We gaze at our reflection in the back of a spoon and say, 'Look, I'm Pete Townshend.' Every night

Emma Forrest
Friday 19 July 1996 23:02

We are on a two-week family holiday in Sardinia - an island populated entirely by glossy-haired beauties whizzing by on Vespas and withered nuns on their way to Vespers. We stare at the coltish girls and try not to look at the nuns. "I don't like them," whispers Mum. "It's so dopey. Marrying Christ." Dad is racing way ahead of us - he always does - turning now and then to say "keep up". We can't. Mum recalls their wedding day. "He walked too fast for me then, too. I had to say, 'Excuse me, I can't find the registry office by myself.' "

A sour-faced nun hobbles towards us, weighed down by her habit in the 90-degree heat. "If he really loved her, he wouldn't make her wear those clothes on such a hot day," muses Lisa. By the time the nun passes, she is apoplectic with rage, leaping up and down on the spot screaming, "God, I hate God!"

We are half-board at the hotel and, by dinner, Lisa and I are always half-bored. At breakfast you have to write down what you want for supper and the dull inevitability of the ham omelette and creme caramel makes us cranky. Even though we pick the same meal each day, we always eye the omelette with ill-concealed suspicion and scrape the top off the caramel with our spoons. Then we gaze at our reflection in the back of the spoon and say, "Look, I'm Pete Townshend." Every night.

Salvatore, the hotel owner, is like Basil Fawlty, but in a nice way. He darts around the dining room, his right eye spasming, pouncing on guests who aren't eating with enough gusto. My Dad is working his way through a dish of mussels, carefully placing aside the closed ones, when Salvatore marches up. "No, no, no, you must eat those ones too. They are also good." He begins to pry each one apart with Dad's fork. Mum clutches her forehead until he turns his attention to another happy eater, then wails, "I was so afraid he was going to feed him."

The days, however, are bliss. We lounge by the pool, smothered in Factor 20, giving names to the other guests. The first week there is a charming young couple we christen "pig girl" and "rat boy". The second week, we are joined by "the naked Czechs", "the stomping Italians" and "Jilly Cooper". Jilly has two little girls, shaggy blonde hair and an incredibly posh, shrill voice. "Do you like to read?" she demands of a shy Scottish eight- year-old and then answers herself, "Oh yes, of course you do, all little girls like to read." We make friends with Sophie who is 16 years old and 5ft 10in in her pink bikini. She used to be a champion swimmer and often does laps at midnight. We also like David and Michelle, an impossibly tanned and good-looking young couple who accompany us on a boat trip where we get to touch an octopus and dive into the clear, cold ocean.

The beach is stunning - the water is like a Caribbean poster, turquoise and transparent but more dramatic - mountains seem to rise out of the sea and if you look to your left you see the 14th-century town. I spend six straight hours lying by the shore, listening to my Walkman and reading Isaac Bashevis Singer. The book is so amazing that even when my head begins to hurt and my sight starts to swim, I can't stop reading. When I leave, my arms and legs feel tingly.

In a trashy tourist shop I admire the itchy "SARDINIA" sweatshirts and postcards depicting amusing rock formations. In a bargain rail I discover a Woody Allen T-shirt.

It's a close-up of his face overlaid with a quote from Love and Death: "Dio e morto, Marx e morto ed anch'io non mi sento tanto bene" - "God is dead, Marx is dead and I'm not feeling too good myself."

By that evening I am delirious with sun stroke, throwing up all night, my head pounding incessantly. I clutch my Mum's hand and make a deal with God. "Please, if you just make me feel better I'll become a nun. I swear." Mum tuts, "You will get better but it will be thanks to Nurofen, not God." She's right, of course. Still, the next day I spend all my summer money on a low-cut Dolce e Gabbana slip dress with a tiny black jewel crucifix at the chest. Just in case.

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