Friday, 31 January 2014

Up and Down

The saga of how we get our mail still goes on. Ever since ELTA, the Greek postal service, made the decision to close the sub-post office in the corner of the Agapitos taverna in Asklipio, we've been up there and down to the Gennadi post office in the furious quest to receive delivery of whatever we've been expecting - and one or two things we weren't as well.

Last week it was getting to be upward of three weeks since we'd ordered some vitamins and herbal supplements from Healthspan and we were certain that, even though I'd placed the order a week or two before Christmas and thus we knew we were in for a bit of a delay because of the 'Christmas post' and a new year bank holidays both being 'in the mix' as it were, they ought to have arrived by now.

So off we trotted once again to the post office at Gennadi, safe in the expectation that we'd probably be waiting in there long enough for my beard to grow, or to have to cut my toenails again, and we arrived to find, ...wait for it, what? No surely this can't be, but it is!! There's only one man in the queue!! We'll wait then. Sure enough, we only had to wait a mere twenty minutes before the bloke before us had terminated his business and strolled out with a handful of paperwork and some cash in there too if my eyes didn't deceive me, and we triumphantly stood at the newly installed glass screen on top of the desk, behind which sat the long-suffering woman who tries to service the postal needs of half the island of Southern Rhodes.

Quite why the company had gone to the expense of installing this laminated, toughened and probably bullet-proof glass screen is a mystery. I mean, if you ask me I'd say it's probably to stop the woman who works behind it from throwing the odd punch or firing her staple gun at yet another irate customer who's waited a month or so in the queue and finally let loose a tirade of frustration on finally reaching the desk. I could be wrong though.

Anyway, on arriving at the desk we paid the water bill (the first one we'd received in about 18 months, the bills having been "centralised" to Rhodes town whereas they'd formerly been compiled and sent out by the local council), and asked once again about renting a postal box, so that we'd be able to amble (or perhaps, saunter, eh?) in and collect our mail at leisure. This time she told us that there were only a couple available at present, and for these the keys had been lost somehow. She rather helpfully took our little "Ramblings From Rhodes" card though and stapled it to a sheet of paper which was plastered with handwritten phone numbers and names and told us she'd ring us if and when we may be able to actually sign up for one.

Handing us a couple of letters for both of our neighbours, nothing for us, she smiled and bade us good day. Hmmph. All the way down there to find that we didn't have anything, expect the prospect of delivering a couple of envelopes to those living nearby. I found myself mentally slithering down that slippery slope that would turn me into the kind of customer that the woman might just need that glass screen for.

Later that day we dropped by our friend Tom's house (he of the story in chapter 21 of A Plethora of Posts, "Bringing Home the Bacon") to cadge a coffee and sat there chewing the fat with him. He told us that he was still collecting his mail from the Agapitos Taverna. We bemoaned the fact that it was all rather hit-and-miss though, wasn't it? Didn't the mysterious Mr. Kyriakos turn up there as and when he wanted and if one wasn't there then he'd take one's mail back to the Gennadi post office rather than leave it at the Agapitos?

"Ah, well, no. It is organised to some degree," Tom assured us. "See, he'll be up there Monday, Wednesday and Friday one week, and Tuesday and Thursday the next. He always turns up at between half past twelve and one o'clock, lunchtime basically. I was up there today and he said he had some packages for you. I didn't accept them because I thought you'd have something else in mind, like getting them from Gennadi or something."

We weren't irritated by hearing this at all. AT ALL, OK? We asked Tom to explain further. He said, "Well, it's still easier really. Instead of waiting for hours in the post office down at Gennadi, you just nip up to Asklipio, enjoy a coffee and a natter with Athanasia or Agapitos while you wait and Mr. Kyriakos turns up at the appropriate hour - well - give or take half an hour. But he does always come on the right day. I go up quite often now, got not much else to do anyway and it's fun watching the ritual." Tom went on to tell us that the day after tomorrow Mr. Kyriakos would be sure to turn up at the Agapitos taverna with the mail again and in all probability he'd have our packages with him, so we determined that this time we'd go up there and catch him.

The day after tomorrow arrived and it was bright and clear. We decided to combine the eventually successful collection of our health supplements with a good workout and so we made the 50 minute walk up the back lanes through the olive groves to Asklipio. Arriving at around 12.30pm we ordered a couple of Ellinikos from Athanasia and took our seats. The locals were gathering. Athanasia stayed at our table for a natter when she brought our coffees and we watched as a dozen or so local village elders assembled and passed the time playing either cards or backgammon. The air of expectancy grew and our friend Tom himself eventually put in an appearance and joined us at our table. Rolling one of his thin little dark brown ciggies, he took a puff and answered when we asked him what he was expecting to collect, "Oh nothing. But I like to come up anyway and watch."

After about half an hour the sliding door from the terrace slid open and a couple of men walked in. The first was a wrinkled old codger who announced the arrival of the mail with a degree of melodrama. He was followed onto the room by the elusive Mr. Kyriakos himself, replete with leather pouch, from which he drew out a thick wad of mail wrapped in the biggest, thickest elastic band you've ever seen. Taking his seat at a free table near the door, he removed the elastic band and placed the pile of mail on the table in front of him, whilst all present gathered around for the ritual. 

We couldn't help noticing a decided lack of familiar Healthspan packages. "Maybe they're still in the pouch" we theorized, and waited along with the rest of the company. Once his audience was assembled and he'd allowed enough time to ensure that he had everyone's attention, he began slowly and theatrically thumbing through the mail. One piece at a time he'd call out a name, if someone present knew the lucky recipient, was related to them or was passing their door on the way home they'd raise a hand and Mr. Kyriakos would flip the envelope in that direction. Occasionally no one would respond, whereupon he'd place that piece to one side for reuniting with the jumbo elastic band when he'd finished. On other occasions he'd say, for example "Paralamvan'os, Vasilis!!" and Athanasia or one of the men would answer "dead!" and that piece also would join the "unclaimed" pile.

Mr. Kyriakos holds court
By the time he'd run through all of the mail and Athanasia had a pile of stuff that she was going to ensure reached its rightful owners, the others of the audience were beginning to disperse, my wife piped up, addressing Mr.Kyriakos, "No packets for us then? Manuel's the name."

"Manuel? Oh yes. There are a couple of packets for you. I left them at Gennadi, since you never seem to be up here. .............(here insert name of woman who works at the Gennadi post office, I forgot it) told me that you came in the day before yesterday. I could have brought them up otherwise. I'll be up again the day after tomorrow, shall I bring them then?"

Both of us resisting the almost irresistible urge to scream, we replied in unison, "Yea, OK, we'll be up here then. Maybe in future it'll be good if you always bring our stuff with you. We'll make a point of trying to catch you up here."

During the long walk back home we bemoaned the fact that a further couple of days were going to have to elapse before we could retrieve our "vitamee'nes" as the Greeks call herbal supplements, but comforted ourselves in two things: a) we'd had a good walk and were ready for lunch once we got home and b) the packets had at least arrived and we knew where they were.

On entering our front gates, stomachs well convinced that our throats had been cut, we approached the terrace and saw that someone had been and left something on our patio table outside our front door. There, sitting in all their glory, were three packets bearing the logo of Healthspan, Guernsey.

Since any one of three different sets of neighbours could have been responsible, it was a day or two more before we discovered that Mac and Jane, our nearest neighbours from up the hill, had visited Gennadi post office at the same time that we were sitting in the Agapitos taverna watching the slow methodical sifting of Mr. Kyriakos, where the woman had happily given them our packets, which they'd duly brought home with them and rather helpfully placed on our patio table for us, no doubt quite innocently thinking that they'd saved us a trip.


  1. Hi John, appear not to be able to comment on new section, Move Eat Visit, so hope you don't mind me thanking you via this post. Younger son and other half are joining us on Rhodes at the beginning of May and he was asking if I knew where he could do SUP. Your link to Sabina's watersports has answered his question.

    1. Vicki, ignore the email answer I sent you (if indeed you got it). I hadn't authorized comments on that page. I have now!!

  2. No, no email!
    I should have commented on this post anyway. A great, amusing tale.....even if it was born of frustration to yourselves. Keep up the 'chilled' acceptance of the Greek system. What else can you do?