A Greek tragedy

Country Life Every Week - - Spectator -

for their fam­ily or dog. They told us where to find the owner: ‘She’s big, she’ll be wear­ing black.’ With this ac­cu­rate de­scrip­tion, we lo­cated our land­lady, who was hav­ing break­fast fur­ther along the road.

The room had sea views and we grate­fully ac­cepted the bed, de­spite it hav­ing a foot­board, which is usu­ally a deal breaker. The next day, we checked out, leav­ing our land­lady to a vo­cif­er­ous ar­gu­ment with a man about her tax bill—a con­ver­sa­tion that was, for some rea­son, con­ducted in English.

‘This is Byzan­tine!’ we heard her shout as we headed for the car. I’ve never seen eyes turn so quickly from wel­com­ing brown to flinty black. She was scary. The tax­man thought so, too.

Zam was de­vel­op­ing a proper cold, which he blamed on the two women he sat next to on the aero­plane, who had slept with tow­els over their heads, only lift­ing them to cough in his di­rec­tion.

I sat next to a young cou­ple. She said ‘happy birth­day’ to him at mid­night, but that didn’t make her any more like­able. She told him he couldn’t have some of her wa­ter, that he should have brought his own, and she tilted the screen into which they were both plugged so that he couldn’t see it without an awk­ward tilt of the neck. I en­vied her pil­low. I wish I’d told him to ditch her.

Savlon is a tal­is­man-like piece of kit

In the row in front, there was an­other cou­ple who hadn’t known each other long—he was over-at­ten­tive and cracked jokes, at which she laughed po­litely. Her ex­pres­sion as we stood to leave the plane said, quite clearly, ‘this is go­ing to be a long week’.

My chil­dren would have told me to stop star­ing and eaves­drop­ping, but they weren’t there, which is also why I’d fin­ished my book by the end of the first day. All most pe­cu­liar. But then things turned fa­mil­iar, when Zam re­alised he hadn’t packed Savlon. He didn’t need Savlon, but it’s a tal­is­man-like piece of kit without which he feels in­se­cure. Also, he loves a for­eign phar­macy.

There had been strikes on the ships, which meant no medicines had been de­liv­ered to the first two chemists we tried— they shook their heads sadly or, per­haps, un­com­pre­hend­ingly. We went to a third, where Zam con­tin­ued with the English in a for­eign ac­cent and where we bought a tube of some­thing that looks very like Anu­sol, but prob­a­bly isn’t.

On our re­turn, hav­ing fallen lock, stock and bar­rel in love with the place, I spoke to a friend who’s mov­ing to Greece for a year. So far, her only ac­com­mo­da­tion is a Rom­a­home, which she de­clares to be ‘no beauty, but cheap, damp-proof and re­li­able’.

I stared out of the win­dow at our English Oc­to­ber and won­dered if I envy her. I do, a lit­tle bit. ‘See you next year,’ I said, ‘and take some Savlon.’

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