Diving into memories of a Greek adventure

Diving in Greece - but not Maggie ...
Diving in Greece - but not Maggie ...

By Maggie Millar

Well that’s the Oscars over with for another year, not that I sat through the night to watch it - last time I was stupid (sorry, dedicated) enough to do that Billy Crystal was cracking the gags and the show was aired for free on the BBC.

But back then in the early ‘90s I was more enthralled by European movies - La Belle Noiseuse, Nikita, Unbearable Lightness of Being etc, etc - than anything being churned out by Hollywood.

As a student I saw The Big Blue at the New Cinema in St Andrews - a super stylish movie inspired by Jacques Mayol, a world champion free diver who managed to reach a depth of 105 metres just by holding his breath.

Jean-Marc Barr (a former euro-stud who now writes extraordinarily confusing tweets in the style of Eric Cantona) played the lead with much panache, convincing no-one it was a logical decision to dump girlfriend Rosanna Arquette and take up instead with a dolphin (yup, a dolphin. Only the French...).

But, and this is the big but in The Big Blue, Luc Besson made the most gorgeous movie about the Mediterranean ever; it was sumptuous, it was mesmerising and I was seriously hooked in the way that only a seriously pretentious arts undergraduate from Methil could be.

Not long after, when I turned 18, I was asked by my folks what I wanted as a special birthday pressie and without hesitation I said: “I want to DIVE in Greece!”

Thomas Cook package holiday to Corfu in the bag, I got right on the snail mail to ask the Greek Tourist Agency for essential advice.

A couple of weeks later I received some very official letters warning me it was illegal to dive for sunken treasure and they even provided me a map identifying the no-go zones (i.e where the shipwrecks were.)

Quite impressive, eh? Especially for someone who had done nothing but hold their breath underwater in the bathtub.

Lonely Planet Guide handily furnished the basics of Greek lingo as in: “Your economy looks like it could go to down the tubes. I’d watch out for those Germans if I were you, etc.” and I gave up the smokes, which required insane levels of willpower on my part.

But it was all worth it when I landed in Kerkira - eat you heart out Onassis, stuff the statues Zeus - I was there and the sea looked magical ... until I dived.

Instead of walking to a crystal clear cove 100 metres from the villa, I was herded onto a bus, asked to sign a disclaimer and taken an hour away to a beach which looked like Rosyth, only warmer.

Kitted out with a tank that weighed 500lb, a snorkel chewed by a hundred others and seriously unsexy flippers, I waddled towards my instructor (who was puffing on a roll-up) and told how to equalise at ten metres.

Could I equalise? Could I hell. I floated around, found a lone shrimp and spent the next two days - back on land - being stone deaf.

But 20 years later, on a warm sunny day I still gaze at the light glinting on the waters of the Forth and I imagine what my next adventure could be...