THE CUDGEL MEN
Written by Bert Plomp
Translated by Carla Maaswinkel
Since a number of years, I like to spend most of the day in Tertsa. If you take the road from Mirtos to the west, directly alongside the coast, Tertsa lies approximately 7 kilometres from Mirtos. When you take the main road through the mountains, the distance is at least 35 kilometres and by car it takes approximately an hour to get to this little village. If I am able to avoid all the holes and deep grooves in the road along the coast, it takes me about 15 minutes with my rental car. Unfortunately, in the meantime more Mirtos tourists have discovered this place and either walk or go with some kind of a vehicle to the ‘Promised Beach’. I have looked upon this development with envious eyes because Tertsa is getting busier. ‘Unwelcome customers’, about which more details later, are starting to visit this cute little place.
I discovered Tertsa on one of my runs. My day always starts with running a round and I do this also when staying elsewhere. While running along the coast from Mirtos, after some kilometres this village appears at the horizon. A hamlet that in fact consists of just a handful small houses and three taverns. It still is beyond me why it was decided to construct right there a kilometres long asphalted winding road from the main mountain road down to the coast. It has about 20 to 30 inhabitants, not counting the tourists during the summer period as well as the dogs, cats, goats and chickens. Those that walk to Tertsa should not be envied. It is an ordeal, like having to pass through a dessert in a blistering heat. As said before, I rather not see the pilgrims come this way but honestly, I feel sorry seeing them walk in the heat when I am driving towards Tertsa in my ‘bolide’ and especially when it concerns hitchhikers begging for a ride.
Last September, I ran the distance to Tertsa each day and then finished my exercise running back and forth on the beach right along the seaside. At the end of the village the beach is sort of split up by an enormous rock. Although there is a narrow opening, this rock seems to form a natural barrier to stop the regular holidaymakers. Up to here and not further! Nevertheless, some just don’t care and neglect the well-meant warning created by mother nature. They proceed their walk, not because it is so much nicer once having passed that rock, as there is absolutely no possibility of getting beverages etc., but being on that beach provides a lot of privacy for intimacy. I always call this beach “the beach of the cudgel men”. Not that you stumble over them on this part of the island. It is in fact quite seldom that you come across ‘a member’.
When I have finished my run to Tertsa, it is absolutely wonderful to cool off by diving into the sea. I wring my soaked cloths and prepare my sunbed for later. I then walk to Lambros Angelopoulos’ small terrace with its bamboo roof and sit at a little table having my first caffé latte. As a routine, I always arrive there around 9 in the morning and most of the time I am the first customer, reason why I can occupy my favourite sunbed. On the beach in front of his terrace you will find about forty blue coloured beds with parasols, neatly positioned in rows. I don’t like to lie in between the mass of people arriving during the day nor directly at the seaside, as anybody coming out of the water has a direct view at your crotch. Looking from the terrace you may find my ‘bed’ to the left and in the second row. That way I can best overlook everything and if necessary even make contact with other people without being bothered. After my first cup of coffee I enjoy a sunbath for an hour followed by a second cup of coffee. At the end of the day I leave my towel, sun oils, etc., in a bag at Lambros’ place.
One day, I sat myself again at my favourite table with a view on all the colourful beds and of course the sea. I ordered some food and a drink. Even though Lambros exactly knows by now what I prefer to have for lunch, he persisted in telling me again what the specialties of the day were. I let him finish politely and as soon as he ended his speech I kindly asked him to bring me a Greek salad with feta, a baguette and a bottle of Retsina. With a smile on his face he disappeared to the kitchen. To get there you must walk thru the tavern and cross a small street. The feta Lambros serves is very traditional, it has such a dry taste that it seems like your cheeks are sucked inside whenever you take a bite. The risk is that you bite on the inside of your cheeks as a result and I can assure you, that hurts.
It is Lambros’ mother that prepares all the delicious dishes. Meanwhile, his father is almost forcing the Tertsa visitors aiming for the beach, to proceed to his son’s place. He makes it clear that only there the beds are for free as well as the parking places. To be convinced that the potential customer is not walking to the adjacent competitor’s place, he even accompanies them to the inviting sunbeds. Did the customer come by car, he gladly serves as their valet parker.
The inhabitants in this region are not pleased to see too much half nude individuals neither tourists that just don’t care to maintain the local customs and values. When one is taking a de-tour, and visiting the smaller surrounding villages, you are most certainly welcomed unless you show disrespect by the way you are dressed and/or how you behave. Don’t be surprised that elderly women, from top to toe dressed in black, push you out of their village by throwing stones at you as soon as you start misbehaving and not show expect for their customs.
Those that own an establishment at the coast are used to the unappreciated habits of the many tourists. Still, Lambros has placed a rather decent and old fashioned changing cabin right in front of his terrace and close to a centuries old olive tree. He even installed an improvised shower against the tree for some additional comfort. The simple wooden cabin hardly provides any privacy to the person that wants to change because of the many cracks and chinks in the material used. Anybody sitting on the terrace has a free view of what is happening in that cabin but nevertheless, the intention is well meant and appreciated by his customers. Do you take hygiene seriously and you need to go to the toilet, you must go into the direction of the kitchen as directly next to it, there is a small place where you can relieve yourself.
On this day, I ordered my usual lunch. When I tossed down the contents of my first glass of Retsina, a dandy kind of a young guy of approximately 30 years passed my table and sat down on one of the blue sunbeds on the first row close to the terrace. His white skin showed that he was a newcomer and had just arrived on Crete. Half an hour later a lady appeared on the terrace. I guessed she was Dutch and approximately 60 years. She was rather nervous and looked around. When she noticed the young man, she walked towards him. He greeted her very friendly and he made her sit on a sunbed that he had upfront spread for her with utmost care, I had my suspicion about his charming behaviour. Must be another of those ‘boys’ I thought. During the evening these ‘toyboys’ pass the many terraces of Mirtos that are hidden in the gloom under the olive trees, while looking for single elderly ladies to impress them with their charm. They know exactly how to select them and when successful, to get an invitation for a free dinner, free drinks, in short being cared for and feted by such a naïve woman. Next thing is that he invites her to a distant place to have a romantic time to adore the sun and God knows what else. She might be attracted by this adventure because the charmer had perhaps stimulated a flame of which she thought it had been extinguished a long time ago. After my lunch and having had to witness how the toyboy impressed his easy victim, I went back to my own bed in order to enjoy the sun for another couple of hours.
The next day, at the same time I was again at Lambros’ place and started with my usual program. Around noon, the time that Lambros lists all the specials, yesterday’s young man appeared, and he prepared two sunbeds and, as the day before, in the first row near the terrace. Fifteen minutes later, I just had fiercely bitten the inside of my cheek, I saw an older lady appear on the terrace. She was dressed in a beautiful long white summer outfit and it seemed that she was waiting for someone. Soon our ‘boy’ noticed the woman and he flashed towards her and brought her to the sunbeds he had reserved. Again, it was a Dutch woman and it was clear that she was in for an adventure. While he was leading her to his place, passing my table, he and I had some eye contact. Judging my painful look, he most probably thought that I suffered having to watch his success with the lady, not knowing that I had just eaten a piece of very dry feta. I got somewhat used to the scene on the blue beds in front of me and did not pay much attention anymore until right behind me the lady he had impressed the day before appeared again and she was apparently looking for her passionate ‘boy’. Ah, I thought, this is going to be interesting after all!
Without any hesitations she walked towards the newly spread sunbeds. The young man hastily stood up and was clearly very uncomfortable with what was happening. Trying to save his face he got another sunbed and he introduced her to the other woman. He probably hoped that the two Dutch ladies would start a pleasant conversation. But on the contrary, seeing how they were behaving, it was quite obvious that they wanted to kill each other. During this status quo, the ‘boy’ decided to cool off on the terrace and create some distance in this awkward situation. When he passed my table, I wished him luck with solving the problem. He smiled and replied in English with a heavy German accent: “Don’t worry, wait and see.”
The afternoon dragged on and you could sense the unpleasant atmosphere around the three beds, even more because the women convulsively avoided to look at each other let alone talk.
Then, all of a sudden, a playful young man, as white as a sheet with a curly head showed up and walked directly to the three beds. Our ‘boy’ stood up immediately and walked to the newcomer and overjoyed embraced him and both of them left the despairing ladies. A little further on they rubbed sun oil, at least I think that’s what they used, from top to toe on each other’s bodies. Then they proceeded to the large rock and disappeared behind it on their way to the “beach of the cudgel men”.
For breakfast I ate more than enough fruit and yoghurt with honey and one day I just wanted to have a greasy and unhealthy breakfast and I drove up to the mountains in the direction of Ano Viannos, situated on the slopes of the 2,148-meter-high Dikti mountains. Well-fed with an almost Irish tasting breakfast I went down to Tertsa and once at Lambros’ place, and unfortunately my blue sunbed on the second row at the front, to the left was occupied. Thus, I went over to the right side, same row. Not yet fully settled, suddenly, with a lot of fuss, a group of Dutch females in their fifties came in my direction. The women behaved like young girls although the sell-by date of being a youngster had since long passed. Unfortunately, the complete group landed near my place.
Most people that visit Tertsa change quietly into their bathing suits, using the cabin, these ladies however, centred all attention on them. Understandable, having had to endure the heat and reaching the sea to cool off, everybody gets excited. What irritated me was that this group acted as if it was quite normal to adopt the Dutch “Zandvoort at Sea-culture” one-to-one on an idyllic little beach at the conservative south cost of Crete. In other words, most of these women acting like noisy little girls, immediately choose to run to the sea, topless, although one of them was much slower as she was wearing an artificial leg. Once she got to the sea, she threw this leg with some venom away and jumped into the water. It is of course very tragic when one has to miss a limb, but it is certainly not a reason to be ashamed for the loss of it. Nevertheless, I felt like she was trying to hide her discomfort by acting rather provocative. Dropping your artificial leg directly in front of the sunbeds near the waterfront, I do realize that, what else could she do, but it certainly is an unpleasant sight for unsuspecting people and children, passing by.
Much to my surprise I noticed that her artificial leg was winded with elastic bandages. With all of these tough girls around her, I thought there should have been at least one of them to take care of that poor leg that was left behind at the waterfront and lie there as a prey for the rising waves.
Most of these women walked around topless and so did the disabled woman. While I was eating my delicious Greek salad, she walked with her artificial leg on, up the beach towards the toilet next to the kitchen, her nude breasts wildly sweeping. She went straight thru the tavern, passing the tables with guests eating their lunch, crossed the street where many elderly ladies dressed in black were sitting and finally she reached the toilet. Don’t misunderstand me, I am not against topless, not at all but I do think that one should not be forced to look at nude breasts, especially not in the centre of a cultured village like Tertsa, unless of course it concerns the feeding of a small suckling.
If you insist to sunbath half naked, between Mirtos and Tertsa you will find a kilometres long beach with boulders where you may enjoy the sun and other amusements’, hidden from anybody’s view.
I was drinking my last glass of Retsina when a man of my age but with another figure stood up from his sunbed and in full sight of a lot of people on the terrace, dropped his swimming trunks. To crown this activity, he bowed to further undo himself of his trunks and gave us a full view on his hairy ass. Again, someone from Holland, which I found out later. For me it meant that for this year I had enough Greek salad and Retsina and more than enough of the many Dutch sceneries that were forced on me. High time to return to Ireland, to Dingle and my sweet dogs.