It was after the enlightening Lanzarote experience that Jack Warburton and his wife vowed to mind their own business and never again to listen through walls in the middle of the night.
Their intention had always been to take a winter holiday abroad when Jack retired from the soap works ("a sort of second honeymoon" in Jacks words), and their ruby wedding anniversary seemed an ideal time. Clara and he spent many happy hours searching through the brochures before deciding upon Lanzarote, and finally chose what seemed a nice little self-catering apartment in Puerto del Carmen, where they could please themselves and relax in the sun beside the pool.
As neither had flown before, they made their preparations with a certain amount of trepidation. Jack left Clara to do the packing, but, anticipating hot sunshine, she sent him out to get some suntan lotion.
"Ambre Solaire! They say thats the best," she said. "Anyway, ask the chemist. Hell advise you."
So off Jack went to the village. He returned an hour later with beery breath and a slightly defiant air of self-satisfaction. "Got a bargain here," he said. "Special offer. Two pound off. Chemist said you just pay for the name with the other make."
He displayed his purchase, in an orange plastic bottle. "Its got a high protection factor too. Chemist said thats a good point."
Clara read the name suspiciously and sniffed. "Never heard of it," she said. "Anyway, lets hope its all right.
In spite of having to leave home at three in the morning, they both enjoyed the plane flight, with the novelty of an in-flight meal and duty-free goods, Jack buying Clara perfume and adding a litre of whisky to his luggage.
They reached Puerto del Carmen in the early afternoon, and their apartment complex looked very attractive in the bright sunshine. Surrounded by palm trees and green artificial lawns, the pool was tastefully shaped and on two levels with a connecting waterfall. The limpid blue water set off the surrounding apartments, which were a brilliant white with blue woodwork, and each had its own patio or balcony. It looked ideal.
The apartment itself was rather disappointing. It was on the ground floor and rather dark, and the catering equipment was very basic. To make matters worse, the bed sheets were far too short. However, their patio was virtually poolside, and in no time at all Jack had commandeered two sun loungers. A keen swimmer, he was soon down to his beloved Speedo briefs and had even persuaded Clara to squeeze into her new bikini. She looked rather askance at the topless females cooking in the sun, but eventually plucked up courage and joined them.
After a quick plunge, Jack took out his proud purchase, and he and Clara coated each other liberally with the new suntan lotion. And all that afternoon they lay baking in the sun.
After a delicious meal in the old town, they went to bed early, dog-tired after their early start. Soon they were both deeply asleep.
It was Clara who heard the noise. "Jack! Jack!" she whispered urgently. "Are you awake? Jack!"
Jack slowly surfaced. "I am now," he grumbled. "Whats up?"
"Listen! Listen, next door! Theyre moving about."
Jack perked up rapidly and after a few moments an impish smile creased his face. "Talk about a second honeymoon? I tell you, those two are on their first." And he sat there cross-legged, straining his ears and painting mental pictures.
The noise next door seemed to consist mainly of urgent requests followed by sharp slaps. These were interspersed with cries of encouragement and satisfaction. At one point there was a creak of bedsprings.
Eventually the noises ceased, and after a few murmurings, all was quiet. Jack kissed Clara goodnight with unusual passion, and with the word "sado-masochism" going through his mind eventually got back to sleep.
The following morning, after a light breakfast, they were back by the poolside early. Although pretending to read, Jack kept a curious eye on the door of the next apartment.
About ten-thirty the door opened and a couple came out dressed for the sun. They were both in their early fifties, he small and dapper and the lady of generous proportions. Jacks imagination ran riot. The couple nodded to Jack and Clara in a friendly way and stood there in quiet discussion. Jack eavesdropped unashamedly.
"I dont know about you" said the lady, "but after last night Im going to take it easy. If you do go into town, dont forget the chemist." She then found a sun lounger on the lower level, slipped out of her skirt and sun top, and exposed her ample body to the sun.
The day grew warmer, and Jack asked for the sun lotion. As he rubbed it in, his wrists started to itch, and it was then that he noticed the little lumps. He looked up to find that Clara also was in some discomfort.
Then light dawned. "Its this blasted sun lotion," he snarled. " Its brought us out in a rash."
In spite of her discomfort, Clara couldnt resist a dig. "Well," she said. "You wouldnt be told. Heaven knows whats in this stuff." And she poked the orange bottle with a disdainful toe.
After that they both took a shower and went down into town. That evening they dined on fish down by the harbour and went to bed in a mellow frame of mind.
This time it was Jack who woke in the night. He felt a sharp pain in his wrist and heard a vicious whine. He reached out, switched on the bedside light, and lay still. Then it came again. Zzzzzzzz! Past his ear.
Now Clara was awake, rubbing her wrists sleepily. "Whats up, Jack?"
"Bloody mosquitoes, thats whats up," said Jack, peering round the room.
And then he saw it: a small insect on the wall above the lamp. There was another one on the ceiling. And another on the far wall.
"Well have to do something," said Clara in mild panic, "or we wont get a wink of sleep. Look, try and kill it with your slipper."
By this time the first insect had found another resting place. Jack took his soft leather slipper and stalked the beast while Clara gave encouragement. "Theres one there. There. Over to your left. There. Thats it. Now."
Jacks slipper came down with a loud slap, leaving a brown smudge on the wall. "Good lad!" praised Clara. "Now another one, over to the right. A bit higher up. Take it easy! Take it easy! Now!" (Slap!).
The remaining mosquito was on the ceiling, and Jack stood on the bed in order to reach it. "Take it slowly. Slowly! Dont rush," said Clara.
Then the springs squeaked alarmingly and Clara put her fingers to her lips. "Shush, you soft clown," she whispered. "Youll wake them up next door!"
It took a moment to sink in, but then they both looked at each other and started to laugh. Jack couldnt resist it. He embraced Clara and gave her a big kiss. Then he bounced them both up and down on the bedsprings. "Was it good for you too, darling?" he asked with a grin. Clara smiled at him fondly. "Never mind all that," she said. "Youll have to get some insect repellent from the chemist tomorrow. And we can still use that sun lotion."
Then they sat in each others arms and counted the brown smudges on the walls and ceiling where other couples before them had played the Lanzarote Night Game.
Ron is 80 years old and served with the British Army in India (and Ceylon) during World War II. He retired from the teaching profession in 1985 and, following his wife's death shortly afterwards, took up creative writing as a hobby. Since then he has had short stories and poetry published and broadcast. The North West Network of the B.B.C has broadcast seventeen of his stories.