Thursday, 6 July 2017

Nothing Quite Like it for Cooling the Blood

"The Hippopotamus" was one of the most popular songs of Flanders and Swann, a British comedy duo that were regularly to be heard on the radio when I was growing up. Part of the lyrics of that song go like this:

'Mud, mud, glorious mud,
Nothing quite like it for cooling the blood.
So follow me follow,
Down to the hollow,
And there let us wallow
In glorious mud."

Now, if you're a hippo then those sentiments will no doubt resonate with a degree of truth. If, however you're an excursion escort and you're only at stop number three at 8.20am on a full-day excursion on a Greek island, then you may have good reason to disagree. Having stopped twice to collect two couples on our Rhodes-by-Day excursion last week, we arrived at the bus stop near the Lardos Beach and Olive Garden Hotels in southern Rhodes for our third 'pick-up'. There, as per usual, we pulled up and I jumped down from the coach to receive the tickets from two more couples, who duly climbed aboard. 

You may be aware that of late we've been experiencing some unusually high temperatures here and, thus, the landscape is parched and the vegetation straw-like and yellow. So the last thing you'd expect to find just a couple of feet behind you as you stand with your clipboard at the side of the road checking names and ticket numbers is a huge, wet, gooey, sticky patch of deep yellow-brown mud.

As I was about to climb back aboard the coach, the wind took one of the tickets that I'd just collected from my guests, who were now safely aboard the coach. I need to retain all of these tickets and get them back to the office for them to tally the tickets with the lists to make sure that all who booked the excursion turned up and so on. Ever the diligent rep, I instinctively gave chase to the flying ticket, not realising that literally right behind me there was a sprinkler going full pelt watering an unnecessary lawn on the grass verge in front of the Lardos Bay Hotel. Don't even get me started on my view of sprinklers and hotel lawns with the current water crisis here on Rhodes.

Anyway, no sooner had I given chase to the escaped ticket when I found myself in at least six inches of very wet mud, not only very wet mud, but very wet and slippery mud. Just as I managed to grab the offending ticket I became aware that I was sliding and losing my balance. Beneath me was a sea of gunge with just the occasional green blade of grass poking through hopefully.

You know how at some moments, perhaps owing to your senses not accepting the current status quo, time seems to stand still momentarily while you mentally deny that what's actually happening to you is really happening? You don't? Ah well, that's my theory out the window then. In my case though, there was this split second when my mind was telling me, "No, no! You've got clean shorts and a clean t-shirt on, you have to get back on board a clean coach with guests already aboard, you aren't really going to go flat on your back in a morass of filthy, wet mud are you?" 

In this case, I was wrong. Before I could do anything about it I was laying in this clingy, gluey, glutinous, viscous cloddy mass of mud. My feet, clad, as luck would have it, in a pair of 100% plastic sandals, were shod in the stuff, to the extent that you couldn't even see what I was wearing on them. Both of my hands went into it up to my wrists as I tried to break my fall. The back of my shorts and the lower back area of my cream-coloured t-shirt had inch-thick clods of the stuff clinging to them. I'd just been able to fling my clipboard clear before hitting the ground, so at least that was virtually mud-free. Apart from a few spots of collateral spray that is. The act of getting up necessitated more shoving of my hands deep into this horrible mire. By the time I was vertical again the six or eight guests already on the coach must have been crying with mirth. Well, perhaps those who'd already calculated the potential disruption to our day's schedule might just have displayed a degree of dismay over what was going to have to be done to get this show back on the road. I managed to squelch my way to the doorway of the coach, so that Nikos the driver could see what a sorry sate I was now in, having absolutely no idea how we were going to fix this situation. 

There was no question of my getting back on board the coach. Everything was absolutely filthy and huge clods were still clinging to my shorts, my arms and legs, my feet and my back. Let's face it peeps, you don't expect to discover such conditions when the temperature's already 40ºC at 8.20am on a parched Greek island in July, do you? I was in a state of total disbelief, coupled with panic at what we could do about it.

Nikos, fast thinking fellow that he is (well, occasionally) got down from the bus, not sure whether to fall about with mirth or punch me for screwing up the schedule of pick-ups for the morning. He gazed around and, sure enough, just the other side of the narrow access road below this pointless stretch of would-be lawn (where the sprinkler was still going, offering me just a slight element of relief from the oppressive heat), there was another lawned area in front of the hotel's reception pull-in. Laying coiled on the edge of that lawn was, amazingly, a length of yellow hose pipe, which was connected just meters away to a tap, where the water pipe rose out of the ground. 

I only had two alternatives, take all my clothes off or get Nikos to hose me down in what I stood up in, to get all of this hideous yellow, viscous mud off of my clothes, hair, skin...

Only the second option seemed to make sense and so I told him, "Go on, go for it." Did his eyes display the faintest hint of exhilaration and glee as he hit me with the water jet? Surely not. Fortunately, this got most of the mud off, but still left me standing in sopping wet clothes. No way could I sit on the rep's seat at the front of the coach in this condition. Nikos had the solution. 

"Stand up until we get to the Pefkos Office, Johnny [he always calls me Johnny, grr!], and then I'll pop into the supermarket next door and buy a towel for you to sit on."

Thus, having only lost about ten minutes in the end, we set off again, with me asking the guests over the mike if they'd enjoyed the floor show (You have to display humour in such circumstances, don't you?) and I then found myself fretting over the fact that my rather posh pen was still almost completely covered in mud. Nikos had to lend me his for the day, while I allowed mine to sit on a piece of tissue and dry out. This is how it looked when I got it home that evening...

...and this is how it's supposed to look...

I'm not exaggerating when I say that I was covered in mud in much the same way as that pen! My wife, bless her, cleaned it up for me [the pen] when I got home (little treasure she is) and it's now back where it belongs, inside my clipboard. By around midday of course, my clothes had all dried out, but as I walked around Rhodes Town killing time I'm sure people who looked at my shorts and t-shirt, not to mention my forearms, from which I was still picking dried clumps even hours after the event, must have thought I was a construction worker on his break.

Only when I got home that evening, desperate for a good thorough shower, did I find out that I'd spent the entire day with a couple of clods hanging from the back of my head, enmeshed in my hair. Must have given a few people cause to wonder, eh? I do often feel like my brain's muddied after all.

That very same evening we did the excursion again, as "Rhodes by Night" this time. Nikos is never a particularly cheery soul, it's just his nature. But I've never seen him laughing so much as he did that night when I turned up to start our run of pick-ups. On occasion his head hit the steering wheel he was laughing that much, all the time repeating "Johnny, Johhny, ααχ, Johnny!"

See, now, here this event gives me cause to sound off about the water situation again. Just two days ago the local paper reported that some political bigwig in Rhodes town has referred to the situation here on Rhodes as critical. 

Right, so, now, let me get this straight. In the UK, where it rains any time of the year, you get two weeks of dry weather and there's a hosepipe ban right away. Here they shut off the water supply to entire villages for hours, even days, at a time to ensure that the tourists can have showers in their en-suites and the hotel pools remain full to their infinity brims. Of course, they're still guzzling gallons using sprinklers to water their ridiculous lawns, as I found out to my cost. In fact, on the Facebook page of the local Rodiaki newspaper just this past week the report about this eminent politician's comments carried some interesting responses from local Greeks that well echo my own sentiments.

"Tell the hotel owners that the villagers will be turning up this evening, all bringing their own soap and shampoo, so they can have a wash in the hotel pools."

"Why the hell have we still no desalination plants on Rhodes? Τhey've seen this coming for years."

'Why not levy a condition on every new hotel - compulsory - install your own desalination plant, by law. After all, the vast majority of these are right by the sea?"

"I wonder if the areas where the politicians live are having their domestic water shut off."

One poor ex-pat (in his 70's by the way) who I used to work with posted on his Facebook page that his village was without both water and electricity during the hideous heatwave we just endured here. Temperatures were in the mid 40's (over 110ºF) for several days and still the upper 30's overnight. He railed against DEYAR, the water company, who'd rather unhelpfully told residents to be patient. Some know-all Brit living in the UK had replied that my friend was a whinger and ought to count his blessings. I would venture the suggestion that if your WC was stinking due to being full of c**p for a couple of days and you had no way of either washing or keeping cool you may just think slightly differently - especially when the charges for domestic water have skyrocketed in the last few years.

OK, rant over. But it is a really serious situation that's developing here on Rhodes, with yet more huge multi-pooled hotels under construction (brown envelopes flying in all directions - allegedly). In fact, there has now been an announcement that anyone caught washing their yard or terrace with a hose pipe instead of a mop and bucket risks a fine of 1,000 Euro. As someone pointed out (also on Facebook) though - who's going to police this then? How about fining hotels 50,000 Euros for every sprinkler that's still working?

Next post will be lighthearted. Promise! Now, where did I put my old Michael Flanders and Donald Swann LP..?

A postscript to the rant about the water situation:
In no way am I criticising tourists. Well, apart from having major issues with the 'all-inclusives" of course. No, we need tourists and holidaymakers to come to Rhodes and indeed Greece in general. Yes tourism is exasperating the problems with the water supply, but that's not the fault of the tourists themselves. It's the fault of the water company and local government, who have failed abysmally to plan ahead for the explosion in hotel construction coupled with successive dry winters.

1 comment:

  1. Oh what a pity there's no photo of you to illustrate this tale. Sorry to laugh but I also have sympathy as one who fell flat on her face in the mud whilst out walking in the UK one Feb. Had to walk several more miles cold, wet & muddy!
    On the water front, I wonder if the tourists were made more aware of the water problems they might reduce the number of showers they have etc. I feel many don't realise how serious it is. I remember days of Greek holidays when the water would run out especially on on small islands.