10. Bankers all

# 10 Bankers all.

 As the memsahib reminded me recently, Christmas day was on a Sunday this year. The previous Thursday evening we went to the local community centre to hear some carols sung by the newly formed women’s’ choir; and very nice it was too with 50 or more women singing in unison – harmonies are on the curriculum for early next year. This auspicious occasion was marked by the attendance of the mayor – never one to miss an opportunity for a bit of electioneering – and the newly appointed metropolitan (think archbishop – a man with a very big black hat) and his nine attendant priests. At the end of the carols the conductor was duly thanked and then the mayor got up to speak, much to the obvious discomfort of the majority of the audience who are well aware of his reputation of never using one word when 15 will suffice and of his ability to bore for Greece, let alone Crete. For once though, he was merciful and sat down top great applause after about two minutes – though I’m unsure if the applause was for the content of his remarks or his brevity. The new metropolitan then got up to speak.

25 minutes later I certainly had lost the will to live and by the look of them so had most of the audience. According to my friend Spiros, when I managed to wake him, the sermon speech had been about the need for the community to come together in these times of austerity and to look after its most disadvantaged members and the need for us all to acknowledge that the politicians, with a bit of help from the Orthodox Church and their God, will eventually find a way to the sunlit uplands of the glorious future – provided of course that no one votes Communist in the next elections and they don’t convict the monk from Mount Athos currently banged up on a charge of carrying out a massive multi million Euro fraud with the apparent help of the last but one Government (OK, so ‘m paraphrasing a bit but you get the general idea.) He and his retinue then left the hall along and got into their three illegally parked BMWs: the ones with the red and white ecclesiastical licence plates which indicate that the vehicles don’t require road tax to be paid on them and get their petrol duty free.

The following afternoon, Friday, we were sat in the kafenion opposite the XYZ Bank. Alongside us in the kafenion, drinking tsikoudia*, were sat two armoured car security guards waiting to make a collection from the bank. I know this because I could see the bank staff across the road cashing up and because I was told it by the guards’ companion and drinking partner, the bank manager, wearing his id badge, pass card and bank keys around his neck, who was celebrating his name day and keeping an eye on his staff from a distance.  After several or more small bottles of tsikoudia, his party was eventually joined by the assistant manager and, over the next half hour, by three of the four remaining staff and yet more alcohol. At about four pm the assembled multitude watched as the last, and presumably most junior, member of the staff struggled to wheel the loaded cash trolley across the street to the armoured car and then hung around while the guards finished their drinks, made their farewells, paid their bill, went to the toilet, said goodbye again and strolled out to open the security van. I was naturally fascinated by all this and cast my mind back to my job in a previous lifetime when I could conceivably have been called on to represent some of those involved in this type of activity. After a wistful 10 minutes or so I had worked out a theoretically possible defence but came to the conclusion that I wouldn’t have fancied trying it out in real life.

I thought no more of the incident until about 10 days later. I was up in a taverna in our favourite mountain village talking to Giorgos, the owner, who was not a happy bunny. He was bemoaning the fact that he had had to pay a 100 Euro bribe to get some electricians out on Christmas Eve to replace the heavy duty overhead power cable that supplied electricity to the kafenion and most of the village. To my surprise he blamed this on the XYZ Bank. I couldn’t quite make the connection (no pun intended) and assumed that it had something to do with the financial crisis, the calling in of a loan, a refusal to extend an overdraft or some such financial transaction.

“No” said Giorgos. “The Friday before Christmas the bank manager from the bank rolled up here at about five pm and started celebrating his name day and drinking tsikoudia. By six pm he was totally drunk and decided to continue celebrating by shooting his pistol at the electricity pole. Normally he couldn’t hit a wall if he was standing five metres in front of it but this time he was so drunk he managed to shoot accurately. He shot up the insulators, ruined the cable and blew out all the fuses in the village before we got the gun off him.”

At this point it dawned on me that I might have to rethink my hypothetical defence strategy.





*A rather potent Cretan spirit made from the leftovers after grapes are made into wine. Its ability to cure all known Cretan maladies, and several unknown ones, is little short of miraculous; drinking it certainly has an effect on gravity in the drinker’s immediate vicinity.





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