As the sun descends behind its brittle mountains, and the moon increases its boldness, the island of Zakynthos and its inhabitants become difficult to distinguish. During this twilight zone the insects that dominate the day, with their incessant creaking from invisible bodies, moulded into olive trees, begins to deaden as one by one they succumb to what can only be assumed is sleep. There is an almost uninterrupted quiet for a while; the occasional dog bark, or whistle of a bird every now and again punctuating the silence, but nothing seems close and everything is far away.
A new kind of life begins to slowly creep out of the emerging darkness. Something has been flying above my head, under the veranda, for a while now. It is small and dark, like a bat, yet it makes a sound rendering my deduction false. Hedgerows, each exhibiting bright and extravagantly coloured flowers surround the house. In the dark, rustling sounds begin to take shape and an unidentifiable silhouette just darted from the steps to the cover of these plants. I’ve no perception of what it was, aside from the fact that it was clearly alive.
Beyond the veranda behind what, in the light of day, is an unintimidating collection of relatively small bushes is a disused and unloved old swimming pool. If you were someone who did not possess a natural curiosity then you would never know it was there. Fortunately for you, I have an innate desire to explore the unknown. Its beauty initially struck me. The relics of human existence are there; the plastic steps in and out and the integrated stone ones that occupy one edge demonstrate how this was once a place of sanctuary and joy for someone. My brain transported me to a world far away from this one and I could see two sun loungers accompanied by a striped umbrella on the far corner of the paving. A young woman, in sixties-esque swimwear, was lying on an intricately coloured blanket at the top of the feature steps, head tilted down, and eyes just visible beneath her large, white sunglasses intently perusing a battered copy of Lolita.
Why my brain decided that any woman’s favourite book would be Lolita is a mystery to me, yet there it was. In the obnoxious glare of the Greek sunlight the pond is green, filled with weeks old rainwater. It has not, and will not, rain whilst I am here. A frog leaping into its depths pulls me out of my inception of daydreams. It is dark now and the howling chorus of a thousand stray dogs has begun. Their staccato barks infiltrate the incessant noise of mopeds and quad bikes. Yet it is all far away. Close there is the sound of frogs, easily and initially mistaken for chickens, and in the distance a minute fraction of the island begins to come alive.
It is unclear whether here, in the middle of nowhere, it would be possible to be bombarded with the sensory overload that is Laganas, and its infamous tourist strip. When British teenagers say they are going to Zante, they are actually going to Zakynthos, what they meanis that they are going to Laganas. Zante is the miniscule strip of shisha bars, garish hotels, two for one cocktails and incessant euro-trash. Zakynthos is unspoilt beaches, loggerhead turtle nests and mountains. Lots and lots of mountains. It is not sitting on a veranda at eleven o’clock at night, due to the fact that you have the fortunate superpower of being inedible to mosquitos, and listening to 1980s pop hit Rio. The only acceptable setting for Duran Duran is Turner’s subtle nod in I Bet That You Look Good on the Dancefloor.
Her name isn’t Rio, but I don’t care for sand,
And lighting my fuse my result in a bang-b-b-bang-oh.