8.The Concrete Donkey

# 8 The Concrete Donkey

I’ve finally figured out how Vodaphone Greece has managed to survive the current Greek economic crisis. It came to me, as if by magic, while I was sitting discussing life, the universe and everything with a number of chums and we were trying to figure out whether the donkey drawn on the wet concrete poured, seemingly at random, into the main street, was a political statement from a local a tad fed up that the renovations of the road, or just a bit of street art. Which way is the taverna?Since the road, the main one through the village, has been closed for the last three weeks as workmen occasionally play around with drainage work that was supposed to be completed three years ago, the appearance of another donkey later that afternoon, this time with the mayor’s name underneath it, inclined us to the former. As the discussion around the table wandered into the realms of 1970s Science Fiction books, one of our number, let’s call him Spiros although his name is Martin, remarked that you can hardly be anything other than an anarchist on a nudist beach since, whether your politics are left or right, it’s all pretty irrelevant if you’ve got no clothes on.

While I was trying to work out if I had just heard a deeply profound philosophical statement or a load of old cobblers, my mobile phone went off and looking at it I discovered a text from Vodaphone telling me that my bonus free 48 hours of phone calls and texts had expired. Fair enough you might suppose, nice of them to tell you. However, this news came as a bit of a shock to me since I wasn’t aware that I actually had ever had 48 hours worth of free phone calls. On enquiring amongst the assembled company it transpires that if you set the default language on your Greek Vodaphone mobile to English, all the bad news, lack of credit, increase in charge rates etc. is delivered in English but all the good news, free phone calls and texts for 48 hours for instance, is delivered in Greek . Since it’s a fair bet that the reason you’ve set the default language to English in the first place is your inability to speak Greek, Vodaphone are saving themselves a fortune.

A few days later the memsahib and I attended a ‘tent opening party’ at another establishment. In spite of the best efforts of the Greek Tourist Board, the attractions of Crete in the summer for those coming from outside the Eurozone aren’t what they used to be and the prospect of being stranded by one or more of the strikes that have been occurring, has resulted in a decline in summer visitors. However, the number of people choosing to spend the winter here rather than in the UK is growing and the locals are beginning to take steps to accommodate this particular group. On the whole these visitors, myself included, tend to be retired or semiretired people so the chances of us wanting to go to a disco until 3am are rather slim. However, a beer or 12 in a sunny spot sheltered from the wind is definitely going to appeal; hence the outbreak of tents, transparent plastic shelters that can be rolled up or down as needed. The taverna owner in question was very proud of her shiny new tent and had it fully deployed on the afternoon in question. Unfortunately it happened to be the one afternoon that there was not a breath of wind, not a cloud in the sky and the temperature outside the tent was about 18 degrees C. With the taverna facing almost due south, by 2pm the temperature inside the tent was considerably more than 18 degrees and a delegation had to be sent to request the tent be taken down before those inside expired of heat prostration. It was eventually rolled up but by then the damage had been done and in an effort to remain cool I and a number of my friends, had been forced to consume several or more large bottles of Mythos. Deep in conversation with my journalist friend Spiros, or rather Martin, for it was he, I happened to ask his opinion about some topic or other, only to be told:

“How can I know what I’m thinking when I haven’t read what I wrote yesterday?”

I then knew I was either in the presence of a genius, or that the last bottle of Mythos was one too many; or both.

Christmas is not so great an event in Crete as it is in the UK, the big celebrations are Easter and the pre Lent Carnival, but with two weeks to go, decorations have suddenly started to appear.  The outburst of house bling announcing the forthcoming holiday produced the rather incongruous sight of a two metre tall, inflatable nylon Santa Clause being erected outside a kafenion. Not that odd in itself but I couldn’t help thinking that the wintery effect being sought was rather diminished by the fact that the process was being carried out on a sunny, cloudless day with the temperature on the electronic display on the pharmacy wall immediately across the road from the snowman, registering 16 degrees Celsius.

The snowman cometh…at 16 degrees C.

Just so you don’t get the impression that it’s all sunshine and beer here  and that I’m deliberately trying to make  my loyal fans, Sid and Doris Bonkers, jealous, I would point out that I got caught out by the weather the other day. I was planning to go fort hunting to try and locate the remains of a couple of Ottoman forts outside a village some 30 km away in the mountains. The weather in our village was cloudy with the wind from the north and light rain forecast for the afternoon and so I figured I would go out in the morning. What I forgot was that while I was travelling north and aiming for the mountains, the rain was travelling south and the mountains were above the cloud line. I also forgot my waterproof jacket, the absence of which I discovered when I got caught out in the open about 1km from the car when the cloud and torrential rain descended. I never did find the forts.