Stylised Monologue

Thursday, 28 November 2013

17N : Nudism with your dad and a couple of terrorists.

Here’s the thing, being a pre-teen is not fun. Period. Now add a recently deceased grandfather, a cancer stricken aunt, a nudist beach, a lack of survival skills, the constant sight of where you came from (aka your father’s penis) and a couple of members of your country’s most wanted terrorist group to the mix and you get a slight feel of what the 6th month of the year 1996 was like for me.

Before I let my intro carry all the spoilers, let me tell you how it all started. June 1996 was a bleak month for my maternal family as my grandfather unexpectedly died while my mum’s twin sister was hospitalised for a type of cancer brought on by a previous two year long course of chemotherapy. Unable to add a child going through the first stages of puberty to the list of things she had to deal with, my mother decided that 10 years of marriage should start paying off and basically handed me over to my father with a verbal note that I can only assume went a little like this ‘do whatever you want, just don’t bother me’. My father and I have always had a great relationship and spending time with each other was a frequent and fun filled happening. Regardless however, the idea of a tete-a-tete holiday over the course of over a week with his little girl dealing with growth pains in the chest area (I mean, they were minor pains as there was minuscule growth, but you get the feeling), tampons and period cramps for the firs times in life was certainly not my dad’s idea of a carefree holiday. So he did what every logical human being would do… contacted a male friend who had long been abandoned by his spouse and left with a daughter around the same age. George, said friend, used to spend every summer camping at a beach in the central part of mainland Greece… grand!

 My dad and I ventured for some half arsed outdoors shopping which made us the owners of a shitty blue tent and a few other, unbeknown to us, useless accessories and got in the car full of joy and Rolling Stones cassettes to entertain us. A few out of tune Ruby Tuesday’s and multiple Sympathy with the devil inspired lip tickling ‘mmmmmmmmm’s’ later we finally arrived at the glorious beach of ‘HILIADOU’. I want to say I was happily strolling towards it but realistically it was boiling hot and I was carrying pointless camping paraphernalia so the only child slash teenager in me was most likely already in a state of inner despair… when I saw IT. A wooden sign, the depiction of all my nightmares. ‘NUDIST BEACH’ I think that was the first time I understood the power of words as the combination of a mere few letters carried the highest amount of horror I had yet to experience in real life (given that my grandfather had just died, you get how shallow a teenager I was). My previously flat chest had recently turned into a set of puffy nipples (attractive, I know, but that’s what happens) and well lets just say that I had hair in places I would rather I kept for myself and not share with a whole beach of people. Before the numbing dread had even had the time to sink in, my dad’s friend and his extremely brown penis (A sight forever etched in the depths of my innocent brain) came to greet us and help us carry our stuff to the beach. Following behind him, my feet sank into the hot sand while I observed the plethora of naked bodies casually holidaying around us. They were doing normal things like reading and swimming and playing beach sports but they were doing so naked. You know how in French films you sometimes get (usually from a child’s point of view) a fantasy of normalcy but in the nude, accompanied by the music of some generic jewellery box or the nightmarish tinkly music of funfairs… which then of course blurs out and becomes normal people perfectly dressed… well that's what it was like, except the last bit never happened, the birthday suit was the only thing en vogue on this land. 

To enhance the feeling of utter embarrassment, upon arriving to our designated patch of sand, my dad and I set off to put up our lame excuse of a tent.  Now let me tell you, you know how some families are outdoorsy families? The kind you see skiing and cycling together in matching gear whenever the opportunity of a holiday or even a long weekend arises… well that’s not my family. The little trio that consists of my parents and myself are more the city strolling, museum browsing, cuisine enthusiast types that considers a weekend in the countryside an experience of extreme primal survival.  So when we were faced with the massive task of turning a bulk of blue material into some sort of a shelter, we kind of just stared at it in despair. I can’t remember the specifics per se but I do remember we managed to eventually make something vaguely reminiscent of what the rest of the tents looked like out of ours. To explain how bad it was, however, a day or so later, when a girl I made friends with asked me which tent I slept in and I said ‘the worst one on the whole of the beach’ her instant reaction was ‘oh the blue one that looks like the result of a bomb explosion’. I’m sure you’ve come across campers before. They are organised people. They have chemical toilets, snake repellent strings, little fridges packed with large amounts of small foods, radios, lights, torches, loo roll and more things that I don’t remember and would probably be unable to even think of through basic logic and imagination. My dad and I, on the other hand, had brought… nothing. Except from some SPF 50 sunscreen which my mum probably forced us to not forget. And although sunscreen is very helpful when it comes to preventing sunburn and melanomas, it does absolutely nothing to repel snakes, keep mosquitoes at bay, fill empty stomachs or provide some much needed light once the sun has bid its goodbyes.

The first few days were tough. I have to admit my prudish inner self did get the best of me and forced me to cover my shame inducing body with a red swimsuit that, of course, made me stick out like a sore thumb. It was also glaringly obvious that my prudish side was not inherited by my father who fit right in with the rest of the naked flesh on display. Every night we would lie in our tent with a little piece of waterproof material separating us from the freezing night time sand (because we obviously didn’t think to take sleeping bags, mattresses or anything with us), and every morning we would wake up with the tent fallen onto us, having assumed the position of our nonexistent blankets. My dad’s brown penis-ed friend albeit lovely, was not much help. I don’t blame him, he had his own puberty consumed daughter to deal with. Mosquitoes and all sorts of creatures feasted on us while we feasted on nothing. 

Thankfully, not too far from the beach, was a Tavern, which was basically an oasis full of clothed people, steady ground, food and air conditioning. One day, while watching some TV, at the small slice of civilisation the tavern provided, the annoying tune of breaking news rudely interrupted the bad yet delightful soap opera I was enjoying. At the time the ‘17th of November’ a Greek terrorist organisation was thriving, killing politicians and prominent members of the society as well as mere civilians who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong minute. It’s not that I didn’t have an acute interest in sociopolitical happenings… or actually it is, I didn’t. I was far more interested in the illegitimate daughter of the main character of the soap opera who was about to deliver the twins of two different fathers that were, of course, each others arch enemy. Bored to death I overdosed on tzatziki while my dad and everyone else gathered around the TV stung by interest and intrigue. I drifted in and out of listening to the news  for a good two hours before I was summoned to return to the beach, for the first time this wasn’t terrible news.

Upon returning to our tent, that had obviously deconstructed itself into some sort of bright blue rubbish bag, and before my dad had the chance to go back to his Adam-minus-the-vine-leaf look, we noticed a shinny new tent located right next to ours. Surrounding it masterfully were colourful deck chairs that to our camping amateur eyes appeared like thrones and a shower appliance that looked high tech enough to not only rid us of the sand and salt that had accumulated in our hair but perhaps even wash us of all our sins. Sovereigns of the camping kingdom were two good natured looking men in their late thirties with scruffy beards, pot bellies and kind dark eyes. Our expressions must have been reminiscent of the little matchgirl staring at fancy dinners through crystal clear yet very dividing windows on an icy Christmas day because for some unknown reason, the good natured men approached us with utmost sympathy reflected in their kind eyes. I’m not certain of the conversation that followed but I’m fairly sure it was just polite words masquerading the pretty clear subtext that screamed ‘awkward father and daughter duo possessing the survival skills of a mentally retarded slug have seen each other’s private parts too many times and are in dire need of a saviour and some snake repellent”. As the two men assumed much needed roles of mustachio-ed Mother Teresas with a kick ass penchant for all things outdoors living, the best of times began. I must admit that my memory is blurry as to what exactly happened but I know we acquired a constant helping hand when it came to our camping short comings. They put magical and desperately welcome tweaks into our tent managing to finally get it to stand up straight and resist crumbling under the embarrassingly mild elements it was exposed to. Sleeping bags now cuddled us to sleep, while food was regularly consumed and mosquito bites became more and more infrequent. They  offered to show us around the area and took us on little boat rides into exotic looking caves. Best of all, they even broke the biggest nudist beach rule for us by allowing us to wear some sort of cover up on the fish boat without being frowned upon. 

Eventually the days passed and the time to bid goodbye to the largest amount of human flesh I'd ever seen had come. My dad, my best tan to date, unused clothes, useless camping equipment and myself got into a car and drove to the land of the dressed. I don't remember any goodbyes being said although I'd like to spike my memory into making them tearful. 

Back in Athens, while trying to get used to our flesh being touched by materials and our limbs being constricted into tailored clothing, we told the story of our good Samaritans to anyone willing to listen (lies, we probably shared it with people entirely uninterested too). The mens' names is a vital detail neither my dad nor I recall (although a simple Wikipedia search does help create a shortlist), mainly because in the re-tellings of the story those names got replaced by the seemingly accurate characterisation "Those Good Men".

Many years later, in the summer of 2003,  the memories of the nudist beach were nearly as faded as that aforementioned glorious tan. Well into my teenage years, I was staring at the TV screen while waiting for the dial up Internet to end its little melodic dialling and connect me to my beloved MSN messenger when the breaking news tune abruptly landed on my ear drum. At the time this was a frequent occurrence as some of the members from the '17th of November' had been caught causing a domino effect in finding the rest of the group. The tune this time captured my attention as my interest in sociopolitical events had started to get cultivated mainly by the fact that this all seemed like the end pages of a mystery novel. New members had been found and arrested. On a beach. A nudist beach. The names blared on the screen while a shaky TV reported claimed that pictures of the terrorists would be shown soon. The usually relieving sound of the dial up getting connected no longer interested me as I ignored bleeping windows with MSN friends requesting my attention, all I wanted was to see who these people were. Pictures on the screen. Two mustachio-ed Mother Teresas staring back at me and the rest of Greece as they were convicted for being members of a terrorist organisation. In a cartoon-like manner my eyes tripled in size balancing out my dropped jaw. Regaining the ability to resist gravity, my jaw went back into its place and I ran towards my oblivious dad's office ....

"The Good Men! The Good Men ARE TERRORISTS!!!!!!!!!!"