Sunday, September 5, 2010

Living in Greece, Part 02

2nd Anniversary of Dad’s Death
Wednesday, 01 September

It’s now two days since we arrived and Demetrios hasn’t recovered yet from all the tension of that trip. But we have learned a thing or two (or six) about how to do it better another time. First rule of travel in the U.K.: NOT on a Bank Holiday or Bank Holiday weekend.

We found our flat here filthy as always, and I went through my usual conniptions about that. I leave it spotless every time, and it never is when we return. At least, this time, it was mostly just a matter of 14 months of dust all over everything. It wasn’t pistachio shells mixed with rat turds, as one time before. Or blood. It was just coffee spilled down the side of the refrigerator and splashed up on the tiles of the backsplash, and the tablecloth had a huge stain in the middle. The bathroom sink also had built-up soap scum. I don’t know why Christos still uses our flat, as he now lives in his own a mile away. Perhaps he has no air conditioning?

I didn’t even want to unpack until I had done at least some basic cleaning. So I’ve spent the last two days doing both, plus laundry.

It’s good to be back, even if we do have only one tiny bathroom that needs some finishing (well, okay, it also needs complete re-tiling, but that’s a long-term project, and meanwhile it’s, well, decent). There is much else that still needs doing, such as wooden floors re-sanded and refinished, walls and trim painted. We try to think instead of the improvements we have already made up to now: 12 major ones!

We’ve lost something amid all these improvements. We used to live virtually in the streets, at the mercy of weather and noise, because we had no choice but to keep open every window and every door, to catch any breeze we could. The life of this city is outdoors. It’s there people eat, there deliveries are made to shops, there musicians wander by hoping you’ll toss them a euro, there gypsies call out for your discarded items, there the teenagers gather to show off and to flirt, where cats fight and scream and mate, where women hang their laundry and men, not allowed to smoke in the house, come out to do it. We used to feel more a part of it all. We could see and hear what was happening in the streets below and on the balconies across the street, and follow the daily routine of various cats (and people). We could hear the clink of crockery as people prepared and ate meals, and could sniff the delicious aromas. But the double-glazing, though not yet complete, has cut down the noise, as has also the air conditioning. And the trees have grown a lot fuller and taller than they were, blocking most of our once-upon-a-time view.

In short, we now live indoors as much as outdoors. We now have less of a campsite and more of a real home. Not that we’d go back to it, but we loved that campsite! Well, the truth is, we can still have some of it, minus the views, any time we want it, by simply opening all the doors and windows.

But we’re here, that’s the main thing! We’re back in Greece, whose chief annoyance is that people totally improvise their lives and whose chief charm is that people totally improvise their lives. The sky is clear and blue, the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, all our windows and doors are open to the perfect air, and my laundry dries in half an hour or so, instead of in a day and a half in England.

Demetrios went off with Christos yesterday and bought us a television, our old one (as in 30 years old) having given up the ghost shortly before we left here last time. Prices are considerably depressed just now, so it was a bargain. It’s a lot like the television James lent us in England.

Christos helped us set it up. Then we looked through the owner’s manual for operating instructions. There were none. It is just assumed everybody knows how to operate a television set! How about instructions for working the remote, then? Nope, none. We do have a remote in America, but we never did learn how to do more than change channels and adjust the volume.  There must be tons more to learn.

Fortunately, it all seems pretty intuitive. We’ve even learned how to adjust the aspect ratio, for times when images seem too stretched out or too tall and skinny.

Demetrios’ project today was to find out why we have no hot water. (Did you notice the priority here, television the first day, hot water the second?) A plumber came and the problem turned out to be just one lever or dial or something that wasn’t set right. Problem solved. That’s good, as I had to take a cold shower yesterday. (In yesterday’s heat, a cold shower was a luxury!)

We had lunch in what used to be a favorite sandwich shop and realized, after we had already ordered, that the new owners are homosexuals and the place is no longer patronized much by straight people.

Now I’m off to the store to pick up a few basics; until now there hasn’t even been time to do that! We’ve only bought bread and butter and water. Oh, and last night we passed a fruit and vegetable stand and laid in some tomatoes and grapes and peaches.

Observation in a Cranky Mood

I know I am not entitled to feel cranky and there is no excuse for it, but I have, these past two days. You know how it is when we’re cranky; we look for complaints.

And I’ve found one. It occurr to me that the mobile phone has brought with it a whole new range of rude behaviors.

I’d post something entitled “Mobile Telephone Etiquette” with a sarcastic, snobby tone (imitating Miss Manners) but God’s looking out for me (and you): I’m tired to write it.


GretchenJoanna said...

There's no place like home. I loved your descriptions of what it is like to have the windows open to the community goings-on.

margaret said...

Yep, never travel in Blighty on a bank holiday. It's impossible even to guarantee a stress-free trip 40 miles from Cambridge to London let alone your amazingly brave trip. Looking forward to your descriptions of life in Greece which, of course, have a charm for me that England doesn't :)