It’s two o’clock on a gorgeously sunny afternoon, and I’m dangling my feet in the crystal clear waters of the Adriatic sea. Yep, we’re not in Kansas any more, Toto.
After three weeks of almost incessant rain, it’s an absolute joy to be sitting in the Croatian sunshine; it’s a balmy 25 degrees and, thanks to a light sea breeze, the air is fresh and light. In fact it’s pretty idyllic, and you might even be jealous, were it not for the guy who’s warbling away next to me.
He’s a young guy, probably in his early thirties, and despite the early hour, he’s surrounded by a fug of alcohol, a plastic cup of evil-smelling liquid balanced precariously in his hand. He’s singing an English song – though not one I recognise – and I can’t help but feel it’s a bid to attract my attention. Call me anti-social, but I studiously ignore it.
In the face of my indifference, the singing gets louder, and less musically accurate. Eventually, he turns to me and says, slowly and with appropriate gravitas:
My expression must betray my lack of comprehension, because he valiantly attempts to focus and tries again.
“I… LOVE… Freddie Mercury. I am number one fan.”
Now I’ve never really understood mainland Europe’s fascination with Queen. Sure, they were a great band in their time, but in certain countries, they’re still treated with a respect bordering on religious. It’s a sentiment I struggle to understand, so I murmur something non-committal and smile encouragingly, which he immediately takes as a sign to continue.
He tells me about his bedroom, how it’s filled with Freddie Mercury paraphernalia, and how he’s almost certainly got more Freddie merchandise than… ooh, anyone else in the world.
“Wow,” I say, obligingly. “Good for you!”
My enthusiasm gives him licence to continue, so he starts listing all the live albums in his possession. Who knew Queen’s discography was so extensive? Eventually, he grinds to a halt and leans in towards me, conspiratorially.
“When he die, Freddie Mercury tell his people to find Top 3 fans. He tell them, “Go to internet, find Top 3 fans! ” I am one of Top 3 fans.”
Again, I utter something vaguely congratulatory, but he’s not done yet.
“He give me money. Freddie Mercury, he give money to Top 3 fans. For him, not much money. Money like…. pffff! ”
Here, he makes an extravagant hand gesture to symbolise how derisory this amount was to Mr Mercury, in the face of all his millions.
“For Freddie Mercury, little money. But for me, BIG money. I live good, I no work. Lots of money.”
Crumbs, whatever he’s drinking has done for his grey cells. The guy’s off his rocker.
But now he’s trying to focus again, and his manner turns grandiose. Imperious, even.
“I take you out. We have good time.”
He looks at me expectantly, with a confident air. How could I refuse a date with Freddie Mercury’s favourite son. How could I?
But guess what? I do.
I pat his arm consolingly as turn him down, and he looks momentarily crestfallen. But before I’ve gone five paces, he’s back in his own world, wailing tunelessly.
I, meanwhile, can’t help wondering what it is that makes me such a nutter magnet. All I ask is for one normal, single male, in possession of his faculties, and all his own teeth. Is that too much to ask?
But before I even pose the question, I know the answer: apparently, it is…