Ships that pass and all that. Seems that me and my better half are a bit like that at the moment. I'm working on the days when she isn't and visa versa. So we were more than a little pleased to find that, for a second Sunday in succession, we were both off. She had the rather appealing idea that we go down to the Lighthouse taverna/bar, right on the beach here in the "real" Kiotari, and crash out on a couple of sun beds for a few hours. "Let's pretend we're on holiday like we used to do all those years ago," she said. I was all for a bit of pretense today, so off we went.
Laying there under our umbrella in 35ºC on that spotlessly clean beach, with the flat-calm sea lapping a few metres away, watching all the Greek families from Asklipio and those who had come down from Rhodes Town for the weekend (Kiotari is a favourite weekend bolt-hole for them), we were struck with a very important thought. On the BBC website just days ago I was looking at an image of a tatty doorway in Athens, evidently of a closed-down shop or something, in which were laying forlornly a young couple with their small toddler. Here we go again with the propaganda. Doubtless this unfortunate young family (if they indeed were a family) are having a hard time. But I was left with the overriding feeling that once again the media was putting across this impression of a country which was packed to the gills with abject poverty and depravation. Yet here I was on a June Sunday afternoon, watching Greek families at play. The teenagers were all frolicking about in the sea, getting up to nothing worse than perhaps a girl running off with the beach ball which a couple of boys were throwing to each other, or laying around in groups in their bathing costumes, towels over shoulders, talking the talk, as it were. The parents were "visiting" with one another as the Americans would say, all dressed in smart bikinis or swimming shorts and some toting babies on their hips. Guys walked by carrying two or three fresh frappes, all appeared to be getting on with the day off in question in much the same way as normal.
A couple of conversations which I overheard concerned the election, which of course was taking place this very day. One young mother, walking past our sunbeds, called to her friend in response to her hailing and said, "Yes, just been to vote. Manolis is on his way down to the beach now."
"Who did you vote for?" Asked the voice from somewhere nearby. "For so and so." Came the reply, "After all, he's a cousin of my husband's." There you are then, strong political views eh? This is very often the governing factor in local elections too; you vote for someone who's related to you. It's the done thing, you don't have the luxury of considering whether their policies are in line with your way of thinking. After all, you couldn't show your face in his Bar again if you hadn't voted for him now could you? Sorry to burst your bubble Mr. Samaras.
You could have been forgiven, though, looking around at all the local Greeks enjoying their few hours on the beach, for thinking that there was no such thing as an economic crisis going on. This is good. Why? Because I believe that Mr. controversial, Jeremy Hardy, said on the BBC Radio 4 "News Quiz" just recently, something to the effect that, despite all the political intrigues and talk about currency collapses and bits of paper getting pushed around hushed conference tables in Brussels, people will always need to get on with normal life. They need to shop, eat, raise their children, clean their teeth, talk with the neighbours. So, ruminating on the BBC website's choice of which Greek photo to place on their "Images from around the world" page this week, I was not a little annoyed to see that yet again they had selected one that would encourage the British to shy away from visiting Greece this year. They were continuing with this campaign to make potential tourists from colder climes think that they'd be faced with so many unpleasant social conditions that they wouldn't enjoy their holiday on a Greek island.
Stretched out on her sunbed just across the wooden walkway from us was someone we knew. Maria's family are from Asklipio and we'd made her acquaintance only days after moving out here almost seven years ago. She'd lived in Canada for many years and so now speaks perfect, accent-less Canadian English. We called out a hello and so began a chat about the tourist season and how sad it was that the numbers were down so far this year. Having agreed that the media are misleading people from the UK, Germany and other countries, I made a comment about how normal life was continuing as usual here and she replied, casting her hands skyward, "The sun is not in crisis, is it?"
We enthusiastically agreed. What do you want to come to Greece for? Yes her culture, yes her warm people, perhaps her cuisine, but certainly for her wall-to-wall sunshine for several months every year, eh? I talked to my mum in Bath, England, on the phone just last Saturday. She still thinks of temperatures in the old money, as I believe the Americans do too. So I told her that it was 102ºF in the shade, to which she replied that it would not suit her to be so hot, but that she'd be willing to take a gamble, since it's been struggling to top 59ºF over there - in JUNE!
To return to that photo for a moment. Do you mean to tell me that you couldn't take a similar shot in just about any of the cities in the UK or across Europe? Yet would that mean that everyone in that country was down and out, on the streets? Scenes like that have been evident on Britain's streets for decades as we all know. So it shouldn't surprise us that they exist in Athens too, should it.
If you clicked on the Lighthouse link further back in this post, then you'll have seen that piece of video showing the place off. There is a circular bar in the middle of the lawned area to which I'd trotted after we'd plonked our stuff on our sunbeds. While Yvonne-Maria sat on a bench by a table under the trees to survey the turquoise sea, I ventured there in search of a couple of frappes (or, to be more correct, in Greek it's "frappe'thes" with the "th" soft as in "the"). Who should I see seated there and chewing on a toastie, but George from the Pelican's Nest restaurant, further up the road. Two iced coffees ordered, I walked around the bar to be greeted by a "high five" and George's expressions of appreciation for the post I'd done about his place back in March. It seems that someone out there actually reads this stuff, as he was able to report that quite a number of diners had told him since that they'd read about the place on "Ramblings From Rhodes."
I called to my wife to come over and join us, but before she got there two things happened. One, the frappes arrived, the barman telling me that they were on George, and two, I'd succeeded in making George, the barman and an old Greek who was sitting sipping at an Elleniko to my left fall about laughing. George had asked me what the better half and I do when we have both have that rare day off at the same time. He asked this with a bit of a twinkle in his eye. I'd replied innocently that we'd come down here to "chill" for a few hours.
"NO, No, Gianni," he said. "You don't do anything else? Like, you know, having a rare moment at home together?" Had he been Eric Idle, he'd have probably added 'nudge, nudge, say no more'.
Now I caught his wicked drift. So I said, "Wait a minute, what year is it?" He looked bemused, so I continued, "It's 2012 isn't it? Yes, Right, that means October then. This years it's gonna be October." This touched his funny bone and so ensued the laugh, which I was able to milk a little more by adding, "Well, I hope so at any rate!"