Saturday, 27 July 2013

Stripping with dignity

Standing on the stage in front of 200 spectators, clad only in off-white Jockeys, I emitted a random combination of gasps and screeches in an effort to mimic a prolonged orgasm.

It was 2003 and we were holidaying in Tenerife, one of the Canary Islands. Mrs Jones and I had met Jim and June, a fun-loving couple from London, who were staying at the same hotel. In the evenings we socialized together and, on this particular night, we had opted for a social club hosting live entertainment. The star turn had been advertised on the billboard outside as a “whacky comedienne.” Our London friends had insisted we occupy a table next to the stage so as to ensure an unimpeded view.

The support act, a country-and-western singer, had delivered some Kenny Rogers’ classics and the evening was going well. A niggling doubt that a down-turn in the proceedings was imminent first arose when the comedienne appeared on the stage; in her late forties, with multiple tattoos on her arms and rings the size of a juggernaut’s wheels swinging from her nostrils, her opening line was, “I fucking hate men, so tonight I’m going to humiliate the bastards.”        

After assaulting her audience with a torrent of crude anecdotes about the sexual inadequacies of males, she asked for six men to get up on the stage to participate in an “exciting competition.” This was my cue to slip off to buy a round of drinks. I was in no rush to be served and monitored developments on stage from the sanctuary of the bar. A couple of bold young men had strode forward and were now standing on the stage alongside my friend Jim, who had acquiesced to his wife’s encouragement. I loitered at the bar as three more victims were cajoled and harassed into submission. With six men now on stage, I deemed it safe to return to my table with the drinks.

As I sat down, the she-wolf screeched, “I’ve changed my mind, as is a lady’s prerogative. Let’s have seven of the tossers up here on stage.”

I crouched behind Mrs Jones in an effort to avoid detection, and believed I had succeeded, until June stood up, pointed at me (almost on the floor on hands and knees by this point) and yelled, “Bryan, Bryan, Bryan, Bryan.” The comedienne marched towards me, grabbed my wrist and yanked me onto the stage. Pathetically, I did not resist; she had the appearance of someone with an extensive forensic history.

With seven men now captured on the stage, the games commenced. Who could do the best penguin impression – I thought my waddle was rather impressive. Our comedienne (and master), now armed with a cane, ordered us all to strip to our underpants as quickly as possible, and threatened that the slowest to do so would receive 10 lashes across the buttocks. Hence, there I was, on stage in just my Jockeys. The silliness continued with a competition to make the most authentic orgasmic sound. After six, prolonged exclamations of panting and gasping, a Swedish man at the end of the line won the contest with a monosyllabic, “Oo!”

And then the finale. We were directed to replicate the iconic scene from the film, The Full Monty, depicting the tale of how a group of British, unemployed steel-workers form a male striptease act. By this point I was getting into role. As the seven of us turned our backs to the baying audience, and the song "You can leave your hat on" blasted from the speakers, my 45-year-old hips were thrusting and gyrating as if the lower half of my body was in the throws of an epileptic seizure, sending the female onlookers into a frenzy of desire. (I still refuse to believe that their reactions were more to do with the two 20-something beefcakes dancing alongside me). Off came our undies, revealing seven bare arses. As we swung our briefs above our heads, we turned to face the baying mob; I shielded my genitals with my hand, while my more brazen compatriots revealed everything.

leotasjane1 CC-BY, via flicr

Later that evening, when we returned to our hotel, Mrs Jones told me how dignified I had been while on stage. In particular, she was so proud of me for showing modesty in not fully exposing myself in the final scene. My humility had impressed her. What she didn’t know was that, if I had been blessed with nob the size of a baboon’s, I would have been swinging it above my head like a cowboy’s lasso.              

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Greece, without the kids

We realized we’d landed in Greece when we were denied egress from the plane for 15 minutes; the captain informed us that the ground-staff at Preveza Airport had fetched steps that were too short to reach the exit door. Five minutes after our release, the comatosed Greek passport-control man beckoned us through with a waft of his hand.

I love Greece. The standard of amenities might be inferior to the rest of Europe, it has the efficiency of an unlagged water boiler, the local wines taste like cat’s piss, and its sewage system is so feeble that you can’t flush paper down the toilet but have to plop it into a pedal-bin (not great when you’ve had the Mythos and Mousakka combination the night before). But none of this matters. The pace of life is soothingly slow and the Greek people ooze a warmth that is only surpassed by the unrelenting rays of the Mediterranean sun.

Mrs Jones and I had holidayed in Greece five times before, but this was the first time without our two children, who are both now young adults. As we journeyed on the coach to our hotel, we relished the prospect of the freedom to do whatever we wanted, liberated from the constraints of supervising our offspring.

“At last we can truly relax on our sun-beds without constantly checking whether the kids are drowning in the pool,” Mrs Jones said, as she rested her head on my shoulder.”

“Yeah,” I said, “no more worries about their play upsetting our fellow holiday-makers.”

“No more having to drag the kids away from their new friends each evening to come and dine with us in a restaurant,” said Mrs Jones.

“And then having to endure their faces, resembling smacked arses, across the table as they sulked and moaned all night,” I said. Yes this was going to be a fantastic, adults only, flop-and –drop holiday.

But then I started to see things. In the restaurant on the second night of the holiday, my gaze was drawn to a family at the neighbouring table with a baseball-capped son who looked disturbingly similar to a 9-year-old version of Ryan, my first-born. While on the beach the next day, I spotted a 5-year-old blonde girl, in her first bikini, scuttling out of the sea and excitedly asking her father if she could have an ice-cream – how many times had my own daughter, Becca, extracted Euros from her doting dad for the same purpose?  

Reminders of what I had lost recurred throughout the holiday: kids asking for chicken-nuggets in the local tavernas; kids looking miserable at the meal table at being denied time from their play to engage in something as tedious as eating with their parents; over-tired kids howling in the sunset, sleep-deprived and cranky; and kids perched on their fathers’ shoulders meandering through the resort.

Although we enjoyed our Greek, adults-only, fortnight, Mrs Jones and I repeatedly engaged in watery-eyed reminiscence about previous holidays with our son and daughter. I realize now that we were mourning the ending of this most vibrant phase of family life, the chapter entitled, “taking our children on vacation.”     

On a lighter note, throughput our stay in Greece I was told that my physical appearance strongly resembled a senior Greek politician named Romilos Kedikoglou. Given the current economic crisis ravaging the country, I feared for my well-being, but I was reassured that I would be at no risk of a sniper’s bullet as long as I stayed away from Athens. When I spotted Romilus on Greek television it was like looking in a mirror. I have since discovered that that he is 73 years old, almost 20 years my senior. Either he is wearing very well, or I am decrepit; I fear it is the latter.