Two of my deepest held holiday loves, gin & tonic on the twilight balcony and The Times Cryptic Crossword combine to ensure that I spend many hours staring at a half empty grid and a page of clues that make far less sense than they’re meant to. I don’t (yet) resort to the method of an old friend who, when in difficulty, would make up answers – and sometimes words – and if the mood took him, new clues to indicate that his answers were, after all, correct. He took great delight in leaving the newspaper, open at the finished crossword, for all to see. It gave him great delight to think that some poor, beaten soul might turn to his completed grid to help them complete their own, only to discover that the answer to 13 Down was ‘SKRIBLIB’ the clue to which, unlike his/her own copy was ‘Sound made by tongueless frog’.
I love a day on the sunbed, be-booked and all music’d up, and I love the sea, but I do not like a combination of the two. A day on the beach is, for me, as bad as it gets on holiday. (I lie: I once spent a sunbed day next to somebody who played Chris de Burgh all day on a tiny, tinny speaker that actually made my teeth itch. I think I may have tried to drown myself that day.) However, I am one of two, and the other one of two loves a day on the beach, so off to the beach we schlepped. Our beach of the day was a tiny cove, semi-submerged for part of the day (there is a certain frisson to lying on a sunbed as the waves lap ever higher up the legs) and accessed by a five minute scramble across and down a rocky hillside. It was so inaccessible that I was amazed to be charged €8 for the hire of the beds and to be offered a food and drink menu shortly after we decamped. How did they get the drinks down without the ice melting? How did the cream in the doughnut (‘Extra special fresh’) not turn to cheese? How, in God’s name, had a man of my own age got the bloody sunbeds down there in the first place? Had they parachuted them in under the parasols? They didn’t have a toilet though which, at least in part, may well explain the warmness of the sea.
I don’t like sand in ‘stuff’: personal ‘below stairs’ equipment, shoes, teeth and most particularly sun cream. What can be worse than a liberal application of factor 30 over an enormous portion of beach? Skin does not burn, it is sanded off. My wife says that it makes her skin ‘feel alive’. I try to explain that it is only because she has almost entirely removed her dermis, exposing raw, tingling nerves underneath, but to little avail.
She is currently enjoying the last few rays of the dying sun beside the pool whilst I am enjoying the last few watery gin dregs before the ice completely melts and discovering that, today, 13 Down might well just be ‘SQURROX’*.
*Word stolen from the inestimable Mr Milligan.