We had a national strike in Greece on Thursday. When we Brits talk about national strikes we have to look back to 1926, which was the only strike to involve most of the industrial trade unions and saw railways, coal mines and docks shut down. In the 1970’s Arthur Scargill, the leader of the National Union of Mineworkers, desperately tried to curry support for a national strike to bring down the Tory government. He failed. Although around that time we were cast as ‘the sick man of Europe’, the unions were never able to get all labour ‘out’.
It was against this background of a country being brought slowly to its knees that, for salvation, we had joined the Common Market and two years later voted in our first referendum to remain in. The British people were led to believe that within the ‘common market’ our problems would be solved with a guiding hand on our wheel of State.
Anyway, as usual I have digressed. Thursday saw Greece on shut-down...no planes, no buses, no trains and no boats. It would be reasonable to expect that workers in these industries would be in open rebellion against their ‘socialist’ government’s pension reforms...reforms that have come about because of Auntie Angela’s ‘guiding hand’ on the Greek wheel of State. Ah, the wonders of the EU where left-wing politicians enact anti-socialist policies due to the input of a foreign power with a centre-right government...oh drat, I’ve digressed again.
What I find really amazing with the Greek mentality is that shut-down extends beyond the expected industries; the previous day I had to buy two loaves of bread from the bread van because the driver told me his boss had chosen to make no dough! Amazingly, on the appointed day, we also had the Union of Garage Owners closing their forecourts too. Supermarkets belonging to some union or another were also empty and in darkness. I had intended to head for the local outdoor market where private stall-holders ply their trade with home-grown vegetables and domestic wares, but at 10am our village information system, called Irena, told me that even the private enterprise market was striking.
Everything was closed and I mean everything ...well perhaps not. Optimistically I headed down an empty highway to Agios Nikolaos, where I was intending to spend a relaxing couple of hours in the brothel. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that this establishment, which was well-known for its open access policy was, despite a hopeful queue of would-be customers rattling their change, firmly shut! Shut, I tell you! It had opened in the 1930’s and prospered dramatically with the influx of eager German troops after the invasion of 1941. The two owners had been so rushed off their feet...I guess neither woman had much time to spend on her feet...that they worked in shifts to cater for demand. When the Germans ‘withdrew’, their places were soon taken by Allied troops that kept the poutanes in their accustomed position to earn money. When the Allies were forced to withdraw, leaving the Greeks fighting each other, the brothel took a well deserved holiday.
Yet in 1950, the establishment emerged again with the two aging sisters still intent on making money from visiting hordes. I am told by long-standing visitors to Crete that it was doing a roaring trade in the 1960’s and 70’s when the two sisters were sweet old ladies in whose mouths even butter would not melt...anyway, they are long since retired. They may have gone to put their feet up and give their poor old legs a rest, but in this enlightened age where all tastes are catered for, there are now both males and females working in the brothel.
It was with great anticipation that I had arranged to meet my friend Clive there. He stood outside at the head of the queue non-plussed, as if his world had come crashing down. ‘I have never known them to close before, strike or no strike,’ he said, tearfully. We contemplated other diversions, other venues but discovered everything was closed. We realised that this time the Greeks were serious...because if they can cause such disruption, such withdrawal of a chap’s innocent pleasure...they damned-well deserve to defeat their conservative-led socialist government.
Oh, by the way, I think I forgot to say that The Brothel ceased activities as a brothel in 1950 and the sisters reopened their shop, thanks to a healthy bank balance, as a Kafeneion/Restaurant with some nicely fitting name. Most customers, both old and new, continue to refer to it as The Brothel.
I saw that the Strength Through Joy Group would be introducing what they have chosen to call the all-abusive holiday. Funny name I thought, as I drifted off to sleep, but given what I had read, I could see people might be tempted. Apparently, building on the experience gained over the past 10 years with all-inclusive deals, they state that they’ve cranked up their offerings a gear, giving holidaymakers who want something different an outstanding deal, priced to entice...
An anonymous spokeswoman for the Group said the idea had been born out of the upsurge in hotel bookings in Malia, by older clientele. This resort in Crete had once been the sole province of the young and foolish but now it seems could also be the in-place for the mature and foolish. A few seasons ago, the Group had sponsored a television show encouraging parents to come and see what their kids were up to as they partied around the town and on the beaches. From the comfort of their hotel’s lounge, where their concerns were damped somewhat by a constant flow of alcohol, a group of around twenty anxious mums and dads sat around a huge LED screen to watch their children engaging in wild activities. By midnight, the parents’ hotel staff realised, to their amazement, that there had been some manoeuvring in the lounge after light bulbs had been taken out. Other things had been taken out too, but staff turned a blind eye to prevent destroying their own libidos.
Building on the shocking revelation that parents are no more inhibited than the kids, the Group hit on this new idea. Although a great deal of survey work was carried out by the Strength Through Joy Group, initially the experiment was a flop...a stimulus was obviously needed, so they put it about that the television programme was continuing. Fortunately, most of the mums and dads thought they were the only ones there by default because their kids were not in Malia, so when management replayed last year’s shenanigans by groups of teens, the parents once more indulged in a free exchange of views and adopted a variety of interesting positions.
Traditionally the woman indoors has done all the research for the family holidays and the man in the street has just gone along with her plans because he’s too lazy to arrange anything himself. The new holidays were well researched and are designed to satisfy what was revealed to be a hidden demand, never before the province of the man in the street or the woman indoors.
Under searching questions from well-briefed interviewers, many of the men in the street, once lured into a hired-for-the-day bar told interrogators that they didn’t give a tinker’s tadger where they went on holiday provided the kids could safely bugger off and do their own thing while he and his wife or nudge-nudge, better still, the wife of the bloke in the next room and wink-wink, next time perhaps the wife from the room after that, could do the things of their dreams.
The males felt they could put it to their women that it would be a marvellous way to stop the otherwise endless drinking and lying around getting burnt at the poolside. Somewhat coaxed they had suggested, once they got into the swing of the possibilities, that each couple at the resort be given two keys, both the same. The idea developed that when they’d drunk their fill, they would forget where their rooms were.
Unbeknown to each of the men interviewed, their wives, mistresses or partners were also quizzed in a similar vein. Most seemed to be of the opinion that the men in their lives were all mouth and trousers, so any opportunity for a little innocent fun was not to be scoffed at.
In order that their holidays should be sufficiently dynamic to encourage repeat bookings, the company requested the first batch of holidaymakers should record their thoughts to qualify for a discount next time. While there have been several excellent responses from the women, regrettably not one so far has been considered printable. However, below is a sample of the heady reminiscences of just two male participants.
‘...your wife, at least you think she might be your wife because she’s similarly ugly, can’t remember the room number either. She tells you she’s sure she knows, but even drunken-old-you know your chalet is not outside the complex’s gate. You order her back inside...protesting and annoyed with yourself, because too late you saw that she was just about to inspect an unprotected crater in the road. After a moment’s further panic you realise she doesn’t even know her name let alone yours, or which room you’re in. Through alcohol-distorted vision, you become convinced she’s not your wife at all because she seems to be speaking a foreign language, which you hope isn’t Welsh.
Anyway, by flailing arm signals, she convinces you to trudge off in the direction of the moon which she believes was over the lake backing on to your chalet yesterday. She is walking straighter than you and covers more ground and you soon lose her, which cheers you up no end until you collapse stupefied. After some time sprawled out on the grass, you manage to stagger on and eventually see a door which is painted the same colour black as yours with a keyhole in the same place, so you try your key and bingo, it fits. You hear snoring, so think ‘Myfanwy’ must be in and asleep. Desperate not to wake her, you tip-toe into the bedroom on your hands and knees and notice three, or is it five hands hanging over the side of the bed along with a similar number of legs. Some more body parts must have sprouted out of that burgeoning, ugly mole everybody seems to notice but her, so you creep on your belly around to the other side of the bed but she must have turned over and grown another leg. You go back to the bottom of the bed on your knees and pull yourself up to join her. You find a big enough hole to slide into comfortably and as usual, you drop off to sleep just as soon as you’ve got inside’.
Another stirring recollection came from a man whose resolve to respond was undoubtedly stiffened by alcohol:
‘...you are awoken abruptly by a hand clenched tightly around your nether regions and wonder if you need a pee. You rub your hands vigorously up and down your face and ponder vaguely how this causes friction to your nether regions...it must be raki magic, or you’ve got your pyjama cord caught up again. You look to see if the cord is in your hands, but it’s not. Hands? Both hands are clearly silhouetted against the moonlit curtains...hang on, if your hands are here in front of your face, whose hand is on your nether regions? You hear a groan next to you...damn! It's a man’s voice and your heart misses a beat. He’s wailing at someone called Martha because he says he’s lost all feeling in his nether regions and believes it must be the booze. You lift the sheets gingerly to find that he has not lost any feeling, but fortunately for you Martha’s navigation in the dark has failed her and you settle back hoping that she won’t realise she is on unfamiliar terrain until you contentedly roll over’.
The management was amazed by these customer stories about their all-abusive holiday experiences and asked each participant if he or she would be likely to recommend such a fortnight’s indulgence to other couples. Without exception they all said they would.
‘Damn right,’ said pyjama man, ‘but only if you put some decent curtains on the windows...it doesn’t really help the experience to come to a satisfactory conclusion when moonlight pours in the window and you find that Martha is not the little blonde whose head is on your shoulder, but the gripping mammoth kneeling in front of you’.
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