My summer working in the family business on Corfu

International Breaking News

Mini market news seems to have gone global – Either that, or I need reading glasses. Look what I read, almost word for word, in a National UK paper yesterday.

Monday 18th June 2012

Mini Market on a Knife Edge in poll chaos.

Election stalemate leaves rescue deal for the Looby in doubt. (Finally, I get some attention!)

Europe’s economic problems deepened last night as family negotiations ended in stalemate. Early indications suggested the traditional centre-right Parent party (Maria and Yannis I presume) which wants to maintain the status quo, had a narrow lead over the extreme anti austerity Next Generation party. (Headed by Prokopis mainly, though not stated here.) Neither side can form a government, holding out the prospect of days of chaos as either try to cobble together a coalition. (There was a big fight on Sunday about hours and responsibility, which is what must be being referred to here.)

Angela Merkel (good lord, even she’s getting involved) is also being pressed to agree a lasting deal to shore up the Loobyzone. (That would be me I suppose.)

Looby has been dependent on more than 190 billion pounds of rescue sofas since May 1998, after sky high mates rates left her locked out of the international markets following years of profligate spending and falsifying financial data. (That’s a bit rich, I might sue them for printing that.)

In a speech at the G20 summit of world leaders in Mexico today, (oooh, truly global!) David Cameron will repeat his warnings that Loobyzone friends and family must make sacrifices if they want their Looby to survive. (I’m quite touched that the Prime Minister has recognised my mini market plight in such a public way.)

“The reality is that there are a set of things that the Loobyzone friends and family (the LFF) need to do, and it’s up to the LFF whether they are prepared to make the sacrifices these entail,” the Prime Minister will say. (David putting on the pressure!)

“The challenge is one of psychological will to work in the mini market as much as economics. Of course these things are difficult to do. The alternatives to action that creates a more verbally coherent Loobyzone, are either a perpetual stagnation, or a break up of the family business caused by a failure to address underlying psychological and economic mini market fundamentals that would have financial consequences that would badly damage the world economy, including Britain.” (Lot of political mumbo jumbo here,  but I think David’s suggesting that I f I can’t make it in the mini market, I may well have to resort to relying on staying on international sofas again for awhile, perhaps including in Britain?)

It’s just all been about me in the papers. I also read this (without reading glasses) in the gossip column-

She was dressed in her least regal outfit of underwear and flip flops, but when the Duchess of Glyfada joined a group of schoolchildren on the beach there was only one thing they wanted to know: What was it like to be a princess? As the group chatted around a sandcastle, it fell to Stavros Papadopoulos to ask the question. “She said it was very nice,” the eight year old said afterwards. “She said Jimmy (the Duke of Glyfada) was very sweet and kind and spoiled her with toasted sandwiches.”

Despite the nature of the occasion, Looby was as stylish as ever. Her floral patterned flip flops cost just under 3 pounds and were found in Savers second hand shop on Sydney Road, Melbourne. Her underwear, however, were donated by friends at Christmas.


Che Guevara, eat your heart out!

I’m a small time revolutionary. Che Guevara of the mini market. Small time, I must emphasise.

Yannis came to me as I was sitting at the “staff” table in the corner of the mini market (amusing in it’s own right as it’s generally only me), during one of the sitting periods of my working day.

He had some advice. It took about fifteen minutes, simply to explain that the particular chair I was sitting in was not the best chair from which to have an overall view of the mini market. Now I will concede he had a point. However, he then went on to demonstrate physically the advantages and disadvantages of each chair around the Lipton sponsored plastic table (not a plug, not yet, otherwise I might say “the deliciously refreshing Lipton Iced tea sponsored plastic table”). I accepted his advice graciously, after having tried out the positions for myself, at his insistence. Turns out the one in the corner is the best, something that he couldn’t have just said to me simply enough. Or indeed, let me deduce for myself.

So let me get this straight. I have consented to return from Australia, a land of blossoming opportunity comparatively. I have finally given in to the pressures of working with the family, which I have avoided for years. I have then said that I will work in the least desirable part of said family business, as no-one else wants to do it (Yannis included). And after all that, drumroll please, I’M SITTING IN THE WRONG CHAIR.

After Yannis left, and I was positioned in the right chair, I got up and moved back to the wrong one. (There had been no customers during all these shenanigans.) So, Che Guevara, you ain’t got nothing on me. I’m conducting my own mini protest to the dictatorship right here. To no audience but blog readers. BY CHAIR POSITION.

Should anyone be in the circumstance to come down to Glyfada Beach for a visit and find a girl in the corner seat of the mini market with a plastic bag on her head and a glued broom to hand, please feel free to call out, alla Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing – “NOBODY PUTS LOOBY IN THE CORNER!”

Thought for the day –

Emilia came to me and said there were no more small bottles of water, in the fridge or in the storage room. She checked. She told Maria. Maria said yes there were. She said no, there weren’t. Maria said yes there were. Emilia thought perhaps she had been mistaken. I went and checked. There weren’t any small bottles of water. I came back to Maria and confirmed that there weren’t. She still said there were. Later, Emilia, a little stressed out by this (I care a lot less) tried to talk to Jimmy about the lack of small water bottles. It went like this –

EMILIA – Jimmy, please, there are no small water bottles left. No-one believes us.

JIMMY (after much heavy thinking) – How many are missing?



Carrier bags, Aladdin and TV cables

When your mother in law walks around the family restaurant serving customers with a yellow carrier bag tied around her head, you might be tempted to comment, or at least observe that she is dying her hair (despite the inappropriateness of the context). As she consistently denies that she dyes her hair, commenting is somewhat tricky. So the bag goes unacknowledged. Which is just bizarre.

“Good morning Maria. Nice bag.”

“What bag?”

Like I’m the crazy one.

Perhaps this should have been the very moment when it occurred the other day that I could have turned her tired catchphrase round at her.

“Aah, yellow. THIS is your colour.”

Or indeed, perhaps I should just turn up to the mini market with my own plastic bag around my head, and see who comments. The sad irony indeed is that it would probably provide proof of my insanity and unworthiness due to being a foreign wife. To which I might be tempted to say –

“Yes, but it’s my colour.”

Day five of working in the mini market. Maria’s wearing bags on her head, tourism is dire, Yannis is moaning and griping, the fridge still isn’t on in the restaurant (I deduced it is working but switched off to save money – warm beers all round then). I’ve gotten to know the job pretty fast as it is hardly astrophysics. I get there in the morning, open up the garage like doors, pull all the stuff on stands out into the open veranda part (variety of things like postcards, hats, bags, cheap jewellery, towels, flip flops, water gear, inside the shop are snacks and various bits and bobs), make sure a few things are in order, then I sit. And sit. A friend called two days ago and commented that a mutual friend she was with had just jogged off down the beach after swimming for miles out to sea. I told former friend that in that space of time I had got up, moved a few metres, sat down again, and completed a Sudoku puzzle, and smoked about three cigarettes. I’m already large, I’m going to be a gargantuan ashtray if this keeps up, and there’s an endless supply of Haribo. I actually know the supplier. There’s hardly a sound but that of the ice cream fridges, and we are occasionally disturbed by Maria or Yannis having a heart attack about something or other, or indeed, a customer. Rude, if you ask me. Actually the truth is that by the time anyone comes into the shop I practically launch myself on them with questions about what it’s “like out there” and their entire lives. I read. And talk to Prokopis, who is however slowly migrating down to the bar to work with Jimmy, and Emilia. Who’s Emilia? This brings me to the much quicker part two of Who’s Who in the Zoo?.

Emilia – Started the same day as me, she’s a local who has been acquainted with the family for years but never worked with them. We will be sharing the mini market job together, overlapping in the middle of the day. She’s outspoken, little older than me, good sense of humour. Being new, she tends to ask ridiculously stupid questions like “When do we stay open til?”, “Where is Yannis?” and “Why?”, to which the standard reply (as you too are learning) to all such matters is “Who knows?”. She made the wonderful observation that the equals button on the calculator doesn’t work, which if the brand is owned nationwide could go someway to explaining the national debt.

Kitchen Staff –

Nicky – Has worked with Maria for a few years now, tirelessly. General dogsbody, she does a bit of everything. A simple woman, very sweet. Thick Albanian accent which makes her hard to understand sometimes. Her definition of burning the candle at both ends is doing a day job and a night job.

Magda – new cook. A big gruff lady. Being new, asks those Emilia like questions. I like her. We’ll see. It can be dangerous to assume too much logical thinking round here. I’ve seen her type before. Could be dead cook walking. If it weren’t for the economic crisis I’d give her a month max before walking. Has she got what it takes? Is she enough loco loco?

Down at the Bar with Jimmy –

Anna – Barmaid, waitress. I am a big fan. Half English, half Greek she’s probably one of my closest allies and a good friend. She is also great friends with Sofia and Prokopis. This is her third year here, so- she gets it. We have a good laugh about the goings on. She gets my sense of humour too – like the time I burst into the kitchen one morning after a summer of relentless monotony and insanity, singing “A whole new World” from Aladdin. She thinks the family is bonkers too.

Chrysanthi – Makes the sandwiches and snacks for the bar. Been here a few years too. Friendly and we get on well. Has the occasional tantrum when it gets busy, or dealing with difficult tourists, but a good worker.

That’s it for now. More staff will come as it gets busier. If it gets busier. Today, let me leave you with this thought.

Jimmy wants to put a television down at the bar to play sports this summer. (The euro, Olympics, big sport year). I think it’s a great idea. It doesn’t cost us anything, and it may attract people. Yannis, however, disagrees, primarily because he simply can’t be bothered to connect the cables. Effort is required, and he would rather be playing his instrument in his room I imagine. I remember this discussion four years ago. It didn’t happen then. This year however, Yannis, cussing and shouting that it’s a bad idea, is actually doing it. But ONLY to prove that it’s a bad idea. So when the year goes badly (as times dictate), it will most probably be due to Jimmy pushing so hard to get that TV in. He wins again! He scores! Hear the crowd roar!

“I can open your eyes
Take you wonder by wonder
Over, sideways and under
On a magic carpet ride

A whole new world
A new fantastic point of view
No one to tell us no
Or where to go
Or say we’re only dreaming

A whole new world
Don’t you dare close your eyes
A hundred thousand things to see
Hold your breath – it gets better
I’m like a shooting star
I’ve come so far
I can’t go back to where I used to be”


Who’s who in the Zoo

Ok, so let’s get down to the nitty gritty. Who is exactly who in the Golden Beach bar/taverna/mini market/ car park Zoo…. Bear with me, this is gonna be a long blog, but it’ll be worth it to read through the cast of players for an idea of the whole world and future reference.


We’ll start with me.

Looby – An English Australian, born in UK but mostly raised in Canberra, made it back to the UK to train as an actor, kept coming on holiday to Corfu while “resting”. Five years ago was resting so much I came and stayed, after getting together with  Jimmy (Dimitris in Greek) on the second day of my holiday and was pregnant six months later (due to a lot of recreational resting at the time). We have a son Angelo who is nearly four. He’s gorgeous, bright and rather blonde (topic of much speculation for locals, as my status as a foreign wife includes much suspicion about my trustworthiness, blonde implying other father from dark Jimmy). So much for that goal of making my way to South America. I have worked as a teacher here (EFL), and managed to still do some acting. Just spent six months with partner and child in Australia, trying to convince Jimmy there is a bigger and brighter world out there beyond poverty, slave driving in laws and daily suffering. Well, that went well. We’re back. Apparently there are more levels of suffering not quite reached yet. (They love to suffer, the Greeks, don’t believe the news, they’re lapping it up). I’m loud, very forthcoming, not particularly domestic, and I dress mostly like a bag lady and always in flat unsparkly shoes (almost verbatim, not my words). I invite you to imagine how well I’ve gone down here then in a world catered for diamante press ons and a permanent broom to hand. More info regarding moi will unfold as we go on.

Jimmy – Other half. Mostly meek and gentle, very sweet and everyone pretty much likes him. Something to be said though for his stubbornness and revelling in being a martyr. Jimmy enjoys fast moving motor vehicles, trying to keep everyone happy, under valuing himself, working in all weather conditions, finding the long way round to problem solving, and crochet. Cut the crochet. Cannot sit down.  A total dag, and something of an old man, he is largely adorable. He works down at the bar, the best working part of the family business. Aquarius with scorpio rising.

Prokopis – His younger brother. A very likable chap, always friendly and accommodating. More outspoken than Jimmy especially to his parents. Has been running the mini market for many years and will train me up. We get on well. As I do with his wife, Sofia. They have a little boy, Makis. Neither of our sons are named after the father in law, (Jimmy and Prokopis’ Dad, Yannis), which is tradition. There are big reasons which I may get into later. This has bonded us well.

Maria – The mother, my mother in law. In a word, mental. Means well and seems to profess her best interests for her boys, her grandchildren, her daughters in law, the cat down the street. But not her husband, Yannis – “my life with him is a big black dog”. Runs the restaurant upstairs, a tired and not very busy place stuck in the eighties. Often can be very kind. Is, however, all over the shop. Literally, all over the shop. Where she starts about twenty five mini tasks and doesn’t quite finish one, you will ask where she is and for some reason unbeknownst to anyone she’s suddenly watering the plants when someone wants a bill. I’m not the only one to think she’s losing it. She’s stubborn like I’ve never known, really overpowering and set in her ways. She has had a hard life which makes me sympathise, but she revels in it in a way (that suffering thing). She repeats herself incessantly, “you look so pretty, this is your colour, oh this colour it is for you, so pretty ad nauseum”. Is never quite direct, doesn’t listen at all in any language – She has taken to heart her mantra about Yannis – “in one ear, out the other”. Cares a lot about what the neighbours think – once she told me that the way I could truly help the family in a difficult time was “please Looby, wear nice shoes”. Always looking for ways to smile at the same time as save a euro. Hey, it’s an economic crisis. I get it. Full of catchphrases. An ally sometimes, mostly completely contradictory, and, well, mental. Possible self lobotomy relating to marriage to-

Yannis – The father, father in law. The Don Corleone. The Overseer. (Overseeing requires less effort than work). A bazouki player from another village who met Maria, who as a single child had all of the land at the beach where the business is, and married her. Loves to either play bazouki, or play you CD’s of himself playing the bazouki. Has interesting affectation of sniffing a lot and rubbing his nose as per cocaine use, generally while smoking a cigarette, but I’m pretty sure it’s only a twitch. Mostly interested in the sound of his own voice (or bazouki), what the neighbours think of him, and thwarting logical conversation to justify his own laziness and arrogance- “No, it is no good to make new sign. People will want to come to the place”. Judgemental. Doesn’t listen, prefers to speak in monologue rather than dialogue.  Occasionally I feel sorry for him for finding himself as a frustrated musician in hospitality , until the next time we have a monstrous fight. We’re civil at the moment. It will not stay like this.

Marika – Yanni’s older sister.  Mental times ten. Appears about once a week down at the beach and brings a whole new world of crazy that makes Maria seem heavenly. DOES NOT STOP TALKING, mostly critical, not a word of English (which gives me licence to say things to her knowing they won’t be understood), slightly boss eyed.  We suspect she’s still a virgin at 65. Hyper possessive over Angelo and his well being, generally to criticise me, she once tried to get a guest spot on a Greek national TV blind date show. Feel sorry for her, but is absolutely unbearable. Small minded, mad, judgemental and thinks I’m a foreign cliché incapable wife without asking me anything ever about myself or my life (as per yannis and maria largely).

Ok, that’s the basic family. The other staff working and extras I will get to next time (part two of who’s who in the Zoo).

Started work in the mini market 2 days ago. So many stories to tell already which will be better set in context after you know the players. I will however leave you with this for now-

ME – “Maria, is this fridge working, or is it broken, or just switched off?”

MARIA (boss) – “Who knows? “