# 13 Sacked.
My many fans, Sid and Doris Bonkers, have repeatedly asked me what the effect of the Euro crisis is having on the Greek economy. In response, I can only say that the English version of the online daily Greek newspaper Ekathimerini (http://www.ekathimerini.com/) has, within the last week, finally stopped advertising private jet hire at 5,000 Euros per hour (plus fuel and crew) so I guess things are getting pretty ropey among the jet set. Here in the south west of Crete things are not noticeably bad other than the never ending rising price of petrol. However, out of public view, there are, so I am told, at least 12 families in the village who are totally destitute and depending on the local social services office for food and clothing; the council workers, including the social workers, haven’t been paid for six months and public infrastructure upkeep in the shape of the road repairs etc. is more or less nonexistent at the moment. The truth is that the correlation between paying tax and in return receiving some sort of benefit from the state, has yet to take hold in many Cretans’ minds because of the widespread belief that all politicians, other than the ones looking after you personally to whom you may on occasion make a small undeclared cash payment for services rendered, are a bunch of crooks and on the take.
From personal experience I know of one politician who most definitely cheats.
Last Sunday, in the run up to Carnival, the all powerful ‘Women’s Committee’ held a ‘Traditional Games’ evening in the community hall, to which the memsahib and I were summoned upon pain of death invited to attend. I have to admit that the prospect of doing any such thing did not fill me with deep joy so I wandered into my local taverna for a degree of fortification beforehand. There, sat in the corner and drinking a glass of 12 of tsikoudia, was the mayor and a number of his friends. I said hello to them and sat down reading my book and sampling the house red. About an hour later I received the call to go to the hall across the road because they were doing strange things with yoghurt. The mayor must have been under the same three line whip as I was because he got up at the same time and followed me over to the hall where they were, indeed, doing strange things with yoghurt.
The evening was not quite what I had expected, the organisers had brought in a professional entertainer, a man who had collected lots of old Cretan games as played by the children in the pre television era; he was demonstrating these games to the kids and, with a great deal of success, getting them to join in with them. It rapidly became apparent that the problem wasn’t the kids; it was the adults of a certain age who were being reminded of the games they played 40 or more years ago and who wanted to have a go themselves. I should have known it was not going to end well when one particular game was hijacked by the mayor. The game involved a victim, standing in front of a group of their friends and having to hold their hand behind their back. One of the ‘friends’ then gives the hand a slap and the victim has to try and guess who did it; if they guess correctly the slapper takes their place, if incorrectly, they continue to be slapped.* (I suspect it was the pressure of having to play games like this to pass the time that led directly to the invention of television.) Watching it being played, the Mayor decided that the youth of today were a load of cissies and that the slaps were delivered much more forcefully and painfully in his day. He then decided to join in as did a group of his friends and, apparently, some of his political enemies – at least I assume they were his enemies because while their version of the game didn’t quite draw blood from the force of the slaps, it wasn’t far off doing so
About an hour, several more games involving doing strange things with yoghurt, X more tiskudias and at least one bottle of retsina later, the adults had taken over and the organiser announced a sack race would be held, the course being from one end of the hall to the other and back. At this point, with, I am sorry to report, the apparent connivance of the memsahib, I was physically assaulted and forcefully manhandled onto the starting line where I was thrust into a sack. Now as many of you are aware I am not one who takes the slightest bit of interest in sport but being placed on the starting line, next to the mayor no less, in a Cretan sack-race and instructed to uphold the honour and dignity of the expats in the village, I had little choice but to participate.
I’m absolutely convinced that the tactics I adopted, holding myself back in the first stretch up the hall in order to surge to victory on the return leg, would have worked. However, I hadn’t calculated on the desire to win at any cost that got the mayor to his lofty position. Honestly, I was just about to put on the spurt that would have seen me triumph, when by means of a strategically placed foot within a sack and hence in theory unidentifiable but clearly belonging to the mayor, as was the elbow in my back, I was sent base over apex. For some reason this seemed to appeal to the baser instincts among those in the audience and was greeted with loud cheers and laughter; however, not as loud as the cheer when the mayor went over having misjudged the slipperiness of the intersection of a polished floor and a jute sack. In spite of my setback I didn’t come in last…quite.
I would like to report that I triumphed in the next leg of the sack race, but unfortunately I was disqualified for wearing the sack on my head. The mayor did apologise and even invited me to join in on his team in another game. However, since this involved doing strange things with yoghurt, I made my excuses and left.
* The game also involves people making noises like a bee, but that fact is too silly to include in this missive.