16. Sheep Ahoy!

First, an apology

 I’ve been told off about my last missive, “A load of bowls”.

According to Spiros I got it wrong about the “silver water”. In fact the reason for spraying meat, fish and veg. with the stuff is not only to render them safe for human consumption if they’re past their sell by date, but also to lessen the spiritual trauma of the said meat, fish and veg. when they are cooked. Similarly, one should always freeze food, vegetables in particular, as soon as possible; that way the spirit of the food is put to rest quickly and doesn’t suffer the lingering pain of remembering being picked, killed or caught, as the case may be. Never let it be said that these jottings don’t teach you anything.

On the subject of apologies, I must also apologise if I have given anyone the impression that it was the action of the wind and waves over the winter that accounts for the diminishing quantity of sand on the previously ‘sandy beach’. While taking an afternoon stroll the other day I found out where the sand is going – I think the sheep are eating it. At least that’s my impression having watched as a flock of 100 or more moaning sheep were being driven along the water’s edge the entire 700 metre length of the beach. It transpires that in the run up to Easter- which was on April 15thin 2012 in spite of what the heretics in the west may think – the flock is brought down from the hills to graze on the odd bits of green around the edges of the village. According to Spiros, driving them on the beach serves several purposes, firstly it keeps them off the road, though some might say that the sheep show more roads sense than many, if not most, Cretan drivers and secondly the resistance of the sand when walking on the beach builds up their leg muscles and makes for a bigger and more tender joint of meat when they keep their appointment with the barbeque at Easter. This then, of course, raises the obvious question: if you build up their leg muscles too much, will you be able to catch them in order to slaughter them? Who knows…but since we’ve been invited so far to three barbeques on (Orthodox) Easter Sunday, if there’s no lamb on offer, we’ll have our answer.

Sheep preparing to eat the beach. Photo courtesy of KRITIguide*

While we’re on the subject of drinking, we were in the kafenion the other night and sitting in the corner when we got there was an elderly (almost as old as me) German hippy, complete with dreadlocks, home knitted striped jumper, sandals compulsory sleeping bag, drinking Frappe (iced coffee- but you knew that) with milk and getting very twitchy and agitated. We thought he might have been suffering withdrawal symptoms brought about by a lack of non herbal substances, unfortunately not an unknown occurrence here, until Spiros told us he had been there for three hours drinking coffee non- stop and getting progressively worse and worse with respect to twitching. It appeared that he had arrived and, having bought his first Frappe, had left his bag and gone to the supermarket across the road, returning a few minutes later with a large tin of instant coffee and a tin of condensed milk. He had then asked for and obtained, a jug of iced water and had proceeded to manufacture his own Frappes, consuming in the process and over the three hours, most of the 250g tin of coffee and all of the milk  – hence his state of agitation by the time we had arrived. After three hours and spending only 2.50 Euros, Spiros was about to ask him to leave, but just then his friend rolled up on a one seated scooter – it should have had two but this is Crete. The friend ordered a karafaki of tsikoudia (a 200ml carafe, 2 Euro without the mezede) and two glasses and the pair sat in silence, finishing the karafaki in less than five minutes. They then ordered another and then a third and a fourth, finishing the lot in about 20 minutes without speaking a word to each other. All this time the twitcher carried on twitching at an even more alarming rate. Finally, having drunk roughly the equivalent of a bottle of scotch between them in under half an hour, they drove off into the night; the coffee addict driving and his friend sitting precariously on the petrol tank of the scooter.

I was rather glad we were walking home that evening and I think I’m beginning to see that the sheep are being rather sensible in keeping to the beach.



* Many thanks to Sascha at KRITIguide (http://www.kritiguide.com/paleochora) for permission to use her photograph when mine turned out to be a disaster.


15. A load of bowls

#15  A Load of Bowls

There are undoubtedly two prerequisites for being a beach bum; the first is access to a beach and the second, according to the memsahib, is an inherent quality that I possess in large quantity.

 The first requirement, access to a beach, is proving to be slightly problematic. As I have mentioned previously we live on a peninsula sticking out into the Libyan Sea with mountains immediately to the north of the village. This means we have an unusual climate or climates since, depending on the wind direction, more or less anything can, and does, go. There being two long sides to the peninsula we have, in theory the choice of two beaches; the sandy beach and the pebble beach. The latter is rather uncomfortable to stroll on without walking boots and the former has gone on holiday to Libya – apparently. I should explain at this point that the sandy beach, 700 metres long and 20 metres wide has been the pride of the village and a major tourist attraction for years. Unfortunately this year the north westerly winds, which have been the prevailing winds throughout the winter, have stripped the beach of a significant amount of its sand leaving a three or four metre band of rock between the remaining sand and the water along nearly the whole of its length. In the past this problem has been resolved by the judicious use of a bulldozer to shift the sand from the back of the beach to the water’s edge but this year there is none to spare at the back. So if anyone out there is thinking of taking the opportunity of going to Libya this summer, please bring a suitcase of sand back with you; there’s a village in Crete that’s crying out for it.

Preserving the sand by pushing the sea back.


As to the second requirement, you cannot, or at least I cannot, spend your time doing absolutely nothing: for a start the said memsahib tends to make pointed comments if I stay in bed too much beyond noon.

Accordingly I’ve been passing some of my time doing copy editing; checking tixts for the proper using of the English! and punctuaations: and spilling. This is usually fun since you get to read all sort of stuff you wouldn’t normally read, (a thesis on Ottoman balconies in the Balkans anybody?) and, if you’re lucky, you get paid for it as well. However, I recently had an assignment which stretched my patience to its limits.

Now the one thing you must remember when copy editing is that your job is simply to check/improve  the English, it’s not to edit the content of the text, no matter how much you would like to. My most recent job involved checking some advertising material for a new online guide to our village which had been translated from its mother tongue into English. My issues were not with the English, which was very good, but with the content, which was, to put it politely, absolute rubbish!  Now one thing you need to know about the village we live in is that in the summer it attracts not only tourists, but those who prey on the tourists; in particular practitioners of various forms of esoteric woo-woo. By the machinations of the non-existing gods, I had ended up having to check and improve the English on an article advocating what I can only call, extreme, high level woo-woo. It was trying to convince people here on holiday to give their hard earned cash to someone who would come and give them a spiritual massage with holy oils and then place Tibetan singing bowls on them.

Paleochora singing bowl

Small Tibetan singing bowl...not sure what sort of bowl a large Tibetan uses

The outcome of all this, the reader is assured, will be that the molecular structure of their body would be brought into tune with the vibrational* frequency produced by the singing bowls resulting in relaxation, spiritual enlightenment and, no doubt, an emptier wallet. (Unfortunately it didn’t mention whether or not you could request the bowls to sing any particular song though I suspect they only do the one made famous by the Beach Boys….a free Chuck Norris calendar to the first one to get it right!)

Paleochora - not a singing bowl

Not a Tibetan singing bowl

In spite of my fear and loathing I managed to get through the job and the client seemed to be satisfied. The next evening I was sat in the taverna with Spiros and mentioned this to him. He didn’t seem at all surprised and told me the tale of the chef in one of the restaurants in a nearby village who had been convinced that the application of ‘silver water’, apparently water that has been in contact with silver, to meat that was past its sell by date would render the meat fit for human consumption again. This chef was also apparently convinced that this silver water would do away with the need to refrigerate vegetables and fish; a rather a bold assertion given that the summer temperatures can get up to 40 degrees C. (Now you may think I’m making this up…but such loonies do exist. See: http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Colloidal_silver) Needless to say I was rather horrified at this, but Spiros assured me that it was now perfectly safe to eat out there now; the chef had left the village several years ago…shortly after a German tourist ended up in hospital with salmonella poisoning. He also remarked that he was not particularly surprised at these events occurring where they did; that particular village is apparently known amongst the locals as ‘the mad village’ because of the large number of woo-woo artists that seem to be attracted there in the summer- even more than our village. Apparently they have a resident shaman, two reiki therapy practitioners, an aura massage specialist and someone who does ‘family constellation’ workshops…and that’s just in the winter: not bad for a village of 25 people.

Anyway the winter appears now to be over, the first (German) tourist has been spotted swimming in the sea, the first swallow has appeared –inside my favourite taverna, perched on a light fitting, the memsahib is off on another island with every possibility of being marooned there if the wind changes direction and so, leaving my singing balls behind, I’m off to seek an elusive Ottoman Fort in the mountains.



*My spellchecker offers the word ‘irrational’ as an alternative……..


14. On Animals

#14 On animals.

I first came to Crete about 20 years ago and the one thing that struck me at the time was the manner in which Cretan villagers treated their animals, dogs in particular. There appeared to be little or no overt cruelty, but an animal was rarely considered a pet and if it didn’t work it didn’t eat. Some might think that a harsh regime but having been brought up on a farm it didn’t bother me that much. Now it seems that things have changed. For example, my friend Spiros has got three dogs; one a hunting dog, one a guard dog on his goat pens (though who would want to keep goats let give them pens to write with is beyond my comprehension) and one which serves no purpose whatsoever.

Yes, unfortunately Spiros has succumbed to the temptation and has joined the growing number of Cretans who now possess, what I can only describe as a bald, four legged, bat; I’m sure there’s a name for the breed, other than s**t-hound, but If I ever knew it, I’ve forgotten.  I suppose the things can’t help the way they look but given the diminutive size of their bodies and the grossly over proportional size of their ears, it’s a good thing no one takes them for a walk on the beach: one good gust of the, currently prevailing, north wind and they’d end up in Libya…..maybe not such a bad thing.

The fashion for these beasts seems to be growing rapidly and their owners appear to lavish an inordinate amount of attention on them, which is strange in light of the older Cretan approach to animals. As far as I can see they’re a poor excuse for a dog since the things can’t cope with loud noises, drops in temperature below 15 degrees C., not being the centre of attention or walking anywhere. The pampering lavished on them is outrageous: Spiros once turned up in a restaurant with his wrapped up in it’s nice little doggy coat, a tasteful Santa Clause outfit since it was nearly Christmas, and a pale pink blanket; the animal sitting in a custom made walking/carrying out bag. Spiros then commenced feeding it from his own plate – and this from a fully grown, otherwise very sane,* man!

And another thing: when did dog owners start to lose the ability to walk? I ask this because a not uncommon sight in the winter was dog owners taking their dogs for a drive; the owner sitting in the car and holding the dog’s lead out of the open window while the dog ran alongside. I just think it’s rather bizarre owning a non working dog here, there’s nowhere you can take it out of the village; the shepherds will have no hesitation whatsoever in shooting a strange dog on sight even if it’s nowhere near their flocks. The other rather unsettling thing about modern Cretan dog ownership is the approach taken by many owners, mostly male, to neutering or sterilising the animals; they don’t. As a consequence are then surprised when litter after litter of mongrel puppies are produced.

However, least you think I’m biased against pet dogs (and I am) I would point out that I’m friends with ‘Bella’, formally the ugliest dog in the world but now, having had her protruding teeth removed at long last, the second ugliest. Bella occupies a place in the heart of the community simply because she lies in the middle of the road at crossroads in the middle of the village and only moves in her own time. It’s a heartbreaking  heartwarming sight to see a bus driver attempting to get a 60 seat coach around a very sharp corner only to be thwarted by Bella declining to move and the driver then having no recourse other than to get out of the cab to physically pick up Bella and put her back in her second sleeping spot; across the doorstep of the main Pharmacy. (I would point out at this juncture that such is Bella’s hold over the village that such events are usually played out in front of spectators in the two kafenions by the crossroads. However, none of the spectators would even think of going and shifting Bella.) It’s from this position by the Pharmacy that Bella gets to know everyone and when Spiros, her nominal owner, shuts up for the afternoon, instead of jumping in the carrier on the front of Spiros’ moped, she is after all an old dog, she will often wander around the kafenions gazing lovingly at anyone who is having a mezede…particularly if there’s meat or fish in it.

Did someone mention mezedes?

I have to declare an interest at this point since I’m sitting 2 metres away, and upwind, of a rather nice young white and ginger cat that has adopted us.  I mentioned sitting upwind of it because we don’t feed it and whoever does, and it is well cared for, apparently feeds it on baked beans and cabbage, at least that’s the aroma that occasionally comes wafting in your direction if the wind changes or the cat moves upwind. She is rather fun though, once you are used to her idiotsyncracies. The biggest problem, other than the olfactory experience mentioned, is the cat’s inability to understand the word ‘Psssssssst’ when directed to her in English; apparently it’s different in Greek according to the memsahib. Unfortunately, my inability to speak the Greek version of cat means we don’t know her real name, so I’m reduced to calling her ‘Ella’; which appears to be the name of most Cretan cats and dogs.

Finally, a word about the village Carnival: I did attend but I don’t remember much. However, I’m told there are various photos of me floating in interwebnettycyber space. If you find them, in spite of the announcement that came with the last of these missives, I will not be wearing my basque – I know this will come as a shock to those of you (and I know where you live, Sid Bonkers) who expressed a somewhat suspicious eagerness to see me so dressed, but the lack of basque was beyond my control. I did in fact originally have a choice of three basques to wear, one red, one red/black, one a very tasteful shade of ivory; however, the evening before the carnival there was a fire in our apartment and we had to evacuate. I threw the basques out of the emergency door and jumped out of the window. Alas, the basques got stuck in the door and were all destroyed in the fire. It’s my own fault; I shouldn’t have put all my basques in one exit.**



*Sane for a Cretan man that is.

*That joke probably copyright ‘I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again’, circa 1968

13. Sacked!

# 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.

The pheasants are revolting! Teachers join the Indepenence Day parade with a banner protesting the 25% cut in their salaries and the withdrawal of funding for local schools...the mayor was not a happy bunny

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.

3. Pirates

#3. Pirates

Crete, as most people know, is an island. What is, however, not so well known is that parts of the south coast of the island are only accessible by sea and are dependent upon the services provided by the (ir)regular ferries that commute between our village and the more remote villages along the coast. The two large car carrying ferries that perform this task normally, carry out an intricate ballet between four villages, ending up in the evening by depositing the two or three hundred tourists, who have slogged their way down 18 or so km of a deep gorge for fun(?), at either end of the ferry route, from whence they are bussed back to their hotels up north. It’s a complicated system but it’s worked well for the last 20 or so years.

Last year however, as part of the austerity programme and the dismantling of Greek bureaucratic state, the task of inspecting and certifying the seaworthiness of the vessels was taken from the state run organisation that had done it since the year dot and handed to the ship owners for them to find private surveyors. The owners of the two local big boats did just that and, allegedly, found these nice Russian gentlemen. Messers. Ripemov and Youvbinconned, who arranged to do the survey on the cheap. So, two months later than scheduled, one can no more speed up Russians than one can Cretans, the ferries start running their usual routes and by early September are up to their eyes in tourists.

It was at about this point, so the story goes, that someone from the insurance company got round to inspecting the paperwork provided by the Russians and looked into their credentials. Imagine their surprise….the survey/insurance company didn’t exist, the paperwork was worthless and the money and the Russians were conspicuous by their absence.

Panic then ensues as it is realised that the ferries are at sea, full of tourists, with no seaworthiness certificates and no insurance. Nine o’clock on a Tuesday morning, and the Coast Guard swing into action. An urgent message is sent to the furthest ferry ordering it back to its home port immediately and the local coastal protection gunboat sets off at high speed, intercepts the nearest ferry at sea, full of passengers, and escorts it back to our village, from where it had departed 45 minutes earlier. By midday and there was one ferry tied up here under the watchful eyes of the Port Police while the other was tied up, about 40 km along the coast from us. At this point, dear reader, you need to be aware that on Crete, the men of the district in which the further ferry was now incarcerated, have a certain reputation for independence of thought and action: they like to claim that theirs was the only district that in the 300 or so years of Ottoman rule, the Ottomans never managed to conquer, and that theirs was the district that the German never managed to subdue….both interesting myths which nevertheless partially account for the act that a man from this district is just as likely to have a gun in his pocket as he is to be pleased to see you. (Their reputation for a certain independence of attitude was reinforced several years ago when a police helicopter, sent to investigate the alleged production of certain herby substances, was driven off by small arms fire.)

One version of the story of the subsequent events of that day, and there are several, goes that the mayor of the district in question, who did not take kindly to the fact that ‘his’ ferry was now tied up in ‘his’ harbour and the 200 or so tourists that would be expected to arrive in his village for lunch, were stuck at a village up the coast with little prospect of them getting out in time to spend any money on his patch, took matters into his own hands and commandeered the ferry. Opinion here is divided as to whether or not actual bits of hardware were displayed during the exercise, the majority view being that a display of force would be unnecessary since the implicit assumption is if you’re from this district, you’re armed, but eventually the ferry Captain was ‘persuaded’ by the mayor to resume its interrupted journey and the tourists duly brought into the village.

Such actions did not go unnoticed and off went the gunboat again, this time with the aid of a large body of police, but no helicopter, which descended on the village from the north of the island. The Coast Guard boat recovered the ferry and escorted it back here and the police arrested the mayor. Local sympathies are divided, our village derives considerable income from the tourists brought in by ferry passengers also, but it has been suggested that when the mayor gets out of jail, he’s to be offered the position of Mayor of Mogadishu*. In the meantime, the ferry service previously offered by two large car carrying vessels is now being carried out by two much smaller, foot passenger only, ships; the Russians are still at large and the ex-mayor of a certain Cretan village is anxious to have a word or two with them.

Now you may think that none of the above is true, and I wouldn’t blame you, but as I sit here on the veranda, I can look down past the flowers and vegetables and see the two boats that normally ply their trade along the coast, tied up awaiting a new inspection of seaworthiness and new insurance certification; yes, as I always suspected, there are ferries at the bottom of my garden.

(I would just like to add that the ship shown above WAS NOT one of those involved!)

*The copywrite of this ‘joke’ belongs to Spiros from Birmingham and, quite frankly, he’s welcome to it.

1. Hell in Crete

#1 Hell in Crete

Having received numerous e-mails from my adoring public (Sid and Doris Bonkers) I have none the less decided to ignore their heartfelt pleas and recommence my occasional series of epistles bringing the public up to date with certain events in my furiously frantic fun filled life. (At this point you may press the escape button if you so wish; details of how to delete e-mails and/or add my name to your spam filter will vary from browser to browser.)

To bring you up to speed, I’ve finished at Big Skool and I am now considered fully educated, at least to some degree, and I need only go back for more if I have the money. I managed to complete my course without incurring too much damage though I did manage to blow up the household electrics of one of my lecturers….on the coldest and darkest day of the year. Other highlights of the three years included watching a fellow student, bound for Sandhurst after doing his History degree, intent on showing us how fit he, and by inference the whole of the British Army, was by doing squat thrusts (I think that’s what they’re called; they look painful and energetic) in the corridor while waiting to go into a seminar and splitting the crotch of his trousers from top to bottom; hearing that well known Classical scholar Boris Johnson having his Greek corrected at a public lecture; realising I was in the presence of Constantine ‘No Name’ Glucksberg, the deposed King of Greece, and that I didn’t have a gun about my person, and discovering that academics are not the godlike beings I once took them for, but are in fact capable of terminological inaccuracies, particularly when it comes to diagrams illustrating the difference in the size of cows in western Europe before and after the fall of the Western Roman Empire*. However, I eventually left the Strand Poly in the capable hands of the little old lady who, previous readers will be glad to know, is still safe and sound in her nest of books and papers in the Theology section of the library.

Having no lectures to attend and no essays to plagerise write, I was at a loss as to what to do with myself, the memsahib’s suggestions being mostly impossible or too painful to contemplate and involving ‘work’, whatever that is, I reached the reluctant decision that I would just have to spend the remains of my student loan on the memsahib and myself wintering in Crete:  look on it as a painful burden I have taken upon myself in a, no doubt vain, attempt to prop up the Greek economy.

Into this scenario was incorporated a cunning plan to inveigle myself onto an academic event rejoicing (?) in the title: Hell in Crete. It turned out to be anything but hell, although I did discover that asking a, what appeared to me to be simple, question of 12 or more very high powered academics, a number which I discovered afterwards exceed the critical mass for Art Historians, results in receiving 19 different answers, all of which appear, almost but not quite, not to contradict each other, but are in fact at total odds with the answer you got from the previous academic….what’s more it’s all done so politely – sometimes. I did, however, at last, discover the real reason that the man in the Venetian-Cretan Fresco in one church is having a plough inserted into a part of his anatomy into which ploughs were not designed to go; discovered that the punishments in hell stipulated for fornicators, both male and female, are too painful to reveal -but think snakes- and that the fate prescribed in hell for cheating tailors involves scissors and had me waking up at nights screaming.

It doesn't bear thinking about!


I’m sure Cretan Television is a wonderful thing, after all, the main channels devote serious amounts of airtime to traditional Cretan dance and music, something the BBC1 has yet to do. (Actually, to be fair, BBC1 plays as much Cretan traditional music as they do English traditional music.) However I fear that they must be running out of Cretan dances to broadcast, a conclusion I reached from the fact that I came across a Kreta TV crew, cameras, lights, sound, producer and front man, carrying out an interview in the gents toilet at Chania bus station….while the toilet was still in use.

Given the state of the Greek economy and the austerity measures being introduced, civil service wages cut by 30%, retirement ages raised overnight by 8 years, VAT raised by 8% and yet more to come, it’s not surprising that they shipped and extra 7000 police into Thessaloniki for the opening of the International Trade Fair, an event to be attended by both the PM and the Leader of the Opposition. However, according to my friend Spiros who’s in one branch of the forces of Law and Disorder, the extra police, mostly from Athens, are civil servant also and while they haven’t, for obvious reasons, had such a swinging pay cut, they are not happy bunnies. Accordingly, the Athenian police apparently only agreed to go to Thessaloniki if they could have their own anti-austerity demonstration before all the other scheduled demonstrations and they got paid up front for the extra overtime they would be working; the fear being that by the end of next month when their overtime pay is due, there will be no money left to pay them. 

As a student of history, I am of course aware of previous tensions between Greece and Turkey. Conscious of the ‘Malvinas Factor’, I was discussing this very topic with Spiros, (not the previous Spiros, this was another one) and based on his experiences doing National Service in the Greek Air Force as a radio/radar technician in the late 1980s,he was vey gloomy about it all. It appears that the last time when relations between the two countries got a bit ropey, Spiros was a part of a detachment sent to guard an airfield from a possible Turkish attack. Fine in theory but rather difficult in practice since they didn’t give the conscripts any rifles; Spiros did have a helmet but it was a silver painted parade one, made of plywood. Naturally I queried the apparent lunacy of sending specialised troops to carry out an infantry role and then not arming or protecting them. Spiros looked even gloomier.

‘Yes,’ he said

‘I asked the same question and my officer told me that Air Force conscripts were expandable.’

So there it is; if Turkey attacks they will be faced by hordes of 100 metre diameter, Greek Air Force conscripts, and the war will be over before it’s started.

( For the attention of those reading this who might just happen to be Greek – you know who you are Spiros -……….I know I shouldn’t be rude about Greek mispronunciation of English, particularly given that I’ve been coming here every year for 15 or so years, I lived here for 18 months, that I’ve tried, and failed, to learn both modern and ancient Greek and still I can only just about manage to order a beer in a taverna,  but that’s the way it is I’m afraid; so I’m now going to go down to the restaurant, past the door marked ‘Stuff Only’ and try and decide where to have a plate of fish fingerings or some fresh Greek nuddels for dinner.)


*True, but the laws of liable prevent me from explaining further.