WHAT HAPPENED TO MARIA?
I was oh so bloody busy yesterday, when I would normally have been writing this post. To let you into a state secret, when I first started these searing blog pages in December of last year, I used to blithely wing it, and write the piece the same day I posted it, meaning I needed to get up at around 5am every morning in order to stick it on the site by 9. It was remarkably invigorating but very reckless, as it didn’t allow for the fact I might fall ill, or catastrophically trip on my ill lit and railing-free staircase for example. At any rate because of time strictures, this particular bulletin will be short and sharp, though, sharp only as you might expect, in the sense of probing and tantalisingly controversial. I have 2 relatively startling things to put to you, and I am even wondering, and I am sure only I could think of this, if they are somehow subtly connected.
Let’s start with the colossal number of East Europeans, all of them in their early 20s, who were all over the port yesterday. They must have been together on the same chartered yacht, but they were of frustratingly indeterminate provenance. I listened hard and they weren’t Russian or Polish or Bulgarian or Albanian or Rumanian or Czech or Hungarian. They definitely weren’t Indo-European speakers, so might have been Estonian or Latvian or Lithuanian, or even Finnish at a pinch. I should have asked them, but despite being nearly 3 times their age, I was too inhibited, and at one stage quite stupefied by their antics. One thing worthy of note, is that nearly all the boys were bespectacled, studious and dull looking, whereas the girls were handsome, young, forthright, confident and not at all dull. That aside, they did what no other yachties do when they come to Kythnos, they took a very long walk up the back road parallel with that to Dryopida, the ancient island capital. I can’t imagine that it was recommended to them, as absolutely nobody but me walks that way, everyone else drives, even if they live only 100 yards from the port centre and the shops. So they must have stumbled across it by happy accident, and I caught up with them on my return walk. I had been by the same back road to the lovely little chapel of Agia Marina, where I usually sit quite alone and in meditative silence, say a few prayers for the dead and the living, and then put some coins in the box, then depart. The back road is better known as the River Road (revmadromos) and though it is bone dry at the moment, in winter it can get flooded and also can subside, so that a bulldozer is needed to make it driveable again, and for the 50 or so folk who live up that way to get to and fro.
Let’s say that these young Latvians, these ebullient kids from let’s imagine Riga, were in a sprawling group of a dozen, and they were causing a great commotion (see yesterday’s fasaria) as they were making a racket near the private country home of a prosperous Hora shop owner, who owns two huge guard dogs. They might be bloody great Rumanian sheep dogs, but he has given them splendid Greek names, Mikhailis and Maddalena. I don’t know if they are married or engaged or just good friends, this bellicose M and M pair, but the two of them bark like buggery every time anybody e.g. me, walks by completely noiselessly, never mind 12 riotous young Baltic Republicans. The Latvian kids were a few hundred yards away, and I was greatly puzzled by what I saw, in the shape of a boy of 20 in the middle of the group, who had a huge stick, and was battering to bits a football on the ground below. He was one of the few non-studious, non-specky boys, and yet still I wondered why the hell he was doing this strange thing, though less puzzled that he was shouting victoriously to all his companions, especially the girls, to watch his joyous vandalism. Then, real astonishment, even shock, as the football suddenly exploded into smithereens, and the core that remained proved even from my distance to be bright red, not unlike the colour of blood.
In an instant Riga boyo cheered and stooped down, and picked a large wedge of it, and stuffed it in his young Latvian gob. It wasn’t of course a football, but was a karpoussi, a water melon with its familiar red interior. He had likely bought it in the port, then realised he had no knife, so had decided to macerate it with a handy stick. The really strange thing was the complete fluid continuity between the melon exploding, and that segment ending up in his greedy mouth. It was just one unbroken movement, and as at the start I didn’t know the true identity of what it was, and only did once he began to eat it, it was also a profound trompe l’ oeil mystery.
Now for a parallel and well nigh symmetrical phenomenon. Two cafes down from the Glaros, there is a very handsome young waitress of about 33, called Maria. The adjective is important, as we are talking about objectivity and subjectivity now, so please put your epistemological thinking caps on. I would say everyone else in the world apart from me, women as well as men and of all ages, my friends and visitors from the UK and other countries included, all rush to say that Maria is quite exceptionally beautiful, with her slim and delicate figure, her exquisite dress sense, and her subtly applied make-up (she was once a hairdresser in the poshest part of Athens, Kolonaki.) The odd thing is, that though I agree she’s extraordinarily handsome from the theoretical outside, she, how can I put this most genteelly and most kindly and least compromisingly, she does not remotely attract me personally, and especially if I were a notional half my age (I’m 65 tomorrow as it happens) and were in a theoretical position to make some sort of decorous amatory approach. I can see she is very beautiful through other people’s eyes, and I can even see what they see at second hand, and yet Maria’s particular beauty does not impinge on, much less electrify me. So when all my Brit and Aussie friends stare at her, and say God she is so beautiful, that young waitress woman, Maria, isn’t she, I say yes, yes, in theory, yes but, in terms of me personally being enchanted by her, I’m afraid, I am not…
They usually grunt, then say that I need my eyes tested, but I have stuck to my steely Cumbrian aesthetic guns, until all of 2 days ago. And then, guess what? Maria went away to Athens for a few days, and came back with a brand new haircut, by which I mean a very estimable, very posh, exceedingly good, exceedingly expensive Kolonaki haircut. I am hopeless at what you might call a beautician’s specialist vocabulary, but the main thing is, her new hairdo is all lifted up and ranged radically to the left. Political affiliations to the side, Maria also now looks to me, as she did last week to the whole world, absolutely mind-blowing. I admit I have no idea, not even a hunch, of why lifting and ranging her hair to the left of her handsome scope, has turned her into something so beautiful you would wish to get on your knees, and make her a minor household deity. But it has done that, most definitely, no doubt whatever of that.
One worrying thing to conclude. I no longer trust my sense of eternal perceptual verities. I know a nice new haircut on either sex, can radically improve folk, and especially those who haven’t many cosmetic assets to start with. A very obese woman, or a pork pie of a plug ugly guy, can blossom no end with a smart hairdo, or an expensive pair of jeans, or a snugly fitting designer t shirt. But this young woman Maria, who everyone in the world would say with open mouth was an absolute stunner, I, like Doubting Thomas (and he was an Indian, don’t you know?) I had always failed to be moved. Yet now that Maria has had her hair lifted and shifted well to the left, she looks like three radiant goddesses rolled into one, and I can only gaze at her with, I swear, a chaste and adoring reverence.
And one more vital question. Given that I am mostly bald, but have delightful flying buttresses of hair either side, if I had my own locks lifted up, and then ranged left, would I suddenly start to stun the whole of the world and not just myself? I will start by asking Monica, the next time that she rings me from London. She knows a hell of a lot about a hell of a lot of things, and she really is the ideal and very open-minded expert.
As I keep saying to her, do you mind if I just run this past you, Monica?