I lost my virginity in... Crete: Charles de Ledesma

Late summer 1977 had been chaotic. After A-levels, most of my friends had holed-up in a squat in St John's Wood, London, experimenting with various drugs and sleeping on flea-ridden mattresses copped from the street. The only way to get Nicky out of this vice-ridden, public- schoolboy environment was to offer her a trip olive-picking on the Greek island of Crete - hitch-hiking there and back, of course. Once alone among the Hellenic sights and smells, romance would naturally bloom, or so I imagined.

Things went well at first. At Ostend we flagged down some Pakistanis going home, and after resisting the urge to sightsee Peshawar on the pounds 60 we had between us, we got out in Cold War Bulgaria - a land apparently overrun by the autumn cabbage and swede crop - and passed through Edirne in Turkey into Greece. But Nicky had grown moody on the diet of biscuits and water and I worried that this rough life might not be for her.

Piraeus passed in a flash, and Chania offered a welcome respite, its pretty harbour giving us a chance, after lathering off the grime accumulated by the week on the road, to hold hands among the boats and tourists.

Next day we headed west into Kissamos county; the real Crete, where, according to the guide book, the locals had been struggling against all invaders for millennia. It was hot and dry but the olives were thriving. It is said that there are 1.5 million olive trees in this county. It was time to get to work.

We were told that pickers were needed near Falassarna, the westernmost village in Crete, which has been settled since early Neolithic times. The village's name is derived from a nymph - an appropriate place then for our love to develop. Its peak had been during the Hellenistic period and at the time the place had had its own coin. But like much of the ancient world, it had fallen on hard times. Accommodation for the budget traveller was plentiful though, in the many caves located above the sprawling, rugged beach, which, these days, is quite a tourist draw.

Spoilt for choice, we settled into one in the basic, basic category and made it as homely as possible. Such exotic primitivism, however, didn't seem to shake Nicky out of her forlorn introspection, and my enquiries as to her condition fell on deaf ears. I began to think she was homesick - for the squat? This I found hard to believe.

The main bar in Falassarna, Anastasio's, provided some crumbs of comfort. The ouzo the ebullient owner kept feeding us revived our spirits somewhat. Breakfasting on warm bread, yoghurt and honey helped make light of our predicament. The problem was, we were down to only a few pounds and had, in fact, arrived too late for the olive-picking. Candlelit dinners perching at the front of the cave eating meagre rations of cheese and tomatoes didn't seem to inspire the romance I had fantasised about.

Then, at last, Anastasio said he'd found a farmer who could help. I was set to work picking cucumbers and Nicky got to do some olive-tree shaking, then loading the tough little nuggets into wicker baskets. We met again at the communal lunch, quite a banquet by our standards, with local Kissamos wine to wash down the vine leaves, fried fish and feta salad. The matriarch took a fancy to Nicky and she smiled back, laughing when the younger kids wrapped her long brown hair up in a peasant scarf. I realised then that, through my frustration, I hadn't noticed that, only 17, she was simply homesick for her family, missing her younger brother and sister enormously. This adventure had only exacerbated the sore feelings of separation she had been feeling - and hiding - in the squat.

That night we talked and she cried. Then we made love as the winds whistled into our cave and the waves crashed in unison below. After a few days on the farm, the season was over; autumn had well and truly arrived. We had just enough money for one of us to travel back from Piraeus by coach.

Nicky went, loaded down with local oil and some of Anastasio's ouzo. She headed straight back to her family. I hitched through Zagreb and over the new Swiss snows with just a tenner and a lot of cadging. We didn't see each other again that year.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: International Project Coordinator / Account Coordinator

    Circa £26,500 DOE: Guru Careers: An International Project Coordinator / Accoun...

    Guru Careers: Plumber / Maintenance Operator

    £25k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Plumber / Mainten...

    Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

    £14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

    Recruitment Genius: Network Executive - Adrenalin Sports - OTE £21,000

    £19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you looking for an exciting...

    Day In a Page

    Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

    US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

    Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

    'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
    The male menopause and intimations of mortality

    Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

    So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
    Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

    'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

    Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
    Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

    Bettany Hughes interview

    The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
    Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

    Art of the state

    Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
    Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

    Vegetarian food gets a makeover

    Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
    The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

    The haunting of Shirley Jackson

    Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
    Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

    Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

    These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
    Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

    Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
    HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
    Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

    'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

    Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
    Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

    The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

    Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen