A Greek tragedy
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.’