Twenty years ago today I was a young student nurse holidaying with friends on the sunny Greek island of Rhodes. I was not looking for love. I was more interested in coaxing my pale Irish skin to change into anything other than milky white. I was having fun relaxing on the beach in the daytime and spending ages getting ready to go out dancing, laughing and having a few drinks with the girls in the evenings.
As the end of the holiday approached I was getting a bit fed up of all the chat up lines, the sleazy offers of "Can I buy you a drink" from men that already had their eyes on the next girl they would ask if you said no. So as I walked off the busy dance-floor for a breather and saw a group of guys clustered around the rest of my nursing friends I wasn't overly excited. "Can I buy you a drink?" The same chat up line I heard already but this time said with a Welsh accent. As the automatic words "No thanks" were coming out of my mouth I saw a cheeky glint in his eye. I was filled with courage that can only come from having had a few drinks and being in the anonymity of a strange place where I could be anyone I wanted to be. "Ok, I'll have a bottle of water" I had changed my mind but I was about to show this cheeky Welsh man that buying me a drink did not come with any guarantees.
I watched him queue in the throng at the bar that was several people deep. I gratefully accepted the bottle when he eventually returned. I drank the icy-cold water back in one long drink, said "Thank-you" and turned and went back on the dancefloor. I would never have had the same cheeky confidence back in my normal life but here I was free to be anything I wanted to be, like something out of a book or a glossy magazine. I had only a few days left and I was going to enjoy them.
The next night our group of nurses started our evening with a meal and then moved on to have a drink in a quieter bar. In walked the group of Welsh boys that we had seen the night before. I found myself sitting next to a funny cute guy with an infectious grin. I smiled and introduced myself to him. He said he knew who I was, he'd bought me a bottle of water the night before. I felt my cheeks flush. The tipsy and confident Gina of the previous night was a long way away from the girl I really was. I decided to behave myself and made small talk and found out he had celebrated his birthday a few days ago. I returned from the bar with a glass of complimentary bread sticks and put them in front of him. A belated Happy Birthday gift. He looked at me and smiled. "Thanks, you shouldn't have, free bread sticks, just what I've always wanted"
He smiled that infectious grin again and I felt butterflies in my tummy. 20 years later and they are still there...