Monday, 24 November 2014

Nips, Tucks and Settling Up

Our old friend Arthur has died. We haven't seen him for several years, but he and his wife Marina used to live down the road towards Gennadi, about two kilometres along the coast from us.

When I say "our old friend Arthur" it probably conjures up in the mind a wizened old chap with white whiskers and wrinkled brow, yeh? Well, in fact, he didn't look like that at all. When he and Marina lived here on Rhodes we'd quite often share a glass of red wine with them on their shady terrace, which boasted a wonderful view of most of Kiotari Bay and, to the North, the Pefkos headland which would shimmer in the heat haze as we sipped our ruby nectar from oversized wine glasses on a summer's evening.

Arthur at the time actually looked strikingly like that bloke who played John Locke in the TV series "Lost" a few years back. He was of Scottish descent and was a civil engineer who'd lived in several exotic places around the world, including Papua New Guinea and Sydney, Australia. His wife Marina was from an Asklipio family and I can't rightly remember how they first met. What I do remember is that Marina, during all the time that they lived here in their steel-framed bungalow (which unusually, was of similar construction method to our house), couldn't wait to leave Rhodes and go back to Australia.

They'd come to live on Rhodes thinking that it was a pretty good place to retire to and, if you'd listened to Arthur, you'd have agreed that indeed it actually was. He loved it here and would have stayed until he went toes up. To give her her due, Marina had thought that too when they'd first come, but living in close proximity to her family and feeling the long clutches of the old Greek ways and traditions slowly choking her freedom of thought and movement, she'd pretty soon developed the longing to be back in Sydney, where she could live much more like a Westerner and not have her extended family telling her what she should and shouldn't be doing, where she should and shouldn't be going and what she ought and ought not to be wearing.

Marina was at the time probably around 60 years of age, but looked sort of much younger. I say "sort of" because, after I'd once put a right royal foot in my proverbial mouth I learned something about her from my better half. Arthur was probably five or six years older than his wife and, to me, looked his age although, granted, a fit version of someone his age. Maybe it had something to do with his love of red wine. Anyway, just how did I come to put my foot in it? I'll tell you.

In one or two of the "Ramblings From Rhodes" series of books I've mentioned the Greek women and their penchant for the old "nip and tuck". You may not believe me, or perhaps you'd think I was exaggerating, but I kid you not. If you watch any Greek TV for while you can't fail to notice it. There are just soooo many women with flowing [dyed] blonde locks and tresses whose faces just don't display a single blemish or line, not the smallest hint of a bag beneath the eyes, nothing. They're all hourglass-figured, cleavage-showing "beauties" of indeterminable age who look like they all came out of a Barbie Doll factory - and I mean it! They can be seen everywhere, from reading the news with mouths that are just too wide to be natural and which taper to a kind of slit at each end, to daytime TV queens who wobble around their programme sets on impossibly high spine-damaging stilettos wearing clothes so tight that they have to be constricting the blood flow to the vital organs and yet, not one of them has any distinguishable blemish or even laugh-line anywhere from the adams apple upward.

If I didn't know better I'd swear that movie "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" has become a reality. If I were to lift the flowing locks from the nape of their necks I'd see that tell-tale mark that reveals that they are in fact aliens inhabiting the bodies of these poor unfortunate women who are sadly now no more than hosts to their parasitic invaders.

Anyway, here we were a few years back discussing our impressions of Greek TV women whilst sitting around the table on Arthur and Marina's terrace. I can't remember how we'd come around to this subject, but before long I was sounding off about these nipped and tucked women and saying how I thought (still do actually) that they must be morons if they think that it doesn't notice. You know, their lips are just a little too full, their cheeks go all the way up to their ever-so-slightly slanty eyes with not the merest suggestion of a bag, a shadow or a wrinkle. Their foreheads are as smooth as a snooker ball. Their necks are like fine porcelain. The only thing is, a lot of them are clearly in their forties or above and even though they're made up to the nines and do look kind of glamorous, they all display that hint of the grotesque about them. I'm sure you know what I mean. I get the distinct impression that they believe that if they display the slightest sign of aging then they'll lose their jobs in pretty short order and for that I suppose I should pity them their insecurity.

Just for fun, try Googling Fani Palli Petralia and select "images" and you'll see what I'm on about. In fact, if you scroll down through that lot you'll see not a few male faces that also look like they've been 'reconstructed' too. Or check this image of a famous and aging Greek singer. OK, so those are extreme examples, but the younger women ought to take a lesson from those two. Girls, that's how you're gonna look a few more years down the line. 

Anyway, I'd not long finished going on about all this stuff when my wife suggested that it was time we left our hosts to their own devices and took our leave. On our way home she asked me why I hadn't noticed anything about Marina's face. Frankly, now she came to mention it - it was as plain as the slightly altered nose on Marina's face that she'd had her fair share of nips and tucks herself. Gulp! I have to say that she'd been very gracious and not shown the slightest reaction as I laid into the kind of women who do such stuff, whilst all the while failing to notice that one of them was my genial host for the evening. How we remained friends became a mystery to me and speaks volumes about Marina's charitableness I suppose.

The trouble was, from then on, every time we visited them I couldn't help studying Marina's face and could easily make out all the 'work' she'd had done. Why I hadn't seen it before I can only put down to not really expecting that anyone I knew would have been under the cosmetic surgeon's scalpel, it all seemed to be something that women a long way away would do. Arthur and Marina left a few years ago to return to their beloved down-under and we lost touch. All this stuff was brought back to mind because just a few days ago someone who knew someone who knew them (yes, I did mean to type it that way!) told us that they'd heard that Arthur was no longer suffering from personhood. It came as a shock, but then, he would now have been well into his seventies I suppose. Still, the older one gets the younger such an age seems!

Michael, another ex-pat who lives not all that far from us, was sipping coffee with us on his terrace just a few days ago when we came around to talking about how lovely it is to be living out here in November. Yes, it has rained a few times, but usually it's not more than once a week at this time of year and the rest of the time we 'endure' bright, clear sunshine with low humidity, thus making the colours of the sea and sky much deeper and crisper. If you're sitting in full sun it can still be too hot after a while and you find yourself seeking shade. 

We were talking about the things that made us love Greece in the first place and we tried isolating the primary reason that any of us had fallen in love with this country. Michael told us a short tale which well illustrates the essence of the thing. Having all agreed that the main reason we love Greece is the people (who, of course do have faults, but most of which you don't see when you are on holiday here), Michael told us of a holiday that he and Sally had taken with friends many years go on another island. They'd been staying at a small hotel in a quiet area of the island in question for over a week and - as you'll well understand if you holiday in Greece - had reached first-name terms and much more with their hosts and various tradespeople in the area by this time. Their favourite taverna was a stone's throw along the road and they'd taken to having lunch in there quite often.

One lunchtime, after the four of them had eaten and were now full of bonhomie as they sat around their debris-laden table, still sipping at those little dumpy glasses of retsina from the red aluminium jugs before them, their host came to their table and told them that, much though he was sorry about this, he had to close up because he had an urgent need to drive into town for some reason or other. There were no other diners in by this time.

Michael and his friends replied that they were so disappointed about this because, following an excellent meal, they'd kind of settled in for a 'session' for the afternoon. You know, a few more drinks and lots more banter. Maybe some water melon or something too.

"Okay," replied their host, "tell you what. I'll put a pad and pen on the counter over there and you can just jot down whatever you take from the drinks fridge or food cabinets. We'll talk about settling up another time. How does that sound?"

Needless to say, their host had come up with the kind of solution that's quite familiar here in Greece, but would raise eyebrows in many other parts of the world. What tops it all off too was the fact that, when the guests dropped by the following morning to settle up, the taverna owner expressed surprize that they'd come so soon and told then. "Oh, don't worry about it now, next time you're in will be fine."

In fact, Greeks who run restaurants and bars do this kind of thing for their regulars so often that, a few years ago, we residents of this area were infuriated to hear that some tourists, British as far as we could ascertain, had taken advantage of such trust and kindness in the village of Massari, just up the coast a ways from here, indulging in a really sumptuous feast (with plenty of drinks of course) for ten people or so on their last night on the island. Knowing that they were leaving very early the next morning for their airport transfer, they'd gained the trust of their host and he'd agreed to let them settle up the next day. Of course, by the time he realized that they weren't coming back they were already back in the UK, no doubt boasting to their friends or workmates about the clever scam they'd pulled.

Tell you what though; those nasty people can never come back here for a holiday - that's for sure. All of us who got wind of this horrible story were very angry, because that kind of thing could eventually lead to the locals abandoning their old traditions of trust and integrity, which would make the Greek holiday experience very much the poorer for all who visit Greece in the future. It's a similar principle to that of people deliberately throwing gloss paint over their lounge carpet, just so they can make a claim on their house insurance, usually with the words, "Well, they charge me enough, so I'm gonna get my money's worth." Such idiots don't realize, of course, that the whole reason that their premiums had been rising for years was exactly because of people like them.

Ooh, some things do make me livid. 

On a lighter note, I've got a new toy (see previous post) to help me make sure that my waistline doesn't continue to expand beyond a reasonable level this winter!!  A mountain bike!

Oh, and yesterday (Sunday lunchtime) we went for our first swim of the 'winter', it was such a beautiful day...

The best things in life are free, but those that aren't we should still be ready to pay for at our earliest convenience though, eh? 

Sorry about that last photo. Didn't mean to scare the pets...


  1. Amused to see that your friend Marina wanted to live more as a 'Westerner'. I've long thought that Rhodes feels like a combination of Europe and the Middle East, which I suppose is unsurprising given her history and location.
    Your swimming photo is far less scary, to humans and pets, than the one of you with your new bike. There's something deeply disturbing about your expression.
    I jest, of course!