AIDA AUSTIN: No one would say ‘yes, please’ if invited to sleep in a coffin underground

7.30 pm.
We are in a taverna on the island of Meganisi. 

My sister-in-law and her husband Pugwash, who invited us here for a week’s sailing, are busy ordering food from the menu, providing me with an opportunity to resume, in urgent whispers, the conversation I began with my husband earlier this afternoon, when Pugwash showed us our sleeping quarters on the boat.

I am very frightened of these sleeping quarters. I am frightened of everything about them: the look of them, which is very, very small, and the feel of them, which is very, very hot.

“I mean, I’m not, nor ever have been guilty of preciousness,” I whisper, “or any association with it.” 

“True,” my husband says. 

“I mean, I’ve roughed it with the best of them.” 

“True,” he says.

“But roughing it is different from sleeping in a coffin,” I whisper. 

“It’s bigger than a coffin,” he says. 

“A coffin for a really, really fat person then,” I say.

“No one’s that fat,” my husband says. 

“Let’s not split hairs,” I say, “a coffin for Pavarotti, then. Underground.” 

“Below deck,” he says, “not underground. You’re not precious but you do exaggerate.”

“Look,” I say, “just because this looks and sounds like a first-world problem doesn’t actually mean that it is a first-world problem.” 

“How d’you work that one out?” my husband says, “we’re on holiday, sitting beside a beautiful beach, we’ve got a glass of wine in our hands and we’ve just ordered lamb souvlaki. How much more first-world can it get?”

“It’s not a first-world problem,” I say, “it’s a global problem because no one, no matter who they are - whether they’re from the first, second or third world - would say ‘yes, please’ if invited to sleep in a coffin underground.”

“Below deck,” he says, “just drink your wine. That’ll take the edge off. In fact that’s the answer to the problem: drink enough wine now, then you’ll be fine later.”

7.35pm. 

“Do you want us to order anything in particular?” asks Pugwash.

It is difficult to muster enthusiasm for a Last Supper but I put in my request. 

“A side-dish of those steamed mountain greens with fresh lemon juice would be nice,” I suggest, most strickenly.

7.40pm. 

The waiter has taken my death-row meal order over to the chef. My husband, Pugwash and his wife have produced a map and are planning the route our coffin ship might take over the next seven days. 

I do not take part in this; I am drinking wine now so I’ll be fine later.

7.50pm. 

I am trying to work out what kind of drinking I need to be doing for this is a very specific case; we are heading back to the boat at 9pm, when I’ll need to be able to cross a narrow gang-plank but after that, I must be immediately and entirely comatose, so that I do not care at all that I am to spend a night in a coffin: it is not so much a fine line, I feel, as an awkward one.

Perhaps I need to drink fast. Yes, fast it is.

11pm. I wake up. There is dark all around me.

11.01pm. I cannot work out where I am.

11.02pm. I’ve worked it out: someone has put me in an oven. They have turned the oven up to gas mark 6.

11.03pm. Who can have done this? Gas mark 6 is much too high: it has caused my head to catch on fire. 

I check my head for flames. I need to get out of this oven. My face is melting and I must save my hair. I hear my husband’s voice. 

“What are you doing?” he says. 

“CHECKING MY HEAD,” I shout, “MY HEAD IS ON FIRE.” 

“Shh,” he says, “your head is not on fire. Calm down, you’re on a boat. Pugwash turned the fan off. He came in an hour ago. Apparently it drains the engine battery. I’ll turn it on again for a bit. Sod the battery.”

I have no idea what he’s talking about. I feel around for the oven door. 

It must be here somewhere.

“What are you doing?” he says. 

“Getting out of the oven,” I say, running. I find some stairs. 

“Come back,” he says, running after me, “you’re not in an oven, you’re on a boat, for god’s sake.”

11.05pm. 

I am at the top of the stairs. There is air there. 

11.06pm. Oh. There is sky up here. He’s right. I’m on a boat. And I’m looking for the gang-plank.


Lifestyle

Food news with Joe McNamee.The Menu: All the food news of the week

Though the Killarney tourism sector has been at it for the bones of 150 years or more, operating with an innate skill and efficiency that is compelling to observe, its food offering has tended to play it safe in the teeth of a largely conservative visiting clientele, top-heavy with ageing Americans.Restaurant Review: Mallarkey, Killarney

We know porridge is one of the best ways to start the day but being virtuous day in, day out can be boring.The Shape I'm In: Food blogger Indy Power

Timmy Creed is an actor and writer from Bishopstown in Cork.A Question of Taste: Timmy Creed

More From The Irish Examiner