A Cretan Holiday changes a successful woman’s life...
On their first evening in a luxury Elounda hotel, two forty-something, single professionals bump into Cretan Kharilaos. Unable to say his name, they settle for Harry. Judy quite fancies him but he seems to prefer Caroline. In a fit of displaced pique, Judy soon suggests he could be a charlatan and renames him Harry the ‘Louse’, a slang word for a despicable man who is devious and scheming with women. Yet Caroline is drawn to the well-read, property rich, crisis-hit gentleman, whom she believes doesn’t deserve the unkind epithet.
When Harry introduces Niko to Judy, the name Nick o’Louse surfaces, but it is quickly forgotten and the women agree to stop wrangling and shelve the ‘louse’ nicknames, unless...
Then Harry suffers a major setback, giving Caroline a chance to capitalise. Just who is the innocent abroad?
Will Harry get his hands on Caroline’s hidden assets before another, or will she seize and doctor his family jewels?
Below are some excerpts for you to read:
Damn, she cursed herself, half wishing she could grab the words back and swallow them...
Yet she couldn’t and her friend pounced cat-like on a twittering bird, “I don’t believe this Caroline. You’re telling me you thought about it, but the only thing that stopped you was not having any alcohol in your room. What would Adam and Naomi think? You’re a responsible granny, for heaven’s sake.”
“So I am – and in a few years I shall be retiring, apart from a bit of locum work. I should never have returned to work after...” She blindly stared through the sun’s glare eastwards as if she could see the tragedy that changed her life. “My kids seem to think they have to fill my every free minute; if I let them have their way I’ll be spending all my time looking after my grandchildren. Much as I love them, just a few hours at the weekend has me knackered. It’s a poisoned chalice; I love ’em to bits...but love ’em to go. Now I’m on holiday and I’m going to live my life, my way, perhaps even stupidly while I can and without an invisible stethoscope around my neck, strangling the life out of me. It was bad enough teasing off a thirty year-old wedding ring when memories held it fast, but I want to be a woman again for a change, not only a bloody doctor, psychologist and granny. What makes the world believe we doctors have all the answers anyway? I don’t have them for myself...so how would I know the right thing to say to some lovelorn thing?”
“At least you can hand out a prescription as a consolation prize.”
All across the plateau backsides were in the air with locals and teams of Pakistani labourers, that otherwise stayed out of sight, responding to the demands of their backbreaking seasonal labour. Piled high were plastic boxes full of tomatoes, potatoes and everywhere the fertile soil gave life to thousands of cabbages, cauliflowers and a host of other produce. All around the growing crops were sinuous lines of plastic pipes carrying essential water. Caroline was reminded of her own Somerset fields around the levels between Langport and Bridgwater although there was very little pasture and few animals to be seen. Satisfied that his guests had seen a good cross section of the plateau’s output he declared that they should take their final photographs and he would head off home by his chosen circuitous route.
The car wound its way up out of the valley to where a sizeable row of disused and tumbledown windmills dominated the skyline. Adjacent was a large taverna with several tourist coaches awaiting Hobson’s-choice customers. Both women grabbed their cameras when Harry pulled over. He suggested that once they had taken pictures looking back on the plateau and the windmills they might like to walk up and over the brow of the hill some three hundred metres where another panoramic area towards Heraklion invited camera-clicking tourists.
The taxi dropped them by the harbour. The driver pointed them towards the inner lagoon, which he claimed was the most photographed piece of water in the whole of Crete. He told them if they showed his card in any shop, he would be called to meet them where he had dropped them off.
They walked slowly toward some brightly coloured awnings covering tables and chairs where people were sitting over drinks and food. Tourists were milling around, many pointing their cameras at a lake with a myriad of tied-up small boats. These gave additional interest to the pictures, as did the hillside with towering restaurants that looked down on the water.
“Coffee?” asked Judy.
“No, I think I’d like a nice long cool beer, by way of a change.”
A woman with a notepad had just been speaking what Caroline reckoned had been pretty good German at the adjacent table and now asked in good English what they would like her to bring them, “How could you tell we were English?” asked Judy.
The woman laughed, “I have two ears, I hear German in one and your English in the other, all tourists in this hot weather look much the same so I must be prepared.”
As the boat approached the island, it struck them just how effective a fortification it appeared to be. Caroline thought she’d read in the guidebook that it was a Venetian defence at some time and was used to protect, among other things, the ancient, yet active, Roman salt beds that played a useful role in Elounda’s economy right up to the late 19th century.
The closer they came the more formidable it appeared. The boat fare was only for the crossing and back so when they disembarked they bought their tickets for the island’s attractions and went straight to the displays in an old cottage, just inside the main gate.
Caroline was trying to assess the impact of leprosy – trying to imagine what it must have been like, as a doctor back in the early fifties, having to tell some poor frightened wretch of a girl with early symptoms that she was to be sent there. She pictured the fear in her eyes that signalled she knew she would probably stay there for the rest of her life.
They wandered around, soaking up the ghostly atmosphere, each trying to visualise the scene as it might have been a hundred years before. Caroline had a vision of her small girl fetching water from the well for an old lady whose hands could not hold a bucket and the old lady thanking her and telling her without a thought that she used to do the same thing when she had first come there.
Before them was a large village with a sign proclaiming Fourni, nestling white-walled and scattered-wide amongst the surrounding mountains, “I fancy a coffee,” said Judy, “if you should see a café.”
“Coffee?” said Judy trembling, bugger coffee – I’m not driving.”
“Oh yes you are – I’ve done my bit for a while.”
As they trickled down the main street, a huge church appeared on the left and in the road outside, were ten or so Greeks sitting talking, smoking and drinking at tables underneath what looked like a row of mulberry trees, “Do you think they do coffee,” said Caroline. She leant out of her open window and addressed the crowd dubiously, “Does anybody speak English high up here?”
All heads turned toward a couple sitting at the table nearest the church. The man stood up with a pained expression and answered in a contrived falsetto, “How high do you want your English? I can’t keep it up this high for long!”
“Oh, all right, well done!” said Caroline, chuckling for setting herself up for the man’s leg pull, “okay, relax your gonads; we just want to know if they do coffee here?”
Back they hurtled, bra straps tested almost to breaking point. Abruptly the fairground ride journey stopped, “C’mon you two, let’s eat fish,” called Simon, dashing off like a playful puppy before waiting.
They sat outside, next to the small waterway that gave the tavern its name, Kanali, The Canal.
A waiter was soon dressing their table, then another came with a basket of fresh bread and rolls. Simon practised his very English-sounding Greek with the wine waiter whose English was impressive, yet off he went apparently knowing exactly what was wanted, while another appeared with the menus. As they studied the dishes, a fishing boat went chugging by, then disappeared under the bridge into the lagoon.
“I don’t know about you three,” Seb said, shaking his head, “but I keep deciding then changing my mind – I’m just going around in circles. Look, shall we choose our own starters, but for the main course have the fish platter for four; have you seen what’s included?”
“I’m all for that; there’s just about everything you could ask for: shrimps, mussels, crab, whitebait and even salmon and sea bass,” said Judy.
“Okay everyone?” asked Seb, “now what about starters?”
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