Their country might be on the brink of bankruptcy, but the Greeks are nowhere near losing their sense of humour and are just getting into the swing of a standard sultry summer.
I was buying phone credit and as I paid my percentage of that to the government, the sales clerk apologised for the extra tax, muttering “Economic Crisis” drily. Then while watching England play badly (again) in the World Cup, I was bitching that as the nation that created the game, we were now its shame: to which my Greek mate retorted: “We were the founding nation of Western Civilisation – now look at the state of us!”
So life goes on as normal. Everyone drives at breakneck speed on narrow and congested city streets or else corners on two out of four wheels on coastal cliff roads. You are overtaken by huge motorbikes, the rider of which has no crash helmet and whose girlfriend is the pillion passenger in a bikini and flip-flops.
They don’t have milkmen here (in the heat the dairy produce goes rancid at an alarming rate), but they do have all manner of sales trucks that cruise around residential areas calling out the price of their wares via a loud hailer. When I first lived in Athens, there was an election coming up, so I thought all the annoucements were part of political parties’ campaigning. I didn’t understand enough Greek (not that it is easy to make out what is being blared through the loud hailer) to realise that these were either the rag and bone man calling “Bring out your junk!”, or someone selling watermelons and letting all and sundry know what they were charging for them, or a mobile terracotta pot shop, or some other guy flogging baskets – until I saw the vehicles and then asked for a translation of the anouncements. And now I rather like this old school style of door to door selling. You have to hand it to people who improvise in business like this: taking the market to the customer, rather than the customer having to go to market – although the local markets here are excellent, selling the best fresh produce and anything else you might possibly want or need.
The long days at this time of the year, mean that the temperatures have already hit 40 degrees C and the Meltemi, a cooling Northerly wind, has yet to kick in and freshen Attica and the islands of the Aegean. So the southern beaches on the Saronic Gulf – the Apollo Coast or the Athens Riviera, call it what you will – are packed. The morning beach goers are senior Athenians, who swim every day of summer wearing big knickered bikinis or shorts and sun hats, as they bob around in the water flapping their arms and not really going anywhere – just cooling off. Only tourists and foreigners are foolish enough to go to the beach at lunchtime. Then in the late afternoon the cool crowd rock up, take a table, loungers, umbrellas and so on and settle in for the five to sunset session with iced coffees and cold beers.
We bucked the system completely, by doing a shore dive at a popular swimming spot in Varkiza, which was very cool – fab visibility, colourful fish, octopus – although a little disconcerting for the swimmers on the surface above us.
At work I’ve been busy with cyber marketing for my boss, as well as cramming in a couple of small yacht deliveries. The business is as improvisational as any here in Greece: our dock is a short floating addition to the ever-increasingly busy marina of Lavrion, the fleet’s container is a couple of old cars and we have little in the way of facilities, but we give our clients top notch service.
Blue water days…