My summer working in the family business on Corfu

Once Upon a Time in Pelekas

on July 5, 2012

Once Upon a Time in Pelekas…
Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, back when working in a mini market on Corfu in a dysfunctional Greek family was just a twinkle in the eye of my ambition, I was just a girl. A girl, standing in front of Hugh Grant. Asking him to love her. No, wait, that’s Julia Roberts in that god awful “Notting Hill”. Let’s rephrase. I was just a girl, standing in front of a Greek village boy, who was at the time eating five souvlaki pittas, asking him to tell her how he could eat so much. This was Jimmy, the son of the family I now work with, my future love, the father of my son to be. That night, I giggled in the face of his handsomeness, marvelled at his appetite, and flirted outrageously. He was having none of it. I arrogantly assumed he had to be gay, or have mental problems. I later suspected he was stoned.
Despite this, he was indeed interested in me, as I think time has proven. However, before there was a Jimmy and our son Angelo, before plastic bag wearing in laws and mini market mayhem, there was another great love of my life. The local village of Pelekas. I hold Pelekas responsible for everything.
In the summer of 2000, I was studying acting at a London drama school and appearing in one of the most dire productions of Shakespeare’s King Lear that anyone has had to be subjected to. We weren’t allowed to move our arms, and any expression was to be kept to a minimum. It only proved slightly entertaining in video playback on fast forward, as we looked like stormtroopers, with me in white as Princess Leia minus hair buns. Backstage with a friend, as she was about to go on to have her eyes “symbolically” gouged out as a female Gloucester, I said
“Jesus we need a holiday. After this shite’s over let’s go for a week of sea, sun, sex and sand somewhere.”
We came to Corfu. I had been here as a kid with my Mum, and I remembered the water. Aah, the water. Deep turquoise, vivid, purifying. I hadn’t been to Pelekas then though.
Arriving in the village with three girlfriends in the middle of the night, I remember getting out of the taxi in the square, looking around at the yellows and pinks, the lamplights, the church, and bars, and feeling something click inside of me. It was that feeling you get when you know your life is never quite going to be the same. The next day, very hungover, we walked down to Pelekas beach for the first time (the beach next to Glyfada, where I am working now). As we came round the corner and saw the sea for the first time, it took my breath away. This place I still call “The Spot”. The week that followed we met diverse, colourful, mad people, locals and tourists alike, drank, danced and laughed, swam, ate, drank and danced more, flirted with locals and tourists, slept little, and laughed more. I had never felt so alive in my life.
At the end of that week, much like Martin Luther King, though slightly less ambitious, I had a dream. That my friend and I were staying for the summer. Why to go back to London on our holidays from acting school? But how? An acquaintance, Chris, came to us the next day and asked us if we would like to work. We did, and we stayed for that summer. The village and its colourful madness had intoxicated me, and not just with alcohol. It had a spirit I had never before felt. I felt alive. The village, she is just like that Alanis Morrisette song. A bitch, a lover, you wouldn’t have her any other way.
Years past, and I kept coming back every summer. When I wasn’t here I dreamt about being here. When I was here, I was increasingly, year after year, distraught at the thought of leaving. This was no ordinary Greek village. It has a special magnetism, that I perhaps will never quite be able to put my finger on. (There is a whole new blog in the stories of those years.)
Pelekas slowly consumed my life, and I wanted her to. I fought with boyfriends from other places about coming here (“You love that village more than me”). More and more, my friends (and boyfriends) had an association with Pelekas. I brought my mother here in her last few years. I have some of her ashes buried at “The Spot” overlooking that vivid blue sea.
And sadly perhaps, as economics have dictated, tourism is nothing as it was. More and more, the village outwardly is losing the appeal it once had as a party place, rife with laughter and drama. It seems empty compared to days past. But if you listen, very carefully as the tumbleweed rolls past in the square, you can hear her still…
“Don’t listen to the bickering of locals, the moans of tourists, the politics, or the dissent. I am here, stunning as ever. Find me, and you will laugh like never before.”
On that note, I now have the Pelekas man, the Pelekas baby, the Pelekas family. I have had numerous Pelekas summer jobs. I have been baptised Greek Orthodox in Pelekas. I am entitled to be buried in the Pelekas cemetery.
And I work in the mini market with my Big Fat Pelekas Family.
Perhaps I should just have bought a t-shirt.

“I hate the world today
You’re so good to me, I know
But I can’t change
Tried to tell you
But you look at me like maybe I’m an angel underneath
Inncoent and sweet

Yesterday I cried
Most have been relieved to see the softer side
I can understand how you’d be so confused
I don’t envy you
I’m a little bit of everything
All rolled into one

I’m a bitch I’m a lover
I’m a child I’m a mother
I’m a sinner I’m a saint
I do not feel ashamed
I’m your hell I’m your dream
I’m nothing in between
You know, you wouldn’t want it any other way

So take me as I am
This may mean, you’ll have to be a stronger man
Rest assured that, when I start to make you nervous
And I’m going to extremes
Tomorrow I will change and today won’t mean a thing

I’m a bitch I’m a lover
I’m a child I’m a mother
I’m a sinner I’m a saint
I do not feel ashamed
I’m your hell I’m your dream
I’m nothing in between
You know, you wouldn’t want it any other way

I’m a bitch, I’m tease
I’m a goddess on my knees
When you’re hurt
When you suffer
I’m your angel undercover
I’ve been numb
I’m revived
Can’t say I’m not alive
You know I wouldn’t want it ANY other way”


9 responses to “Once Upon a Time in Pelekas

  1. “And I work in the mini market with my Big Fat Pelekas Family.” Please could this be the title of the book? And/or the show?

    Your ears should have been burning earlier today as there was much raving about your blog in this part of the world xx

  2. Sally says:

    What a great read can really relate to it, thank you.

  3. Alex Lloyd-Kapodistrias says:

    Incredible writing and piece. You bring Pelekas to life!

  4. Julia says:

    This is wonderful Looby, loving it!

  5. Nynke says:

    HA HA Burning that ticket back to England was a sign on the wall! 🙂

  6. rich head says:

    You Soundz az if youz iz truly turning Greek, yet between the linez, and from earlier blogz, youz wants to be somewhere else. A great story of the bondz between youz and the place, keepz it up!!
    P.S It was a Meredith Brooks song (1997), Alanis didn’t cover this until 2008

  7. suzanne says:

    Hahaha, girl, you can write!!!!!!!

  8. Bean says:

    Lovely, Loob, I’d be there if I could. For a swim and a beer, and an ice cream. Maybe not for any frozen fish though.

  9. Diane says:

    Looby, Looby, Great stuff! Keep writing and I’ll keep reading…… and hanging out at the end of the telephone waiting for that midnight call.

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