No. 85 The Man from Lyon to Paris

We travelled a long way with short exchanges. Dark skin, stubble and he smelt of diesel. He was hot, his truck exporting ice.
We were in a convoy driving to Paris. All vehicles stopped at the same rather lovely French restaurant, just off the autoroute. We sat on a table with the trucker we’d originally hitched a lift from, others joined us and before long the table was full of big strong hunks of men. The man to my right chatted to me in French.  I smiled and he gestured I could sleep in his bunk and worked out I could get about ‘cinq’ hours sleep. I was excited to be so nearly home, sleeping would make the journey faster, our trucker and Marni had talked nonstop (she had done A level French) it had been annoying as I’d wanted to sleep.
“I’d rather we stayed together” Marni said, but with free carafes of wine on the table I was having none of it.
I left my stuff with Marni in her truck, ruck sack, passport the lot, just took Yvon’s (our French Pelekas thief’s) sleeping bag.
“See ya in Paris” I said as I jumped into my new truckie’s truck.
I tried to sleep behind his driving seat but I couldn’t and was beginning to regret my decision to go it alone. I nearly drifted off but the engine slowed down as my driver pulled off the autoroute. No longer a smooth road, I sat up and looked out of the window and into the darkness. The head lights shone on a track with tall trees either side shadowing onto the track.  He pulled off the track and stopped in the middle of a forest.
I did try to tell him I had a boyfriend but he didn’t understand me.  I pointed at my wedding ring finger but he still didn’t understand and I had no ring on it anyway, my rings went with the Greek thieves and I knew this could be worse than the Greek thief I went with one drunken night (I missed him out, buried him in Pelekas graveyard memory, but now I had a flash back of the pink jumper he sweated from) this could also be worse than the Leo Sayer lookalike (No. 22) and the lockjaw. Knowing it could be worse made it easier.  Inside my head I recited ‘Derek and Clive’ .. ‘I was walking down the road one day and I saw a house on fire .. laugh …’ etc.  And I laughed inside, there was no knife, no torture – I’d got away lightly, and was quite proud of myself.  There was no such thing as a free lunch, free carafe of wine or a free bed for the night. Just a learning curve and if it turned out I had HIV, then I hoped he would have it too.

It felt like days had passed before Marni and I were reunited in a layby on the outskirts of Paris. She was later than me, her driver had stopped for a kip.  Marni and I waved off the convoy.
“Get much sleep?” she asked.
“A bit, you?”
“Yeah, the wine knocked me out.”
“Me too”

(No. 31) Fraser moves down

Before leaving Pelekas I’d received a letter from Fraser in response to a letter I’d written to the prison governor at HMP Saughton, pleading for him to be moved to a London prison.  Fraser had instructed me to write that I was his long term partner, he had fallen out with his family and that he would receive more support in London than in Edinburgh.

My letter worked, I had made sure no grains of Pelekas sand had got in the envelope and had sent it to Foggie to post for me in England so it didn’t look like I was abroad. The governor had surprisingly taken our relationship seriously and Fraser was moved to HMP Wandsworth. I had a duty when I got back to London and was keen to get to it.  I wished the dice had landed on No. 4 and we were going home.

Marni and I travelled round Europe – her excited because she loved travelling – I depressed because I didn’t ever really like travelling but didn’t know it then.   My legs were tired and the summer was gone.  I was cold, skint and longing to be home and receiving Visitor Orders for HMP Wandsworth where Fraser would now be waiting.
We stayed in Dubrovnic, Split, Florence, Rome, Pisa and nice Nice where I hated all the umbrellas. Our last stop would be Paris then home to sort out my life, do an HIV test, get a job, stop signing on, stop shagging about, stop hanging about with Foggie (cause it would wind Fraser up), stop drinking, stop throwing up, stop taking drugs. I was about to add – get into a decent band – but my hands were numb, fingers pins and needlesy, there would be no way I could play keyboards and I needed drink and drugs for the confidence to play the keyboards anyway so perhaps this was the sign to stop – STOP – stop everything.  I thought about Fraser and briefly envied him in his secure dwelling where he didn’t have the stresses of conventional living.

We were hitch hiking and had just enough money to get a ferry and keep us in booze.  The nearer we got to England the more I drank and the higher my spirits became.  When we got home Fraser and me would be the new we.  Marni would be alright, she had a career to go home to and Lang would visit her I was sure.

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No. 78 to 84 Beastie Benitses Boys

img_1877We arrived on the Benitses main drag of club 18 to 30’s
Us punks full with love and Pelekas hippy spirit
We filled a bin liner of broken glass from the stoney beach
Keeping out of reach
Of the used condoms

“Who would stay here?”
We chanted for all to hear
From disco Dr Beat beats we ventured
From room to room, disturbing them
And them in turn disturbing us
Sometimes there were three of us
Or four or five sharing beds
With clippers we shaved their heads
Until the shavers were stolen from beneath a bed
Back on the beach we read
‘The Dice Man’
That gave us the plan
With dice from a Backgammon set
We shook and took our bet
From Benitses boy to Benises boy
We needed a new ploy
1. Stay in Benitses 2. Boat to Brindesi 3. Ferry to Dubrovnick 4. Go home 5. Greek Island hopping 6. Back to Pelekas
The dice rolled, fell off the taverna table, we knelt down to see
It had landed on No. 3
Those Beastie Benitses Boys also stole
Our Barbie and Ken doll

No. 77 Ouzo Man

“Give it to me” I demanded, Ouzo man smiled and I danced around him, jumping up, trying to grab hold of Fraser’s ‘Her Majesty’s Prison’ blue envelope.  Ouzo man held it higher and higher out of my reach, our bodies touching as I leaned into his large frame. This tall, Irish and previously aloof man became my final Pelekas lover.
I named Ouzo man Ouzo man because of the obvious, there were many Pelekas men that could have been named Ouzo man but this Ouzo man was different, too cool to go naked on the beach. Marni stumbled into the tent on us unexpectedly one afternoon. She’d caught us getting on or off I can’t remember which, but she joined us and helped us finish off our litre bottle of ouzo.
“That’s why he gets all the Abba-type Swedish girls.” She said later that day when we were on our own, naked on the beach. “Was that a semi-lob on?”
I felt like I’d won Ouzo man, he was the highest of fun. We drank 24/7 and shagged everywhere apart from the graveyard. When we weren’t shagging we were talking and unlike most of the others, he didn’t display any signs of jealousy that I had a boyfriend back home in prison.
Fraser had been given a sentence of four years for attempted armed robbery. His two accomplices got only two years because they hadn’t jumped bail and had set Fraser up as the ring leader in his absence.
“Yer man’ll be out in two.” Ouzo man said as a parting reassurance. “My mate’s arriving tomorrow. You’ll have a laugh with him.” But Ouzo man wasn’t as easily irreplaceable, it wasn’t the same when he left, I missed him and the depression I’d experienced when breaking up with first love (Ray No. 24) came flooding back. If Marni hadn’t been there to entertain me with our Ken and Barbie dolls I may have felt suicidal again. I was losing my sense of purpose, missing my voluntary work at the Samaritans, where at least I felt of use to someone.  MS symptoms seemed to have disappeared, probably cause I’d been in the sun for weeks, I was no longer binging/purging and promiscuity was suddenly at bay – instead I was feeling shit and feeling shit was just another symptom I needed to get rid of, and quick. Out of the three, promiscuity was clearly the most fun way to act out whatever it was I needed to act out, I still didn’t know what I was doing but the shame I was beginning to feel made me start to wonder about stuff.
The summer was closing in and there were little or no new travellers arriving in Pelekas.
“Let’s go somewhere else,” Marni said “before the tumbleweed sets in.” So in a last attempt to find fresh blood, we packed up ours and the French Frisbee throwers (No.54) stuff and got a bus into Corfu town. Sharing a feta and spinach pasty bought with drachmas we’d found in a side pocket of Freddy’s tent, we stood by the side of a road with our thumbs out.

No. 76 From Essex to Pelekas – Recoupling with Nick

I was sitting outside the Zanzibar, watching and waiting. There’d been no interesting new comers on the latest bus in from Corfu town. I chatted with Wand, sharing an ouzo and water when a moped drove past. No helmets in Corfu, I recognized the mop of long thick brown hair and the fag drooping out of his mouth, but it couldn’t be, could it?
“Oi Sleeze!” the Essex boy shouted.  “Raahh!” It was, it was Nick, a Southend boyfriend I had forgotten to list previously but relevant enough, don’t know why I’d forgotten him. I’d spent many nights in the house he shared with three other lads, we’d shagged lots in his box room and visited his best friend in Southend General Hospital. I fancied Nick’s friend more than him,  I was attracted to his dark wit and hands-on analysis of hospital food, but he was very sick and died.
There is another unsaid saying in Pelekas – ‘If you bring a boyfriend it won’t last’.   I hadn’t seen Nick in ages, he’d been a long-term fling really and once his friend died the novelty wore off and I certainly hadn’t invited him to Pelekas.  But word had got out in Essex, Half Man Half Barstool (John No. 21) had told Nick that Marni and I were away.  Curiosity, lust and Essex boredom had got the better of him.

Nick’s excitement in finding me so quickly, also got the better of him.  His bike had slid on the sharp left turning, just past the Zanzibar, and he’d fallen off. We laughed as he parked the bike up and joined us.

Nick bought a round of drinks, and then another and then another. Word had already got round that Nick was flush, he’d just finished 6 months labouring on a building site in Stuttgart.  Our group got bigger and there were tequila shots all round. I got so trashed, Nick’s white skin and new German beer gut paled into insignificance.

“Where haven’t you shagged?” Nick asked.  Ours was a competitive group, over the tequila shots we’d been comparing all the different places we’d had sex in and around the village.
“The graveyard” I said.
“It’s a rite of passage” someone said.
“Let’s do it.”  Nick pulled me off my seat and four of us trooped down the hill, up a short track and stood in front of the iron gates of the cemetery.  Someone opened the gates. It was still daylight, and we did it, four of us on two selected stones – a terrible thing to do. A really terrible thing to do. Why had I suggested it? I wondered in my drunken drunken haze whether in some unconscious way I was trying to get through to Nick’s dead friend or closer in spirit to my granny who would come back to life and direct me to a more sensible path.
We ran out of the grave yard and Nick took me down the mountain on his scooter. He stayed in our tent with me while Marni (who was presently single and pining for Lang) slept in French Freddy’s tent.  In the morning I woke to Nick’s snoring which was louder than the donkey’s 6 o’clock braying.  I crept out of the tent and walked to the taverna, bumping into Wand along the way.

“The Greeks reported you” Wand reported.  Word was out yet again and this time God had spoken, we would pay a penance for our behaviour.  I was thinking about the Greek mourners who’d found us and imagined my mother paying respects to my granny in the same situae. Me putting a condom on Karl Marx’s head in Highgate cemetery one drunken afternoon with Fraser was nothing in comparison.

“You need to lay low,” Wand warned.  “Stay out of the village for a few days, the police will be looking for you.”

“Fuck,” I said.  Nick’s snoring was now less of a problem.

“Don’t worry” Wand continued.  “They won’t come down the beach, they won’t be arsed.”  I guessed Wand was certain about this, he’d had a few close shaves with his dope selling and the police had never come to find Freddy and Yvon’s possessions.

I got comfy in the taverna, nursing a Metaxa and chocolate milk and wondering  how I would get out of staying with Nick now we were confined to the beach.

Then God came – this time in the form of Ouzo man, he made a b line for me.  I fancied Ouzo man but had never talked with him since seeing him on that first Pelekas bus.  He’d always been hooked up with Goddess Scandinavian women.
“I’ve got something for you” he said, holding his hands behind his back.

No. 75 Competitive Hut Syndrome with a Swede

Enduring a lonely evening at the Olive grove camp, I picked some figs from the tree that weren’t ripe, ate them and at sunset, watched Pelekas campers trudge down to the beach with bowls, plates and bottles for a bbq.  I left them to it and slept, dreaming of sand sandwiches but woke way too early with the braying of a donkey.  I looked out of the tent, Wand was sat cross-legged chewing on raw figs and enjoying the sunrise.

“He’s fucking the donkey,” he laughed.  “Does it every morning.”  I knew of bestiality with Welsh sheep and dolphin sex in Florida, but I had never written a song before and this strange scenario, truth or not, got my pen flowing on paper writing verse.  I hadn’t written anything creative since forced English assignments at school.

“Watched upon by manky hens, in he goes his knees they bend, the beast begins to makes it’s noise, is this the sound of a mule who enjoys…” etc.

This new-found creativity lifted my Pelekas spirits, I drank Ouzo with Wand then walked to the beach and lay on my pink floral sheet watching the beautiful Swedish couple I’d seen get together a few days ago.  They rode the waves and each other, I yearned to be her.

With new confidence I lay on my front, chin resting on my knuckles.  I stared at the man, hoping he would feel my longing penetrate through his lean, brown body.  The couple came out of each other ( my fantasy ) and the water , then walked back onto the beach, hand in hand.  He smiled at me and my smile back followed him into the hut.  I waited like a cat by a bird feeder.

A group with back packs congregated outside the hut and the woman came out dressed and packed, and left with them.  The travellers trudged along the beach, clearly not wanting to leave Pelekas Paradise, as it was in that moment.  Once out of sight, the man came out and lay naked beside me on the sheet, he leaned over and ran his fingers lightly up and down my spine.  I was levitating.

Sometimes the best relationships are without words.

I moved into the man’s hut until Marni’s Lang went back to America and my Swede back to Sweden.

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No. 55-74 The Olive Family Tree

Like the Music Men boyfriends (No. 25-29) I have amalgamated in a similar way. In 2008 I wrote, performed, hosted and produced a show at Edinburgh Fringe in the only swimming pool venue. It was called Liz Bentley-on-Sea and Edinburgh-on-Sea. The Scotsman (and in this case I’m not talking about Fraser) called the show ‘half baked’, it was indeed raw. The paper likened me to Tracey Emin and I assumed they were referring to her tent of 1995, either that or they couldn’t think of anything else to say and Tracy had an exhibition in Edinburgh that year so was in the fore front of minds.
I began writing my list of boyfriends well before the 1994 film ‘4 weddings and a funeral’ where Andie MacDowell’s character reveals she’s had sex with 33 guys. Shocked by the shock I got out my list which by then was already twice this amount and some. Unlike in the film, Pelekas promiscuity was accepted to the tenth degree.
There is a saying ‘what goes on in Pelekas stays in Pelekas’. Fraser used to say “A’body knows a’thing about a’body and what they dinnae ken they make up”. Pelekas stories were full of truth and versions of the truth. Love came fast and strong – in one Pelekas day I could have three boyfriends – one I was saying goodbye to, one I was greeting from the bus and one with an unspoken agreement that if either of us didn’t score (that meant having sex with someone, as opposed to scoring drugs) we’d find each other in the Cocoa club just before 4am and hook up for the night.

From Rut Hut Rob, to Psychic Sven, Nordic Ned (I cured regular his migraines with sex) – tents, bamboo beach huts and taverna toilets all became my caves of love. If there was a family olive tree of Pelekas lovers we would all join up somehow somewhere, from all over the world, like the 7 degrees of separation but probably more like 5. The boys who called themselves the ‘fishermen’ or the ‘fishermen are coming’ (when they were) made it even easier for the swapping about – just like in Love Island (without texts) but rawer and darker as many of us shared inside disturbances covered up with alcohol that never came out apart from during the screams of sex, infected mosquito bites, and in some cases, premature death from A.I.D.S or drug misadventures.
“I’m moving into Lang’s” Marni said one day.

She’d found love with Lang

An American

Moved into his hut,

And I felt shut

Out

My love nests

Incomparable to her
And Lang’s sun sets

Lang’s hut was superior than any I’d slept in, two sides bamboo, two sides white sheets and he wore another round his waist, how did he get them so fucking white? Marni’s pink floral sheet covered the interior beach mats and there were candles and holders and shit like that. There’d been a lull in my boyfriend proceedings after I’d made a dramatic scene of oral sex in front of the taverna in broad daylight with an unknown German (not illustrated on the olive tree).

For the first time in Pelekas I felt ashamed of myself – and alone.

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