Thursday, 26 September 2013

The Aliens Have Landed

In Wales, if someone's small of stature, they say that they're a mere "dut" of a girl (or woman, man, whatever). That's "dut" as it "put" and not as in "but" (See English Language Logic). Why am telling you this? I dunno really, apart from the fact that when a newly acquired friend told me the story that I'm about to relate, it's the word that came to mind when he mentioned the little old ya ya in the general store.

Some twenty years ago and more, a Scottish couple arrived in the remote village of Kattavia, in Southern Rhodes, population a mere two or three hundred, if you're lucky. Kattavia, for those who may not be aware, is the furthest village on the island from Rhodes Town and back in the 1980's it was even further, owing to the state of the roads on Rhodes (did you notice that deft play on words there, eh?) at the time. Ross and Elaine had decided to have a go at living in Greece for a while and had somehow arrived at a deal to rent the old priest's house in the village.

They hadn't been there very long when Ross, ever the practical kind of guy, decided that he needed some turpentine and a couple of bits and pieces for some job or other that needed doing, so he walked the few metres to the local village store, which in those days sold everything. You needed a few nails, you went there, a bottle of Ouzo, same establishment, a chat with the locals, no better place.

Entering the twilight of the store's interior he was greeted by a diminutive (here it comes folks…) dut of woman, probably in her seventies, but of indeterminable age really. This is true of so many Greek agro'tes [people of the land, farmers] who spend their entire lives under the sun and never come to within so much of a mile of sun tan cream. Plus they'd all be smokers from a very young age, something which is always sure to wither your skin earlier than it ought to be withered.

So, Here was our hero, Ross the Scotsman, standing in the small, but chock-full store, mustering up the courage to ask for a few DIY essentials, …oh, and a bottle of turps. The little ya ya behind the counter deftly shinned up and down a rickety old wooden ladder, reaching for various items, which Ross hoped vainly were actually what he wanted, and ferrying them down to ground level in order to measure out a few of this, a couple of that …and so on. In view of the language difficulties, things weren't going so badly. Despite Ross' remonstrations that perhaps he ought to tackle the ladder, she wouldn't hear of it, waving him away with her arm as if to say, "it's OK, it's nothing. I've been going up and down this old thing since I was a little girl".

While he was still in the process of negotiation with his ancient Greek hostess, two agro'tes wandered in, both of them weary from many hours out in the countryside tending their goats and both needing a refreshing drink before wending their weary ways homeward. They removed their battered caps and used them to wipe the dust from their sweat-soaked brows and then spotted the customer before them. Their expressions immediately went from "none at all" to "surprise" to "amazement" to "wow, have the aliens finally landed in Kattavia?" as they took in the sight before them. It registered with Ross that these two guys had probably never in their lives been more than a few kilometres from the village and almost certainly had never seen a foreigner. The colour of his hair, his complexion, his dress sense (still dodgy actually) all shouted "alien" to them. That's "alien" purely in the sense of "unknown" of course, not in the sense of "shoot first and ask questions afterwards".

They parked themselves at a small square table, wiped a few crumbs and cigarette ash from the oilcloth cover with the backs of their calloused hands and called for Ross to come and sit with them. He, of course, knew that it would be rude not to comply and so obeyed, whereupon they called to the ya ya for a bottle and some glasses, plus a few nibbles of one sort or another. This called for an interrogation.

Notwithstanding the language difficulties, which were compounded by the fact that, though Ross had a little rudimentary Greek, their accents were so thick you could turn them on their sides and use them to sit on, they got along famously and ever more so as the contents of the bottle grew less and less. Ross tells me that they plied him with whatever it was that was in that bottle (possibly even turps, he wasn't sure), as well as olives, feta and chunks of village bread for quite some time. Oh, alright then, hours. He only realised how much time had passed when he came to attempt a standing position, which for some reason he found unable to succeed in, thus necessitating that his two new friends take him by each shoulder for support, insist that they pay the ya ya for the few items that he'd left all this time laying on the counter, and "walk" him home.

Evidently he had been able to communicate the fact that it was the old priest's house that he was living in, and so they cheerfully deposited him at his front door under a bright moon at some time around midnight, where he promptly fell down and also asleep without delay. His worried wife Elaine, upon opening the door for the umpteenth time that day to see if he was coming back, found a crumpled mass of husband on the doorstep, dragged him inside and went back to bed.

Next morning, she asked him in a voice that almost made his head explode, it sounded so loud, did he get the turps?

"Turps? Turps? Oh, yes, well, um, I'll pop back along there now…"

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