4. Priests

#4 How many priests does it take to change a light bulb?

During my previous working incarnations lives I’ve been asked many questions ranging from the size of 1C/Cu/ PILCSWAS cable to use on a 750kw compound wound motor1 (when I was an electrical installation draughtsman); the temperature at which it gets too hot to work and at which you can go home on full pay2 (health and safety advisor); if an employer can sack an employee who stole money even if the money is returned3 (trade union official) and the ppO2 at 15 metres on 42% Nitrox4 (dive master). Most of these questions I was able, at the time asked, to give a reasonably correct answer, even if it wasn’t the one the person asking wanted to hear, particularly in the case of the person being sacked for a theft they admitted.

 However, recently I was completely defeated by a simple (?) a question.

There’s a little village up in the mountains, about 9km away and 800 metres higher than our village, where we have been known to spend the odd, and I mean odd, hour or three, relaxing and taking in the local colour, wine and raki. On my first visit there this year I was greeted by my friend Spiros (see note above) with the immortal words:

 ‘Mixalis, I’m getting lobsters! What do you think I should do?’

Now, I’m the first to admit that my knowledge of first aid is limited to that required in the event of an emergency, i.e. keep the person warm and safe, carry out CPR if necessary, send for an ambulance etc.etc., but I’m pretty sure none of the courses I’ve attended over the years have ever dealt with an attack of lobsters, even those courses aimed at emergencies when diving. Consequently, before replying, I took into account that Spiros is young man in the prime of his life, with several or more girlfriends, and I that didn’t want to say anything that could be taken the wrong way; this is after all Crete, and Cretans have a certain reputation. Accordingly, I did what every trade union official learns to do at a very early stage in their career; I prevaricated and avoided answering the question.

Spiros then told me that he and his father were getting them together and were in the process of digging the tank for them. At this point I realised that I was thinking in entirely the wrong direction, that the subject under discussion was the proposal to establish a Crayfish  farm and that I should be considering the role of crustaceans in the Cretan economy rather than other, less savoury, topics. I’m afraid even establishing the crustacean connection didn’t help me to answer the question but at least now I know that somewhere up in the hills of Crete there’s a herd of crayfish happily doing whatever it is crayfish do before they end up in the supermarket at 50 Euros/kilo.

Later that week I revisited the village, this time for a spot of god bothering. The village church is dedicated to the 99 Holy Fathers, the followers of St John the Hermit, and before you start, I know it’s an oxymoron that a hermit should have 99 followers but as I keep telling you, this is Crete and things are done differently here. This particular day the church festival was being held and the service was to be presided over by the local Metropolitan (those of an Orthodox bent will understand, those of an Anglican/Roman Catholic bent, think Archbishop and you’ll get the idea, Lutherans, Presbyterians and atheists, you’re on your own) and such an august personage guaranteed that there would be more than just the usual priest to conduct the service. The event took place in the open air outside the church, which is halfway down a beautiful valley about 500 metres from the village, and, in order to permit maximum audience participation for the 100 or so people attending, was broadcast through a very loud PA system. Though we only stopped for 15 mins. or so, during that time we counted 17 (yes, seventeen) priests in attendance. We wandered back to the kafenion for a meal and sat there listening to the service and the singing; though we couldn’t understand what was going on, the sound of the chanting echoing around the hills on a late summer evening was indeed, rather pleasant. As we fell to discussing the priest overkill situation and whether or not the alleged sins of the 99 Holy Fathers were such as to require seventeen advocates, someone started to ask the inevitable question: How many orthodox priests does it take to change a light bulb?

No sooner had the words been spoken than the chanting stopped and the lights in the kafenion went out. There then followed a frantic five minutes as our host ran around trying to find some fuse wire to replace the mains fuse that had blown because, in order to cope with the crowds attending the festival, too many electric ovens had been plugged into the sockets in the kitchen, sockets which were also being used to supply the church PA.

Personally I think it was sheer coincidence but we never did find out the number of priest required; we could only conclude it was a number between one and seventeen.





  1. Single core, Copper, Paper Insulated, Lead Covered, Single Wire Armoured and Served; and I can’t remember, it was 40 years ago.
  2. There isn’t one and never has been.
  3. Yes, and they don’t have to wait until you’re arrested either.
  4. I don’t have my Nitrox Tables anymore so you’ll just have to look it up.