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.
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