#2 The Philosophers do their civic duty.
The area around Onomia Square in Athens is inhabited by a number of gentlemen and ladies of a philosophical bent; the type that, after a litre or 12 of wine for breakfast, are likely to proclaim their views on life, the universe and everything in loud voices using such (philosophical) turns of phrase as; ‘Millennium, shrimp and buggerit I told them it was a duck but polishing it only took the paint off and would they listen….’, although in Greek rather than English of course.* The main road leading out of the square is a three lane, one way, road, crossed at right angles by minor roads which from the north, run down hill across the main road and down again to the south; thus while the main road is flat, the side roads run downhill across it, a geographical fact of which you will need to take note.
Coming along this main road one evening at about 9pm I observed a number of the local philosophers struggling to put out fires that some clown had started in some plastic rubbish bags and a large, wheeled, plastic rubbish bin; the bags and bin being situated in a side road to the north of the main street, i.e. in a road sloping down into it. They were doing their civic duty by using whatever liquid was to hand, and I can report that, in spite of its alcohol content, wine doesn’t burn. While they were struggling with this, two policemen sat in a police car in the southern, lower, side road opposite them and watched, offering no assistance, as the philosophers dodged the traffic to cross the main road carrying jugs of water from a nearby ornamental fountain and bottles containing various liquids of an unknown nature.
The rubbish bags were fairly easily dealt with but the fire in the bin eventually got out of control when someone, no doubt with the best of intentions, opened the bin lid to throw some water inside, but failed to shut it again. This fire then started to set alight to the tree underneath which the bin was situated and at this point things started to get rather silly.
A philosopher decided to move the bin from under the tree and took the brake off in order to do so; forgetting in the heat of the moment (sorry about that), that the bin was on a slope. The bin rolled down the hill, the flames getting higher as it speeded up, and eventually came to a halt in the middle of the main road, burning and melting away to its heart’s content. At this point the police decided to take some action and pulling out of the side street, reversed their car against the traffic and placed it into the second lane to prevent other cars driving into the, now merrily burning, bin. They were joined a few seconds later by another police car which drew alongside them, blocking the two inner lanes, thus totally isolating the bin. While all this was going on, the philosophers were still fighting the good fight against both the fire and the traffic, and the police were still staying in their cars.
Enter the fire brigade…eventually.
The innermost police car, the last to arrive, now drove past the bin and off into the night thus allowing the fire engine to drive past the bin as well. Having done so, the fire engine parked up, and, with the assistance (?) of the philosophers, the fire fighters got to work putting out the fire. However, at this point, the remaining police car, which had until then been blocking traffic to prevent cars driving into the bin, itself drove off and parked beyond the bin, leaving both fire fighters and philosophers to carry out their task in the face of oncoming traffic. I am happy to report though, that the two policemen, who had watched this from the relative safety of their car the whole of the time, did now get out. One went straight into the coffee shop, while the other ran across the main road, dodging the traffic, in the style of the philosophers and fire fighters, and proceeded to have an animated discussion with one of the local ladies of negotiable affection.
At this point I could take no more and went back to my hotel.
The next morning the only signs of the previous night’s events were a somewhat singed tree and a number of thirsty looking philosophers who were, no doubt, philosophically content in the knowledge, if they remembered the previous night’s events, that they had sacrificed their breakfast for the common good.
*More perceptive readers will notice a certain similarity between the philosophical teachings of these philosophers and those of ‘Foul Ole Ron’, the rather malodorous “star” of a number of works by that nice Mr Terry (Oh, why in the name of the gods did he accept a knighthood?) Pratchett. Perhaps Mr Pratchett has been to Athens.