Donald MacInnes: The Italian sea grotto was blue – so was my language

In The Red

Relief is a wonderful thing. Therefore, I happily distribute big, sloshing gallons of it by announcing that this week shall be the last dominated by anecdotes from my honeymoon. Enough's enough. Next week I get back on-message. Or as close to it as I can manage.

So, for the last time, allow me to direct your mind's eye to Italy, its delicious island of Capri and the famous Blue Grotto, a very nice cave with a very small entrance. After catching a motor launch from Capri town, you transfer shakily to a rowing boat sculled by a local bloke, who will guide you through the mousehole-sized opening so you can ooh in wonder at the blueness therein. Before that, he rows you over to another boat, where sweaty, disinterested men with hairy faces take €12.50 from each punter. With four people in our boat and a dozen such vessels doing dozens of trips every day, this is clearly more goldmine than blue cave.

Having paid, we joined a bobbing queue of boats waiting to enter the grotto, the opening of which is so small that punters have to lie on their backs while the oarsman grabs a chain and pulls the boat inside. When it was our turn, I wasn't lying down flat enough and very nearly left my nose, chin and lips smeared on to the top of the arch. This terror, though, was worth it. Inside, boats circled in the dark, their oarsmen crooning "Volare", while we found ourselves silhouetted against azure light like a Bond film title sequence.

After 10 minutes, our bloke yanked us back through the opening into the sunlight and rowed us over to our boat. We climbed on board and thus began the most insistent tip hustling I have ever encountered. Our guy held out his hand and began to repeat what a wonderful time we had had and how nice his singing had been. I put a €10 note in his hand. He regarded it much as one would a fresh Labrador stool. He parped air through his lips. Mindful of the fact that his over-enthusiastic yanking had nearly seen me leave my lips on the cave wall, I wasn't keen on giving more, but his glare tweaked my tourist guilt, so I gave him another fiver. This didn't help and he reached sharply toward my pocket. My slumbering aggression immediately exploded into something kinetic and very Scottish (think the Hulk, only greener, from seasickness) and I called him a [bad adjective] cheeky [very bad noun] and he seemed to get my drift. And drifted away.

The lesson? If you ever feel pressured into undeserved tipping, release your inner Glaswegian. Never fails.

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