we dyscordians must stick apart


My Big Fat Greek Vacation: Week 1

Originally posted 9/21/07

Day One: The Journey -
I am reliably informed by the airline that "This trip starts and ends at different airports" which is just how I planned it. Nothing much to report otherwise. I sleep through both flights and even catch nap time during the layover in Philadelphia. I'm told nobody on the second flight got much sleep because of someone snoring loudly. Thank goodness I'm a sound sleeper and didn't hear anything :)

Day Two: I've Arrived - Cathy meets me and we have coffee in the airport lounge. I steal a menu. My souvenir collecting has begun. After a couple of cups of raw caffeine we head home.

The first thing I see on emerging from the airport is a souvlaki stand. Closed. This is not a good omen.

We hop on to a train on the new Metro railway line. Half way home Cathy announces we have to get off and change trains. After ten seconds perusing the sign for the next train she drags me half way up the platform and back on to the train we just got off. My sister can be very strange.

The rest of the ride is uneventful and we arrive at Cathy's where I'm shown to my room.

In the great tradition of Men Packing For Vacation I discover that I have brought about eight pairs of pants and three shirts. Looks like I'll be doing some clothes shopping soon.

My nieces Leah and Maria are overjoyed to see me. Well, they become overjoyed when they discover I have gifts but that's good enough for me. I seem to remember being a mercenary little bastard myself when I was a kid so I can relate.

Cathy goes to work and the kids and I meet her later in the park for coffee. The cafe is weird. It looks like a cross between a liquorice allsort and a Barbie house, all pink and green seats and black and white blinds. All of this Greek coffee has left me twitching uncontrollably and my eyes are the size of dinner plates. You don't need cocaine if you have Greek coffee.

Next up is the real reason I made the journey; dinner or, more specifically, souvlaki, which is delicious but dangerous. Twelve years ago I overdosed on souvlaki, eating it almost every day of my visit, two weeks, and gaining a pound for every day I was here. This time I will have a little more self control. Maybe.

The evening is spent relaxing on the balcony where Cathy force-feeds me a full bottle of Jack Daniels. At some point I try to walk through the balcony door but I'm unsuccessful mostly because it is closed.

I pass out a short time later (because of the drink, not because I smashed my head into the door.) but wake up again totally sober three hours later. I don't know how I did that.

Day Three: Friends - I meet Tina and her children Chris, Jocy and Odie for coffee in the local square. Odie is actually a dog but Tina seems to have decided to bring him up as a human. At the moment he is going through the doggy equivalent of the terrible twos. He is very unruly and likes to chew on things, including people.

I tell Tina, with suitably ominous overtones, that he will chew on me only once. Odie spends the rest of the afternoon proving me wrong.

Cathy and the kids join us after a few minutes and the kids go play while we adults drink coffee, chat and comment on the dress sense of some of the people heading to the nearby church for a wedding. I don't think any of us had ever seen so many VPL's gathered together in one place before. Lycra and big knickers are not a good wedding outfit combo.

This is my idea of relaxing. Good company, good conversation and a couple of drinks with a little bitching thrown in. The whole sightseeing thing is fine but it's hard work and I've been here twice before. This trip is all about the people. I'll do the tourist thing next week.

A beggar/drug addict approaches our table and starts talking to me. I tell him "Sorry, I don't understand a word you're saying." He leaves and I turn to my companions and say, "There are some advantages to being in a foreign country when you don't know the language."

Cathy bursts my bubble by gleefully informing me that he was speaking English.

All too soon it is time to leave. We say our goodbyes and head home. Cathy finds some housework to keep me occupied.

Later in the evening Cathy takes me to a bar. She neglects to mention that we have to climb a mountain...well ok, a very steep hill...to get there. She tells me the best approach to making it to the top is not to stop. I reach the top and wait for Cathy who has stopped for a rest half way up.

By the time we reach the bar I'm sweating like a great big sweaty thing and need JD, lots of JD, to recover. We take a taxi home.

My room on this trip is downstairs where Cathy's in-laws live. Greeks, especially older Greeks, like fresh food. Englishmen full of bourbon sometimes like to get up half way through the night and snack. I raid the fridge at stupid o'clock in the morning but find nothing snackable except tomatoes. I do what any man in my condition would do and steal one. It's not like anyone counts their tomatoes is it?

Day Four: My Head Hurts And So Do My Legs - The hangover I should have had yesterday hooks up with the hangover I worked on last night and they go to work on kicking me in the head from the inside. Just to add to the fun I can't walk because of the damage inflicted on my calf muscles by last night's mountaineering expedition.

Everyone in the house is sick with something I brought with me from the US so a quiet day of everyone feeling sorry for themselves is had and Cathy finds some more housework to keep me occupied. I also get to take the kids to and from school and cook. I'm starting to understand why Cathy was looking forward to my visit.

Later I get to see Cathy in action with a couple of her students. She reminds me of some of the scariest teachers from my school days, looking disapprovingly over her glasses with her best hard stare when her pupil makes a mistake. Her demeanour causes me to have flashbacks to my youth and on more than one occasion I have to resist the urge to raise my hand when she asks questions I know the answer to.

In the evening I try to relieve the lingering hangover symptoms with a little Wild Turkey which Cathy claims neither she nor hubby like and is at least twelve years old. I feel strongly that I have to point out that it is already open. She feels equally strongly that she has to point out I visited twelve years ago and opened it. How do women remember these things?

Later in the evening there is another tomatonapping.

Day Five: Potential Murder Suspect - More housework, cooking and school runs. Much the same as day four actually.

Cathy alerts me to "what-time-of-month" it is by eating a peanut butter and chocolate sauce sandwich. Bearing in mind that Chest Infection and Back Ache have joined the party I don't feel safe. I'm alone with her and she's been reading Pauline's 55's.

For the first time I start to wish her husband was here.

Fortunately Cathy resorts to lying on the sofa and coughing while punching herself in the head. Normally I would be a sympathetic brother and do what I could to ease the discomfort of a distressed sister but in this case I fear that will involve her punching me in the head instead so I let her beat herself into unconsciousness. It's called 'Tough Love' and, as much as it breaks my heart, it works.

I have a few beers and pray Cathy remains comatose. I go downstairs and sleep, getting up only once to eat a tomato.

Day Six: Maid Service - We take the kids to school and meet up with Tina and Odie before heading to the square and spending a long, lazy morning chatting and drinking coffee. Life doesn't get any better than this.

Plans are made for the weekend while Odie eats my chair. As we make our way back Cathy and Tina are suddenly waylaid by an underwear store which jumps out and drags them inside. They are in there forever, leaving me standing conspicuously outside being chewed on by an unruly puppy. They emerge three years later and we all head off home.

Cathy finds some housework for me to do. I start to feel like I should have brought my French maid outfit. If I had one, that is.

I think I used floor cleaner to wash the dishes. I'll keep quiet about it. Nobody will notice as long as I rinse everything well.

Big sis announces that we are quitting smoking. I do a little math.

PMS + Back Ache + Chest Infection - Nicotine = One Scared Brother

Ten minutes after 'giving up' she explodes at one of the kids because she complains about having steak for lunch (!) and goes to lie down for half an hour before starting work. I rush out and buy three packs of cigs.

I've been given the responsibility of waking Cathy in time for work so I devise a clever strategy. I take the seal off a pack of cigs and attach a lighter to it with an elastic band. In one deft movement I crack the bedroom door, tell her it's time to get up and throw the cigs into the room before slamming the door shut again and running away.

She emerges a few minutes later smoking and smiling. My cunning plan has worked, disaster is averted.

We spend the evening watching Married With Children reruns and a video of the kids in the school show from earlier this year and chatting with Tina. I congratulate Tina on the speech she made in front of all the parents and various dignitaries, not to mention cameras, while totally unselfconsciously chewing gum. This is a classy girl I tell you!

After all of the housework I've done for Cathy I suggest to Tina that I could make money by hiring myself out to Greek women and offer her my services for free. Her howling laughter as she falls out of her seat tells me she's thinking about a different type of service.

I wrap up the day with my now customary tomato. There are still plenty of them but I still rearrange them to disguise the latest theft, and go to bed.

Day Seven: Looking Good - I've noticed that Greek women always look very serious. Back home you can smile at someone and most times they'll smile back. Not, it seems, in Greece. I've been pondering this and can't decide if they think I'm a Greek man, in which case I don't blame them for not smiling back, or maybe they're all just miserable bastards.

Today is different somehow. Every woman I pass in the street, as Cathy drags me half way round Athens looking for t-shirts, gives me a big beaming smile. Maybe it's the way I'm dressed? I was in a rush getting ready this morning and so I have a sort of 'scruffy chic' look going on.

The shopping trip drags on as we go into store after store selling t-shirts for ridiculous prices and then I discover the truth. This pleasant change in reaction from the Greek ladies is, indeed, because of the way I'm dressed but it isn't the scruffy chic look that it is attracting their smiles.

I find, much to my horror, that it is the 'inside-out shirt' look that is making them beam. I rush into the nearest store, hide behind a clothes rack and rectify my wardrobe malfunction.

Cathy is still sick so most of the rest of the day is spent at home where, from a safe distance, I enjoy a few cold beers while watching her terrorize the English language into a couple of her students.

LATE DEVELOPMENT: Shortly before I retire for the evening Cathy comes upstairs smiling an evil smile. She leans forward and whispers "I just spoke to my mother-in-law. She told me that she thinks you've been raiding her fridge and eating her tomatoes."



Nessa / Goldennib said...

I need my house cleaned, but I have no tomatoes.

val said...

Just a thought - why not take a taxi UP to the bar and stagger/roll back down again?

Michael said...

Nessa - I do barter too.

Val - hailing a cab in Athens isn't easy. I even showed some skin but gave up when that didn't work.

val said...

I don't even want to think about what skin you showed...

Michael said...

Val - I don't even want to think about what skin you're thinking about...

val said...

Then let's not thinks about it.

What skin did you show, though?

Michael said...

I'm not saying. If you're thinking of a number between three and five though you're wrong.

ann said...

you two are rude!!!!

I'd love a 'man who does' ;>)

Michael said...

Rude? I have no idea what you mean. I think everything in here so far is in the best possible taste :)

Does-ing is what I do. I've never needed a woman to look after me. I was taught to do that myself from a very early age by my mother and three older sisters.

The learning process began when I was about seven and made the mistake of uttering the words 'woman's work'. The rest is history, and I very nearly was.

Pauline said...

Since when have you needed to be force fed JD?

Women can always find housework chores for willing helpers usually because they're married to men who think their major responsibility at home is choosing which channel the TV should be on every 10 seconds.

val said...

Pauline, you exaggerate.

It can't be more frequent than every 11 seconds.

cathy said...

In our house the speed of channel changes create a strobe effect. I worry that my other half might exhaust himself if they don't put more of that soothing football on TV. It seems to have a calming effect.

Elween said...

gosh, what a hectic schedule you have! taken so much time to read your stories, haha.. worth reading.
take care! :)

Michael said...

Pauline - Cathy will have a 'right to reply' post. I'm sure if I have mis-remembered anything she will remind me.

Sadly some men can't be bothered to scratch their own balls when they are itching.

Val - as you know I would usually agree with you but the channels change so fast on this tv sometimes it looks like it's switched off.

Cathy - well spotted. Greek league football is a snooze-fest.

Elween - hectic indeed, I'm going to need a vacation to get over my vacation.

Pauline said...

My theory is that a large skillet applied liberally around the back of the head would also have an equal if not greater soothing effect and would in fact leave far less of a carbon footprint. In fact if one were to bag the head in need of soothing prior to applying the large skillet, there would be hardly any mess at all.

Michael said...

Take eight words out of that comment and you have yourself a 55 for this week.

val said...

OK, I understand you communicating as a family when you are hundreds/thousands of miles apart - but when you are in the same country, nay the same town, the same HOUSE?

cathy said...

VAL,the only way I can get near my PC is to tell michael that I want to comment on his post.

cathy said...

I also want to say he has all of the the most wonderful qualities a girl could wish for in a brother :)

Michael said...

I love it when you forget to log out sis :)

Can you see the attraction now Val? :)

val said...

You are the funniest family I have ever come across - in every sense of the word...

Michael said...

We sure do put the FUN into dysfunctional don't we Missy?

val said...

On a serious note, as someone with a sister nobody in the family talks to, I think your mutual support is great.

Michael said...