It’s not often you get the chance to step outside of your life and take stock, but that’s exactly what’s been happening to me these last few weeks. We’re about to go on a family summer holiday to a beach resort that I spent one long, happy 21 year old summer working at – a “season” if you will – back in the distant past. I use the term ‘working’ in the loosest sense of the word, as what my summer mostly consisted of was the ‘one for you, one for me’ school of bartending, occasionally razzing about the Ionian on a borrowed hotel yacht crewed entirely by inept (drunk) waiters and bar staff (myself included) on our one day off, and spending EVERY SINGLE DAY for four months pissed as a newt. (True).
Although the song goes ‘take me to the distant past, I want to go baaaaaack’, the prospect of revisiting the same place makes me feel funny. In a good way, mostly, but…but… Now I’m a sober, married, mother of two it’s going to be – well – it’s just going to be a little different isn’t it? So, to the memory of the glorious Vounaki crew of 2001, here are a few things you might recognise if you’ve ever worked a season…
Oh no, wait, hang on. You won’t remember the morning. Your shift starts at 7am. It is now 8am. The hotel manager and your boss are standing on your balcony (how on earth did they get in?) banging on a saucepan and requesting loudly that you get up and serve the guests breakfast.
It feels like your brain is bleeding.
HA! That’s right, you work ten hour days. Six days a week. It’s only right and fair that you come out of that with at LEAST enough “pay” to buy a chicken gyros and a pint of Mythos, but let’s be honest – it’s a close run thing, seeing as your bar tab gets taken off BEFORE they hand over the readies. Most weeks you average about the equivalent of £3.50 to take home.
Some of my fondest memories of my time in Greece was the weekly making of the “cocktail” for the guests poolside barbecue. We made it in a bin. A literal BIN. The ratio was about twenty bottles of imitation Greek spirits to one carton of pineapple juice. No-one could ever say their own name after about 7pm, and at least one member of staff would spend the night in the kitchen dry store, not having the motor capability left to walk to the staff accomodation. And on that note…
Ours was called The Palace. This was ironic.
One team, one dream.
I made some lifelong friends doing seasons. You look out for your mates when you’re far from home. On a summer season, in practice, what this looks like is seven men hauling the kitchen porter out of the sea at midnight after he’s had so much 5-star Metaxa he is convinced he can swim to Nydri.
Nydri is at least fifty nautical miles away.
Inevitably, all this living in close quarters leads people to go a little bit mental. In our case, the natural outlet for this was the boys only ‘Penguin Club’ drinking society – so named for the childrens ‘Penguin Club’ T-shirts they squeezed their ever expanding manly bodies into every Thursday night to roam the streets of the nearby sleepy Greek village to see who could die of alcohol poisoning first.
The initiation ritual involved a severed octopus tentacle.
It was weird. Very weird.
The best thing about knowing the pin code for the kitchen is that you can make yourself an ostrich burger or two to keep you going on the long walk home at 5am. The worst thing is when you sneak into the kitchen at this hour only to receive a bollocking from your boss, who has been apparently lying in wait to catch you in the act. The even better thing is when you notice that she too is slurring her words slightly, and has a smear of mayonnaise on her cheek. You both agree to ‘forget’ this ever happened, and things remain polite and cordial for weeks to come.
For guest use by day….strictly forbidden after dark. Except for YOU, right?! Because after four months you actually start to feel like you OWN the god damn place, there’s nothing to stop you and twenty others having a midnight skinny dip is there? It’s all fun and games until the head barman dives into the shallow end and splits his head open. There is not enough mind bleach in the entire world that will ever erase the memory of a grown man, wearing nothing but a child’s ‘Penguin club’ T-shirt (see above) cupping his balls whilst having his bleeding head wound HOSED DOWN poolside with icy cold water by the head waiter.
That was living, my friends. That was LIVING. It’s probably all different now though. I’ll let you know when we’re back….
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Dicking about on Twitter here
Pictures of my breakfast on Instagram here.