In 2006 I went island hopping in the Greek Cyclades islands for fourteen days but even though a year later in 2007 this was extended to sixteen I still didn’t think this was nearly enough so for 2008 decided that three whole weeks would be just about perfect.
On the day of departure we set off in good time for Luton Airport with a plan to arrive early and get the holiday off to a good start with a relaxing drink or two in the airport departure lounge. It was a good job that we did because as we left Spalding we had no idea that we were desperately going to need that extra hour if we were to make the flight to Athens. After about forty-five minutes and just south of Peterborough the car started to handle badly and just as I was thinking about pulling over to check it out there was a dramatic back tyre blow out and in a cloud of smoke and burning rubber I had to pull over to the side of the motorway.
I was in a total panic and even though the AA assured us that they were on the way and would be with us very quickly I decided to try and change the tyre myself. I had the jack in place and the job in hand when I suddenly started to feel strange with a mouth so dry it was as though I had been eating sand, my hands were shaking and I had a heart rate at double what is considered normal. I was convinced that I was going to suffer the indignity of passing away at the side of the A1 and so took a walk along the hard shoulder to try and calm down and then the AA vehicle arrived and the patrolman took over and made a much better job of changing the wheel than I could possibly have done. The bad news of course was that we now only had a temporary tyre on the back, which meant a speed restriction of fifty miles an hour that I just knew was going to piss people off! We had lost about forty minutes of the spare hour that we had allowed and at a reduced speed I knew now that it was going to be tight.
Back on the road I suddenly had a huge burning pain in my right shoulder that was so bad that if it had been the left one I would have abandoned the holiday plan there and then and driven straight to the nearest hospital and I was still desperately thirsty. The priority was getting to the airport so I carried on and after an hour or so the pain wore off. I had no idea at the time but I had been stung nine times by what I assume was a wasp caught inside my shirtsleeve and I had probably been suffering from some form of anaphylactic shock. The pain had gone so I didn’t know this until much later when I finally took my shirt off in Greece and discovered nine vivid vermilion red spots on my shoulder blade that made it look like a nine of hearts playing card!