My summer working in the family business on Corfu

Carrier bags, Aladdin and TV cables

on June 7, 2012

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”


8 responses to “Carrier bags, Aladdin and TV cables

  1. Hilarious. For some reason the calculator thing tickled me especially…and the bag. I wonder if we could sponsor you to wear a bag?

  2. Perhaps I could! Which could turn into a form of advertising too. Different companies advertising on the bags….

  3. kate martin says:

    My first visit here! Very amusing, like your ‘clipped’ style of writing. Shall be subscribing, and reading more. Kate

  4. Mark Dickens says:

    You’re very, very funny Looby.


  5. chrissy says:

    Great stuff will be down for reality show this week x

  6. Louise Oakley says:

    Waaaaah!! This is so classic looby, brings it all back…

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