It was literally the dream job for me. As a family we had been going on beach resort holidays every Summer or Autumn since I’d been 5 years old. I’d imagined myself working at these resorts from a very young age. So when the bus dropped my bulging suitcase and I in a remote village somewhere near my new home for the next 6 months on the west coast of Greece it would be fair to say I was very excited.
All the resort staff had flown out together. What a fun journey that was, thirty odd odd twenty odds in a plane together, free booze and, as yet, not relationships to worry about. Followed by a five hour bus ride from Athens with plenty of time to get to know each other in the back of the bus.
Of course I wasn’t on the plane or the fun bus because of bloody Iceland. As I mentioned in my first blog post, Mount Eyjafjallajökull had erupted, halting all air traffic out of Northern Europe meaning that I ended up flying out to Greece three days after all the other staff had arrived in resort. I got to take the flight and ride the fun bus all on my lonesome (there were other people travelling alongside me but I didn’t consider them by travel companions). I had been told by whoever was responsible for me that I should ask the bus driver to drop me by the hospital, under no circumstance was I to get off at the school. Less than 48 hours prior to my boarding the bus in Athens I’d been running around Val d’Isere at three in the morning looking in every bar I’d been in that evening trying to find my missing ticket for the bus to take me to Geneva airport. I’d had time enough at home to chuck my salopettes and snowboard boots out of my bag to be replaced with board shorts and flip flops before being ushered into the Greece bound plane. My point is that I was tired. When the bus driver woke me up and told me that it was time for me to get off I rubbed my eyes, ambled down the isle and got off the bus like I was told to. Now I had done my best to explain to the driver where I was and was not supposed to get off but through a combination of his non existent english and my non existent greek, the message was clearly lost, so, as a result, was I.
I looked across the street at the school and thought something along the lines of “Bugger…” That’s how I found myself, at three in the morning, god knows where in Greece trundling my bag down a bumpy street wondering what on earth I was to do. This was before the days that we all carried smart phones with built in GPS and 4g internet so it really was starting to look like I was in a bit of a pickle. Amazingly after what felt like hours, but may have in reality been just 20 minutes, had passed a taxi rolled down the street with the name of the company I was supposed to be working for displayed in it’s front window. The driver spotted me with my long hair, bulging bag and bewildered expression, opened the door and merely gestured me inside. I was deposited with a key outside a newly constructed accommodation block and pointed in the direction of a door. On entering I discovered that three of the three beds were occupied, fortunately I was able to push all the clothes and windsurfing gear occupying bed number three onto the floor and catch a well earned three hours sleep.
Maybe it was me falling asleep during one of the first staff briefings I attended or maybe she just didn’t like my lovely pink hat but I think it would be fair to say the assistant beach manager took an instant and resolute disliking to me. In fact, although they may have helped, I don’t believe it was my impromptu nap or my floral chapeau that led to the wrath directed towards me.
We were out on the water in a safety boat, maybe eight of us and the assistant beach manager. She was teaching us the proper technique for towing another boat.
“Now, the most important thing is to make absolutely sure you do not get your tow line wrapped around your propellor”.
In hindsight I could have been a touch more tactful thirty seconds later when she did what you were absolutely not supposed to do.
“Oh! You just propped yourself.” Says I, with a look of glee in my eyes.
“No, Really?!” She looked a little panicked.
“I shit you not….. You just propped yourself.” That was the moment I lost my job, not literally, that would have been a tad excessive, but it definitely sewed the seed that became my eventual dismissal.
I was nicknamed “Disciplinary Dougal” after maybe week one of guests arriving. I don’t remember what that first one was for, maybe I was five minutes late for work or, heaven forbid, I was wearing a bracelet on the beach. I do know I got one for not shaving in the morning, I told one of the nannies about my latest disciplinary on our lunch break and she remarked “Well at least you’ve been back and shaved now.”
“No. This is what I’m getting in trouble for” I said, pointing to the virtually non existent stubble clinging to my less than hirsute chin. When you consider that officially we were supposed to be dismissed after our third disciplinary (verbal warning, written warning, sacked being the order of play) it says something about the frivolous nature of my reprimands that it wasn’t until my ninth that they saw fit to let me go.
Despite my persecution, I did have a fantastic time working on that beach. Physically the work was very demanding, we’d be running up and down the beach all day, in over 30ºC heat, catching and launching boats, waving masts around our heads or speeding across the water in safety boats rescuing any capsized dinghies. All this activity, however, gave us no appetite for sleep. We would make our way back to our accommodation at the end of the day, jump into a cold shower, fortunately there was no need for hot water as we didn’t have any, then get straight on the beers (we convinced ourselves that pilsner tasted better warm as we certainly had no way of cooling it off) before heading out to party the night away in one of the few bars on offer. By three or four in the morning most of us would have made it to bed so that after three hours sleep and a bowl of Choco Balls we were ready to hit the beach once again.
I remember falling asleep twice at work. On one occasion I was driving one of the safety boats out to the edge of the sailing area, which was about half a mile away, I woke up just soon enough to avoid crashing back into the beach from which I had departed two minutes earlier. Another time I managed to fall asleep mid way through teaching a sailing lesson. I had my students following me like an obedient little raft of ducklings, the idea of the lesson was for them to do as I did and this way cover all the points of sailing. When I woke up my dinghy was pointed into the wind with my sail flapping idly in the breeze. I quickly looked back to see my clever little ducklings doing just the same. “Excellent job everyone! And that is how you stop your boat.” With a quick thumbs up we were off again, I don’t think anyone noticed….