Thursday, October 05, 2006

Wot I did on my holidays

...when not chasing burglars across balconies at 4am.


Peter Burnet said...

Is that you Brit or is that the guy who runs the local moped rental outfit and who kindly offered to teach the Missus all about Cretan history while you were off searching for olive groves?

Brit said...

It is I.

The moped man had a moustache.

M Ali said...

You look a lot younger than I imagined.

Plus I was expecting more noticable scars from run-ins with chavs.

Duck said...

I'll have to redo your portrait.

So, tell us about chasing burglars on the balcony at 4:00 AM.

Brit said...

Phew, I thought nobody was going to ask.

On our first night we left the balcony door of our 2nd floor apartment open - Cretan temperatures being somewhat above what we're used to in Blighty, and no air-con.

At 3.40am I was happily snoozing away on my side when a strange 6th sense woke me. I turned drowsily onto my back and there, in a kind of silhouette, was a man, standing frozen right over my bed with his hand reaching for my watch, which lay on the bedside table.

It was an extraordinary and deeply unpleasant moment which I'm sure will forever be etched on my memory. In, I reckon, less than a second, my brain came to the following conclusions: (1) it wasn't a dream; (2) he was alone; (3) he was smaller than me; and (4) he was as shocked to find me awake as I was to see him in my room.

In the next second I was overcome by a blood-lust rage the like of which I haven't felt since Maradona scored his infamous 'hand of God' goal against England in the 1986 World Cup. I twatted him wildly and ineffectively with my left arm and then leapt, screaming like a banshee at the appalled would-be burglar. He went like whippet out the door, and, nakedness be damned, I charged after him, bellowing incoherent and sweary threats all the while.

He vaulted onto the next-door balcony, and so did I. Then he jumped over a fence and dropped into a darkness which, since I hadn't yet seen the place in daylight, concealed a drop of unknown height.

Fortunately, my sanity returned at this moment and I stopped following him, instead choosing to stand shaking my fist like a cartoon character and roaring the immortal but with hindsight utterly pathetic words "Ooh, you're in trouble now!" nudely at the night.

Not a great start to the holiday.

Duck said...

So this is what you gave up Ducktoberfest for?

Good to hear that you survived the ordeal. How did Madame Britista deal with it? Was she all appreciative of your macho show of protective maie instinct or did she scold you for potentially getting yourself killed?

Peter Burnet said...

He went like whippet out the door, and, nakedness be damned, I charged after him, bellowing incoherent and sweary threats all the while.

Oh, move over, Gary Cooper. Although, being a good traditionalist, Gary would have at least had the decency to wrap a towel around himself before killing him.

Come to think of it Brit, we defenders of the traditional order want to have a brief word with you about your nocturnal dress. Tomorrow morning at the police station suit you? We'd also appreciate a statement from the Missus that she thoroughly dispproves of your perversions and wouldn't be caught dead at that hour without her flannel. Voluntary, of course.

Brit said...


I was an Englishman just arrived in Crete. If I could have taken my skin off I would. Naturally at home I wear an ankle-length flannellet nightshirt, night-cap, bed-socks and had I heard creaking noises in the night would have shone a single candle into the shadowy corners and croaked "Who goes there? Friend or foe?" while brandishing a blunderbuss.


Well, my story isn't finished yet, though my light-hearted telling of it so far belies the truly horrible nature, and the psychological after-effects on your sense of security, of having your room invaded while you sleep. The Missus wasn't happy at all, as can be imagined, and I was buzzing like a toddler after 3 pints of Coca-Cola.

So after a sleepless night I marched down to the reception to inform the English rep and the hotel proprietors of my rude awakening. Pretty soon I was surrounded by what seemed like a whole dwarfish Cretan dynasty – mothers, grandmothers, aunts, uncles, second cousins, you name it – all jabbering at once and keen to inform me that nothing like this had ever happened before and no Greek could ever do it and it could only have been another (English) hotel guest. They ferried me, as the Lilliputians carried Gulliver, to the rear of the block and we all examined the fence over which the miscreant had jumped and looked for footprints and measured heights and then everyone concluded that although you could jump down the fence from the balcony, you could not climb up it from the bottom, so it could only have been someone from inside the hotel coming from over neighbouring balconies, and thus not a Cretan local from outside the hotel.

I was not entirely convinced, since despite the darkness I had a single clear image of the intruder burned in my mind from the first instant of awakening and seeing him standing over me – the shape of his head, his build, his hair, big eyes and dark colouring – and he didn’t look like a typical sunburnt, buzzcut English holidaymaker. And here I began to ponder over the nature of memory and perception. I tried to break down my thoughts from that split second. I remembered that my very first instinct was: I am in an Indian restaurant with the waiter standing over me. Then my reason told me that I was in Crete, so the dark colouring must mean that it was a Cretan.

But then again, my reason also told me that a glimpse caught when only just awake is not reliable evidence, and Anna hadn’t seen him at all, so I determined to keep my eyes peeled when amongst my fellow hotel guests. Sure enough, just an hour or two later, I was given a jolt. Crouching by the pool was a wiry Englishman. He was clearly of Indian extraction, and he had the hair, the build, and the big saucer eyes. In an instant, I was sure that I had my man...

monix said...

You can't leave it there!

Peter Burnet said...

Fool! Surely the Cretans told you to look for the Turk?

Brit said...

Well, anybody who knows their Shakespeare (and that describes all ToE’s discerning readers, I know) will immediately be able to see that I was now on the horns of the classic Dane’s dilemma. To be or not to be?

My rage had subsided, but still my male pride refused to countenance the notion that this impudent rogue should get away scot-free following his attempt to ruin our holiday on the very first night. On the other hand, my mind could be playing tricks on me – there was no way of knowing for sure that this was he, and certainly the evidence of a man startled in his sleep, in the dark, would be laughed out of any court. Then again, if this was the criminal, surely he needed to be taught a lesson to dissuade him from attempting the same trick in other apartments. But then again, the last thing I wanted to do was to wantonly thump an entirely innocent man. In addition, it was the very first day, we didn’t want to spoil the whole trip with violence or feuding, and after all, nothing had been stolen.

So was it nobler in mind to suffer the slings and arrows and get on with our holiday, or to take arms against the little blighter and give him a darn good hiding?

For two days I brooded on this conundrum. On several occasions I caught his eye while walking about the hotel, giving him the “I’m watching you” stare that I’d seen Robert de Niro use to such great effect on Ben Stiller in Meet the Parents. I was looking for a sign of guilt, and several times thought I glimpsed something. But again, my rational mind kept overruling my instincts – supposing it wasn’t him at all?

Then, on the Friday evening, three nights after the event, the opportunity to act presented itself. We were strolling out for dinner in one of the lovely tavernas of Malia’s Old Village. My suspect was in the lobby, his case packed, waiting for the airport bus. He was alone. As we passed, I let Anna get ahead, then tapped my man on the shoulder...

David said...

Never mind all that. What's the book?

Brit said...

The Young Hornblower omnibus. Who can think of finer holiday reading?

Brit said...

…So anyway, I tapped him on the shoulder, and our conversation went thus:

Me: Good holiday mate?
Him: Yeah great.
Me: So what did you do?
Him: blah blah blah (jabbering something about jet-skiing etc)
Me: So where were you at twenty to four on Wednesday morning>
Him: Eh?
Me: Stay in your own room next time.

Then I marched off, leaving him looking surprised, and possibly guilty, but I suppose I’ll never know for certain.

And this is how you know it’s a true story: not with a bang, but a whimper.

Peter Burnet said...

...and then he went back to his Young Hornblower, knowing Englishmen would breathe free for yet another day.

Brit said...


Duck said...

What would young Hornblower do?

Brit said...

His duty.

And unlike me, he wouldn't spin a yarn out of it. Hornblower never blows his own horn.

martpol said...

Fantastic story. Of course, if it was fiction there'd be an interesting twist wherein, so intent were you on accosting and interviewing your suspect, the real thief stole your luggage in the airport.

will said...


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