Liam Ratcatcher! 1983
I have to be honest and say that l have been on better flights to Europe since the flight we took to Romania in 1983. It wasn’t bad in flight service, but it was a little bumpy at times and Mitchell said that it might’ve had something to do with Romania having to pay in cash every time they landed in London for their fuel due to the ecconomy problems in Romania and a very low credit score, and maybe they hadn’t got enough or they had bought low grade or something which didn’t help any of us especially at one time when the Captain said “Ladies and Gentlemen, we are experiencing ‘boompy time’ hold on to your seats!!”
Thankfully and finally we landed at Mihail Kogălniceanu International Airport which was apparently not far from our first destination of Mamaia, the beach resort on the Romanian Black Sea. It was at the time considered to be a top notch holiday resort. Lake Siutghiol sat behind it and we were all going to be in a ‘very good four star’ hotel according to the various travel agents and paperwork we had neatly piled in our laps.
Once we landed, and retrieved our luggage and got through everything all eleven of us were standing in the terminal completely oblivious to the next step – which should have been ‘Being met by the Dracula tour guide’. Who was already late and would not turn up for another two hours. So we all sat down, got ourselves some coffee and waited, and waited, and waited.
I have to concede to being somewhat uncomfortable during this wait time, purely because l don’t think l had ever seen so many armed guards, police and military in my life in one area and all looking very grim and sullen faced, and ‘ready. By ready, l mean ready for anything that wasn’t supposed to be there. They didn’t wear any smiles just an assortment of black uniforms and very black and lethal looking guns. Liam in his unusually and overly vibrant pink trousersuit with his impossible squeal laughter and the most unusual giggle l have ever heard uttered from a human being, the closest l could relate it to was a seriously deranged walrus was all smiles and winks at these tough looking guards and l swear at one point all of us were going to be shot, such was the glare from a couple of these guards who kept walking past us and on every swing getting closer to our location.
“Oh this is just silly” Liam suddenly burst out to us all,“We are on holiday afterall, we are holiday makers they must see hundreds of thousands of them every year, l am going to speak to them!”
Molly said quite truthfully l think, “Yes maybe so Liam, but maybe not like you dear, l mean you are not just subdued pink, you are dressed in hot pink! It’s not like well, welcoming is it?”
“What’s wrong with pink Molly, l happen to love pink, this is the 80’s you know, anything goes!” He snapped back.
“Well maybe everywhere except here Liam!” Sally quietly whispered, “Don’t cause them to become angry, maybe Rory should go?”
“What? Me? Oh no, no, no, no, no, sorry nope, no way Sally, l have a tendency to upset people just by looking at them, l am not a good choice, send Mitchell!”
“I am not going, l am quite happy to wait matey, l’m good.”
Liam, suddenly bent doen, pulled me upright to a standing position, looped his arm through mine and we sort of half walked half skipped over to the nearest pair of glum looking machine gun wielding guards and said “Oh l say hello, do you speak English? wonder if you can help us?”
The guy we were talking to was close to six and a half feet tall, he was a monster of a man, my Dad would have said built like a brick shit house as a way of describing this fella! He just looked at us and l thought “OMG we are going to die on the first day of our holiday!”
Liam, l learned in the first thirty seconds of conversation to this brute was absolutely shameless in his behaviour! “Oh l say, that is such a weapon, so big, so shiny, l do like a man with a big weapon Bet you know how to use it too?”
“What you want, go sit, go away. Don’t touch gun!!!”
The other guard was suddenly smiling and laughing at me a lot and winking, what was going on l was thinking. WHY me, why always ME?? But Liam took advantage of that and suddenly thrust the paperwork under his eyes. The second guards’ eye lit up, mumbled something to the first guard who then let out a massive bellow of a laugh! “Oh you Kustov, he spooky vampire man, he your guide! He drinking, he be here soon, all how you say it …?”
With that the guard made out he was drunk, and lifting his hands up to his mouth and pretending to drink and swagger around and laughing! “Good luck, he drive you? You need good luck, he .. how you say this ‘dement!’ With that he made the sign for someone being crazy!
“Kustov is crazy, are you saying our guide is crazy?” I ask shocked.
“Ya, yes, he is crazy, big crazy man, always drink, crazy and laughing like crazy, drink and drive is Kustov, and crazy. Good luck, have fun in Romania!”
With that the pair of them walked off laughing and taking sideward glances at us, leaving Liam and myself looking at each other with more than a little uncertainty.
“Ooher Rory, did he say our guide is crazy and drunk all the time?” Liam asked.
“Yeah, l think so, probably joking though, l mean the travel agents wouldn’t send us to Romania to go driving with some crazy rep would they?”
“Oh l don’t know, have you seen some of those Spanish reps? They are really crazy, cute, but crazy all the same!”
“Oy you two pair of clowns!” Mitchell shouted out to Liam and myself, “Our ride is here, funny looking fella, l swear he is drunk!”
Liam and l turned around to look at our group, and there was the oddest man l have ever seen! Kustov probably only stood around five foot, if ‘IF‘ that. He reminded me of one of The Krankies, the small one. He was also the same width as his height, he looked like a really colourful ball with legs! He was wearing a bright luminous green baseball cap with a pair of yellow vampire teeth on the peak, shorts that were either too long or trousers that were too short, l couldn’t determine WHAT they were, but they were bright red and he had a belt around them, done up too tight, so it looked like the shorts/trousers were fighting for their breath on his stomach! But it was his shirt, Hawaiian doesn’t even come close, and if it did, it was like it had a fight with a kaleidoscopic vomit festival whilst on the merry- go- round!! His hair was strange as well as it covered most of his face and the only thing that were really showing were his eyes the hair beneath the cap looked like a mad professor that changed his mind during a haircut!
“Oh l say what is that??” Liam whispered actually sounding quite concerned.
“Kustov our guide for the Dracula tour!” I answered equally as quiet, “Worrying isn’t it?”
We walked back to the group, and the thing that got to me first was a mixture of really bad body odour and drink, l don’t know what drink it was, but it was pure 100% alcohol what ever it was!
“Hel hic lo everyone, l am Kustov, your Drac hic ula guide for your holiday in Rommmania – Welcome!!”
With that Mitchell gathered up his family, and his luggage and flew out the door of the terminal and started shouting “Taxi, Taxi TAXI!!”
Kustov completely unfazed by this, simply swept us all up and herded us all outside to his van, which was actually quite smart for a Volkswagon campervan, if you didn’t mind the fact that it was bright pink [yes pink!] and covered in vampire bats!
“Oh hot pink, this is my colour, so, so, so, so my colour!” Liam exclaimed to us all and got in through the side door, all thoughts of ‘drunk and crazy’ suddenly unimportant!
With us all in the van, with the exception of Mitchell and his family who were nowhere to be seen, in fact l wouldn’t see them again until we were leaving Romania at the end of the holiday. The hiccupping Kustov got into the drivers seat and with a few more hics and a couple of belches, a back fire, a few loud farts and a sneeze we left the airport on our way to Mamaia!
Our holiday was just about to start!