Wednesday, 13 May 2015

A Modest Homage to the Late Angie Loukas

Having referred to Angie Loukas, from Lardos in the last post, I was overcome with a wave of desire to recount again the story that's also related in the book "A Plethora of Posts", chapter 29, entitled "Angie and the Stove." which of course began life some years ago as a post on this blog anyway. I decided that the many new readers who probably never read it before might just like to hear the tale of my first encounter with Angie, and so I've edited it a little from the book and, well, here it is again. If you like this tale, there are another 43 along similar lines to be found in that book ("A Plethora..." mentioned above).

Angie and the Stove
In the village of Lardos there was a small workshop where the proprietor rented motorbikes. The proprietor's name was Angelos, but he liked his British friends to call him Angie. I don't know whether anyone tried explaining to him that in the UK Angie would be more appropriately applied to those of the other gender from that to which he belongs, but I certainly wasn't going to be the one to mention it when I first met him.

See, the thing is, Angie was big. No, not fat, obese, overweight in the sense of being full of podge. Podgy he was not. Muscular he was, but I'll come back to the relevance of the shape of his physique later. The foregoing notwithstanding, he was not a boaster or a man of conceit, he was simply built like a brick-outhouse, if you're old enough to know what one of those was. It's his physical condition that brought about this little experience, that's all.

A few winters ago we realized that we'd be needing to change the wood-burning stove in our living room. When the house was built the stove was installed as an afterthought, some months in fact after we'd taken up residence and pointed out to the builder that either a Tza'ki or a So'ba was part of the deal.

"Whoops", was what he probably thought when it was made clear to him that on our side of the house there were to be winter residents and thus there was a need for some heating source other than the air-conditioning units. So he turned up one day with the original stove which we were to use, which turned out to be second hand. It was quite a large stove; so large in fact, that during winter days or evenings when it was stoked up and brightly burning, we would shed vast quantities of clothing and sit fanning ourselves in our undies with a magazine, whilst throwing all the windows open, to keep from overheating. When your missus is also getting hot flushes …well, say no more (I know, to our transatlantic friends that's "flashes", but since in the UK someone who flashes is an altogether different proposition, I'll not go there. Suffice it to say that George Michael might feature in there somewhere …allegedly).

It never gets overly cold here. It's usually just cool enough that you fancy a nice flickering flame, but not really cold enough to actually need one. A more modestly sized so'ba would have been OK, but the builder obviously had the chance to get his hands on the one which we eventually received, so we stood and watched as his "man" installed it. It worked OK for five winters, whilst each year another part would fall off or further rust away and crack to pieces inside. Seems to me that it had been left outside unused for a while in a previous life, the worst thing for a cast-iron stove really. Anyway, the quick duly being "cut to" here, the winter in question was almost upon us when we asked our friends and landlords John & Wendy, if they'd finance the replacing of the now too-dangerous-to-use stove.

Have you ever tried lifting a wood-burning stove? They're quite heavy. In fact they're hernea-inducingly heavy. We'd spotted a rather fetching new one in the garden centre on the main road in Arhangelos and, following John & Wendy's nod of assent, we ordered it. This new one was much more modest in size than the old one and we were looking forward to at least being able to wear shorts indoors on cool winter evenings. Perhaps I could add that my better half would also include a bikini top. The man who was to deliver the new stove was the father of the bloke who runs the garden centre and he's probably 70 if he's a day. So he asked if, on its arrival, we could organize a couple of extra pairs of hands to get it off of the van and into its new situation in our lounge. This, of course, we promised to do, whilst also realizing that we'd need to get the old stove out of the way first.

I set about disconnecting the existing flue and, once that was accomplished, enlisted the help of a local neighbour or two and thus four pairs of hands went to each corner of the retiring stove, lifted it an inch or so off the floor and carried it gruntingly and puffingly out to the drive and finally to a rather fetching position outside of the front garden gates. To be honest, we didn't know what we were going to do with it. Since its "innards" were too far gone for anyone to seriously want it for the purpose for which it had originally been manufactured, we had a dilemma on our hands. My wife suggested filling it with compost and growing geraniums out of it. Nah, we thought, best try and dispose of it. But how? That was the question. The answer to said question proved altogether unexpected. Enter our new friend Angie.

There was a spot of welding required on the front gates, since over the years the posts had moved as the ground settled and the gates were pulling apart to such a degree that within a very short while they'd be swinging open in the breeze, owing to the fact the latch wouldn't reach between them any more. Now this may not prove to be much of a problem in some locales, but in "Goat City" here it would have spelt disaster. So I asked around for a decent metalworker, not expecting to come up trumps. Soon a friend of ours in Lardos suggested that we talk to Angie.

My first reaction was, "Ummm, can a woman weld? Would an oxyacetylene torch not play havoc with a nice set of fingernails, not to mention the mask probably inducing lots of 'bad hair days?'" No, no, said Gareth, our friend. Angie, it appears, is a man. A man called Angie? I began to ask myself the same questions again. Gareth continued to explain and so, satisfied that this "Angie" wasn't just of the male gender, but was the sort that could be described as "all-man", we went to find this "Angie" at his workshop, after Gareth & Vicki had shown us what an excellent job he'd done on their garden gates and walls with all sorts of wrought iron and stuff.

A couple of days later, at the arranged time (amazingly, since he's Greek), Angie beeped his horn as he turned his long-wheel-based, double rear-axled ancient, windowed Ford Transit van in forty shades of all colours around outside the front gates. I went out to meet this big bear of a man, who grabbed me in a bear hug, slapped me bone-breakingly hard on the back and asked, "How you like my sex machine, eh?"

Yup, I thought, no doubts about Angie, despite the name. He inspected the gates, quoted on the welding job and we agreed his price. We arranged for him to come up a couple of days later and, just as he was leaving, he asked me "What you do with that So'ba? You want to get rid of it?" To which I replied with the obvious, "Yes. Why, do you think you can take it away for us?"

"Sure!" he replied then slipped behind his steering wheel and called out whilst starting up his "sex machine" - "I take it when I come for the welding, OK?" OK. He turned up once again as arranged (this was seriously challenging our pre-conceptions about Greeks and their promises) and within a few hours had completed the welding job. As I went out to inspect the workmanship, which was truly excellent, he asked,

"You think your neighbour up the hill can help us load the old So’ba into my van?"

I said I'd go inside and call Mac up the hill and see if he could pop down and add a couple of hands to the job. This fire needed not just lifting a couple of inches, but a whole foot or so up into the flatbed interior of the Transit, double doors now open at the ready. I called Dimitri from further down the hill as well. Both agreed to come and would be over in a few minutes or so. I went out to the gates to give Angie the news, just in time to see him sliding the stove on to the Transit - alone. That's like, by himself, unassisted. This was a stove that four of us had carried out by just getting it a couple of inches off the ground a few weeks earlier. Now you see why I referred to his physique.

He noticed that I was exhibiting an expression that could best be described as "aghast" and a huge smile broke out across his face, a face that was framed by a shoulder-length mane of wavy part-greying hair, and - flexing his biceps - said,

"Feel that Yianni, did you ever feel anything so solid, eh? While I was waiting I just think, maybe I can do it. So I had a go. Good eh?"

He then did something similar with his thigh muscle, inviting me to wonder admiringly at how hard it was. Like an upside down Coca Cola bottle, in fact. I made a mental note to call Mac and Dimitri as soon as I'd waved him off, to tell them there was no need to come after all.

"Do you work out?" I asked, to which he answered, "NO, I always like this! Just how I turn out I suppose. But it has its advantages, not least when I use the van in it's other role. Is why I call it my…"

"Yes, I got that. Fine. Anyway, thanks for solving the problem."

"Is nothing. Thank YOU. I can do something with it, you don't mind?"

"Not at all," I responded, "Just happy to get it off our hands really. Thanks for the welding job too, An-geleh [that's how you say the name Angelo when addressing the person directly. Sorry, maybe a grandmother sucking eggs thing going on there]."

"Is OK. But hey, all my friends call me Angie!" he chirped. 

Angie it was to be then.

In memory of a truly larger-than-life man with a big heart, Aggelos Loukas.


  1. What a nice 'homage'. Am I right in thinking he was the brother of the guy who owns/runs Yammas bar? Correct me if I'm wrong!