Sunday, 25 December 2016

Planning and Forethought

"You are coming, aren't you" said Irini.

"Coming where?" I asked in reply.

"Tonight. Our place. We're barbecuing and there's a crowd coming over."

Irini said this to me at around noon a few days ago. As is readily apparent from the reported conversation above, the invitation was for the very same evening. It well illustrates a cultural difference between us Brits and the Greeks. It pretty much goes without saying that whatever they organise, they'll be sure and let everyone know at the very last minute. It equally applies to weddings. In the fairly large circle of Greek friends amongst which we now move, if there's a wedding coming up we'll usually get a nice posh printed invitation handed to us no more that a fortnight before the wedding is due to take place. In our old lives back in the UK we'd know months in advance about a wedding but here, drop everything and hope you've nothing too important planned, or you won't make it to the big day.

I suppose it shouldn't be a big deal, but we (as in the better half and I) find it really hard to adjust to this particular trait of our Greek friends. We like plenty of warning. We like to know well in advance what we're doing. To most Greeks, this is simply unheard of. Of course, my beloved and I have different reasons for not liking things to be sprung upon us. 

In my case it's more to do with that comfy feeling of having planned a quiet evening at home with my feet up. In winter that may of course involve a couple of planned TV programmes and the log-burner flickering away reassuringly. Maybe a good book or the headphones and iPod humming along nicely while I splay out on the sofa, glass of wine situated within grasping distance on the coffee table. To be honest, although we absolutely love living up a mountainside, a kilometre of dirt track separating us from the main road, it can be a bit of an impediment to our social lives during the darker evenings of winter. That whole thing of having to get the car out and driving somewhere is dead difficult when you've got the subdued lighting going in the lounge, the flames from the fire are flickering alluringly and you don't have to worry about that extra glass of vino because you don't have to drive anywhere.

On the other hand, my wife has to consider for far longer than simply a few hours what she's going to wear to the occasion in question. It simply doesn't do to only have part of an afternoon to think about what kind of event we've been invited to and what sort of attire and footwear would be appropriate. 

Plus, a major factor this time of the year is how warm are we going to be? A surprisingly large number of people seem to be quite happy sitting in their own lounges while the temperature is so low you can see your breath - indoors. Me and the significant other are at one on this, having come home in the past with our legs feeling like iced lollies from the knees down and then found it impossible to get ourselves back up to operational temperature for the rest of the night, even with our feet resting on hot water bottles in the bed, we're loathe to accept an invitation when we suspect that the real intention is to use us as an experiment in cryogenics.

Have you noticed too, chaps, how difficult it is for a female to actually leave the building? We've set a time for departure - that is, of course, on those occasions when we actually do venture out during the winter evenings - of, lets say 8.00pm. This will invariably mean that at about ten to eight I'll be grabbing the keys from the hook on the wall and calling through the bedroom door that "I'm getting the car out." 

Coming back through the door will be the words, "Nearly ready!"

Oh dear. I'll go outside, reverse the car out from the car port, open the gates, drive the car out on to the lane, leave the engine ticking over while I get out, come back in through the gate and close it in case of hares, sheep, goats or the neighbours' dogs, then trot across the drive to the terrace, still seeing no sign of the front door even threatening to open, pop my head inside and shout, "We going then?"

"All right!" will come the reply. After a further minute or two with no appreciable change to the situation I'll have no option but to slip off my shoes again, go inside and see what the situation is. Opening the bedroom door I'll see the light of my life sitting in front of her dressing table mirror, perhaps brushing her hair, while from the waist down she's still only in a slip or maybe underwear and tights.

"Umm," I'll begin, very conscious of the need to try and keep things on a conciliatory level, "I thought you said you were nearly ready. We did say eight and it's two minutes to."

As if I hadn't said anything I'll then be asked my opinion about skirt or trousers, whether it ought to be the brown belt or the black one, which shoes look best and will I please just apply a little hairpsray to the back of the hair. Then the top will come off and she'll decide that it will be a dress after all, but that may necessitate a change of bangle around the neck and so on.

Even when she's finally dressed and has a handbag over one arm, there will be the need to take a good look around the bedroom, as if she's never seen it before. 

"Do I need a cardigan or jacket?" She'll ask. About now I'm internally hopping up and down because it's past eight and we're running late. By the time she gets to the lounge and approaches the front door and my hopes are rising that we may actually leave she'll decide that one last look at all the windows in the place is required, in case we've left any of them unlocked. Then it'll be "I'll just have a wee before we go."

C'mon chaps, you've all been there, right?

The worst bit is when we're half way down the lane to the road and she'll ask me, "you did lock the front door and close the bathroom window didn't you?" It doesn't make any difference after that as to how certain you are that you'd done those things. The doubts set in and you agonise all evening over whether you did them or not.

Our landlord John is over here at the moment. He's only here for four days as he's come over to drive his 4x4 back to the UK. Anyone living here (and doubtless any number of other countries) will know that you can't keep a UK registered vehicle here for longer than so many months. John brings his Jeep Commander over here so that he can tow his boats around when the family's here for their holidays. He needs, however, to take it out of Greece now and again and so he's here to drive it back on Boxing Day, when he'll be catching the ferry from Rhodes very early in the morning. Yesterday he had to go to Rhodes town to see a number of important people about stuff and so he asked if we'd like to go along for the ride. It would give us a chance to do some odd bits of shopping and have a coffee somewhere while he went to his meetings, then share a snack lunch and do some food shopping before heading home again.

Cue the scenario I described above. There was John, outside in the Commander, engine ticking over outside the front gates at a couple of minutes after our planned departure time. There was I, standing where he could see me from the car, outside our front door tapping my tootsies impatiently while we both awaited the emergence of my dearly beloved. That car's engine is 5.7 litres. Must have guzzled a gallon or two while he waited, bless him.

Anyway, we made it into town and the heavens opened. Fortunately, we just had time to walk into the town itself from where we'd told John to drop us (San Francisco), since he had to meet his accountant some way out of town near to Rodini Park. We decided that the first port of call needed to be a café for two reasons: 1. it was going to pour down any moment and 2. we both needed the loo.

It was great. We got ourselves settled in the Yachting Club Café, ordered our filter coffees and watched the sheets of rain and flashes of lightning outside. Then we moved tables after five minutes owing to the fact the the precise spot where our table was situated was the one place where after a few minutes of torrential rain, it got in and cascaded down all over the table from several feet above our heads.

Bit disappointed in this shot really. I'd hoped that the torrential rain outside would be evident, but it isn't. You'll just have to trust me.

Never mind, we were able to sit out the worst of the rain and then do a bit of shopping, dodging the huge puddles and touting our seldom-used umbrellas.

On the way back I suddenly remembered. I'd promised Irini the day before that I'd ring her when I got home to tell her whether or not we'd be able to come to that get-together. Ah well, she'd only asked me at the last minute. No planning, no forethought. Her and her hubby will already know that we couldn't make it. 

Now, if she'd given me a week or two's notice...

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