Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Singles Holiday, Part Four

"Who was that I saw you with last night," asked Caroline, speaking behind her hand like she was a secret agent.
"Somebody I met on the plane. She's a writer."
"You seemed to be finding her very interesting. Did you have to sit so close?"
"Her two friends were difficult to understand. It was like their teeth were too big for their mouths. But their English was a lot better than my Croatian. Bok!"
"Do Videnja! See you this evening, at ten."

Caroline ended our meeting with a swish of her racket. She had signed up for early morning naked tennis, before it got too hot. I had placed tennis in the 'too dangerous' category and had opted for a country walk. I wanted to get a feel for the surroundings before Caroline showed me round the scenes of the various crimes committed by Sid Schweinsteiger and members of Von Wolfswinkle's Inner Circle.

We rendezvoused as agreed in the main bar. I asked her if she had enjoyed the tennis.
"We played mixed doubles. My partner was really good and we won six love, six love. There was a lot of giggling on the other side of the net."
"Congratulations, let me buy you a drink."
"It's all-inclusive, Robert."
She said she'd have a vodka and cranberry juice. Then she said, "Make it a double, this could be difficult. I'm not sure how much I want to remember."

We walked through the columns and trees and she described the early stages of the enactment of the Fall of Rome at the bankers' private party. Not yet a member of the Inner Circle she had been clothed and sober, and had been shocked at the debauchery. We arrived at the indoor pool. There were actually some nude swimmers in there, which helped me picture Caroline's description of a swimming game in which the prize was a 'maiden'.

We stood outside the women's changing rooms where she told me about showering with the blond interns, Natasha and Nikita, and the elaborate preparations for her initiation into the Inner Circle. Then she took me on the route across the infinity pool dam and up to the amphitheatre, the scene of last night's fashion show and the altogether more extreme events of last summer. She had been blindfolded almost throughout the initiation, and I think her imagination probably ran riot.

We arrived back in the bar and she demanded another drink. I tried not to scratch the bites and sunburn I had picked up on my country walk. I thought I was in with a good chance of scoring with my own wife. Her descriptions of the bankers party had obviously aroused her, and me too. I suggested she could come to my room so we could get to know each other better.

Caroline looked affronted. "It's still only Friday, you know. I'm not that loose. People think that because it's a singles holiday people are having sex all the time. But they're not, not all of them. Some of us just like to flirt."

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Singles Holiday, Part Three

We arrived at the hotel in time for a late breakfast on the terrace, looking out over the sea and shaded by vines. Tamsin went straight to bed. I stood next to Caroline in the line shuffling past the amazing display of tropical fruits but she said it was too soon, people might get suspicious.

I took some pineapple which has beneficial vitamins in it, and a black coffee. I took spring water, but no Cava. I needed a clear head to study next season's Premiership fixtures. I checked my diary to see if I could get to Swansea on the 17th August. I heard a loud pop and looked up to see half the stag party grouped around Caroline, she holding out her glass to one of the shaven-headed sportsmen for a top-up.

There were loads of things to do but the sun was hot and the Fun4One group were tired from their all-nighters or early starts. I spent the day snoozing and lounging by the infinity pool and exploring the gardens of the hotel. There was plenty to look at round the pool, swimwear being optional, but not smartphones and e-readers. To break the ice, people were asking each other about the merits of the latest Kindle, Kobo, Nook or Sony.

In the evening things livened up. There was a fashion show in a Romanesque amphitheatre behind the hotel. We sat at tables and were served drinks. I waved at Tamsin who sat right at the back with two tall men in cloaks, their faces even paler than Tamsin's. On the stage, a local boutique were shifting stock with the aid of four models who worked their way through the entire collection of evening wear, beachwear and lingerie. The speed of the outfit changes was incredible. You could hardly believe it was the same woman you saw a few moments ago. Now why is it not like that in real life?

As an extra incentive they offered 40% off to any hotel guest who would model an item of swimwear. There had been a certain amount of informal posing by the pool, and there were half a dozen singles, female, who volunteered to display their wears some more. The stags sportingly persuaded their groom to model a thong swimsuit.

Caroline has an eye for a bargain and modelled a white bikini. She walked confidently down the catwalk, shedding a white muslin wrap to tremendous cheers from the stags. She came to the front of the stage and gave me a wink. At least I think it was me. The compere had all the models, volunteers included, on the catwalk for the finale, and made some rude suggestions at the expense of Mr Thong. You can imagine how everyone laughed.

Drinks were served from a small outdoor bar and people sat around in the warm night air after the show. Tamsin emerged from the shadows and joined me at my table.
"Who was that you were talking to? I didn't see them on the plane."
"They're not guests, they're locals," said Tamsin. "Research. Would you like me to introduce you to them?"

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Singles Holiday, Part Two

Caroline's seat was in the middle of the plane, the one over the wing that costs more normally because of the extra room but you have to be fit and mobile. The nine man stag golfing party seated around Caroline indulged in some light hearted banter when the stewardess checked with her that she was aware of the responsibilities that went with the extra legroom.

The golfers had patronised the airport bar despite the early hour and made witty jokes like "Don't worry love, I'll climb over you," and "You can pull my emergency handle any time." Caroline stuck her nose in the air at first but in truth they were a hearty bunch of young men who looked like they played plenty of sport, and she did little to divert their attentions for the rest of the two hour flight.

I was four or five rows behind in a seat next to the aisle. At first I thought the seat next to me would be empty and I gestured to Caroline that she could sit next to me after all. She said she liked the extra legroom. Then, just before the doors were pulled shut, a pale woman with dark circles round her eyes staggered onto the plane and occupied the seat next to. She slumped into her seat with a sigh: "God, I'm exhausted." She looked like she had just climbed out of a grave.

Before the plane had reached the end of the runway, her long white neck had lolled to one side and she was asleep. Half way between her shoulders and her ears were two dark marks. I had to restrain myself from moving her light brown hair slightly to one side to take a closer look. Love bites, I decided. Her head lolled the other way onto my shoulder. Caroline turned round to see where I was and gave me a look.

Once at cruising height the stewardess started the hard sell with the duty free. Caroline pretended to be interested in the perfume and tried the tester bottles, offering her wrists up for an opinion from her surrounding admirers. She commented afterwards on how quickly the flight had gone.

My sleeping companion woke with a start when the refreshment trolley came past. She ordered a Bloody Mary. The plane hit a pocket of turbulence. There was raucous laughter from the seats five rows up, but my neighbour went a whiter shade of pale, grabbed my arm, and spilt some of the thick red liquid on my chinos.

"Oh, I'm terribly sorry. I'm a nervous flyer. I always think I'm going to die." She used an inadequate napkin to dab the blotch on my trousers. Her nails were painted black.
"No problem," I said, though really it was, because I was travelling ultra light. I seized the opportunity to introduce myself and asked the purpose of her journey.
"I'm Tamsin Baker," she replied. "I'm researching my next book. After Croatia, I go on to Silesia, Moravia, and Transylvania."
"How interesting," I said. "And what would your next book be about?"
"Vampires. The myths originate from that part of Europe. They really did exhume bodies and stick a stake through the heart. It's more than a myth; every society wonders what happens to people when they are dead." She looked straight at me and her eyes widened. "Don't you wonder, Robert?"

They say travel broadens the mind. Tamsin explained a number of things about the sexual habits of vampires which I hadn't previously been aware of but made me shift in my seat. I asked which hotel she was staying in and it was the same as ours - ideal, she said, for single travellers.
"But," she giggled, "I won't be doing any nude sunbathing. I can't go out in the direct sun."

You always wonder if people are making things up, but it turned out to be true. Here's a link to one of Tamsin's books. But not recommended for those of a nervous disposition.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Singles Holiday, Part One

Apologies if this is full of typos but I'm writing on my knee in an airport.

Some people ask whether I did much research for Shameless Ambition. They say the word research as if it were in inverted commas, and give me a knowing look. The answer is: yes, I did. I told Caroline I really needed to see the hotel in Croatia where Von Wolfswinkle had his sex party so that the descriptions would be accurate.

"Leave it to me," Caroline said. "I've got loads of air miles from flying backwards and forwards to Frankfurt. I'll get a last minute deal on the hotel." It took six weeks for us just to find a long weekend when we could both be away from work, and I thought she had forgotten about Croatia. Then on Thursday I got a text from Caroline which just said "Booked it - Gatwick 4am."

I had just successfully concluded a case and was having a few drinks with the team up in town. At midnight I decided it was not worth going to bed and went on to a nightclub. I only just made it to the airport in time. Caroline was furious, she hates it when I'm late, which I often am. She arrives five minutes early for every meeting, even a meeting with airport security. They were using a new x-ray device which sees through clothing - it speeds things up because you don't have to take off your belt and shoes. They must have seen something unusual because they made Caroline go through three times.

I followed C down to the departure gate, she wheeling her blue carry-on case, me carrying a plastic bag with one clean shirt and my passport. I glanced at my boarding card. Up till then I had no idea where were going. The flight was to Pula.

"Where's Pula?" I asked.
"Croatia. You said you wanted to see the hotel where we had the Fall of Rome fancy dress party. Pula is the airport for Rovinj. But don't stand so close to me."
"Why not? I know I haven't had time for a shower but I sprayed on some deodorant."
"We're not supposed to know each other. It's a singles holiday, there was nothing else available. You can get to know me gradually over the weekend. I wonder who else on this flight is going to our hotel?" Caroline still uses her maiden name for work and travel so the temporary adoption of singledom was a simple deception.

"So we're not sitting together on the plane?"
"No. It won't make any difference, you'll fall asleep anyway. You still smell of beer." We looked around the surprisingly perky people grouped around the departure gate. It's amazing how the prospect of a holiday livens people up, even at 5 am.
Singles holiday, adults only hotel, nudist beach. This could be interesting, I thought, hoping that fate would sit me next to someone sexy and nice on the plane.

    Caroline gives security staff at Gatwick a piece of her mind the third time they send her through the x-ray machine.

Who are these people?

The world is divided into voyeurs and exhibitionists... It takes one of each to make a good marriage.

Robert and Caroline Fanshaw are an ambitious young couple trying to make their way in a complex world.

What happens when their private affairs collide with world events and the big issues of our times? Drama, comedy and x-rated scenes.