Liam Ratcatcher! 1983
How we survived the drive to the hotel is beyond me, it was like a roller coaster ride through hell. I am thankful that there wasn’t much traffic on the road [In truth in ’83, there wasn’t a lot of traffic on the roads] which is just as well. Kustov when not hiccupping and burping or farting, seemingly had three hands, and all of them were in the air as he gesticulated wildly explaining how we would have so much fun, and we were his third tour this year. That he was surprised about how many complaints he got and yet he still had travel agents send him new people for the tour!
He, when not waving his arms around his head, was pointing to the left and to the right and mentioning landmarks and yet when we looked all we could really see were either a plain house or an empty road, or an abandoned car, so were a little dumbfounded as to what exactly were ‘were’ supposed to be looking at.
Our party which had begun at a relatively strong eleven was now down to 8. John and his girlfriend were looking quite concerned as to whether they were going to see the next day let alone simply survive the frantic erraticness of Kustov’s driving and were muttering about finding alternative arrangements. Liam was in his element and was taking regular sips of whatever it was that was within Kustov’s ‘hip’ flask, l say hip reticently because it was to all purposes basically a flask for hot drinks filled to the brim with whatever Kustov was on himself, and was becoming quite tipsy!
Dana [pronounced Dayna] and Dolly were very calm and easy and kept on saying to everyone that they had lived a life of plenty so if they died today, they had lived a good innings! Whilst Sally and Molly were like me clinging on to anything they could hold that wasn’t actually moving with the ever increasing speed of the campervan! They looked terrified!
Within the space of perhaps 45 minutes we had arrived at the ‘4 star hotel’, and upon arrival, l quickly got out my brochure and looked at the picture and realised pretty damn quick that Kustov was at the wrong hotel.
“This isn’t the hotel advertised in the brochure?” I said to Kustov as we landed to a complete stop throwing everyone forwards by two feet, resulting with Liam kissing the front screen!
“No? Is it not? Are you sure? look again, look over there.” He said pointing to another hotel, which ‘was’ the hotel in the picture.
“Oh is that our hotel then?” Molly asked.
“No, but it is close to this hotel, yes?” Kustov answered laughing.
Everyone exchanged looks and then l asked Kustov, “So that hotel, is NOT our hotel, and is only in the picture because our hotel is close to it? Is that what you are saying?”
“Yes, no need for a different photo when l had picture of that hotel. This is my brother’s hotel, nicer, smaller, comfier! Yes??”
The hotel owned by Kustov’s brother “Enganov”, was much smaller than the other hotel, and just looked terribly sad and glum. It was bland in colour, a sort of off white with funny holes in the walls?”
Kustov seeing me look at these holes, quipped, “Bullet holes for effect, you like yes?”
“So they are not real bullet holes then?”
“Yes of course they are real, l shot wall. Tourists from England like to see them, yes?”
“Not really Kustov, not really at all!” I answered becoming a little more alarmed than l had been whilst speeding through the streets with a drunken driver who adopted the no hands policy whilst driving at 60mph!
“Oh, you’re the first who doesn’t like them.”
“Kustov!! Finally, you are here!” If l thought Kustov was big, l was wrong, another fellow presumably his brother rolled out of the front doors followed by a small entourage of people who were all smiling like lunatics and waving at us! Looking at the pair of them together as they embraced l couldn’t help but think of Tweedledum and Tweedledee!
Liam, was finding the whole thing rather quaint l feel, as he grinned like the Cheshire cat and expressed how much he loved this community thing already.
Everyone grabbed our bags and ushered us into the large and spacious lobby with its shiny marble floors, and l have to be honest and say the inside of the building was more pleasant than the outside. There was a brightly lit bar, a small shop, a fully armed security guard [alarming], a breakfast area off to the right and a rather grand looking staircase leading to the upper floors to the left.
We were each given a small coffee, and then we were walked up to our rooms. Now when l had booked my holiday, l was told l would have a single to myself, but now l was told l would have to share.
“Share? With who?” I stammered.
“Who do you want to share with?” Enganov asked. “You want woman to share with you, l can find willing woman for a little extra?”
“No! I was told and l booked and paid for a single room, with en-suite bathroom.” I said worried that l might end up who knows what.
Liam, suddenly chided “Oooh Rory, where is you sense of adventure?”
“No, no, no. There are eight of you, figure it out between yourselves, each of the rooms has single beds. Share with whoever you want.”
John and Tina by this time were looking reeeeally angry and suddenly John had this sort of mini tantrum. It was the first time he had actually spoken to anyone except Tina since Heathrow. “We booked a double bedroom, with en-suite facilities and a balcony terrace. That’s what we want, now!”
Enganov looked genuinely upset and hurt by this and looked at his brother, and l thought he was going to burst into tears. “You NO like my family hotel, you think you are better than us?”
John quite taken aback by this stood down, “No, l am just saying that this isn’t what we paid for, and that is what we want. What we paid for.”
“You want fancy hotel, fancy 4 star hotel, not nice 2 star hotel?”
Tina, who l hadn’t actually heard say a thing and reminded me of a mouse, didn’t stand down, and suddenly became as fierce as a tiger suddenly blurted out “YES!!”
“Ok, how about l give you the honeymoon suite, it is nice and has everything you want and more, nice view of lake, television, music and big, big, big much bigger bed? You do all sorts in that!”
“What? Do all sorts in the bed?” Asked John
“No! Bed thing things, your thing, not my things, l mean room, big room, do what you want in big room. For a few more lei, that is all l ask or dollars or pounds, and it’s yours.”
“We have already paid over the odds!” Tina snapped.
“Alright, ok, have it, you only here for a few days, but don’t use more towels than you need to otherwise that is extra!” Enganov snapped.
“No, we will book ourselves into a different hotel, the hotel over the road, the hotel advertised in this brochure!!” Tina snapped once more shoving the leaflet into his face, and with that John and Tina grabbed their luggage off the porters and stormed down the stairs and out of the hotel! We didn’t see them again until our flight home!
“Ooooh l say, how exciting, it’s like an Agatha Christie novel isn’t it? Now there are six!” Liam giggled. “Anyway more off to see the wizard, the wonderful wizard?”
Enganov stood his full height and said to the rest of us. “You want to go as well? Not have Dracula tour, not spend time with my family?”
“No, l am good, l will share with Liam. What’s the worse than can happen?” I answered just wanting to stop all this funny business and get into the room. I needed a wee really badly!
“Oooh Rory, it’ll be so much fun, midnight cuddles, parties, frolics, l will not let you down!” Liam answered with big smiles and came over and gave me a big hug and patted me on my bottom!
Molly and Sally, Dana and Dolly, all went to their bedrooms and we agreed to meet for dinner later on that night in the restaurant. Whilst Liam and l were shown into our our own twin bedded.
Working in the catering industry as l was back then and having done my fair share of stints in hotels, l was most assuredly not disappointed with the rooms. They were very smart, they were clean and tidy, they had a television and music, the beds were very comfortable. Ironically, had John and Tina stayed they would not have been disappointed. Liam and l had a terrace balcony that over looked the Black Sea and the beach. We had en suite facilities of a bath and a shower and a working toilet. We had towels and we had all the comforts that we would need for a five day stay.
Admittedly the television showed mostly news and local news at that and when Liam turned it on, he just looked blankly at me and l him, and switched it off again. We unpacked and had a fresh coffee on our balcony and looked at Mamaia which was basically just one, long, long stretch of fairly white sandy beach and an expanse of hotels for as far as the eye could see either way.
“Oh well, this might be exciting, admittedly Spain has a bit more going for it, but it’s later in the day and the sun isn’t shining, tomorrow is another day Rory.”
We showered, changed and at 7pm went down the stairs for dinner and met with the remaining four ‘vampirettes’ as Liam had now nicknamed them.
Dinner was a small affair, some cold meats, some salad and lots of wine. We all had a good laugh, but admittedly retired early for the night due to tiredness and after having agreed we would all meet up tomorrow and ‘Hit the beach!’ as Liam coined it.
“After all we are on holiday!” He chimed in as we all went off down the corridor