Liam Ratcatcher! 1983
Mamaia was NOT what l had been led to believe it was by the travel agent back in Guildford! But l was long past believing anything anymore when it came to expectations in truth. However, one must adapt, and that is not me being terribly Britsish as l am not terribly British to begin with. Having spent most of my younger formulative years in countries a far cry from England, l have never classed myself as a Boy of Blighty. But l simply learned to adapt, it was easier and less stressful.
I was sharing my room with a gay hairdresser and who was so camp tents could have been named after him! Who caught rats during the day, who slept with a teddy bear that was bigger than his pillows, who had the most bizarre sense of fashion dress l had ever encountered, and had the most astounding sense of adventure l had ever known outside literature! He humour was truly keen and his awareness of making people laugh was incredibly lovable and endearing, and to boot l liked him.
I liked the fact that we called each other Boobles and Snaggles, l didn’t actually mind the inuendoes because they were not delivered with any malice but purely for a laugh, and it was good to be able to talk to someone about anything who wouldn’t judge and critique and Liam taught me a lot and helped me improve as a person, and l had to admire him for that. He was able to bolster my confidence in ways that l couldn’t. He helped me harness my power to make people laugh by simply allowing myself to be me, because he said l was a natural.
He didn’t two hoots about imperfections and quirks and said he was in no position to judge another, so he accepted everybody for who they were. Now l was the same, l think what Liam also taught me was to not become embarrassed so easily, and that advice he offered me in 1983, was a recipe for success throughout my life.
He wasn’t just a funny guy, he was a hilariously funny bloke who loved life and all the adventures and mishaps that it could throw at him. He was an excellent teacher whether his learnings were deliberate or not, he left an impression on people and in an excellently brilliant way. His solid advice was always think differently which fitted in with my way of thinking back then, and long, long before l knew of my Asperger’s or autism, the way he voiced it was simply be who you were and if that meant you were unique then live with it as it was your gift to the world.
That first morning as we six sat there looking out at the beach of the resort of Mamaia, it was pissing it down, it was grey and murky and otherwise really awful, but that wasn’t going to stop Liam oh no, after breakfast we all agreed to meet in half an hour and have a walk around the resort itself and see what was what.
What we discovered when walking around was quite alarming, and something that l wasn’t particularly aware of personally until my holiday in Romania and that was the poverty elements at that time. Having not returned to Romania since 1983, l have no idea what it is like now. But there was a huge saddening distinctive line between the holidayers and those who lived there.
We saw women with huge brooms sweeping the streets in pairs, everywhere we looked there were old women sweeping the streets between the hotels themselves. we walked past a local shop and noticed just how threadbare the shelves were in comparison to where we had come from, and when you see this, it stops you dead in your tracks and makes you really appreciate what you have.
All the hotels had shops, and these shops were stocked high with produce. Coffee, tea, biscuits, tobacco, alcohol, sweets and all sorts. Even hotel as a two star had a shop, and whilst ours was not a huge shop, some of the other hotels had massive shops, and yet in the local shops, very little, and the little there was, was ‘extortionately expensive’ for what it was!
People would come up to us and offer us lots of money to buy things from the hotel shops and sell to them, which l found really sad. Many a time buyers would offer you way over the odds of the hotel price so you made something for yourself, which l couldn’t do. yet many holday makers would take the locals money and buy them what they needed and pocket the rest.
No way was l, or for that matter Liam and the rest of us going to take part in that kind of life. If we were approached we would ask what they wanted and buy what they wanted and give them the change and if honest it broke me to see how very grateful they were for ‘your honesty’, and yet what l would simply class as the given. This being, don’t cheat people! Not surprisingly, Kustov was a black marketeer who made a very tidy sum out of his lucrative trade!
Before we left the resort the six of us had picthed in to buy our hotel maids a big box of goodies which included chocolate, coffee, sweets for their kids, milk, shampoos and a host of other bits and pieces for them as a way of a thank you.
As a resort, l wasn’t impressed with Mamaia of 1983, and l say that specifically, because it must be very different now and a quick look at Google Maps alone confirms that it is indeed a very different location, 35 years later. I was however impressed that on the couple of bus rides l took and talking to the local children as young as seven travelling to school was astonished that most of them knew a minimum six languages including English. I am astonished because currently in this country kids struggle to simply speak their native tongue at that age, and it was no different in 1983!
I think of the five days we stayed in Mamaia, we perhaps spent half a day in total on the beach and only then because of that was the only sunny time, the rest of our days there were wet!
Back then the beaches were barren places and only really, stretches of sand coastlining to the Black Sea itself. Nothing was there, just sand, and people milling around or sunbathing, and they even did that when it rained!? Liam did his best to enthuse, and was very good at getting the spirits lifted with attempts at raising volleyball teams, tag matches, beach tennis, ping pong inside the hotel, karaoke and the what nots. He even organised with Kustov a murder night!
I wasn’t going to be sad leaving the resort, l was really looking forwards to ‘Dracula Tour’ part to the holiday, which would be starting from the very next day. There would only six of us taking it, as the other five members of our tour had completely changed their plans and had opted for cruises and the such like.
However, Liam, Sally, Molly, Dana, Dolly and myself found ourselves on our last night in Mamaia and listening to Kustov explain to us that was a huge party on at his friends four star hotel down the road and we were invited!
Liam agreed on our behalf that we’d all go, and it was only on the way upstairs that he then told us it was a fancy dress! After five days with Liam, you just said ‘Sure why not? What’s the worst that could happen?”
I should’ve known!
The Dracula Tour 1983
Part 7 Tomorrow