A Greek village waiting for God
Copyright @ 2016 by Michael Saunders
Distributed by Shakespir. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without prior written permission of the author.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
The wave of tourism hasn’t quite lapped as far as the tiny village of Episkopi in Mynos, an island set in the shimmering Aegean Sea. In the road up to the village old men tend their tomatoes, cucumbers and melons. A woman clothed in black leads her donkey home, weighed down with horta, while an old couple wave as they overtake her, chugging along at fifteen miles an hour in what seems a Heath Robinson contraption – half lawn mower, half buggy. Piled high behind them, huge water melons are perched precariously, ready to bombard any unsuspecting pedestrian whenever the vehicle lurches into a pot hole.
The road continues through olive groves past a bullet riddled road sign heralding the entrance to Episkopi – a village being drawn inescapably ever closer to the day when nobody will live there and old buildings, ravaged by time, will begin to crumble. Two rusty oil drums lay on either side of the lane, where two huge snarling dogs are tethered. Resembling a scene from Greek mythology, guarding the gates of Hades, these animals make sure goats from the mountainside do not enter the village. Unfortunately, they also impair the arrival of hapless tourists. Those who chug up the mountain on their rented scooters have to run the gauntlet of snarling jaws snapping at their ankles if they fail to make the correct calculation and veer from the precise centre of the road. Conditions are even worse for intrepid walkers who brave the oxygen sucking, muscle cramping climb, rising to six hundred feet above sea level. Edging fearfully forwards, a pace to the left, or a step too far to the right can leave a pedestrian not well versed in judging distances having to limp back down the mountain.
The sun rose lazily, flooding early morning sunshine into the village square – well it’s more of a triangle really – and a tiny one at that. Beneath the welcome shade of a tamarind tree, three old men are sat, idling away the day between themselves. Nothing much happens in Episkopi. During the summer the village attracts a few intrepid tourists – all coming to discover what lies at the end of the road on their map. Perhaps there’s some treasure to find at the end of the proverbial rainbow?
No, not really, just these three old goats – namely Stelios, Giorgos and their friend Aristotle, who, as you might expect being named after the famous Greek philosopher, can always be relied upon to pontificate about anything and everything. The three are of an age when they don’t have much to do apart from sit in the square complaining about the world – or the world as they know it, which is no more than twenty kilometres from the village in any one direction. With much ado about nothing, memory cells discarded on a daily basis, and bodies no longer able to raise more than a momentary spark of activity, the three are always quite happy exchanging morose banter until the day they go to meet their maker.
Giorgos, tall and in his seventies, with a bulbous, red, WC Fields’ nose has a paunch which strains his shirt almost to breaking point. His straight black hair oiled tightly to his scalp and raven eyes, hidden by tinted glasses, give the impression of a Mafia heavy from a black and white ‘B’ movie, but when he smiles, his Grecian charm, highlighted by the Grecian 2000 in his hair, creates the illusion of a faded matinee idol. He eased himself from left to right, attempting to emit some solace from the uncomfortable rickety old chair, and lifts one cheek to help relieve the nagging pain in his back. He winced and let out a groan.
“What’s up with you,” enquired Aristotle?
“My back – and this chair doesn’t help much either,” he growled, reaching behind him with gnarled fingers to rub the base of his spine.
“You pair don’t know how lucky you are,” complained Stelios. “All the raki you can drink over the years, which I give you – for free – and you still have to bloody complain about something.”
“I don’t think he has a problem with your chair, Stelio. If you ask me, it’s really a case of too much bedroom activity.” Aristotle gave a loud guffaw and wagged an accusing finger.
Giorgos looked at Aristotle with total disdain and humphed. “Chance would be a fine thing.”
Stelios joined in. “At your age, it’s not chance you need, it’s a bloody miracle.”
Aristotle and Stelios both giggled away like naughty schoolboys, leaving Giorgos sitting there as if he was chewing on a wasp. He screwed up his eyes and looked towards the corner of the square. “Looks as if you have some customers Stelio. Come on get up off your arse and look lively.”
A middle aged couple walked across towards them. The woman was of ample proportion, wearing a billowing top and limbs resembling legs of pork poking out from the bottom of a pair of long khaki shorts. On her feet she wore socks and hiking boots. The man was also clad in boots, shorts and a massive bum bag, which hung casually below his stomach. Wearing no shirt, skin left out in the midday sun was already beginning to turn a bright cerise and the walk had presumably built up a thirst for they were both ruddy faced.
“Hello,” he waved, striding towards the three old men. “I say, can we partake of a drink here?”
“What’s he say,” grumbled Aristotle?
“No idea, but wave at him, otherwise he’ll think we’re rude,” hissed Stelios.
“We are bloody rude,” grinned Giorgos, giving a weak wave nonetheless.
“Come on dear, the natives appear friendly enough,” remarked the intrepid hiker. He sat himself down and indicated with a flick of his hand for his wife to follow suit. “This is very nice isn’t it dear,” he said, looking around and nodding at the three old men. His wife nodded primly.
There was a pregnant pause as everyone just stared at each other.
Presuming the foreigners knew no Greek, Aristotle was quick to remark out loud. “She’s not very well upholstered is she? You wouldn’t get many euros a kilo for that pair. Mind you, by the look of them she has very strong legs. Just what you need in a woman.”
Stelios quickly interrupted, in case the tourists had any idea what was being said. “Beera, cafe? Penis?
There was a millisecond of shock as the man didn’t quite seem to understand what was being offered – beer, coffee or what? Did he hear right, was the man offering him penis? “What did he say m’dear,” and asked his wife, who appeared to be daydreaming and not really interested in beer or a coffee.
“I do believe he said penis, dear,” she replied very matter-of-factly, as if it were the most natural thing in the world.
“Penis,” enquired Stelios innocently?
“Good God, there he goes again. Is it some form of local custom, some sort of inauguration ceremony into native ways, do you think, dear?” He looked at the three wise old monkeys sitting opposite – see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil – but was none the wiser.
Stelios picked up a flagon of raki and pointed to it. “Penis.”
“Surely not,” the man exclaimed! “Is it a vital ingredient added during the distillation process do you think?” He stared at the liquid in trepidation, not sure how, or why a penis came to be in this drink at all. Perhaps it gave the drink a bit of body?
Stelios felt it was like watching paint dry in the time it took trying to make the foreigner understand the simple question of what he was drinking. In the end he poured five tots of the clear spirit, picked up his glass and stood up.
The man followed suit having decided to throw caution to the wind and just go with the flow as it were. Although he still had his doubts he had come to the conclusion it must be some sort of quaint local custom. He stood there a little unsure what to do next. Surely it wasn’t going to be a case of I’ll show you mine if you show me yours? Was the correct etiquette to drink first, or was he supposed to unzip and then drink up? Instead he opted for lying back and thinking of England as it were, and enquired, “penis.”
Stelios laughed at the man’s bad Greek. “Oxi, Oxi. Penow,”he smiled.
This completely threw the Englishman. Pee now? He couldn’t do that to order at the best of times – and especially not in front of company.
Enough was enough. It was all too much to cope with. He’d just drink the bloody liquid and be done with it, and knocked back the fiery spirit in one. Immediately it hit the back of his throat he suffered a fit of coughing and spluttering.
“Penis,” announced Aristotle with a leer towards the lady?
“Neh, mou aressie para poli,” she smiled graciously to a dumbfounded Aristotle. It turned out she had learned Greek at school, although that was a long time ago now and she had forgotten quite a lot since then.
“But where did penis come into the equation,” asked her exasperated husband feeling almightily confused?
“Oh Christopher, penis is simply the present tense, second person of the verb to drink. Penis? You are drinking? Penow is first person – I am drinking.”
Put in his place he sat there watching for some fifteen minutes, as his wife engaged in social intercourse with Stelios, Giorgos and Aristotle. Finally, feeling usurped by his wife, he stood up and said to her commandingly, “come on my dear, enough of this idle chit chat. Time to go.”
His wife shrugged her shoulders, smiled benevolently and stood up.
“How much do I owe you,” he asked, in the internationally understood action of rubbing together forefinger and thumb?
Stelios shook his head profusely. “Tippote, tippote,” and criss crossed his hands.
“Mighty decent of you old man. Many thanks. Come on Norma. Onwards and upwards,” and he strode off without waiting. Leaving his wife flummoxed at having to quickly bid the men goodbye before turning and running to keep up with her husband. However, she just had time to give Aristotle a coquettish smile and a few words before bustling away.
“He was an arsehole,” exclaimed Giorgos. “What did she say to you Aris’?”
“Nothing,” he replied and held out his glass for another top up, looking less than amused.
Stelios chortled and leaned towards Giorgos as he poured out some more raki. “She said he may consider her small in the melon department, but from where she was sitting she reckoned his cucumber looked more of a courgette.”
“She had you weighed up ‘Aris,” Giorgos wheezed, slapping his open palm down on the table as he engaged in a coughing fit.
“How did I know she spoke bloody Greek,” he complained?
A cold gust of wind blew creating eddies of dust swirling around on the ground. Within minutes it had brought the temperature down a notch. Aristotle frowned. “Winter’s here already. Mark my words.”
The three old boys fell into a comfortable silence as they each cogitated whether Aris’ was right, even though it was only September. The square was still, save for the continual burr of cicadas.
Generation after generation had lived at Episkopi, which was set on a fertile plateau enclosed by a ring of mountain peaks, broken in two places. Fifty years ago the village had no road to the outside world apart from a donkey track down to the nearest town some four kilometres away as the crow flies. Through the gorge a tiny track along the bank of an ancient dried up ravine led down to the sea, ending in a gasp of pebbles onto a forty metre wide shingle beach, lapped by the crystal clear sea. Way back when, locals would beach their tiny boats and walk, or use a mule to take them the ten minute walk back up to the village.
Historically there must have been only five families who originally settled in Episkopi, and over the years it was traditional for men to look outside and seek their brides from other villages. Nevertheless most people were distantly related one way or the other, albeit many times removed. The village remained self contained for centuries with no real contact with other places, due to its geography. Consequently heath care comprised of potions made from the diffusion of herbs, the secrets of which every mother would hand down to every daughter, from generation to generation.
The village thrived over time, supporting perhaps thirty or forty families. Each family would have goats, sheep and the occasional pig, as well as rabbits and chickens, and fish from the sea. The fertile soil grew fresh vegetables, citrus fruits, grapes and of course there was always the ubiquitous olive tree, thousands and thousands of them, providing oil for eating and wood for heating. Grapes were used to make wine with all the sophistication of rough sherry – and the remaining grape must, was then fermented before being distilled into fiery moonshine – raki.
The three old friends had lived in Episkopi and known each other forever – albeit Aristotle had been away on ‘holiday’ in Athens for nearly sixty or more years, but then that was due to his family having left the village after being blamed for something terrible.
Stelios was obviously a cut above his two friends. Not for him the identical fashion statements of check shirts and camouflage trousers worn by most of the men, bought by their wives from the mobile clothes shop; he wore a powder blue shirt with pilot epaulettes on the shoulder and a pocket emblazoned with a faded Olympics logo. This was nothing to do with the games, or flying aeroplanes, but an old hand me down from a relative who used to work as a baggage handler for Olympic Airways at Athens Airport. The shirt was tucked into a pair of belted khaki trousers, which in turn were tucked into knee high black leather boots.
Of the three, Stelios seemed the youngest, probably because he was relatively slim and had an almost feline grace about him, rather than a stooping shuffle of old age, but in truth the three were all the same age – seventy three – although with his birthday before the others Giorgos had just turned seventy four. Stelios surprisingly still had relatively black hair, although he could not give his friends a run for their money when it came to sheen and sheer depth of colour, but at least his was natural. Clean shaven, and in his younger days good looking, Stelios’ handsome face was now beginning to show its age, with budding jowls and wrinkles, while crow’s feet now stomped a path leading to fleshy bags beneath his eyes.
The kafenion, was the centre of communication and gossip for the whole village. Originally his parents had owned it and Stelios had been raised there, together with his two sisters. However, after the war everyone was poor. There was little food and not much work and in the early sixties the family took the opportunity to immigrate to Chicago and begin a new life in the promised land of hamburgers and big cars, but Stelios didn’t much care for that idea; especially as he and Fotini had just got married. He decided to stay and took over ownership of the family kafenion.
Moustachioed Giorgos rammed a finger in his ear, applying a death defying whisk action designed to loosen wax and perhaps shake up some listless brain cells. He was dressed in the statutory village dress code of camouflage jeans and despite the heat a heavy check shirt, bought for him by his loving wife Sofia. Studying the remnants of his delving secreted beneath his finger nail and satisfied his hearing was no longer impaired; Giorgos began to address his attention to the dish of peanut shells set before him. Taking one grey, salt encrusted shell; he placed it on the corner of the table and brought his fist down hard. Pieces of shell flew into the air. Foraging amongst the mountain of shell debris, he picked out broken pieces of nut and deftly threw them into his mouth.
No stranger to many a cheese pie, Giorgos was a little on the portly side to say the least. Over the years, working the land provided the exercise to burn off calories. Alas as he slowed down into his sixties the delicate balance between input and output reached a tipping point and as he got older still, so he gradually spread a little wider. Absentmindedly he flicked his komboloi as the three of them sat in comfortable silence as the click, clack of the beads, drowned the chain saw chirruping of cicadas in the tree. Despite his age Giorgos’ black button eyes never missed a trick. He rubbed a gnarled hand across jowls punctured with white bristles and gave a massive yawn. Needing a kick start of caffeine he bent over his cup of cold coffee, and with bulbous nose almost in the saucer, in a manly manner sucked up a mouthful of liquid with all the suction power of a rampant Hoover on heat. Sipping in a seemly manner was strictly for womenfolk. With misshapen fingers crowned with yellowed nails, shaped from years of milking sheep, he proceeded to groom himself, combing his moustache, and flicking away droplets of coffee.
With the noise generated by Giorgos’ continually clacking beads and the incessant burr from the cicadas, Aristotle rubbed his head, wincing with pain as his hangover amplified the sounds to hammer drill proportions. Married and divorced, Aristotle had long since come to the conclusion that sharing a house with a woman was too much like hard work and his life now consisted of taking care of his pigs, goats, sheep, rabbits – in fact anything that wouldn’t nag him. He never dressed to impress and his usual attire for most of the year was a vest, tatty pair of shorts, and wellington boots – a picture of sartorial elegance. As swallows signify a summer, you know when it’s winter because it’s the time when Aris’ discards his shorts in favour of track suit bottoms, pulled up over a belly of some proportion. During life’s journey he has managed to lose a few teeth along the way and while at his age his hair should be white, it is a magnificent ebony black – with a little help from a friendly bottle. The moon waxes and wanes, as does Aristotle’s hair. Gradually white undergrowth will emerge to overtake the black, and then, as if by magic the white roots suddenly disappear and all is black with the world.
With life’s rich pattern shaping a hard life of ups and downs, Aristotle was Episkopi’s village eccentric, tolerated by a few, accepted by most and a begrudging friend of his two childhood companions – but all that was about to change.
With a smirk Giorgos swallowed another deep slurp of coffee before letting rip with a loud belch, quickly followed by a bottom burp, helped along the way by a raised cheek eased up from the chair.
The cacophony caused Aristotle to flap his hand in the air. “Bloody hell,” he muttered, and knitted his eyebrows together, which were splendidly adapted for the purpose, although the grey and white wired hair failed to match the luxuriant ebony follicles sported above.
Completely oblivious, Giorgos absent mindedly used his gnarled fingers to comb at his bushy white moustache, as if there was some treasure trove to be discovered there. Aristotle reached into his mass of black hair, retrieving a tooth pick which he always carried for emergencies and preoccupied himself by picking and flicking remnants of peanut hiding between yellowing teeth.
Giorgos let out a deep sigh.
“What’s your problem,” enquired ‘Aris?
“I was just thinking. Time seems to have passed us by – and there’s not too much of it left for us. It doesn’t seem that long ago we were running around in short trousers.”
“You’re still wearing them now, but I haven’t seen much running these last few years,” chuckled Giorgos.
“And you Giorgi – you were a skinny urchin that would never say boo to a goose,” laughed Stelios.
Giorgos scowled. “It seems to me all those years ago this place had a whole lot more going for it than it does now. Everybody is so old. Why, Katerina is the last woman in the village due to get married – and at her age that’s a bloody miracle. She must be the youngest living here by far.”
“Yes, she’s marrying some fat old widower from the town. I think he was only looking for someone to cook and clean for him. The tight arse thought marrying Katerina would be cheaper than having to shell out for an Albanian to come in everyday,” growled Aristotle. “How old is she – forty odd?”
They all drifted into silence seeking memory markers to relate to in order to make the correct calculation.
“Her mother got married the year the Colonels came to power,” said Giorgos with a furrowed brow, squinting with the effort of pin pointing the time. “That would have been 1967.”
“In 1969 the government paid to have the road built up to the village,” said Stelios holding his finger in the air, as if this signified something major. “Her mother was expecting then. I remember Fotini kept going on and on about it.”
“They took their time didn’t they,” said Aristotle? “Mind you that husband of hers never seemed to have much in him, did he?”
“Right, so that makes Katerina about forty six then,” said a relieved Stelios, pleased they had managed to sort that out.
Aristotle continued, “so, as I was saying, there are no children here now. Everyone living in Episkopi is just waiting for God. The whole place with everybody in it is slowly dying. Soon we’ll all be gone and there’ll be nothing left here, apart from a few run down buildings.”
“Oh there’s nothing like looking on the bright side of life is there,” groaned Giorgos. “Come on Stelio, pour the raki and let’s drown our sorrows.”
“Don’t forget one for me,” complained Aristotle, groaning as he pushed himself up from the chair.
“Where are you going,” asked Stelios in mid flow, topping up the glasses?
“I’m regular as clockwork me, and it’s 11.30. Who needs a watch?” And he shuffled over to the outside toilet built onto the side of the kafenion. It was a rudimentary affair, built in concrete block, a corrugated iron roof and a wooden door, marked with blue painted letters of ‘WC’. The sign was not really necessary as even with blocked sinuses you were never left in any doubt whatsoever as to what lay behind. The door was far too small to fit properly in the space provided; it’s only nod towards affording any privacy of any sort was a piece of string looped through a hole in the wood. Hooking the string over a bent nail hammered into the door frame ensured you were safe from any external interruption. Inside however, it was a completely different world. The grey concrete block set off to a tee the white porcelain toilet, complete with plastic lid. Beside this stood the ubiquitous waste bin – the devil incarnate for all tourists inducted in Hellenic toilet procedures. After much snorting, grunts and shuffling about Aristotle emerged out of the darkness, blinking, back into the sunlight looking extremely pleased with himself. Job well done.
He sauntered lazily back, without a care in the world to the shady oasis beneath the tamarind tree.
“Do your flies up, you old fool. Memory gone again has it,” shouted Giorgos?
Aristotle looked down, shrugged his shoulders and spread his hands in sublime resignation. “No problem,” he chortled, “the pouli in my trousers is fast asleep. There would only be a problem if a delectable young lady tourist should be passing by.” He pulled out his chair to sit down. “Did I ever tell you the joke about…”
“Yes! Only about a thousand times,” his friends protested vehemently. Sulkily he plonked himself down and knocked back a shot of raki.
Fotini, Stelios’ long suffering wife came out from the kafenion, wiping her hands on her apron, to see what all the merriment was about. Shaking her head, dark curly hair bouncing in tune, and deep brown eyes twinkling with amusement, she put her hand on her hips, and scolded them as if she was their teacher. “Haven’t you got anything better to do, other than make the square look untidy and giggling away like naughty schoolboys?”
“H glixa mou,” simpered Stelios. “Don’t worry your pretty little head about us. You’re allowed to throw caution to the wind at our age and act however you like. We may not be here for long. We’re just making the best of it.”
“Keep up that silliness and your time will be up a whole lot quicker than you think,” she grinned, before turning back inside, to roars of laughter.
Stelios’ family had lived in Episkopi for countless generations. He had attended the local school – a single class of twenty seven ranging in age from six up to thirteen – taught by a moustachioed tyrant of a teacher, Kyrios Xanthopoulos would stride around the room swishing his cane and take great satisfaction in using it just for fun, whether a child was misbehaving or not.
While Stelios, Giorgos and Aristotle had been inseparable as kids, they were of an age when life was far too exciting outdoors to ever concern themselves with the stupid little kids in their class. That was until one day Stelios was walking past a well kept old stone house in the village. In the open doorway there were two little girls playing – the eldest must have been some five years younger than his swaggering thirteen years of age. As he was passing, the girl’s father came out of the house wearing a uniform. He wore a peaked hat and his jacket was navy blue with shiny buttons, epaulettes on the shoulders and gold braid across his chest. He must have been a Captain, or perhaps might even have been an Admiral! Anyway he must have been very rich Stelios remembered thinking, and recalled him beckoning the two little girls over, as he reached into his pocket for something. They clapped and jumped up and down with excitement and he laughed as he threw some coins high into the air which twinkled in the sunlight as they fell. Shrieking with excitement, the girls stretched up to make a catch, but missed, forcing them to run hither and thither to retrieve the coins as they clinked and bounced over the stony ground. Stelios looked down and there glinting on the ground in front of him was a gold coin. Seconds later a podgy hand grasped it up and two doe-like eyes looked at him with an infectious smile. It was the first time he had ever noticed Fotini, but he still remembered that moment as if it was yesterday.
Fotini looked back at that time all those years ago and with a shrug of her shoulders would always smile and wonder, “where did the money go? We never saw the like of that again.” The war had already begun. Her father never returned.
Back then, almost cut off by the mountains surrounding it Episkopi was a small remote community. Access was by boat from the little cove, or by donkey along a tiny track worn along the side of the mountain down to the next village far below.
Families tended to be large - remember there was no TV in those days and you had to make your own entertainment -but life was good. There was plenty of food, families made their own wine, the closeness of friends and relatives around them and of course the magnificent natural surroundings made it the perfect idyll. Every family member had their own jobs – even the children – and they all worked hard governed by the seasons. September picking grapes to make wine and winter when they harvested the olives and citrus fruits, while sheep, goats, chickens and vegetables demanded constant attention the whole year round.
That peaceful setting was shattered in 1941.
The main thrust of the German advance into Greece took Athens, before progressing to Crete and the islands. The German troops landed on Mynos in the cove below Episkopi and entered the village from the sea. With most of the men folk away on the mainland defending their country, Episkopi was left desperately poor, but proud; refusing to help the invading troops, yet despite everything their courage knew no bounds. They would protect any allied soldier from falling into the hands of the Reich – even though they knew the penalty for this was execution. For every allied soldier sheltered by villagers and caught by the Germans, ten Greeks would be shot in retribution.
The Lieutenant leading the German soldiers was ever fearful of the islanders’ fierceness. So much so that one day he pulled little Fotini out from the crowd of villagers rounded up in the square and forced the frightened eight year old to taste the water his troops were about to drink, to ensure it hadn’t been poisoned.
During the war food for the village became scarce, as animals were slaughtered and all supplies were taken by the German troops. One day Fotini’s old grandfather managed to push his boat out to sea without being seen and caught several fish. Thankful his family would at least have sustenance for a few days, his thanks was short lived. As her mother was cooking this unexpected bounty, troops burst in and took the only real meal the family had had for eight days. During that time they virtually existed on a diet of horta – weeds collected from the mountainside, boiled and served in olive oil.
Fighting a rearguard action three allied soldiers had become separated from their regiments during the fighting. Two were from New Zealand, the other from England. Despite the hardship and the danger, they were kept sheltered in a cave above the village. Believing an innocent boy would attract less attention, every night for three months it was Stelios’ job to take the fugitives food and water before the resistance could arrange to get them away off the island. The German occupation lasted for three long years.
When Fotini was fifteen she fell in love. Even though she had been so young, Fotini had had an epiphany outside her house all those years ago. She somehow knew that skinny scamp with the shy smile would one day be her husband.
Being a typical boy, and therefore more of a simple soul, Stelios had never harboured any profound thoughts of what might be. He was much more interested in today, be it fishing or just getting up to mischief. However, over the years for some inane reason he would catch himself taking a sly glimpse at Fotini. There was no real reason. He didn’t even wonder why. That was until the day it dawned on him the shy little girl had suddenly changed. The duckling had become a graceful swan. It seemed almost overnight she had become a vision; a beautiful young woman. Now he noticed.
He too had grown tall with broad shoulders, muscular, yet lithe, walking with a feline grace that exuded a confidence that made Fotini’s heart beat fast.
Fotini would find any excuse to hide behind olive trees to look at Stelios tending his sheep and goats. Stelios was a typical mountain villager, proud and strong with tremendous stamina that allowed him to walk the rocky terrain as sure footed as his goats. Traditionally village men married late, generally to girls several years younger than themselves. Men say this age difference is important because as you get older you need a good strong woman to look after you and your animals!
Stelios would pretend not to see his ardent admirer, smiling to himself whenever he suddenly turned and caught a glimpse of this raven haired beauty. Fotini would feast her eyes on Stelios as he worked fearing he would turn and see her. If he looked round, she would dart back behind a tree, her heart pounding. After a moment or two she would venture another peep. So the game went on but over the days and weeks, from shy smiles and exchanging a few words from a distance, a romance began to blossom.
After several weeks Fotini confided in Maria, her eldest sister and showed her the letters from Stelios which she kept hidden in her bra. Maria was alarmed at the consequences of her sister being alone without a chaperone. Since their father had died in the war, the head of their family was now their paternal grandfather, a gruff, stern islander who believed there was only one way to do things – and that was his way – versed in tradition and customs of yesteryear. Maria felt she had no option but to tell her grandfather about Fotini and Stelios.
While their grandfather was in his seventies he still stood over six feet tall and weighed some eighteen stone – a figure to be feared and obeyed without question. With moustache bristling with rage he stormed into the house and in front of the whole family literally threw Fotini across the room in a furious rage. His fury was uncontrollable. “Had she no shame? Did she not consider the disgrace her family would have to suffer? Did she not care his reputation would be shot to pieces?”
That was exactly the fate he intended for the man who had sullied his favourite granddaughter. With two belts of ammunition slung across his chest, he reached for his gun. Ignoring the sobbing pleas from Fotini, he threw open the door and stormed out. Honour was at stake. Amends would have to be made.
Running through the village, his mountain boots thudding over the stony track, face set in a blaze of fury; he had only one thought in his raging mind; to kill Stelios. Out of breath, he stopped by the last house with olive groves below and the gorge before him. With gun held high above his head, he shouted Stelios’ name, his voice booming down the gorge ricocheting from rock to rock, building into a crescendo of echoes. Again he shouted, but when silence reigned except for the faint tinkling of bells from goats on the crags above, the huge man scrambled down the slope into the olive groves determined in his quest to avenge his family’s honour. Reaching the steps leading up to a tiny chapel set in the rocks, he stopped. His eyes ran along the cliffs of the gorge seeking his prey, his senses acutely tuned to the terrain.
“So you want to see me? Well here I am.”
The big man spun round with a snarl, his gun held before him pointed at Stelios’ heart. The young man held his arms wide in submission, in one hand a cloth wrapped around some goat cheese and a loaf of bread. In the other was a flask of raki.
“Do you have time for a bite to eat before you toast my death?”
Suffice to say Stelios survived and he and Fotini were married in the village church in 1962. It was most unusual for both the bride and groom to come from the same village. Traditionally most men would look outside to seek their intended bride. Before her marriage Fotini had been indoctrinated by her mother in traditional village ways of married life and what was expected of her. She could have her own opinion, still be her own person and have her own pride – but she must never disagree with her husband. She should always allow him to be right, and behave as if he could do no wrong – the all important thing to remember was the marriage. Her mother appreciated this advice may appear to be a little one sided, but in time her husband would come to realize what a treasure he has and at times may even ask his wife for her advice. Follow this counsel and eventually, not only would she have her way but his too.
It didn’t take long for Stelios to discover his new wife hadn’t taken traditional advice on board, and soon came to the decision she must have been born to flaunt tradition in the face. Whatever Fotini thought was best was right; nothing would shake that resolve. It didn’t make life easy – far from it – but with every fight, argument and disagreement, it seemed to bind them closer together, bound by a mutual love and trust for each other that over the years, just grew and grew.
With a love that knew no bounds it was only natural the happy couple would have children. In fact in the village it was expected within the first year of marriage. Twelve months went past, then two years and before they knew it, they had been married five years – and still she had not conceived – despite nearly wearing Stelios out in the process.
From Stelios’ point of view he saw childlessness as an affront to his manhood, and for a long time was ready to smash the smirk from any man’s face who he thought was sneering at his inability to father children. Fotini proudly held the hurt inside her, only allowing the raw pain to surface and overflow when she had absolute privacy, away from the world and even her husband. At night, while Stelios gently snored beside her, tear drops would silently course down her cheeks as she wondered why, why her, why us?
Over the years the fact they had no children became less of a talking point for fellow villagers, until in time mockery or pity was never an issue anymore. Stelios and Fotini accepted the situation and felt perhaps it was just not to be, and the pain gradually melted away leaving in its wake a greater love for each other.
“I don’t know how you put up with it,” said Aristotle dismally shaking his head. “Here, top my glass up will you?”
Stelios did the honours. “What do you mean – put up with it? Put up with what?”
Aris’ pulled a face. “Why, marriage of course! You can never do what you want; it’s all do this, do that. You’re under constant orders,” and he shook his head. “Look at me. I do what I want – when I want. I answer to nobody.”
Giorgos grinned. “That’s not what that sheep of yours said last week.”
They all laughed heartily, before succumbing into a comfortable silence, just as a distant pop, pop could be heard. “You could be in luck Stelios – customers,” commented Aristotle.
“Customers? Lick, my arse,” scowled Stelios. “It only means more work.”
“Ah yes, but it means you’ll be lining those pockets of yours.”
“I’ll have you know my pockets are threadbare after the never ending supply of free raki I give you,” Stelios retorted.
The pop pop noise became louder and a rusty old moped, a blue haze in its wake, struggled into the square valiantly carrying two, rather overweight holidaymakers. The man was in front and the woman behind was hanging on for dear life as if she had been astride a throbbing 1,000cc Yamaha taking the bends in the Isle of Man TT. Both wore crash helmets and with the man wearing khaki shorts, socks and sandals, they were obviously English.
“Put your customer smile on Stelio,” grinned Giorgos.
From their pallor it was obvious the pair had only just begun their holiday. “Steady as you go Gloria. I’ll hold the thing steady while you cock your leg over,” instructed the man without a hint of humour.
“I’m trying to dear, but my dress keeps getting caught.”
“Hitch it up then. Let the old pins see a bit of sun.”
Nervously she looked at the three old men and caught Aristotle’s leering face eyeing her every move. Demurely she pulled her floral cotton frock up high, to a smidgeon this side of decent and used one foot to search, tapping it to see how far away she was from ground level. With relief she found terra firma and put all ample weight onto her left foot, before holding on to what little dignity she had left and cocked her right leg up as high as she could go. It was barely a mere millisecond but Aristotle’s eyes popped as he caught a tantalising shufti of what she had had for breakfast. Regaining her composure and standing on both feet the woman quickly arranged her clothing leaving a quietly satisfied smile on Aris’ face.
Having finally managed to find the drop down stand to park the moped, the man walked up to the table to be greeted by an eager Stelios who stood before him. “Welcome, welcome to our kafenion,” he gushed wringing his hands in an ever so humble manner, eager to please.
Failing to understand a word Stelios was saying, the man sighed inwardly. Anyone not understanding the Queen’s English can only be somewhat lacking in intelligence. “Two – teas – please,” he shouted slowly and very loudly. Any fool should be able to understand that. He indicated to his wife to sit and she did so with a shy smile at Giorgos and Aristotle. Not standing on any ceremony Aristotle raised his glass, sunk a tot of raki and turned to Giorgos. “What’s the fool say?”
Giorgos shrugged. “As they must be from the UK dressed like that, Stelios guessed they’d be wanting what English want above all else – a cup of tea, even though it’s 33°C today.”
Several minutes of silence elapsed as Stelios busied himself in the kafenion before purposefully striding back out into the square, proudly carrying a tray. With much aplomb and a flourish he served the surprised tourists with their order, ignoring their plaintive pleas.
Stelios rejoined his cohorts on the opposite side of the table and looked at the two holidaymakers as if they were two chimps at a tea party.
The English lady looked at the two glasses containing what appeared to be twigs floating in a clear brown liquid. She looked at her husband and fluttered her hand above the glasses. “Did you order tea Charles? What on earth do you think this is?”
Her husband shrugged his shoulders. “Perhaps it would be best to ask for milk?”
Aristotle had picked up on their puzzlement. “What’s the problem? Are those herbs fresh Stelio?”
“Of course they are. Fotini picked them only yesterday.”
With a cough to attract attention the Englishman asked, “milk, do you have milk please?”
“What is this mick,” asked Giorgos turning to his friends with a quizzical look on his face? “What sort of language is that?” The three of them looked blankly at the Englishman, clearly wanting more to go on then just ‘mick’.
Obviously a King of charades, Charles then proceeded to pinch first finger and thumb of each hand in an up and down motion, as if he were pulling on bell ropes, while all the time repeating the mantra – milk, milk.
“What is this ‘mick’ and why is he beating a drum do you think,” mused Giorgos?
Appreciating he wasn’t getting through, Charles upped his game. “Moo, moo,” he bellowed – all the time chiming his bells.
Stelios was the only one who caught on. “Oxi, moo,” and he shook his head dismissively. “Baa, baa.”
“That’s it, he’s lost the plot,” said Aristotle rolling his eyes. “He’s as mad as they are.”
Stelios grinned wildly, bobbing his head as furiously as a nodding dog on a car parcel shelf going over speed bumps. He dashed back to the kafenion and returned moments later with a small jug. With considerable panache he set it down on the table. “Gala,” he pronounced slowly. “Baa, baa,” he added for greater effect.
Everyone smiled; delighted the insurmountable language barrier had finally been clambered over and conquered.
Gloria was not convinced and gave it a sniff. “I presume from the smell of it, it must be sheep’s milk,” she whispered to her husband?
“Just put it in your tea Gloria, drink it and then smile,” ordered Charles, unsure how the locals would behave if they got annoyed.
As instructed she took a tiny sip. “It’s not exactly Earl Grey,” she said as an aside to her husband, while at the same time managing to smile and nod appreciatively at her audience of three. Charles on the other hand was made of far sterner stuff and downed his glass with as much aplomb as an I’m A Celebrity contestant quaffing a kangaroo anus smoothie. “Oh it’s not that bad,” he exclaimed, his face recoiling at the revolting taste. “I don’t know what it is, but it’s certainly not tea as we know it,” and shook his head with an undisguised shudder.
“I told you those herbs weren’t fresh,” exclaimed Aristotle. “Your Mountain Tea appears not to have gone down very well.”
Determined to make amends; as clearly the English couple appeared not best pleased with their tea, Stelios fussed around and poured them two tots of raki. The old men solemnly raised their glasses in a toast. Mirroring their actions, Charles and Gloria raised theirs.
The drinks were downed in one, and we will draw a veil over the poor unfortunates. If you’ve been to Greece and got the tee-shirt you can only sympathise at Charles and Gloria’s reaction – obviously two virgins – now deflowered; leaving two sullied souls.
“That was the best one yet. Did you see their faces? They went puce,” wheezed Aristotle. “I thought the woman was going to have a seizure,” giggled Giorgos, doubling up with mirth.
“How was I to know,” grinned Stelios innocently? “It was only raki. Anyone would have thought I’d given them molten lava,” and he slammed his palm down on the table, joining in their merriment.
Stelios, Giorgos and Aristotle looked forward to these occasional intermissions in their unexciting lives, when the antics and reactions of innocents abroad from the outside world would never fail to amaze them.
“Soon be winter,” mused Giorgos, which set them all off in a world of their own, despite it still being only mid-September.
“I don’t know where the time goes,” grunted Stelios gloomily. “When we were young Episkopi seemed full of happy people. Now look at us. Everyone has got old and we’re all popping our clogs one by one. We need to do something about it. Bring a bit of life back into the village before it’s all too late.”
Again there was a long pregnant pause as they all cogitated on what Stelios had said.
The silence was broken by Aristotle. “Have you heard the joke about a turkey…”
“We’ve heard it a thousand times before,” chorused his friends.
“So, what do you suggest we do about bringing life back to the village, smart arse,” said Stelios, lifting one cheek to allow a little trapped wind to escape. Giorgos squinted his eyes and turned his nose up, but said nothing. A small fart between friends was perfectly acceptable, and turned his mind to answering the question. “If you ask me it’s quite simple. Attract younger people than us to live here,” and he knocked back a tot of raki.
Stelios was enthusiastic. He turned to Aristotle and pointed at Giorgos. “Do you know, for the first time in his life the man has hit the nail on the head.” He then frowned. “How you do it though, is beyond me.”
“If young people are to live here, they need jobs. What is there to do in Episkopi? Sod all – unless you take on a waiter and I get someone to help look after my pigs – and that’s not going to happen anytime soon is it,” reflected Aristotle? “Any chance of a top up Stelio?”
Glasses were duly filled and another silence ensued.
Of the three, Aristotle had seen a bit of the world – well the mainland around Athens. He’d bought and sold gold and silver around villages, ducking and diving to earn a crust and was pretty streetwise when it came to wheeling and dealing. The three lads had been inseparable growing up, until a catastrophe had occurred and an accusing finger had been pointed at Aristotle. It had created so much animosity he and his family were forced to leave the village and start a new life on the mainland.
Aristotle had found it difficult there at first, without his childhood mates, but city life quickly hardened him and where he had previously had the freedom of the countryside, he soon got used to running with the small time gangs and petty villainy which was everyday life in the back alleys of Athens. While he always stayed just this side of any serious wrongdoing – or at least he was never caught – city life made him self-assured, developing a confidence and demeanour that few people wished to argue with. Eventually he got married, and it has to be said his wife put up with a lot, what with his drinking, being away from home while travelling around from village to village and his meeting up with many lady friends along the way. It was small wonder she left after putting up with Aristotle for nearly five long years. Aris’ had felt extremely hard done by and saw no reason to blame himself, and then a little altercation with someone attempting to rob him when he used a little too much force with a gun, caused him to rethink what he was doing.
He arrived to find the old family home still standing – just. Most of the village antagonists from the past had long since died and their descendants couldn’t care less what had happened years ago. If truth be known they were of an age when half of them couldn’t actually remember that far back. Aristotle soon settled in. He did the old house up – well made it barely habitable – and devoted his life to keeping his pigs, sheep, rabbits and chickens, vowing there would be no women in his life. However, a man has needs and Aristotle thanked God for the Triandaffilo, down in the town, run by the indomitable Titiana.
The infamous Triandaffilo – noted den of iniquity – was the local hedonistic pleasure palace. Well, pleasure palace was perhaps taking things a little too far. Set down an alleyway off the main road, the Triandaffilo, or – The Rose – was previously, in another life, an old kafenion which still retained the peeling ochre plastered walls and dismally dark brown windows and doors. In deference to its new guise, above the door sat a bright neon lit sign proclaiming “The Triandaffilo”, which flashed off every couple of seconds to reveal in its place a tempting message – ‘prive club for lustful moments’. Even at ten ‘o clock in the morning the sign continually flashed off and on in a vain attempt to drum up the added bonus of any daytime custom going begging.
Inside, you could be forgiven for thinking the Triandaffillo was just a rundown saloon. A bar ran down the length of the room, with two waiters serving drinks to an incessant line of people trying to get their order taken. Music played loudly, killing any attempt at conversation and lighting was low key, creating deep shadows. There were stools at the bar and the rest of the room was studded with round tables and chairs, while along the opposite wall to the bar were red velvet covered seats set in a booth configuration. There were probably about fifty or sixty people drinking – all men – and flitting like moths to a flame, between each group of revellers, mingled half a dozen attractive girls, drinking, laughing, making affectionate gestures and knowingly being tactile when receiving any encouragement.
Aristotle always made an effort before his trip to the Triandaffilo. He’d had his monthly bath which almost eradicated all smell of pig or goat; he wore a relatively smart pair of chinos and an almost ironed green patterned shirt, which he wore casually outside his trousers. It almost matched the shade of the polished wellingtons. With his bunions he always dressed for comfort. He’d touched up his hair, which was now an overindulgent deep velvet black, he was ready to rock ‘n roll. Not for him a drink before the action. Why waste his money? He strode through the throng towards the back entrance, where the door marked PRIVE promised untold delights for those who stepped beyond this portal.
Aristotle rationed himself even then, and still followed faithfully the same regime of indulging himself just one Saturday a month. He had always maintained that once was completely justifiable and indeed acceptable – more often and it could be viewed as being a mite self-indulgent. What’s more he was damned if he was going to fritter his hard earned money away. After all, the older he got the more he found it was the sublime anticipation and thrill of the night that was infinitely more pleasurable than the actual bedroom antics itself. He smiled to himself at the secret he had sworn Titiana never to divulge to anyone. It was their little game. She would always smile seductively in that sexy way of hers and say, “Aris’ my great big softy,” and would then delve deep down between those wondrous quivering orbs of hers, and between finger and thumb would produce a little blue pill. That always did the job.
He opened the door to reveal the small seating area that resembled an office reception, with an ‘L’ shape arrangement of couches and a coffee table. The darkness was dimly lit, not helped by the red walls with their displays of pictures with naked men and women cavorting in all sorts of ways. He always had to tilt his head at one in particular, to get a better perspective of position and sighed in disbelief. No matter how he tried to imagine it, he doubted whether it was even possible. Certainly never in all his seventy three years had he ever been called upon to bend into anywhere near such an eye popping position. And certainly if he could have done once upon a time, he was now well past his sell by date to ever contemplate it as a heady option. He sat down and sunk into the soft imitation leather settee, which squeaked in a farty way whenever he attempted to change position. He looked at his cheap watch and thought it must be busy, with nobody around.
After twenty five minutes of waiting, he lost his patience. Nearly half an hour was more than enough time for anyone to float their boat. By this time he had now been joined by another ‘client’ whose name apparently was Dionysis. With nothing much else to think about Aristotle began to wonder why he was a ‘client’. What was the difference between a client and a customer? He decided whenever he bought something he was always referred to as a customer. It was only when he went to see a solicitor was he known as a client. It turned out it was the first time for Dionysis. Aristotle attempted to put his mind at rest explaining he was not to worry; the girl of his choosing would be very gentle with him. Unfortunately, it transpired Dionysis didn’t want gentle. He much preferred something with a little more rough and tumble to it.
Aristotle looked at his watch again. This was no good and decided to go walkabout into the corridor leading off the reception, leaving Dionysis to his own devices, but comforting him with assurances if he found anyone he would immediately send them right out.
Gingerly he tried the handle of one door and stepped inside. Inside was dark, but there was just enough light to see a switch, which he pressed. The light came on flooding the room with a soft pink hue, revealing an empty bed with a headboard of red velvet and drapes pulled either side. Fluffy pink handcuffs were casually laid out on the bedside table along with a box of wet wipes. Glancing up to the ceiling above the bed, he noticed there were mirror tiles, although one was missing, leaving in its wake a wavy line of brown adhesive. He wondered whether this crucial gap could prejudice proceedings causing certain reflections to be omitted in vital areas. He turned off the light and stepped back into the corridor.
He tilted his head. He could just detect a noise, a deep rasping that rose and fell. It came from two doors down. He strode down the corridor with the bit between his teeth and gave the door a genteel knock. Nothing. He tentatively turned the handle and opened the door. There, spread-eagled across a bed, with legs akimbo, was a woman in a pink negligee that left little to the imagination. A web of long bleach blond stresses were draped across plumped up pillows of black satin. Her eyes were closed, her mouth wide open. A sudden rasping snore made her wake up with a start. Thick black lined eyes and false lashes, set beneath painted midnight blue eye shadow took in the grinning Aristotle. The woman sat up with a start, pulling the transparent negligee around herself, in a vain attempt to cover her ample assets.
“Hey, don’t cover the goods up,” complained Aristotle with a chuckle. The woman slid off the bed, tossed her hair provocatively and with hands on hips, exclaimed, “My Got in heaven, you give me the big panic, you naughty boy.”
“I’ve been waiting over half an hour. I’m not the only one. We’ve seen nobody.”
Titiana rolled her eyes. “My Got. Staff what I pay for – where they be now?” She stretched herself and arched her back, causing her unfettered chattels to struggle in an attempt to break free. It was touch and go what was going to pop out first, her worldly goods or Aris’s eyes. She gave a huge yawn and relaxed, releasing the tension. “I vos asleep. I am very busy all night long. Men they come – they go. I exhausted.” She sashayed slowly towards him. “My great big softy. Vot you do here looking for your Titiana,” and she waved her finger at him. “As if I do not know, yes?” She looked at her diamante wristwatch. ”I hef twenty minutes before my next man. I can squeeze you in me now if you like my darlink. How about it, yes?”
Aristotle didn’t need asking twice.
As he drove back to the village he thought about what Titiana had said. Maybe this was a way to make some money. Not only that, it would give him plenty of kudos in the village too.
The Majestic Mer was a slight misnomer. It was neither very majestic, nor by the sea. However, it was a well run hotel which attracted a lot of repeat business from year to year. Owned by the Tasouganous family; the father, mother and two sons were all involved. However, Giannis, the younger son was the black sheep of the family. Arrogant and lazy, he felt the hotel’s success was solely down to his sparkling personality when meeting and greeting holidaymakers. It was his persona alone that brought back custom. Giannis’ idea of welcoming new arrivals was to give every female over the age of eighteen, and below fifty five a silky smooth welcome. A dazzling smile, a deep soul searching stare and a tactile hand on an arm, or fingers running down the back and most women he targeted appeared to be putty in Giannis’ hand. On holiday, away from home, it was another world where you could enjoy yourself free from any inhibition and nobody back home would ever know. Basically the man would shag anything that moved at the expense of anything or anyone.
Consequently, through his endless list of dalliances, some kept below the radar but many above it, there came a few complaints – or more often than not jealous asides as weekly guests mingled with fortnightlies and those caught between Giannis’ cross hairs were dropped in favour of new targets just arriving.
Matters came to a head over a certain Mrs Southern. She had arrived for two weeks – her husband following on for the last seven days. Mrs Southern was well past her fortieth sell by date, but nevertheless carried herself well in a curvy, seductive kind of way that would attract any moth to her flame. Jet black shoulder length hair, the elegant way she glided along on her wedge heels showing off those long legs to perfection, the always there scarlet lippie parting in a smile of dazzling white was a car crash waiting to happen.
On the second day of her stay she glided onto the pool terrace, a flimsy semi-transparent robe floating on the air to reveal a white bikini with a top that pushed up, separated and made every curve the epitome of attention. The click clack from bling gold sandals led her to a sun lounger beneath the shade of a palm; where she gracefully eased herself down to display all her assets for whosoever wished to look. From behind the ultra dark sunglasses she wore, her eyes could observe this way and that without anyone knowing. Various male bodies were scrutinised languishing by the pool, all discarded, failing to meet the criteria she set. At the far side of the pool she honed in on a thirty something man serving drinks – who unbeknown to her was also monitoring the flesh on display. She raised an arm languidly, catching the bar tender’s eye with a deft flick of a beckoning hand.
She already relished the tall dark haired man with the fitted shirt and tight trousers as he sauntered towards her, through the pod of beached whales soaking up the rays. She leant back on her elbows to display her curves to their utmost advantage and provocatively tossed her hair.
“Kali mera,” he smiled, his eyes unsubtly undressing the curvaceous body lying before him. Behind her glasses she waited for exactly the right moment to raise one leg and cross it over the other. The millisecond of intimate display was judged to perfection, drawing his eyes to savour the line where soft olive skin suggestively disappeared beneath the white of her bikini bottom. She removed her sun glasses and inserted the tip of the frame between her luscious bright red lips. She held his eyes with hers and huskily asked, “I would like Sex on the Beach,” and smiled.
Giannis was way too experienced to come back with a cringe worthy retort. “Of course madam, where would you like your drink served?”
Mrs Southern smiled slowly. “Wherever you feel would be most appropriate.”
Giannis returned her smile knowingly. Why land the catch now, when it was so much more pleasurable to take things slower.
The couple played the game, each one enjoying the pleasure of teasing the other, but both knowing with every certainty what was bound to happen. Within another two days all resolve had weakened and they succumbed. By day seven a je ne se quoi of excitement was added to the proceedings. It was the day Mr Southern was expected to join his wife on holiday – or to be more precise 7.30 pm – which allowed forty five minutes for baggage collection and transfer from the airport to the hotel. To squeeze every last minute drop of excitement, they planned to be out of Mrs Southern’s room by 7.00. Until then they were free to indulge themselves. Come the hour they were still besotted. Time and tide waits for no man and while Giannis’ tide had ebbed, with a little persuasion he could still rise to the occasion. At 7.15 the door was thrown open.
“The plane was early,” grinned a tall, fat man with a shaved head, his expression changing in an instant. “What the…?” Dropping his suitcase on the floor, he charged at the bed like a raging bull, grabbing Giannis by the hair and pulling him forcefully out of bed. Off balance, with arms flailing the air, Mr Southern drew back his fist and caught him a beauty on the chin, which floored Giannis, before the cuckolded husband began to savagely kick the naked body cowering at his feet.
Mrs Southern looked on; a Mona Lisa smile on her face and a swoon like expression. “What’s happening? What did he do,” she whispered plaintively.
The enraged shouts and cries from a beaten Giannis drew people to the open doorway. The hotel owner, Mr Tasouganous, alerted by the mayhem, pushed his way through, while attempting to move everyone away. He immediately summed up the situation and grabbed hold of Mr Southern and tried to restrain him from inflicting more damage on the body curled up on the tiled floor. Pushing the aggressive man away, he bent down and gently moved the hands covering the victim’s head. “Pana yeia,” he exclaimed when he saw it was Giannis.
The following day Giannis was summoned to his father’s office. He had been to hospital and apart from minor cuts and bruises the only damage had been to his dignity. Mr Tasouganous was seething. He was well aware of his son’s penchant for the ladies and to a certain extent was quietly proud of having seeded a man’s man. However, this latest matter could have had dire consequences for the hotel. It had cost him greatly to keep everything contained – especially with Mrs Southern’s claim that she knew nothing of the incident and believed her drink must have been drugged, saying she was happily married and that Giannis was a mere boy. Rape had been mentioned and money had exchanged grasping hands. Mr Tasouganous did wonder whether the whole thing had been a scam, but decided the hotel’s reputation was too important to gamble with and rather than fight, he had simply paid up.
However, after all said and done Giannis was still his son; he could not just disown him – whatever he had done. That was why he had decided to give him a nice BMW SUV and transfer into Giannis’ account a tidy sum of money sufficient to make his own way in the world – provided he had nothing more to do with the hotel and most definitely never ever to fraternise with its guests.
Giannis had never had to think about where his next meal was coming from, but now, all of a sudden he had to think for himself. No longer spoon fed he actually had to be a real adult and make something of himself. All he had ever known was dealing with holidaymakers. He knew what they wanted; he understood their love of the sun and the Greek people.
And then a night out with friends, drinking at a place called the Triandaffilo with much alcohol fuelled raucous laughter he was challenged to pay up and stay the night. Never one to walk away from a dare he was introduced to a lady called Titiana, who took him by the hand through a door at the back of the bar – much to the amusement of his friends. Giannis grinned and gave them a theatrical wink, waving as the door closed behind him.
His eyes followed the hypnotic sway of her hips as she led him into a pink coloured boudoir. Titiana turned to face him allowing his eyes to lock onto her plumptious treasure chest which she thrust out for maximum temptation as a decoy, while she looked into his eyes, to discover the real man. Having been a professional for many a long year she had come to recognise those she would and those she wouldn’t allow to succumb to her pleasures. This young man passed muster, although she saw beneath the ego and flash the cash bravado, someone who was a lost soul wanting to be cared for. She felt he needed to be mothered rather than be expected to perform as a stallion.
In the early hours Titiana lay awake, listening to the exhausted but satisfied snoring beside her, which softly floated rhythmically on the warm night air. It made her smile, the sign of a job well done. She considered what he had revealed and the advice she had given him. In the morning she would make a few phone calls. She could see that if she brought the pieces of jig saw together, there would be a nice commission to be earned. However, there was one final missing piece. It wouldn’t be found here on Mynos, the place was far too parochial. She needed to set her net further afield.
The man sat in the Grand Bretagne’s famous Alexander’s Bar. The landmark luxury hotel overlooking Syntagma Square in Athens, has been a focal point of the city for nearly one hundred and fifty years. The Bar exuded a club atmosphere with plush, comfortable leather chairs and famous polished wooden bar, behind which hung a rare 18th century tapestry depicting Alexander the Great. Alexander’s is recognised as being one of the world’s best bars.
Settling back in his club chair with some difficulty the man winced. He was big, nearly six six and weighed in at over twenty five stone. His small bird like mouth was out of proportion to the round face and chins, that completely masked his neck, yet there was an alert sharpness in his eyes, taking in his surroundings and monitoring every person. He clicked his fingers. Within seconds a waiter arrived at his shoulder.
“I understand you carry some good single malts?”
“We do sir. We have the extremely rare Macallan series of 1937, 1940, 1946, 1952, 1969 and 1973 sir.”
“Give me a shot of the 1952,” said the big man as if he was buying a bottle of Lidl’s finest. “Oh…”
The waiter turned enquiringly.
“I’ll take that with a Sprite.”
“Very good sir,” said the waiter, keeping a completely professional face, but beneath shuddering at the man’s sheer lack of appreciation for such vintage nectar as an actual Macallan 1952.
Within moments he had returned with the drinks on a silver salver, and almost winced as he poured Sprite over the rare malt. The big man smiled knowingly. His attitude was, I can afford it so what the hell? Just then across the room the concierge pointed over to where he was sitting and two men in suits walked over.
“Mr Newborn,” enquired one, a middle aged man, as fat as a stick insect with a deathly gaunt face and swept back thinning black hair. “My name is Michaelis Stathaki, lawyer for my client here,” and indicated the man beside him.
“Mr Newborn, my name is Giannis Tasouganous,” and the younger man, smartly suited and booted extended his hand.
Newborn eyed the two men as they sat down opposite. He dismissed the lawyer as lightweight, probably easily bought off. The younger man appeared to be all top show, caring more about his appearance than having any commercial ability. He smiled to himself. There was a deal to be done here.
It was another groundhog day in paradise as Stelios and Giorgos made themselves as comfortable as they could on the tired wicker chairs beneath the tamarind tree. “Where’s Aris’,” enquired Stelios passing one cup of Greek coffee to his friend and setting a third to the empty place beside them. “He’s usually always the first one here for a free coffee and a raki.”
They both sat whiling away the time in a comfortable silence.
“It’s hard to imagine nobody living here isn’t it,” sighed Giorgos? “What do you think will happen when we’re all gone?”
Stelios shook his head. “Remember Demistokles’ old house after he died? Within ten years the roof had caved in, the doors and windows had rotted away and one of the stone walls had collapsed. Give it another ten years and the place will just be an overgrown pile of rubble. It will be as if nothing existed”
They each noisily sipped at their coffees with all the rampant sucking power of a Dyson.
“We ought to do something. It would be a great shame for Episkopi to disappear. There are a lot of memories here,” said Stelios.
Giorgos nodded. “So what do we do? What can we do? I don’t know.”
“I don’t have a clue either.”
The following silence was broken by the knocking torment of an engine on its last legs, excreting clouds of blue smoke from its rear end. The death rattle ceased, and the engine gave one last burp of fumes.
“I don’t know how Aris’ keeps that car going,” said Stelios shaking his head. “It’s like a pig sty on wheels, but not as luxurious. The only service that car has had in the last ten years has been a monthly squirt of twenty euros worth of petrol. The driver’s door is locked. If the car caught fire he’d go up in smoke.”
There was a lot of rocking and rolling of the car, as Aristotle struggled to make his way out of the driver’s seat and across to the passenger side, where he pushed his whole bodyweight against the wedged door. With a raucous screech of tormented metal he finally emerged wearing a large grin.
“You old malaka,” Where have you been,” called out Giorgos?
“That’s me to know and you to wonder,” he grinned, tapping the side of his nose. “Maybe, just maybe there’s life in the old dog yet if my plan works.”
“What plan,” his two friends asked in unison?
He ignored their question. “Did I ever tell you that joke?”
Stelios and Giorgos rolled their eyes and shook their heads, resigned to Aristotle telling them the joke they had heard a thousand times before – knowing, as always, Aristotle would laugh at his own joke, fit to bust.
“So, there’s this old man waiting for a bus, with a live turkey under his arm. Not having much money and fearful he would be charged a fare for the turkey, he stuffed the bird down his trousers. To be sure the bird wouldn’t suffocate, he undid his trouser buttons. On the bus he sat next to two women. Not interested in listening to their idle chatter he held up his newspaper to read. The ladies continued talking and one offered the other some nuts. Suddenly a swelling became apparent in the old man’s trousers, but he seemed oblivious to the fact as he continued to read. There was now a large bulge to be seen. One woman nudged the other and nodded towards the swelling. Both seemed extremely impressed. “Have a nut,” said one to the other, offering an outstretched hand. Before she could take one, a rigid wrinkly neck shot out, pecked a nut and vanished back into the trousers. The women did a double take and looked at each other with eyes agog. Finally one stammered, “I know men’s paraphernalia comes in all shapes and sizes, but that’s the first time I’ve ever seen one that can pick up a nut!”
The Mynos Series encompasses traditional village life in Greece and the interaction of expats buying a home to live in Episkopi. There’s a story behind every person who moves to the village and with each book you’ll discover their life experiences and discover how and why they made their move to a place in the sun.
You’ve read this prequel, which sets the scene to what happens next. Now buy the first in the Mynos Series and discover how the village humorously went about bringing itself back to life.
Caught with their pants down – first in the Mynos Series – £1.99
Episkopi on the Greek island of Mynos is slowly dying; most of its inhabitants are simply waiting for God, until the gift of a Pandora’s Box is opened which changes this peaceful Aegean idyll forever. Who would have believed it? An old codgers’ private gentleman’s club is secretly launched, but the grumpy old men are caught with their pants down when affronted wives find out and wreak revenge in a ruse which strips their men of all dignity. However, putting their differences aside and all pulling together the village inadvertently comes up with a money spinner of an idea. But, how will the profits best be spent? How does a dying village resurrect itself? Three village seniors not yet past their sell by date, are selected, taken in hand, trained and schooled to within an inch of their love lives, to find potential wives of child bearing age. However, one grumpy old man has an idea and becomes a millionaire bringing with it new people to live in the village.
Breaking new ground, the first arrivals have gone through life’s hoops, jumping over hurdles and breaking down barriers before becoming the first aliens in the village.
No we mustn’t…! – second in the Mynos Series – £1.99
Kevin bumps into Rita and they begin an affair. She wants commitment, he tries to have his cake and eat it, until the balloon goes up and they get found out. They leave their spouses and embark on a new life together, but their romance is not exactly a bed of roses. All too soon their love nest is filled to bursting point. His dog arrives, so does her daughter, his son and latest squeeze, his invalid mother, as well as his pregnant daughter – all living under the same roof. Something has to give – and it does. After a romantic holiday away, Kevin and Rita become besotted with Mynos – and after a myriad of amusing mishaps, trials and tribulations, they leave their life’s baggage behind in the UK and get up and go to live in Episkopi. Are they lambs to the slaughter, or just living the dream?
If you are lusting after Greece in books, then here is the beginning of a Greek village series – Greek fiction that is real laugh out loud comedy. Episkopi is a Greek village, waiting for God, which sets the scene on what happens next. Discover how the village humorously goes about bringing itself back to life. The Mynos Series encompasses traditional village life in Greece and the interaction of expats buying a home to live there. There’s a story behind every person who moves to the village and with each book you’ll discover their life experiences and discover how and why they made their move to a place in the sun.