hours just after opening the bar. One night I began to get the vibe from him that he might be gay, he was a little camp but it was more from the things he said rather than the way he dressed or acted. If he was gay or not, it was of no interest to me completely none of my business. Then one night I felt he was starting to insinuate that I might be gay as some of the things he said would be laced with innuendo. With English not being his first language I felt there was possibility that I could be taking him up wrong so I didn't want to say anything directly so I would casually slip into the conversation that I had a girlfriend and that she works in the campsite and that I'm very much in love and feel lucky to have met her. Although everything I said is true I was saying it more just to let him know that I wasn't gay. On the night of the fancy dress, as I explained already, my costume involved me having a yellow towel wrapped around me while underneath I was just wearing a pair of boxer shorts. The gentlemen in question used to always sit at the edge of the bar so I would always have to walk past him to get to the kitchen for beers. On my way back to the bar he starts to grab at my towel to have a look underneath. I'm laughing nervously trying not to offend him but at the same time I'm trying to remove his vice like grip when he pulls it right up to reveal my boxer shorts. I'm still laughing when he eventually lets go but what he said next still haunts me to this day. You have to try and picture what he looks like as he says it, he's not quite angry but he's very forceful and with one finger pointing at me the whole time. I quote "ah you are wearing the shorts; I thought you would be wearing the string. The next time you will be wearing the string for me, and it will be white. The string will be white and wet......" I've highlighted the important words for even greater effect.  I'm getting a shiver up and down my spine typing the words. Thank you Paros and goodnight!
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