Sunday, 16 February 2014

No Queues is Good News

This country is full of surprises. For instance, whenever you need to do anything that requires a visit to a government department you usually consider taking a tent, food and drink provisions, camping stove and good book since you're liable to be in a queue for several days. OK, so I exaggerate, but that's how it feels, trust me.

At some point during the winter break those who are employed legally and whose employers actually bother to pay the National Insurance contributions for their workers need to visit the IKA office (stands for Ίδρυμα Κοινωνικών Ασφαλίσεων, or, in English, Institution of Social Insurance) to get their booklet "stamped" to keep it up to date. This enables those who are entitled to draw their winter payments and everyone with a booklet to obtain drugs or medical treatment either free or at a substantial discount.

My wife works for a scrupulous employer (well, two actually, since it's a couple, the husband's a Greek and the wife is British) who diligently pays the IKA contributions during the summer season and thus my wife needed to pay the IKA office a visit some time during the current winter. You know how it is, you tend to keep saying "Yea, I'll go soon. next week maybe," and you never quite get around to it. Well things were precipitated somewhat a week or so ago when the girl she works with told her that she'd better get up there to the Arhangelos IKA office pronto since on February 17th it's closing and all IKA affairs will necessitate a trip to Rhodes town after that. Oh joy.

With only a week or so to go we realised that we'd better plan a visit quickly. So on Friday last we tootled the half an hour or so up to Arhangelos, fully expecting a scrum at the IKA office, as everyone and his ya ya tries to get his IKA affairs in order before the local office ceases to be. Of course, I didn't tell the beloved this, but I was rather hoping that as she waited the week or so that I expected her to in the queue, I could repair to the Greco Café and enjoy a quiet coffee with wi-fi for an undisturbed hour or three. As we drove along the street where the IKA office is (well, was as from tomorrow!) situated I was distraught to see that there were plenty of spaces to park the car. Not what I'd expected, so, ever the hypocrite I exclaimed what joy it was that things looked quiet and pulled into a space right across the road from the office.

Climbing out of the car (with me checking that I'd not forgotten to bring the trusty iPad along) we were greeted with a "kali sas mera" by a couple who were just crossing the road and we followed them across, only to see that they too were going into IKA before us. I rather sportingly suggested to the better half that I just pop my head in to get a gander at the queue and see how long she may have to wait, before making my excuses and speeding at a canter toward the distant café, which pleased her immensely. There she was thinking that her hubby was soooo thoughtful. Fellas, any tips you need on scoring points, you know where to come.

Well, blow me down with a feather if there weren't a mere three people in front of us. There was a lady at the desk, who was just winding up her visit by exchanging a few words with the female clerk behind the glass about who's just had a baby and who's just died, before she strode out the door, then there was just the couple we'd followed inside. I could feel my wi-fi moment, not to mention that coffee, slowly, nay, rapidly receding into the irretrievable distance by the second. My wife beamed a huge smile of happy surprise and I did likewise, though mine was rather more forced (hope she didn't notice) and we ended up waiting a good two or three minutes whilst the clerk checked the man's number on her computer screen before stamping his book and greeting my wife.

I mean, what are the chances of that happening, eh? As I said at the outset, this country's full of surprises.

We were drinking coffee up at the Agapitos taverna while Mr. Kyriakos held court with his mobile post-office act the other day and our friend
Tom from down near the beach walked in. Was he expecting anything? We enquired, "No," he replied, "but it gives me something to do for an hour or two." So, of course we ended up chatting over a couple or three Ellenikos and he told us about an English girl he knew who'd struck up a relationship with a Greek bloke. The subject came around to driving and how the Greeks, for all their recklessness on the road, will always try and drive on the hard shoulder to enable someone behind to overtake if they see in their rear-view mirror that the vehicle behind wants to go faster. Of course, the actual number of Greeks this applies to is not very substantial, usually heavy goods or agricultural vehicles, that's about it. But they do nevertheless follow this simple, helpful principle on the road.

Tom's friend was driving up to town once, with her Greek partner as passenger, when she began, after being behind a car evidently driven by tourists (who don't know this piece of etiquette and thus resolutely refuse in general to ever consult their mirrors, maps being far more interesting) for rather too long. They had a schedule to keep to, an appointment of some kind, I can't remember now, but suffice it to say that the female in question was getting a bit flustered and frustrated after staring at the same rear number plate for too many miles.

"Don't they know that some of us have lives to lead?" She ranted, "We're not ALL on holiday!! Why can't they just let us through for ......sake!!"

After a while her Greek male partner, with Greeks not being usually known for their composure in such circumstances, turned to his loved one and said, calmly, "I think it's time to make the beep!"

His English wasn't of the kind you'd have described as fluent, you see.

And, finally, more piccies in no particular order...

If you've read "The View From Kleoboulos" you'll remember a scene where Dean sits on his suitcase on a step, wondering if he'll find Alyson's place. It's when someone bounds down the steps and brushes past him just before Alyson comes looking for him. Well, talk about coincidences, but some new friends of ours asked us to drop by for a coffee in Lindos. When we found their place it was the very courtyard, surrounded by modest dwellings, that I'd placed Alyson in!! These are the steps that she came down searching for Dean.

Kiotari beach, Sunday Feb. 16th 2014.

The steps just below my beloved are the very steps where Dean sat on his case.

It's not a pose, OK? She just managed to catch me like that after we'd found a particularly suitable log for the stove. Again Sunday 16th February 2014, around 1.30pm.

Just up the lane from the Ziakis Hotel, Pefkos, a week or so earlier.

Not really easy to make out, but there's a heron sitting on the flat rock in the distance.

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