"Keanu for the night. Brad for the relationship. Oodjaravah, Mark Thatcher or Charles Althorp?"
"Oh, God. Unfair. The cut-price Earl, I suppose. Oodjaravah, the guy who brought us our drinks or the night porter at the hotel?"
We were chowing our way through grilled calamari in the restaurant on the volcano and the sun was bouncing off the shiny red noses all around us. We were both wearing sunglasses. The day before, we'd been having breakfast at Clapham Junction. The moonscape at Timanfaya was nicer. We were feeling rather smug, as we hadn't expected to end up in Lanzarote. It just sort of happened. A nice lady called Lesley sold us a package, and here we were, eating fish and playing Oodjaravah.
We were also playing "D'you think Gina would eat this?" I will be playing this game for some time. After two weeks of a crazed guest whose primary preoccupations were egg whites, low-fat mineral water and blow-by-blow breakdowns of what you can buy on the shopping channel QVC, this is pretty much the sole topic of conversation round my neck of the woods. It's a simple game. You order a plate of chips and then you look at your friend and say, "D'you think Gina would eat this?" They shake their heads and say "Naah". Then they ask for a nice bottle of Rioja and say, "D'you think Gina would drink this?" and you say, "Naah". Claire proved to be a dab hand at this game. She stuck her hand up and ordered a dish of papas arrugadas and a bowl of mojo rojo to dunk them in. "D'you think Gina would eat this?" she said. "Naah," I replied. Outside, a short, swarthy type in a patchwork warden's uniform created a geyser by pouring a bucket of water down a hole in the rocks, and 40 tourists shrieked, ducked and got soaked.
"Anyway," I said. "Oodjaravah, Emma Thompson or Helena Bonham Carter." "Not Emma. She'd keep saying thank you, and apologising for being a bore." "So you're saying Helena Bonham Carter, then?" "Oh, God, no."
Oodjaravah is a top game. Dido and Alison taught it to me during an Aussie evening on the west-coast shiraz, one rainy night in the Bellevue. The rules are simple: someone says a pair of names and the others have to choose which one they're going to shag. Hesitation and passing are banned. There are no winners or losers, but plenty of points are scored.
Claire gazed contemplatively out of the window. "Have you noticed," she asked, "that all the dykes are wearing baseball caps back to front?" Lanzarote seems to be a bit of a draw for German lesbian couples at the moment, much as Ibiza used to be first call for gay men in the Eighties. "Maybe it's some sort of international symbol?" "Odd one to choose, don't you think? It used to be the international symbol for being a bit of a prat."
There are worse sartorial crimes than dressing up like Li'l Abner, of course. Like going to the supermarket in a bikini. Like the British abroad. There is a branch of Spar in Costa Teguise, and it was stuffed with our fellow countrypeople, delighted to have found an outlet for baked beans with pork sausages, and scratching their bottoms where they'd caught too much sun. Lanzarote is confusing at this time of year. The locals think it's the depth of winter, and shiver in shell suits next to gangs of men in shorty nylon football strips and vesty T-shirts. Our women put on a brave show in miniskirts, bare legs and Benidorms. You can spot the occasional Frenchwoman by the well pressed white trousers with the neat little split at the cropped ankle. Middle-aged Germans favour Hong Kong Versace, usually a T-shirt, leggings and bomber jacket in three different patterns.
"Oodjaravah," said Claire, "Cesar Manrique or Pablo Picasso?"
"Ooh, Manrique. For definite." Manrique's the sort of bloke you wouldn't think twice about showing a good time to. He was the artist who saved Lanzarote from strip development and designed most of its more exotic features. He constructed a house in a lava floe, an opera house in a lava tube, a cactus garden in an old quarry, a dozen restaurants built into crags and waterfronts and a lot of very peculiar sculptures. I think I would have fallen in love with him, if he hadn't been killed in a car crash involving a palm tree, a blind junction and a long bonnet a few years ago. He was a serious dude. "No, you wouldn't," said Claire." "He banned King Hussein of Jordan from smoking in his house. You wouldn't last five minutes."
I sparked up a duty-free. "He'd convert, darling. Where are we going to eat this evening?"
Another geyser shot from the rocks. Another group of thrill-seekers shrieked, ducked, laughed. "How about," said Claire, "that castle on the docks in Arrecife?" "OK. But can we go to the supermarket and get some olives with anchovies in, and some pickled chillies, to eat on the terrace?" "OK." She got to her feet and rubbed her tummy. "God, I'm full. I couldn't eat another thing." She paused. "Except maybe some of those little almond biscuits dunked in a glass of moscatel. Don't suppose Gina would eat those, would she?"
I swept in her wake. "'Course not." The sun was sliding westwards, shadows of volcanoes the only things growing in the charred landscape. We tossed for the car keys. As we settled into the baking plastic seats, she squeaked, "I've got one! I've got one!"
"Oodjaravah, Michael Portillo or Peter Lilley?"Reuse content