“Marvellous things happen to one in Greece – marvellous good things which can happen to one nowhere else on earth” Henry Miller – ‘The Colossus of Maroussi’
Every morning was a challenge rather similar I imagine to a US Navy SEALs advanced level assault course because I felt obliged to organise early manoeuvres and when everyone had left the rooms to give them a tidy and leave them in some sort of reasonable shape before the cleaners moved in.
Sally and the girls had rearranged their room in the way that they like it – rather like Belgium after the German Panzer division had passed through on the way to France in 1939 and this took some time to make presentable so generally I waited for everyone to leave for the beach, do a bit of tidying up and then have fifteen minutes with a cup of tea and sometimes, depending on how much work I had had to do, thirty minutes with two!
This particular morning I took the extended option.
There are a lot of steps at the Adonis and Asonitis Apartments so the sensible route to ground level is by the lift (elevator) so rather than tackle the challenging vertical concrete stairs my habit was to take the easy route. Today it was my job to bring with me the inflatable turtle so it was a doubly sensible alternative this morning.
We were on level four and I had to go to level minus one but somewhere between one and three the lift suddenly stopped and the lights all went out as though there was a sort of power failure. I waited a minute or two (actually, if I am being honest, only a second or two) and then I descended into frantic panic. I jabbed at the control buttons and it was then that I noticed that they were all damaged and caved in as though someone had attacked them with a lump hammer so I could only conclude that this sort of thing was a regular occurrence.
I waited a minute or two (actually only a second or two) and then pressed the alarm button which emitted a deafening screeching sound rather like someone having open heart surgery without an anaesthetic but still nothing happened and I started to contemplate a day stuck in a broken down lift and wondering how I was going to pass the time.
Stuck in a broken down lift with a turtle!
I had no mobile phone (probably wouldn’t have worked anyway) no water, no Mythos, no book to read, no knife and fork in case I was here for so long that I had to eat my green reptile companion and no weapon to defend myself with if it decided to try and eat me!
It was very hot and very humid stuck in the confines of a metal prison cell dangling from a cable and probably about to crash to the bottom in a nasty, messy accident.
I pressed the alarm several times, blamed the turtle for our predicament and looked for a hatch in the roof like you see in a James Bond movie but the situation was hopeless so I put the turtle in one corner and told it to leave things to me and had another attempt at operating the controls. Nothing, nothing, nothing but then a flicker of lights, a hum of air conditioning and a whirr of machinery as the lift returned to the top floor and the doors thankfully opened!
After that lucky escape I walked down the steps to the beach and at the poolside bar realised that I needed a Mythos. I found a table for turtle and me (after sharing a traumatic experience together we were bonding now) and went to the bar and ordered a glass of beer and a beaker of plankton.
I offered a fifty euro note in payment and then came across another Greek peculiarity. Shops, bars and restaurants have never got any change in the till. Hand over anything bigger than a twenty and they freeze in panic and look at you as though you are trying to pay in Spanish doubloons or you are a Martian passing by and offering to pay in Moon Tokens. If you don’t believe me next time in Greece take a look inside a cash till and all you will see is a couple of one cent coins, some disused drachma and a couple of rusty washers.
Anyway, we got the payment thing sorted out and I sat and enjoyed the Mythos and had ten minutes lad chat with the turtle and then left and made my way to the beach where everyone wondered why it had taken me so long to get there and completely refused to believe my (admittedly) unlikely broken lift story and accused me of just hanging around the bar while I continued to protest that I had been literally hanging around in a lift!
For the rest of the day we went through a familiar routine, swimming in the sea, riding on turtle while listening to the occasional drone of an outboard motor, the melodic flapping of pedalo paddle wheels and the gentle plop or rowing boat oars spearing the limpid sea before returning to the rooms and then a final swim in the pool before going out for evening meal.
At the next table tonight were a young couple who had probably been there some time judging by how much drink he had consumed and they worked their way through starters and main course and then just as the desserts arrived he did something completely foolish and produced a diamond ring and made a dramatic down on one knee proposal. I wanted to intervene and say NOOOOOO! Don’t do it! But it was all over in a flash, the offer made and accepted and they ate their baklava, drank the complimentary ouzo and disappeared into the night. Luckily I didn’t have turtle with me so I couldn’t make the same mistake!
I imagine that sometime early next morning the poor man woke with a thumping headache and hazy memory and looking over at this girlfriend would be consumed by the thought “What’s that bloody sparkly thing on her finger?”