Friday, 16 December 2011

Ferrets, Slugs and Dougal the Dog

I have a moustache. Yes, it is moustache in UK English. It's only mustache (minus the "o") in American! Now, my moustache is quite fair and these days flecked with grey. I like to think it extinguishes, or ought that to be distinguishes me a little. Most people don't even notice it. Can't say I even notice it much myself, apart, that is, from the occasions when I trim it to stop the hairs from growing down around my top lip and into my mouth, which I hate. I've "worn" it for several decade, ever since the better half told me she preferred me with it; not because - as I'd hoped - she found that it made me remind her of that fellow in "Gone With the Wind", what was his name now? Grey Gables or something.

Anyway, as I said, I thought she'd tell me that she preferred me to sport one for the reason alluded to above, but, alas, no. She told me long ago that it was because she didn't like my top lip!

Since moving here and having the opportunity to study Greeks of a slightly more advanced age in their natural habitat, namely, the local cafeneion, I've come to realize that the moustache seems to bear some relationship to one's standing in the local community. Watching the old guys in the Agapitos up at Asklipio, where we collect our mail, I have noticed that virtually none are moustache-less if they're over about 50 years of age. The larger the undergrowth, the greater the respect accorded by one and all in the village.

Goodness knows what he's got living in there. Probably a bit of kleftiko for "ron", as in "later on" (subtle eh?). 

In times past, moustaches have been referred to in comedic circles by such diverse terms as a "ferret parked on one's top lip" or even - as in the wonderful "Blackadder Goes Forth" TV series in the UK - as a slug. The Greek moustache more often puts me in mind of the dog Dougal from the old childrens' TV programme "Magic Roundabout". Although it would probably more accurately be Dougal after he'd let his coat get rather long and then twirled the hair of his head and tail with a liberal applying of Brylcreem in there too, because the more elevated members of village society over here tend to have handlebars which would make any British World War One flying ace proud. They need to be twisted or twirled at the ends in such a way as to render someone forgiven for thinking that he could hang his sports jacket on it and place it in the wardrobe, along with a couple of mothballs. I'm sure not a few Greeks are Salvadore Dali admirers in secret.

Now there's another weird thing. In the UK, the last I remember hearing about mothballs was when I was about ten, in the early 60's. Since then their familiar look and smell had faded from memory until we moved out here. It seems that moths still wreak their havoc among your average Greek's garments in your average Greek's wardrobe. Most peculiar, or so I thought. But when you consider that most Greek houses don't have cavity walls and their inner surfaces sweat with condensation during chilly winter evenings when the inhabitants are heating the home with burning logs, an electric oil-filled radiator or perhaps a bottle-gas heater (the kind which we all used [well, those of us who were strapped for cash!] in the UK back in the eighties, before they were deemed a health and safety no-no), and you understand why a lot of Greek homes are damp during the winter months. Plus, it seems that a dank, dark wardrobe, the like of which our centrally heated homes in the UK saw the back of some decades ago, is still not at all rare in a Rhodean home during winter. Evidently the ideal environment for your average moth to seek out in which to lay its eggs and allow it's offspring to eat some unwitting Greek out of blouse and hosiery!

So, walk into any local supermarket out here and you'll always find a selection of mothballs for sale on the "household" shelves, taking the likes of me back forty years or so in a reverie of that familiar pong which always greeted me as a child when I opened the wardrobe door.

To return for a moment to the top lips of older Greek gentlemen. I've come to the conclusion, having made an in-depth study you understand, that I'd never be able to elicit great and deep respect from the villagers in my local cafeneion, owing to the fact that my facial hair has never been dark or dense enough to cultivate the required size and "wings" that would be necessary.

Hey ho, thwarted yet again in my attempts to integrate.

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