Mr Briton married Madame Brussels in 1973. It was not a match made in heaven, more a match negotiated in smoke-filled boardrooms. Mr Briton had been married before, he should have known better. He was divorced by his first wife Starsa Stripes way back, but she still keeps a watching eye on him and stops him from living his own life; then he married and divorced two cousins in quick succession Aussie and Zeta because they spent too much time down under.
He had a brief fling with two Siamese twins from sub-continent called Indira and Pakira, but he couldn’t get them by themselves and he was always being watched by the other...when he left them to their own devices they tore themselves apart. He had a nice little Oriental girl, but left her because her singing was poor and she was lusted after by a rising son. He had an association with a nice little piece in the Mediterranean Sea, well three really, but he kept them apart somehow; one used to make George cross, one was always panhandling, but the smallest was a real rock and remains so to this day. He’s had one or more dalliances further afield that have brought their share of problems, especially that Lady Falklander whom he passed on to cousin Harold. Not too long ago his British mistresses started making demands especially Blodwyn who nearly flocked him to death.
As if he hadn’t had enough problems with Matt Rimony, he wooed and wooed and wooed again Bertranda Russell, more often known as Bee Russell or B.Russells to her friend...not a real friend...shhh...don’t speak too loudly or you’ll upset her. She doesn’t have any real friends, just one of those that’s represented by a piece of old white sheet that is trailed around in the forlorn knowledge that it might have to be waved frantically from some once-lofty bomb-damaged building. BRussells has a name for her ’tend friend, it’s Germania, but don’t say I told you. Now ever since Mr Briton crawled drunkenly into bed with BRussells, Germania has been quietly calling the shots; she used to fire them off quite noisily, but she gave away her intentions, so is much craftier now.
Anyway, she had just about got Mr Briton where she wanted him, under her Jacqueline Boot, when he smelt a rat and asked his friends if he should get divorced from BRussells and come back home and make peace with an otherwise wet fish on the north of the border.
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.
About forty years ago I was involved in an Employment Tribunal case as a witness. I’m not so sure it wasn’t called an Industrial Tribunal, back then. Whatever it was called, the idea behind such Tribunals was that the man in the street could make a claim against his employer for acts of unfair dismissal and the such-like. I say ‘man in the street’ because in the ‘70’s men were in the street coming or going to work in industrial situations as part of a long-term need to work to raise a family, whereas women by-and-large worked in preparatory employment, preparing for marriage and raising children. Believe me, I am all for women having careers, it is their right as human beings, but bringing up the limited family of today is often a latter day decision rather than the raison d’etre of a relationship. However, now I’ve stirred up the feminine ire, I shall continue with what I really want to talk about...Employment Tribunals:
Mr Brown sat and told the Tribunal’s panel how he had been treated by his boss Mr Green; then
Mr Green gave his version of events. After a brief recess the Panel returned and gave its verdict. In most cases the combatants were content with this form of official mediation. It wasn’t mediation as we know it today, but a decision made by others to solve the impasse...simple. Well it was, but unfortunately it seems as if simple justice has been hijacked and turned into a golden goose in common with many things with monetary potential.
If you have an odd drizzly day to pass where there is nothing at the cinema or any other form of entertainment open to you, or you simply can’t afford to heat your home, why not sample the delights of an Employment Tribunal? Okay, you cannot sit there with a bag of popcorn and paper cup of coffee but if you find the right case it will be an eye opener...I commend them to you.
It will not be obvious that most of the combatants are legal professionals; but look harder and you will spot the clues...there will be solicitors sporting discreet dark suits with conservative ties or necklaces. They will have their expensive briefcases to hand and be supported by a raft of juniors pandering to their needs. In many cases there will be one or two more vocal adversaries whose patted down hair reveals the fact that they are more accustomed to wearing wigs in their normal daily roles. Huddled behind a desk you might spot the quaking form of a claimant, perhaps accompanied by an equally-quivering representative...each with real hope of achieving justice in a highly personal matter. Sadly though, both will be ill-equipped to deal with the technicalities understood and capitalised on by the various professionals at modern tribunals.
Justice today seems to be a commodity that could have a quotation on the stock exchange; it has a price which is often beyond the pockets of Joe or Josephine Public. Two years ago fees were introduced to further discourage cases coming to tribunals that were vexatious or initiated with the hope that the employer would cough-up just to avoid a tribunal. Unfortunately, these fees have caused ordinary folk to think twice about seeking justice, despite the merits of their case; that, coupled with well-versed barristers that will slit a claimant’s throat with a sharp-tongued remark, has made justice difficult to achieve.
In the coming weeks I may find myself pitted against the vested interests of the system; a claimant friend of mine, let’s call her Bella, having overcome the immediate financial penalties and natural trepidation, has nominated me to speak on her behalf. While I do my best to exhibit super-human confidence, I fear I may turn out to be just another of those quivering representatives.
I shall keep you informed about my friend’s attempt to win justice in a worthy cause against an expensive legal team funded by a global interest with a near-bottomless pit. I do not overestimate my chances; I will not attempt to cover my concerns like an aging wrinkly, slapping an expensive cosmetic upon a lost cause, but this cause is morally right and just. That is what keeps me going.
MUSLIM MIGRANTS Brutally Rape 14-Year-Old Girl…But Liberal Judge Just Delivered These INSANE Sentences
I was confused by the piece I copied from Facebook this morning (22nd January 2016). While the story relates to actions by a gang of Muslim rapists in Norway, the picture appeared to be taken in the UK and the credit for the picture is ‘South Beds News Agency’. I discovered that the pictured used is not related to the Norwegian crime and the men have not since moved to the UK. There is no actual image of the guilty men in the article, one of whom rather appropriately, I thought, has the first name ‘Bile’, while the others have names we are more familiar with, such as Mohamed and Abdul.
Of course their crime was only rape and their victim survived her ordeal so the men, sentenced by one of the many do-gooders that seem to rise like scum to the surface, received little more than a telling off. Men such as these come from a culture that looks on rape as acceptable; just the slightest flash of ankle or hint that a woman has stepped out of line has men pouncing on her remorselessly. To add insult to injury such acts seem to have the backing of Imams that say Allah would approve their actions to punish the woman for her crimes. Wow!
It doesn’t take too much imagination to picture a sex-crazed gang lying in wait to spot a woman’s ankle revealed by a sudden gust of wind and then to punish her for air disturbed by Allah. That though, is in ‘their’ own countries isn’t it? Well it was, but no more; we have allowed this immorality to be imported to Europe and excuse the perpetrators of such serious crimes by blaming it on their ‘culture’. What rubbish, apart from being devoid of anything approximating to culture, their actions are nothing but opportunistic, knowing that some do-gooder will let them off.
Until we strengthen our resolve and have our politicians do likewise, the situation will get worse. There must be a policy of arrest, sentencing and deportation for these thugs that sends a message to those already in Europe and those seeking to come that we are not the tolerant twerps they take us for. If we don’t, quite soon we will find ourselves enslaved by a foreign ‘culture’.
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’.
Welcome to a special post where I have the opportunity to introduce five other Greek-biased bloggers via a Christmas blog hop:
I rejoice that I live once again in a predominantly Christian country. I was born and raised in the erstwhile Christian country of England, part of the Christian union of The United Kingdom. I went to Sunday church services with my Gran, albeit I was encouraged to silent reverence during the sermon by a seemingly endless supply of hard sweets she always had to hand.
I went to Sunday School and collected big colourful stamps in a booklet, which told of the Bible stories. Later I became a choir boy in our local church, which was little more than a big shed with an altar and other accoutrements including an organ that I frequently pumped. I say frequently, even though I was only called upon to pump monthly, no, what I really mean is infrequently. Distracted, my pumping was not regular enough to maintain a constant note and stern looks from the organist were necessary to keep me heaving on the handle, which doubtless caused our choir master to consider me as a candidate for crucifixion...a latter-day martyr to Handle’s messiah.
I was confirmed into the Church of England, sang hymns in school assemblies and went carol singing as a Boys’ Brigade member in an organised group maintaining the picture-postcard traditions. I married in a large parish church by licence granted by a surrogate bishop. My two sons were christened into the Church. My parents and In-laws had Christian services on their demise, as did my brother who died accidently, aged 17.
Then I turned my back on my faith and took up residence on the ‘naughty step’. Had I stayed rooted to this haven of meditation and repentance all would have been well, but my naughtiness went roaming and I suffered roaming charges which divided our family.
So what inspired me to pen this piece? It was the entreaty of a fellow Crete-based author to contribute to a Festive Blog Hop. I mused on the word ‘festive’ and tried to remember when it became a dumbed-down euphemism for Christmas. I reflected on the continuing watering down of the term Christmas so as to appease those that do not share the faith. I considered seasonal greetings cards bearing the legend ‘Happy Holidays’ and pondered on innocent bygone days and a vanished belief that things would continue forever unchanged. In some ways this abrogation of faith has come home to roost, we do not know what we believe in; we have few anchors to hold us steady in a gathering storm.
Six years ago we moved to Crete; it was October and we had decided that we wanted solitude, but the solitude of Frangokastello was more like seclusion, I felt a bit like the hermit in ‘Life of Brian’. We were not surprised that there was no celebration of Christmas there...sheep and rocks aren’t into that sort of thing. Yet having eventually moved to a part of Crete where there are more people, it was surprising to see that there was no significant celebration of Christmas in the churches and that Easter was the main event.
Periodically we are honoured to be invited to church services held at tiny, remote Orthodox outposts dotted around the general Lasithi area. It is heartening to see so many people frantically crossing themselves, as if seeking absolution. Long before the ‘after-celebrations’ get underway and my mind becomes befuddled by the illiberal amounts of raki I am forced to imbibe, I focus on some old dear swathed in black and try to imagine what awful thing she believes she did that demands absolution. As I watch her penance, my mind drifts back to myself as a well-placed choir boy gazing lustfully at some smooth-skinned maiden casting her eyes innocently at the cross on the altar, as if seeking forgiveness. Frequently at these far-flung churches, I now find myself craving absolution for those thoughts I harboured of giving the fresh-faced young girl something to feel guilty about, when I should have been concentrating on singing a reverential hymn. Maybe the old Greek lady, whose hand moves as if swatting flies, is also reflecting on the smooth-faced actions of her youth, but black-clad in piety, it is hard to imagine she has any regrets.
Back along, there was barely any secular celebration in Crete...even on the Lasithi plateau when it snowed, there were no snowmen let alone snowwomen to marvel at. Yet more recently all around the district, there appeared strings of light and illuminations welcoming people to many villages. It has become even more widespread with the Kronia Pola signs and the ubiquitous manger scenes everywhere. This year, I’ve noticed that to greet visitors, our village has a blow-up snowman dressed in a traditional Santa outfit.
On a visit to Jumbo, Heraklion I was truly amazed to see the familiar representations of ‘Christmas’ occupying so much space. So although Crete has not really celebrated Christmas religiously, it is certainly being encouraged by the ‘Christmas Industry’ to spend it commercially. Maybe it won’t be long before we see houses here weighed down with those lights, overgrown baubles and illuminated Santas waving from the roof tops...that very 'tack' that I was pleased to escape from six years ago.
Yes, I can say that Christmas here is certainly entering into the festive phase. Yet I would counsel Orthodox Christians from taking the celebrations too far, because as sure as night follows day the festivities, the holidays, the decorations and the presents will become the main event while the celebration of the birth of Christ will surely become as forgotten here as it is ‘back home’.
If you'd like to visit more blogs celebrating Greek Christmas themes, then take a hop through the list below. If you could leave a comment on one or more of the blogs, we would all be delighted.
My First Greek Island Christmas by Jennifer Barclay
Sugared Almond Biscuits (Κουραμπιέδες) by Amanda Bidirini
Kritsa Christmas by Yvonne Payne
My first Greek Christmas' by Julie Ryan
Beers with Santa on Tilos by Ian Smith
I have just read a piece by David Hall, called ‘Alienating Alias’ on his blog. An interesting slant on the fringes of the transgender topic, I thought. Perhaps you should read it before you continue, but if you don’t have time, he questions if authors are able to write in the guise of the opposite sex.
My eye opener to the opposite sex was not like his, behind the bike shed, but the long grass of a nearby field where five year-old ‘YSMY’ & ‘ISYM’ (I’ll leave you to work those out for yourselves) soon gave way to ‘Doctors and Nurses’. In those gloriously politically incorrect 1950’s days, doctors were always male and nurses always female, so who were we kids to argue?
But we are talking mostly about physical differences that, give or take, are easily discernible, although there have been some tragic errors of identification in the maternity wards. Even in adulthood there are some peculiarly under- or over-developed bits that might raise an eyebrow but spectacularly fail to raise actual pulsing interest.
It seems to me that when it comes to writing, it is not the ‘bits’ you are sitting on as much as the ‘wits’ between your ears that matter as you thump the keyboard. Just as we are physically constructed in shades of grey, so we are wired in round about ways. Some men are more able to think as women do and some women amaze with male perspective. What makes some men fancy other men or women other women? ‘It’s not just the bits, it’s the mind that controls them’ (That fits into a song quite well...know the one?).
So, to suggest that no man can write like a woman or vice versa doesn’t wash with me. What about George Elliot who was determined not to be a prejudged writer.
I have known ‘men-fancying men’ and ‘women-fancying women’ (I eschew the G word) whose brains are more akin thinking-wise to the very opposite that their body parts suggest. However, there are women whose attention is drawn to opposites and men who are not at all interested physically in other men who are not afraid to demonstrate a side of their thinking that does not accord with their physique.
I wanted to write a chick-lit, I thought. I had never read one and believed they were books written by women for women. I read, correction...glanced at, one or two and decided they could hardly be described as books and the writers barely described as full grown women. Yet what of the readers? Now this is the interesting bit; the ‘books’ I sampled very unscientifically, followed a clear theme, yet could draw a range of readers irrespective of their circumstances. Thus I could see a high-power female executive reading one to drag herself back into contact with her threatened feminine side, while the same undemanding tale could be read by a dumb blonde, just to stay in contact with her dumb side. Just like the ‘man for all seasons’ there are ‘books for all reasons’.
Anyway, I decided that it wasn’t a chick-lit I wanted to write. The terminology had led me astray, just like little Jenny in that field of long grass. I wanted to write a book for the professional woman, whether she be single, divorced, separated, grass widowed, cuckolded or whatever else. I didn’t take a name like Penny Drop, I wanted to stay connected to my burgeoning masculine side, so R.G.Stevens (for Richard Gordon) became Argy Stevens, complete with suitable photograph and that is the name on the cover of ‘Discrete Reversal’....a book for the thinking professional woman. Gratefully, I must record that yesterday to my surprise, she posted a wonderful review, dahling!
I knew drinking raki would cause me big trouble one day. But when it hit me I was totally unprepared. I had been in a kafenion with some Cretan friends getting blotto one evening, when a newcomer had plonked himself at our table, poured a drink and started bemoaning the state of the economy.
Through the alcoholic fug, I realised he wasn’t talking about the Greek economy, but his own; he appeared to cry into his glass as he listed all the people to whom he owed money. True to Greek form, needless to say, the taxman was way off the bottom of the list, but he gradually reached the top and there I struggled to believe him. He said that he had a yacht, making it sound like what we Brits call a ‘gin palace’ in the local marina, which had been a shrewd investment for...aah...entertaining.
He sobbed, as he said his beloved yacht would probably be seized to discharge his marina debts for mooring, electricity and maintenance and there was nothing in these hard times he could do to stop it. He told his audience that he only owed €2,000 and his yacht was worth far more...if only he could find a good man to buy it for €3,000.
There were no takers around the table...talk had turned to the tide of refugees that were pouring into Greece and what it would mean for each of them. Although drunk, I took a pragmatic stance and told them in broken Greek that it would hardly touch their lives; Muslims don’t drink raki or wine, they wouldn’t touch their plates of precious pork and Cretan women barely ventured out alone. On top of that, the refugees were only using Greece as a convenient staging post on their way to a better life...why would they want to stay in Greece when life was certainly not going to get better for many years?
Vasilis, the man with the marina problem, complemented me on my philosophical approach which, he said, ranked amongst the quality observations of Plato and Aristotle. Head swollen, I belatedly realised what a decent man he truly was. “Ish she a deshent size, your yacht?” I asked in slurred broken Greek.
“She’s just over ten burrp long, regularly sleeps four, usual marine toilet, two stoves, new main and Genoa sails, can’t find fault with the engine...cost me 40,000 ten years ago...she’s still worth that today”.
“How much do you owe the marina?”
“It was only two thousand, five minutes ago,” I said, pleased with myself for catching him out.
“I said two, didn’t I?” he grinned.
“I’ll give you a thousand for it here and now, no questions!”
“You try to take advantage of my misfortune,” he groaned, “but you would make a good new owner, so I’ll let you have her for one and a half.”
“So, if I give you one thousand five hundred euros tonight, you’ll give me a receipt for the yacht and you’ll pay off the marina?”
“If you do that I’ll give you the key and you can sail Μπουζούλας out of the marina tomorrow!”
“That’s her name...Boozy Lass?”
He looked perplexed, but seemed to realise I’d heard the Greek name Bousoulas as if it were an English name, “Once she’s yours you can call her whatever you like...all females’ names change with time...my wife was given the name Antigone, now I call her Antagonisti.”
Liking his humour, I jumped in feet first, “Okay, come back to my house and I’ll give you the cash.”
He was on his feet and at the door in the time it took me to knock back half a glass of raki.
“Hurry before I change my mind,” he called.
I woke the next morning in my fireside chair clutching a rusty key and a piece of paper, a receipt for a 10 ‘squiggle’ yacht called Boozy Lass (I remembered writing the name for him) free of all debts (I remembered writing that too). At the bottom was a haphazard line, which I imagined was his signature, written above ‘Marina D23’. After more than enough cups of coffee, I was on my scooter heading excitedly for the marina and my floating ‘raki palace’ where I hoped I would soon be entertaining those flaunting floosies.
I swaggered along the pontoon savouring the quality of my neighbours’ ocean-going craft, but stopped dead, deflated in my tracks when I reached D23. I fished out the receipt, this was clearly the berth. Painted across the stern was what I took to be the Greek for Boozy Lass, but this was not the sizeable floating palace that I’d hoped for. I focussed on the crumpled paper to check what followed the number 10, that indecipherable squiggle that looked like an apostrophe, which I had taken to mean ‘metres’ and remembered the timely burp when Vasilis had described its size. I remembered all too late that a single apostrophe was English shorthand for ‘foot’ and a double apostrophe for ‘inches’; it was indeed 10’ and at 10 feet long would struggle to sit four, let alone sleep them unless wedged together drunk.
Stains on the gunwales indicated the toilet and the two camping gas stoves and battered kettle chucked in the bilge revealed the unsavoury truth. There was no wonder he could find no fault with the engine...there wasn’t one and the key he had given me was for an empty storage box in the prow! It dawned on me that the 40,000 he reckoned he’d paid was in drachma not euros and I had been had. However, the sails were new, to the boat that is. I imagine they were cut down ones a neighbour had tossed aside.
But I persevered and began to learn to sail, albeit lifting the boom over my head when tacking was daunting at first. Yet do I regret it? Not in the least, you see on my first outing I pulled the two birds in the picture and they were indescribably grateful. I have renamed my little tub Samphire and I can assure you that size does not matter...the girls said so too!
CLICK IMAGE AT END TO READ OTHER STORIES IN THIS SERIES
I can’t believe it! I am going overseas for the first time. I have been on a ferry before but that was to the Isle of Wight, which is really not the same as going abroad. The Sap and The Chief sat inside me a few weeks back and talked about things they wanted to get done to me before we go. It turns out we’re going to a place called Holland to see The Chief’s cousin who has lived there for years.
They intend to catch a ferry from Dover to France, then drive through Belgium, apparently all on the wrong side of the road...now I am worried.
The Sap has been busy improving my kitchen all week and now I boast a microwave oven and some fold-down work surfaces. Today he’s changed my oil and filters and given me a good once-over to make sure I won’t let them down. I can’t wait to get going.
The ferry leaves Dover at 10.30am but we must be there well before this and we set off at the crack of dawn for the long journey, all up the A3 and on to the M25. Everything goes without incident but after an hour heading down the M20 something doesn’t feel right to me and The Sap swears when he notices that the red warning lamp has come on telling him my batteries are not being charged.
“Looks like we have a broken alternator drive belt,” he curses, “but we have a spare. It’s simple to change, but a damned nuisance as I haven’t got time to fix it before the ferry leaves.”
I know he’s wrong about the belt because the water is still being circulated around my engine.
After he pauses at the roadside to take a look under my bonnet, he soon climbs back in with a woeful expression, “Perhaps a wire has come off or it’s the alternator itself. We only have an hour before the ferry leaves, so let’s get there and decide what to do.” When we pull into the waiting queue The Sap remarks that there are a lot of Belgian vehicles towing trailers with classic cars on them and he wanders off to speak to some of them.
He’s back just as the attendant starts waving frantically to call us on to the ferry. “We’re not really going like this...surely we must get Sammy fixed,” says The Chief.
“Don’t worry, I spoke to a Belgian and he knows a garage with lots of Mercedes trucks that have the same alternator. We’ll meet up on board the ferry and get the details.”
“Are you sure Sammy will make it there?” asks The Chief, obviously worried about being stranded across The Channel.
“I don’t intend to go all the way to this garage today because it will be getting dark and I don’t really want to put the lights on for long or we will be in trouble. I am going to follow the Belgian pair on sidelights and they’ll take us to somewhere we can stop safely for the night just inside Belgium and then we’ll carry on by ourselves in the morning using a map they’ll draw for us...don’t forget we have the leisure battery too, so we’ll be okay.”
I think The Sap is right; once I’m underway, my diesel engine doesn’t take any power out of the battery so if he goes easy on the brake lights and is careful...there should be enough power in the battery to start my engine in the morning. Yes, I think everything should be okay.
After almost an hour tailing our heroes out of the port and into Belgium, The Sap is getting anxious driving on sidelights in worsening light on a busy, strange road, but soon the car ahead indicates to leave the motorway and The Sap breathes a sigh of relief, “Just in time, I wouldn’t have wanted to stay on this road much longer.”
But our way isn’t straight anymore and too often we are losing the ability to see where we are going by the light of the Belgian’s headlamps so The Sap has to turn on my headlamps quite often. I am praying we haven’t far to go and after ten minutes we follow our Belgian guide into the car park of a big store that apparently specialises in cheap cigarettes, booze and tobacco. Our friend climbs out of his car and speaks to The Sap in words I have never heard before, which I later discover to be French, “You can park just over there...you will be quite safe here, there are already quite a few British trucks and vans waiting for tomorrow’s opening and the ferry home. Now you have the map I drew for you...I’m sure you won’t have a problem getting your alternator fixed. Bon Chance!”
We feel abandoned and anxious as his lights disappear away towards the motorway, but my owners soon rustle up some food before they turn in for the night. It is not the quietest spot, because lorries are arriving all through the night to stop over before stocking up, en route to the Channel ferries.
At eight o’clock in the morning we are ready to go and The Sap turns the key anxiously, but my engine bursts into life and, with the red warning light still glowing, we set off down minor roads to find the garage to which the Belgian has directed us. An hour or so later, we draw up outside the garage that is just opening and after The Sap has spoken with the owner, one of the Belgian mechanics is underneath me whipping out the carbon brush pack from my alternator. He shows it to The Sap who says he feels quite ashamed for never checking such a vulnerable part that can have major consequences. After fitting a new pack, my red light goes out once the engine is started and with everything solved quite cheaply, we head back to the motorway that The Sap accepts is the only sensible route for the long, delayed drive to Holland.
This outing is unusual for me, mainly because I don’t go on motorways very often but also because this driving-on-the wrong-side thing feels strange especially when on the odd occasion I find myself moving to the left to overtake some seriously slow lorry battling its ponderous load up the slightest of hills. For mile after mile or I suppose I should say ‘kilometre after kilometre’ I am racing along at 60 miles per hour...again being a good continental visitor, that’s almost 100 km/h. In fact at one stage, admittedly on a slight downhill stretch, I even topped the ton or should that be the tonne? These continental terms don’t resonate in quite the same way, do they? I am still trying to picture a Belgian ‘Ton(ne)-up-Boy’ flat out on his motorcycle’s petrol tank at only 62.5 miles an hour!
After a journey through mostly flat countryside with more heavy lorries than I have seen in my lifetime, we skirt Antwerp, which The Sap says we’ll explore on our return and head for a small town in Holland called Venlo where there is a campsite especially for campervans. This should be a novelty; I have only been on two campsites since they’ve had me. The Sap says that the Dutch are very strict about wild camping, so we will stop behind a restaurant with campervan parking that our Belgian friend recommended.
It’s just getting dark when we pull in and the proprietor is quickly out to welcome his English guests to an otherwise deserted site. He tells them that he waives the camping fee if they dine in his restaurant and has even had the foresight, or maybe business acumen, to greet us equipped with a menu. A quick leaf through seems to encourage them, so I am parked in a corner, hooked up to the electricity and settle down while they ready themselves for dinner. I heave a sigh of relief when they go...it’s been a long eventful day and weary old Sammy just wants to rest before tomorrow’s onslaught.
The next day turns out to be another trial for me because although Holland is flat, so am I...flat-out all the way, as we make for the small town of Medemblik in the north of the country. It is next to the huge dyke-controlled Eselmeer which The Sap says used to be called the Zuyder Zee when he went to school, just before man landed on the moon. We pass the battlegrounds of Arnhem and the bridges of Nijmegen both renown for events during the last war and immortalised in hit films. The Sap says that he wants to reach Amsterdam and visit a coffee shop...there must be loads of places to stop for coffee, so just why he must reach Amsterdam I really don’t know.
Nearing dusk we thread our way into the city and I find myself parked up next to a canal with loads of bicycles whizzing past me. They’ve gone for their much needed refreshment in some local coffee shop, but are back before too long. Then it’s off to another special campervan park where, in the strangely pungent foreign city air, I and my owners drift off and dream.
It was not long before ‘Old Bill’ was on my tail again. I did wonder if they were joining in my sport – but this was a different Police Authority in a different county, so it was unlikely. Again, I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, but this time I was driving a more modern car, but it was quite soon after the change of law, so I had just forgotten.
I had been driving happily along a dual carriageway and slowing down for a queue of traffic in both lanes, approaching traffic lights, when I spotted a police car that surreptitiously moved into that blind spot of my door mirror. Unfortunately just because you can’t see them, does not mean they can’t see enough of you. I came to a halt and put my seatbelt on.
They slowly overtook me and stopped in their shorter queue. When the lights changed, I pulled gently away in the forlorn hope they would bugger off. While I enjoyed the occasional tussle with the boys in blue, it was getting to be too often and, being a pragmatic bloke, I recognised that the more often you engage in dangerous sport, the more likely you are to get hurt.
I decided to turn left up a side road that looped around to where I was heading but I cursed when they slowed down, switched lanes and followed me. I stopped in the road outside a pub and climbed out just as they drew up. Ignoring them, I headed for the pub.
“Where might you be going, Sir?” asked a portly officer.
“In the pub,” I answered honestly, as we entered into that stupid question and curt answer phase.
“Have you been drinking, Sir?”
“I said I’m going into the pub – not leaving it.”
“Do you know why we followed you, Sir?”
“Because you’re lost?”
“Don’t play games with us, Sir – this is serious.”
“Yes it is – very serious – because if you keep messing about I shall have to stand here in full public view and take a pee and it will be because of you that I shall have to expose myself. Now will you let me go into the toilet, please?”
They looked at each other, “Be quick about it then, Sir.”
I went in, took my time, certain of the outcome, and was very carefully drying my hands when the large officer came in, “Need to go too, Officer – good job I stopped here, wasn’t it?”
“No, Sir – you were a long time so I thought I should find out what you’re doing,” he said looking up at the tiny barred window with evident relief, “I’ll wait for you by your car.”
Five minutes later after ‘paying’ for my pee with a nice cool lemonade, out I sauntered. Now had I been drinking I would have had plenty of time to chuck a couple of evidence-destroying whiskeys down my throat – but I hadn’t been, so the lemonade was just right.
“Now, Officer, what may I help you with?”
“What is your name and address, Sir – and do you have your driving licence to hand?”
I gave them the details they asked for, took my licence from my wallet, and opened it on the pages they were entitled to see – those with my personal details and what I was qualified to drive.
The officer went to take it. “I can’t let you take it – but everything you need to see is in front of you.”
“Why won’t you let me look at it properly,” he asked, suspiciously, “do you have something to hide?”
“I have nothing to hide, but you are only entitled to read the two pages I have offered you.”
“You’re trying to hide your previous offences – is that it, Sir?”
“If I have offences, which I am not admitting, you are not entitled to see them.”
“Think you know the law, do you, Sir?”
“So far, probably more than you.”
He went red in the face with anger, “I won’t press that point, Sir. Do you have any idea why we stopped you?”
“You didn’t stop me.”
“Of course we...let me rephrase that, Sir. Do you know why we stopped behind you and why we are talking to you now?”
“You have nothing better to do, Officer?”
His hackles were clearly up. “You committed a moving traffic offence, Sir – as you well remember, which is why you nipped up this side road in an attempt to lose us,” he crowed.
“I have no idea about any moving traffic offence, Occifer.”
“Are you sure you haven’t been drinking?”
“I had a lemonade in the pub there, while you were waiting. If I had been drinking I would have been able to drink something alcoholic, wouldn’t I?”
“So you could beat the breathalyser?”
“Not at all. You are quite free to breathalyse me but it would be a waste of time on two counts.”
“Two counts, Sir?”
“Yes, firstly you would have to demonstrate that I did indeed commit the moving traffic offence you allege and even then the opportunity you afforded me to consume alcohol in the pub would render any such test null and void.”
“I cannot smell alcohol on your breath, Sir, I grant you that, so we’ll not be pursuing the breathalyser – but you did commit a moving traffic offence.”
“Before the traffic lights you were not wearing a seatbelt, Sir.”
“When did you observe this, Officer?” I asked, feigning resignation and capitulation.
“As we drove past you in the traffic queue – we saw you put the belt on because you’d spotted us behind you.”
“Was that when you were coming up behind me, when you passed me by, or when you came to a standstill?”
“When we passed you.”
I took out my diary and wrote, ‘At 14.23...’ – I read his number, F1772 – “Your name please, Constable...?”
“Er, Bannister – Sir, why?”
I continued writing, ‘…F1772, PC Bannister explained that he believes that as his police car slowly passed me in a queue, he saw me putting on my seatbelt at the by-pass traffic lights in Darnham.’ I held it up for him to read but he did not attempt this time to take what I held before him. Funny, I thought that he should understand he has no right to take my diary because it’s private, yet believes he has a right to handle my driving licence. “Do you agree with what I have written, Constable?” I asked feigning humility.
“Yes, Sir – are you now admitting you were not wearing a seatbelt?”
“Perhaps if you would do one of two things, I might.”
“Such as what, Sir?”
“Either you sign my diary or write the same up in your notebook.”
“I’ll write it in my notebook.” He did and showed it to me.
“Come off it, Constable. I’ve not yet admitted to anything so you must delete that part saying
‘Mr Stevens admitted...’ until Mr Stevens does in fact admit.”
“Does it make any difference, Sir, if you’re going to admit it?”
“Of course it does, because your timing would not agree with what I have in my diary.”
He crossed the piece out angrily and initialled it, “Now Sir, as to your admission.”
“Oh yes – I admit I was putting my seatbelt on while waiting to move in the traffic queue before the traffic lights.”
“Thank you, Sir,” he said and wrote my words in his notebook, “In the light of your confession I shall caution you for not wearing a seatbelt and offer you the chance of a fixed penalty notice of £40.”
“But you can’t do that.”
“Because as I said and you wrote down, I was waiting to move which implies I was stationary and the law does not require me to wear a seatbelt when stationary.”
“Now you’re splitting hairs, Sir. We observed you were not wearing your seatbelt immediately prior to your car becoming stationary and then we saw you fitting your seatbelt – so you are quite aware that a seatbelt must be worn during all movements,” he said stiffly, handing me back the fixed penalty notice.”
“I’m afraid I cannot accept that, Constable – you have no evidence.”
“We blood...blooming-well saw you – we need no other evidence.”
“Who is the ‘we’ you are referring to, Constable?”
“Me and my driver, PC Hutchings.”
“Who was, ‘as you said’, driving slowly past at the relevant time?”
“Yes, Sir, confirmed the driver.”
“Well that’s it then,” I said, heading for my car, you have no evidence so you must let me go.”
PC Bannister headed after me as if to apprehend me, “I wouldn’t do that, Sir or I shall be forced to arrest you.”
I turned and looked him in the eyes, “I suggest you read up on the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, latest amendment – you have no evidence because you have no witness.”
“My driver saw...” realisation partly dawned.
“That’s right PC Bannister – your driver was moving at the material time and as such he is disqualified from acting as a witness. Now you have my name and address; you may choose to caution me that you intend to press charges and we would all have to spend a pleasant day in the magistrates’ court. I would of course plead not guilty and seek costs – but it’s your decision.”
He stuck his nose up close to mine, “Why don’t you just piss off, Mr Know-all.”
“I’d be delighted to, Cont-stable, why ever didn’t you suggest that earlier...?”
I hope you have enjoyed reading 'Belt Up' which is from Short Fews 2, a collection of 8 humorous short stories and is available to buy on Amazon Kindle or if you still need convincing,
you can read more excerpts from Short Fews 2
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