‘Got any pies?’ asked Fat Paul, optimistically. ‘I’m starving.’ His prodigious dimensions suggested that starvation was, in fact, far from imminent, yet I rallied to this desperate cry for provisions, searching high and low in the truck’s fridge. I eventually produced a delicious fruit selection.
Fat Paul’s face, a mask of wan discomfort, bore an expression of a child that had expected a shiny new bicycle for Christmas, yet upon waking discovers a paltry piece of coal and a Satsuma under the tree. Scarcely have I seen a face portraying less felicity.
‘A Satsuma?’ he questioned, peevishly. ‘Cor, I – ’ His grimace deepened. I glanced over from the driving seat, wondering why I’d been granted this welcome reprieve from unadulterated jabber. And I saw that in his haste to remove the peel, a frantic digit had pierced the fruit: a jet of Satsuma juice had evidently struck him squarely in an area above the mouth.
‘This one seems to be a left-eye job,’ he spluttered, in the manner of one who goes in regularly for such insubstantial snacks. He sounded, in short, like the sort of man who consumes nothing more than a non-sugared grapefruit upon waking, a Slimfast shake for luncheon, and a diced plum for supper.
Now, you may ask yourself why I didn’t pile into the nearest motorway service station and bolster the poor, ailing fellow with a steak? Well, driving as we were on the old Greek road from Thessaloniki to the Albanian-infested port of Igoumenitsa, restaurants were rather thin on the ground. In fact, even the occasional goats wheezing from altitude sickness were becoming few and far between. The road steepened.
‘Fuck a duck!’ exclaimed Fat Paul, his knuckles visibly whitening on the passenger armrest. ‘What’s the next sign going to read? “Sherpas only”?’ At this point, entering another series of switchbacks entirely unsuitable for articulated lorries, I did briefly wonder if I might have played something of a floater. You know how it is: one drifts off the motorway for a Greek salad and a glass of retsina, and before one can say Mount Everest, things begin to look iffy. Yet an hour later, as crepuscular light tinged the ocean, the island of Corfu hove into view. And clusters of dotted lights signified the welcome sight of Igoumenitsa far beneath us.
‘At least it’s not a pie,’ remonstrated Fat Paul, emphatically, as I caught him stuffing a banana into his gob by way of celebrating a narrow escape in the mountains. ‘Mind you, have you got any biscuits in here? Or half a Snickers bar, perhaps? No, biscuits would be healthier, wouldn’t they? Oatmeal and all that…’ What a topping fellow, eh? Fat, though..