greekfamilyminimarket

My summer working in the family business on Corfu

The Blackburn medal for Drama

Oops, I’m going to do one more – sorry about that “last goodbye”, I feel that I haven’t left this current blog with enough love and thanks – silly hippy me. Forgive the hippy shite to follow…

I “did” my last day yesterday down at the bar – jesus how long does this go on for…? I’ve been saying that for months – this is worse than chinese water torture. Trust me I’m writing this crap, I can’t think how it must be for you reading it…

Anyway I did. We were busy. Ironically in mid October, we were busy. It’s like all the Greeks came out to say goodbye to me. Without tipping of course. It was me, Jimmy and Nikos the waiter down at the bar. No sign of the parental in laws – thank god – but we did have the mid 60’s gab gabbing awful single childless aunts trying to continuously feed Angelo who was otherwise happily playing on the beach until they arrived. Any takers? They’re not on facebook, we believe they’re virgins though (tempting? I’ll arrange a tag – they do cook).

I have one week to departure. And, only finally now, after all the storms, am I feeling sad. I watched the sunset yesterday as we do everyday while serving the bastards who come down to see it (it’s pretty spectacular), in a new way…”It’s cold and wet and horrible in England,” I thought to myself, “lap it up while you have it…. there’s a reason you found yourself here…”.

Corfu has given me the best of me, amidst the worst. When in doubt, as clearly I am now, I want it to be made clear – this is my true home. She is England Ireland Scotland Wales (a skipping song from my youth), she is the harbour of your dreams, she offers you the vividness of innocence, and the corruption of your soul should you be willing (don’t let her, be strong). She is what you make her. But you cannot do it alone.

Now let me tell you the proper story of how I first came here.

Yes, 1986. It was my first time out of England. Yes, on a package holiday. Yes, it was trashy, it was Kavos (package hell nowadays) but it was early days then (hotels weren’t quite completed even when you were staying in them), I came with my Mum – my beautiful vibrant brassy Mum. I was nine. I played in the sand, a great experience for any British child them days, I watched my Mum flirt with a waiter (poor lad, he gave her a coffee with cream, she was sold), we took a boat out for a day trip to Pontikonissi (Mouse Island), we both looked over at the water on that brief boat ride and like a photograph I snapped a shot of my best memory ever – Me and my Mum looking at the water saying together – “wow”.

It is a blue that vibrates, the Mediterranean sea. Just as you look at it, she reverberates back at you. Oh yeah, you can get this colour in many other seas, in many other places, I’ve seen them too, but this, this… She looks back at you and says “I have a history, and a peace, launch into me”. We went on other holidays after, Mum and I, but Corfu stuck with me.

I arrived in Corfu once by boat after six trains across Italy. Early 2006. Just to see her for a weekend. (Not for anyone, just the island). In winter. All my Italian friends thought I was mad travelling across South Italy (Calabria and Puglia alone can be tough) as a woman by myself, having carefully negotiated arrivals and departures. (It was tight and required me to organise platforms and trains and boats all in Italian, no matter…).

As we sailed into Corfu harbour, as the sun was coming up an early dawn, I cried like a baby.
“I’m home, I’m home”.
I spent three days here and then arrived back for work in Calabria the following Monday. Not for a man, you understand, not to see anyone in particular. For Corfu.

When my mother died she requested that she be cremated, and that her ashes be scattered in a bird sanctuary in Australia. She had also said that she wanted to be near me. I abided by her literal word and did better. With my wonderful step father we scattered some of her ashes at that bird sanctuary, I took another third of her ashes and scattered them with family from England at her mother’s (my grandmother) grave in London (she had asked me for years to find that grave together; with family, to whom I will be forever grateful, we did) and the last third…

Well, they are scattered overlooking this beautiful island at “The Spot”, the first beautiful view of Pelekas Beach from the “donkey road” going down to the beach. I scattered them there in a quiet ceremony with one of my best friends.

On that final note, I think it’s time for a laugh among love and peace and all those hippy shenanigans.

Jimmy gets the last laugh.

“Looby, how many black people are there in Europe?”

“Jimmy, WWHHHAATTT?”

“How many?”

“Jimmy, one, what defines “black”?, two, what is “Europe”? and three, how the hell would I know anyway? I didn’t study demographics, I studied wanky literature and the like…”

“Well, you went to University…”

“And don’t forget I got the Blackburn Medal for Drama…?”

Jimmy (serving tables) – “the Blackboo what?”

X

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The Last Post – be warned X

I think it’s fair to say that I’m allowed one truly angry blog before I go. I’ve done the spin of trying to find everything amusing for far too long.
So, what is the truth?

As a recent new acquaintance said to me who is South African, but lived here for 35 years – “This place was a paradise – now it is a shithole. People want to eat each other’s heads for money, for the little money we have left. It’s all about jealousy, and poverty and desparation. It is an island built on dreams and we all came and shat on each other’s dreams”.

I couldn’t speak when he said this. Because I agree. Because of how things are, we have turned on each other. No one has the balls anymore to turn to a man on the street and say “Would you like a hand?” No judgment, no evaluation, just “do you need help?”.

That was the principle on which I came here. That is what I love about Corfu. It is old school. It’s a mad, insane place that flouts the rules, it is the best of Greece. It was also, always a kind mistress, someone who said “and I’ll take you too…”.
Until now.

We all have our faults, and our problems, our struggles and our mistakes. When the very people you thought loved you turn on you, then you are more depleted than I could possibly here describe. When you are that person who gave unconditionally to a village, to its people, to the culture, to a family, with understanding and above all love, and you are denounced as a whore, then anger arises.

You are goddamn right I’m angry. Love does not beget love? What world is this? Congratulations family, you won. I lost. Now go forth and conquer and hold so close to your heart the knowledge that you also corrupted the next generation into paranoia, negativity and doubt. Congratulations. I’m off.

I will take my son to a new, very scary world. It will be full of struggle – but, and this is how bad it gets – I deeply hope it will be one without the psychological terror that Corfu has become here.

This is what the crisis has done to people here. It rendered all of us weak, and blameworthy – we have turned on each other. From fear. We do not have a future here, no matter how hard we fight. Is it just about money? NO. When people get angry they want someone to blame. In my family it’s me. In the country it’s Merkel, the government, the next door neighbour. Stop it now.

Just love, just love. Forgiveness, concessions and empathy. That’s how you run a country, and that’s how you make a family. Start at home, and then you build.

May I finish by quoting my fabulous mother in law, a true emblem of the nation, when she said this – (I had begged her to talk to me as woman, pleaded with her to tell me what more, what else I could do for the family, I was on my knees looking up at her lovely face) –

“Please wear nice shoes”

I rest my case.

It’s 1986. I am on a boat with my Mum. We look over the edge, and I say “Mummy, that is the most beautiful blue I have ever seen”. I will never forget the water. We will be back.
You will hear from me in England next XX

How ’bout getting off these antibiotics
How ’bout stopping eating when I’m full up
How ’bout them transparent dangling carrots
How ’bout that ever elusive kudos

Thank you India
Thank you terror
Thank you disillusionment
Thank you frailty
Thank you consequence
Thank you thank you silence

How ’bout me not blaming you for everything
How ’bout me enjoying the moment for once
How ’bout how good it feels to finally forgive you
How ’bout taking you upon your support

Thank you India
Thank you terror
Thank you disillusionment
Thank you frailty
Thank you consequence
Thank you thank you silence

The moment I let go of it was the moment
I got more than I could handle
The moment I jumped off of it
Was the moment I touched down

How ’bout professing just how much you love me
How ’bout taking him up on a back-massage
How ’bout unabashedly bawling your eyes out
How ’bout grieving it all one at a time

Thank you India
Thank you terror
Thank you disillusionment
Thank you frailty
Thank you consequence
Thank you thank you silence

How ’bout no longer being masochistic
How ’bout remembering your divinity
How ’bout reflecting each-other in our last splendor
How ’bout not equating death with stopping

Thank you India
Thank you clarity
Thank you disillusionment
Thank you nothingness
Thank you consequence
Thank you thank you silence

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Keys to the mini market and white striking

Maria, my mother in law, (the matriarch of this, my Big Fat Greek Family minimarket/restaurant/beach bar/car park complex here on Corfu) may seem occasionally docile (with occasional lashings of lettuce box throwing anger), but be not fooled.

She is owner of some of the best quotes of my time here – let us remember….

Regarding her hair dying while wearing a yellow or indeed blue plastic bag on her head – “What bag?”

Regarding her husband, my father in law – “Every day is a new cancer”.

Regarding me – “You whores, (including my sister in law here) – you came and ate my life”.

I love her for her attitude, her smiling through adversity, her hypocrisy, but above all for her quotes. I also admire her efforts to thwart independence and thievery from her otherwise underpaid children.

She has lately, and not stupidly, started to hide the keys to the mini market (when it’s closed) from their usual position of a little bowl by a door in the restaurant. I suspect this is down to me. Yes, it’s true, I am the greatest thief of the mini market. I think she might have caught on. And so we come full circle. I started working in the mini market. I am now working in the bar to bide my time, but the mini market was the theme originally of this blog and has been my greatest source of snacks by theft.

I asked Prokopis, my brother in law, at the beginning of my mini market induction, “How do you deal with thieves?” Then, I laughed, as for years, among all other family members, I acknowledged I am one of the greatest.

I am not alone in my mini market thievery, please. Prokopis, my brother in law, and indeed my partner Jimmy, all rob from the mini market after hours. We take home, for the most, such goods as, (hold your breath), coca cola, an occasional can of beer, and croissants. I’m telling you, grand theft auto, that ridiculous playstation game has nothing on us. I’ve also been known to steal Haribo gummi bears like they were going out of style. I pass them round to acquaintances like a drug dealer. I consider it a personal perk of the job working for the family business…

“What do you need? I can get you liquorice wheels or perhaps some fizzy fruit berries?”

I AM HARDCORE.

So, Maria has started hiding the keys to the shop when it’s closed. I suspect they are under her mattress, along with the profits from every other aspect of the business. (I would really love to get my hands on that mattress were I given half the chance).

We have, at this, the tail end of the donkey (getting to the tip), a member of staff not previously mentioned working in the restaurant. His name is Nikos. He is a waiter. He’s young, bright, dramatically underpaid for his time, and observant. I’ve been moaning even more than usual (unfortunately for him) since his arrival. He suggested that we strike. (His English is very good). I suggested that that might be a good idea but we wouldn’t get paid. There are no Unions for the kind of work we do. He said –

“A white strike then,” as he was continuing to make a coffee for a customer,

“What’s that?” I replied.

He answered, “When you keep on doing what you are doing but you complain a whole lot more.”

I love it…

“WHITE STRIKE! WHITE STRIKE! WHITE STRIKE! … (to customer) five euros, thank you very much, have a safe journey,” (Unheard, management upstairs)

The final throws of the revolution…

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