Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Sleeping Arrangements

In the culture that my wife and I come from, we're all very precious about who sleeps where and if we've got enough room when family come to visit and possibly stay over. It seems to me though, that we as British folk could take a leaf out of the Greeks' book in this regard.

Of course, climate plays a huge part in what we do for our holidays and I'd say (and I could be wrong, of course) that the most popular holiday (vacation if you're from that side of the pond) for British people is the sun, sand and ... well, let's just say hot weather, beach or pool-type thing, right?

Here, it's rather different because of several reasons, of which here are two:
1. Lots of Greeks of working age can't go on holiday/vacation during the summer because they're too busy working and...
2. They have so much sunshine and hot weather here anyway that it's no big deal going looking for such things when it's time for a break.

So, what do most Greeks do for a break? Well, most of those we know go during the winter time and they usually go visit relatives, either elsewhere in Greece or in some far-flung part of the planet like the USA, the UK, Germany or Australia and they can do this because there aren't many families here who don't have relatives in those countries.

They, of course don't need a sun-cream, towels and swimwear break, they just need a change of scenery.

In all my years back in my home country, before moving out here in 2005, we'd visit relatives from time to time and, if the distance from home warranted it, we'd stay over a while. This was all done with military precision and everyone was provided a bed in some way or another. I still have vivid memories of sleeping on camp beds as a lad, like this one that's still produced to the old army design and is available in the UK from Halfords...

Ah, those happy moments spent flexing those rigid, slightly springy metal legs so that you could slot them into their holders attached to the frame, that itself had been slotted together first. Those were the days. My parents had a few of these, but ours were from the Army and Navy store and were the original military ones, made from very tough khaki material. When you're ten years old and assigned the construction of the camp beds as evening draws on, you take this job seriously, even though it takes every last fibre of your strength to get those legs into place.

This was done because everyone had to have a bed of some sort and, if there wasn't enough room for a civilised arrangement, then some would have to bite the bullet and go stay at a nearby bed and breakfast.

Having now been on family visits in Crete and elsewhere with some of our Greek friends who live here on Rhodes I can say that they don't worry about all that civilised stuff and no one gives a toss about how many bodies bed down for the night, despite how small the house or apartment of the hosts may be. It's a given that if you have family coming, you put them up, regardless of how many males, females and kids will be arriving or of how many nights they may plan to stay. They won't ask either; like - you know, ring up beforehand and say, "Is it OK if your brother, his wife and two kids and the grandparents, plus aunty Tassia drop by the day after tomorrow and stay for a week?"

Oh, no, it'll be a case of them telling you they're coming and you making the best of it. It may mean you'll have bodies on the sofa, the bathroom floor or the balcony, it really doesn't matter, if they're family you just do it. It's expected of you.

Here where we live, the better half and I, we have a fairly spacious lounge-kitchen-dining room, plus a double bedroom and a bathroom. that's it. Oh, and my office, which isn't large enough for even a midget to lay down in anyway (no offence, please! Just illustrating the point). Thus if we have even just two people to stay, it'll usually mean we sleep on our settee, which granted does pull out into a double bed, and the guests sleep in our bedroom. So as far as we're concerned, two people is the limit, and even then quite a few friends who've been out to visit have chosen to take a package and stay nearby in the accommodation provided by the tour operator, so as to each have the privacy they'd prefer. But, see, if we were Greeks it would be entirely different.

We've been to stay with some good friends in Irapetra, Crete, who have a two bedroom apartment, and we've used their spare room. I also went there once with a bunch of other chaps and we dossed down all over the place. I particularly remember being kept awake by Giorgos, who could have snored for Greece, plus the fact that I had to step over a number of bodies to get to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

That just won't do for us Brits, will it?

Yet that couple in Crete, they often host their family from Rhodes with precious little advance warning, for a week at a time, which consists of the husband's parents, his sister, her husband and their four daughters and even then the occasional extra single cousin thrown in for good measure. And Greeks never complain about this, they all do it because it's what the Greeks do. What is all this fuss about civilised sleeping arrangements anyway? Surely, they must think, surely if you have enough room to get yourself horizontal without someone else's toe getting in your eye, then that's fine and dandy isn't it?

Now, it horrifies us to imagine people staying here with us and the disruption it causes to our nice, orderly routine, but if we were Greeks we'd already have had an average of ten guests per winter for the past decade or so, of that I have no doubt. 

And when it comes to the food, I've yet to go to a Greek house for hospitality, whether it involves an overnight stay or simply a get-together, where the women didn't all break out the tapsis and the katsaroles and cook fresh food by the ton. In the UK you can lay on a spread entirely from supermarket pre-packed stuff. It's not only an environmental nightmare when you consider the sheer volume of plastic and cardboard that went into getting the stuff home, it's not all that good for you either. You know what I mean, turn up at a party and there will be the usual pineapple chunks on a stick with a similarly sized cube of cheese, there will be store-bought sausage rolls and I've even been to get-togethers in the UK in recent years where they didn't bother to break the dips out of the plastic tubs they came in, they just peel back the cellophane seal and throw a teaspoon into it. There will be store-bought pickle and maybe also pickled onions, plus crisps, mayonnaise ...I could go on.

Just last week we went to a gathering of maybe 30 people in a village nearby, in honour of a daughter who hasn't been back here from Canada in many years, and the table groaned with really healthy, home-cooked delights. There were chunks of meat in huge saucepans (OK, so we passed on them, but it's organically produced local meat from local butchers), there were several bowls of different kinds of fresh salad from the garden, delicious oven-baked potatoes done with lemon and herbs, dolmades, pasta, grilled fish (entire, you just hook one off the dish by its tail and set to work on it), stuffed mushrooms with shrimp, freshly baked bread, locally produced olives, plus a huge pan of gigantes (big butter beans in tomato and onion sauce with herbs) and more stuff I can't remember now. The memorable thing was though, three or four of the women in the house had spent the whole day cooking it all from fresh. There wasn't a package, box or plastic container in sight.

You know, after I'd eaten my share and downed a couple of beers and a glass of water or three, I was ready for bed.

Well, OK, maybe a patch of carpet near the fire would do. Just as long as no one's toe ended up in my eye...

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant post...reminds me of overcrowded family Christmas past. These days, yes I like my own space preferably with a separate bathroom. Merry Christmas. X