When I left you last, I was in the beach resort town of Portorož, having dinner while listening to a Venga Boys tribute band. That night I stayed in the lovely “Life Class” Hotel. That’s right. The hotel was called Life Class. I thought a life class was when a group of art students got together and learned how to draw a nude person. I suppose a life class could also be a class where you learn life skills like “how to listen”, “how to manage your time” or “how to make men do the ironing”. This hotel was neither of these things. It was a luxurious spa hotel with fluffy bathrobes in every room and a chocolate on every pillow. That night, I was so thirsty that I went against everything I’d been reared to do and I took a bottle of water from the mini-bar. I felt like Little Orphan Annie when she first went to Daddy Warbucks’ house.
I had booked the hotel online. For some reason, the internet wouldn’t let me book without entering a post code that matched my credit card. This was a problem. Ireland is the last European nation standing without post codes. I tried a Slovene postal code. It didn’t work. Neither did 90210, my fallback post code for internet emergencies, when websites simply insist on having one. The internet had somehow convinced itself that I was in Britain and refused to proceed with my booking until I entered a UK postcode. I googled postcodes in England and entered one on the hotel booking form. The internet automatically recognised the postcode and added the town name to my address. As far as the hotel was concerned, I live at Trinity Hall, Dartry Road, Dublin 6, Kingston-upon-Thames.
It was glorious in my posh hotel by the beach. I slept better than I’ve slept in a long time.
I got up early in the morning, having decided to spend the day at the beach. I had my big hotel breakfast and headed out.
It was lovely! I rented a lounge chair and an umbrella and stripped down to my skimpy little swimming togs, smeared on sun cream and read for a while. It was over 35 degrees, which is usually far too hot for Connor, but the water was just there waiting for me.
For a long time, I didn’t realise how much I liked water. Between 1998 and 2010 (when I went to Lanzarote, the first foreign trip I chronicled in this blog), I didn’t go to a beach or a pool. I had never learned to swim and I didn’t like sand (I still don’t) and the public near-nakedness was terrifying.
Now, it’s totally different. I love water. I’ve already written two posts here about my trips to SaunaLand since I got to Slovenia, and I love saunas, pools, hot tubs, jacuzzis, whilrpools, steam rooms, power showers, Turkish baths and the sea. I love it.
A friend of mine once posted a video on my Facebook wall. It’s a video of a man who likes to put a fish costume on his bottom half and swim around like a merman. He said it reminded him of me. Not because I’m a merman, but because I dance to the beat of my own drum and don’t quite follow all the social norms I’m meant to. I loved him for that, but sometimes I think as well as being quirky, I might be an actual merman. I do really love water.
After about half an hour under my beach umbrella, reading my novel, I went for a swim. Now, I can’t swim, but it didn’t matter. There was lots and lots of shallow water. I floated. I did underwater stretches. I lay back. I lay forward. I splashed. I paddled. I crouched underwater. I wallowed. Like a hippo in mud. A hippo who’s been deprived of mud for years. I spent hours in the water. Glorying in it. The water was beautiful. The sun was glistening on the surface, but the water was wonderfully cooling. There were cold currents at the surface, but you never got cold, because there were warm currents coming from below and tickling your toes. I think Heaven might be underwater.
I wasn’t alone. The beach was fairly crowded, mainly with Italians and Slovenes. There were lots of families. There was a tent on the beach with this sign: “Child Care Beach – You care, we care, day care”. LOL. “You care” i.e. “don’t feel guilty for abandoning your children on the beach. You’re still a good parent.” I have no problem with child care. I just find the sign hilariously condescending.
There were lots of other people too. I learned that if an old lady wants to go swimming in a black lacy bra and large black panties, then she will. I also learned that (thankfully) the leopard print bikini is still going strong in Italy. I saw a mother getting upset when the camera that she had brought into the sea to photograph her children got wet. There were people of all shapes and sizes. But Slovenia is a country for the solid, shapely man. And I saw more than one set of pecs that it was difficult not to imagine licking caramel pudding off.
I spent seven hours on the beach. Seven fabulous hours.
I applied and re-applied sun cream, but there is a thick band on my back, around my shoulder blades, that I can’t reach with my hands. After so long on the beach, I burned. In spite of the umbrella. In spite of keeping as much underwater as I could. That band on my back turned bright red. 48 hours later, it’s still tender. Unfortunately, the part of my back that I can’t reach to apply my Factor 50 sun cream is also the same part of my back that I can’t reach to apply my Aloe Vera after sun soothing milk. I tried to decide who I would prefer to smother my back in cream – my 50-year-old colleague? Or one of my students? In the end, I decided to suffer on. I have put some of my after sun lotion on by rolling around in it. And eventually this burn will clear. Until it does, I’m sleeping on my front, and carrying my backpack in my hand, and avoiding chair-backs and human touch.
After a long and wonderful day on the beach, with my ears, the gaps between my toes and the crack of my bum all full of sand, and my back burned, I boarded a bus back to Ljubljana. It was possibly the most uncomfortable journey of my life. But every minute of it was worth it for my day as a merman.