My summer working in the family business on Corfu

The Tail End of the Donkey

“It is the tail end of the donkey”, Jimmy, my partner has said to me, as our Greek family business of beach bar, taverna, and mini market here on Corfu starts to slow down at the end of the summer every year.

It’s a Greek phrase, meaning obviously “the final phases”. In this case, the final phases of summer.

However, I’ve started to use it for all manner of things – I’ve been known to say it during all types of circumstance these days – such as during that post coital cigarette after sex (“It’s the tail end of the donkey” – spicing the blog up a bit here), when a song I like is about to finish on the radio (“It’s the tail end of the donkey”) and also even when the milk is running out from the fridge (“Oh, fuck, it’s the tail end of the donkey!”)

We are indeed, at the tail end of this year’s donkey summer. What a donkey it was. Boredom, boredom, worry, fear, lettuces and cucumbers, hangings from balconies, boredom, fights, collapsing chairs, economic crises, ranting, raving, tears, laughter, boredom again, missing ice cubes, plastic bags worn on heads without acknowledgement, troops of Italians and Germans, forty five degree heat, underpay, missing water bottles, too much bleach… (Haven’t blogged about that one yet – bleach will never mean the same to me again after living here – it’s a mother in law thing).

The rain has finally come once or twice, in the form of fantastic storms after some of the hottest days I remember here on the island for the thirteen years I have spent summers and years here. (Costas, the waiter from the restaurant was getting particularly randy before the rain hit, like he was on heat, randomly targeting any girl in a bikini to come and look at if not partake of our ice creams down in the bar – some might have called it harassment, technically it was, but I found it amusing because I know how much he’s been through).

So yes, the storms hit, and with them gave great relief.

All staff have now left but for the following…

Nicky (the ever slave), Prokopis (my brother in law), Jimmy (my partner) (of course), Chrisanthi on sandwiches just for a few days more, and someone else…. oh, yeah, ME!
(I am helping Jimmy out until I leave the country very soon with Angelo my son to England, hopefully for him to come later).

Had a couple of somewhat amusing post storm experiences now that things are quieter, Jimmy has calmed down, and we can play a bit in the bar…

One goes like this –
About two years ago whenever I went to the toilet, I kept wondering where the toilet paper was every time, every day, for about a week. Finally I asked Jimmy, after realising that every time I had wondered, he had served me only some sheets… “Jimmy, are you hiding the toilet paper?”
He finally confirmed to me that he had been. He had been RATIONING ME, for the reason, and may I quote, “that I use too much”. How far can one man take an economic crisis? Rationing toilet paper, hiding it? How mad can it get? How tight are we?

The other day I took my revenge while working down at the bar.
I took the opportunity, (while there were no customers and we were much bored) to take one of those giant kitchen paper rolls that resemble giant toilet rolls up the hill to the restaurant, and roll it down the hill (while hiding myself), arriving seemingly randomly from the bar point of view, until it unravelled and stopped past the bar near to the beach. It was like one of those Andrex golden retriever puppy toilet paper ads on helium. (That may only make sense if you’re British).

Nonetheless, when I could hear from a distance both Jimmy and bar staff pissing themselves, I called out from above “CONSIDER IT MY TOILET ROLL TAX INSTEAD OF TIPS!”

Funny thing is, the next day I noticed that Jimmy had indeed collected the unrolled kitchen towel and was still intending to use it.

The tail of the toilet paper is upon us.

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Food and chinese pork balls

I’m so sick of my mother in law’s cooking. Ungrateful me.

(Read – old horse meats of leather beaten and flattened to within an inch of their life defined as “steak” doused in oil and oregano – (a dutch friend did once describe the steaks here as “old shoes”), sorry, I’m getting on a rant)… I’m so sick of the food that I am actually starting to crave those “bounce off the walls” sweet and sour pork balls that get soaked in a luminous pink sauce from any dodgy chinese takeaway.

Oh yeah, Greek cooking, they say… the Mediterranean diet. Please don’t get me wrong, the food can be great. OOOh, I’m longing for some tzatziki, and moussaka, and that meze business they do… “Have you heard of fasolatha? I hear it’s just to die for…! (bean soup)”.

Well trust me, I have an old saying – “Too much of any one thing will drive you mental” (I am, yes it’s true, a literary genius). That can mean weather, in laws, partners, children, work, and in my current rant, food…

I am hanging for some good old fish and chips and mushy peas. What am I saying? I never even liked fish and chips and mushy peas. I always, after some wonderful pub crawl in my twenties, always took a batter in sausage or a steak and kidney pie. It doesn’t matter. I would have it all right now. (A friend actually posted a picture of fish and chips on facebook the otherday, I thought “You Bastard”, are you trying to kill me here?”). Or, what about a Sunday roast? OOh, my step Mum makes the BEST. Sorry I’m salivating. That cauliflower cheese….

Simple fact is, not only does the “simple fare” tempt me, I would also murder any food from any other country than my mother in law’s kitchen right now. Give me Thai, Vietnamese, fricking sawdust from Mexico. Let alone anything more sophisticated… Oysters in soho with champagne (Khalid, you know who you are).

We are eating so much of my mother in law’s food because we have no choice. “Cook yourself!” I hear you say, “ungrateful!” I hear you holler, “disrespectful!” I hear you think under your blog receptive breaths…

We have no choice because this is where we are at. No one has any choice, within euros, but to return to the family for food, help, and shelter. This is the dictation of these economic times. I cannot cook because we cannot buy food for the cupboards. We have to eat from the restaurant, or… we don’t eat.

So leather shoes it is…

(Get out those violins, I know it could be worse, africa bla bla, don’t beat me up)…

Jamie Oliver, as irritating as he can be, appears on telly here. It looks really good.

I’ll be back in England soon. I’ll be happily grabbing me a sausage roll or five (tight budget) from Gregg’s bakers. I might even kiss the girl behind the counter as I tuck in.

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Victoria’s secret, job interviews, and air conditioning

Times are tight, sure. Times are stretched here on Corfu. Everyone is wrangling with the other, no one is nice. I have been living with my Big Fat Pelekas Family for too many years. Perhaps it is time to go…

However, when your mother in law calls you to ask this, amidst the madness, it’s bound to put a smile on anyone’s face…

Bring bring…
“Aah, Looby, two things.”
“Yes, Maria?”
“First, please don’t leave, you have nice job place for teaching, see the woman tonight…”
“OK, Maria” (I did do that, more later)
“Second, will you find number for me from interweb?”
“What number?”
“Victoria Secret. Victoria Secret. Will you remember? I need a number for Victoria Secret”
Me, (holding it in) “Of course, Maria, I’ll do what I can.”

On what planet has someone told Maria that she should get in touch with Victoria’s Secret underwear? And whose it for? Yannis? I daren’t imagine the scene… oh yes I do…

MARIA – “Yanni, forget me doing the washing up, I’ve got something to show you…”
YANNIS – (sniff, rub of nose) – “Not now, I’m watching the news.”
MARIA – “But Yanni, look at me, I have crotchless panties, they were from the special division of Victoria Secret…”
Yannis – “OOh, Maria, that makes everything different..”

Oh god, I’m making myself ill. I must stop.

Apparently, Jimmy is an angel (everyone tells me so). Now, with current plans to leave for the UK for winter at least, (he is on side for this it seems), he is understandably desperate to make us stay. To this end, he (and his mother), now that summer be a closing, are trying to find me work. This is where I refer back to the job front issue of the prior conversation.

I went for a teaching job interview. Mostly to pay lip service to Jimmy and his mother.
For a job I didn’t want. Because I want to leave.
I was very tempted to turn up with my hair in curlers and say things like “I fucking hate kids”, “Yeah, alright I’ll do it, but you better pay me well”, and “I’m lazy, get over it.”

I didn’t do that. I was most respectful. I had a wonderful conversation with a very professional lady who couldn’t offer me enough money or hours, but who liked me a lot.

Turns out, that with my blase attitude in describing my experience, that I may in fact be a highly desirable employee. (Even though I was wearing hot pants and sunglasses on my head, she seemed to think so.)

Also turns out, that for the two years I was teaching here, I was paid 50% what I should have been. Welcome to Greece.

I, this time, will leave you with this…

Whenever we drive into town in the car, Jimmy puts on the heating as the car slows down. It’s a rush of heat just as we are looking for parking (it takes a long time in Corfu town). I have asked him again and again why he does this. The logic is…

“That it cools the car down.”

If ever I ask to put the Air Con on, he says, no, that it will heat the car up, and that “we’ve had enough of that”. I reply with “So we’ve had enough pleasure?”.

Any takers on this? Is he right? I’m doubting myself.

Again, welcome to Greece.