The next post will be on or before Tuesday 20th June


Sometimes it can be exhilarating when someone tells you a load of nonsense, for after all sometimes an imaginative fabrication can be far more interesting and entertaining than a hackneyed truth. Kostas in one of the 3 port supermarkets outdid himself today for when I went in to buy some leeks for a projected Iranian egg dish called a kookoo, he looked at me earnestly and said that leeks were wholly unobtainable in Kythnos in summer. This was he explained because of their being imported from a restricted area of Spain (Murcia?) and then his argument became so wondrously salivatory and subtle and elaborate, I failed to understand it. I did nonetheless point out he had been selling leeks about 2 weeks earlier and surely late May was summer in anyone’s books, even Greeks? Not on your nelly he was about to sneer, for they really do think in the whole of the Cyclades that tourist-free May is an egregious example of contemptible winter. Yet doggedly resolute, because I really did want to cook my kookoo, I walked the 2 minutes to another supermarket where they had enough leeks to outleek the whole of Cardiff or Swansea or Penrhyndeuddraeth. I bought an enormous single specimen for 70 cents and then waltzed back and waggled it vauntingly at Kostas, though did not actually say yah boo and sucks to you. But Kostas, instead of revising his season-determined pan-European ebb and flow argument, and without a trace of a blush, said with a frown:

‘How much did it cost?’

That is Greeks all over. How much money do you make? How much rent do you pay? If they run a café they ask how much do they charge you for a wine down the road, and then start swearing violently at you the bearer of bad news and your unwelcome reply, saying that is ridiculous, no one can make a profit charging one and a half for not a wine glass but a bloody great tumbler full of retsina, they make me bloody sick because they knacker the market rate doing sodding things like that? Oh, and how much money did you say your daughter makes in England, how old is she, is she married, and how much does her husband make if she is, and while we’re at it how old is he?

As JS Bach counterpoint variation let us backtrack to last week when Kostas’s assistant Sotiria was in charge. Sotiria is 24, attractive, wears bright orange trousers and violently pink trainers, and is on the large or ample side, and by that I don’t mean she is fat because her notional fatness is in fact instantly alluring, which means she can’t possibly be fat other than in the wooden and resistant heads of folk who can’t tell the difference between pulchritude and amplitude. That day in the shop I saw a tempting sellophaned packet of pristine cultivated mushrooms which were priced at 4 euros, although there were only 500 grams of them. Sotiria duly charged me 4 euros and I walked off heedless until suddenly doing some calculations and realising it was probably a mistake, I turned back and said:

“Is it supposed to be 4 euros per packet or 4 euros per kilo?”

She looked at me with her always jaunty grin and slapped my arm and said, “Hey Kyrio John, it is per blinking packet, what else would it be?”

The sum in my head had told me that the supermarket was charging 8 euros per kilo for mushrooms, which is for example 50% more than they charge for luxury avocados and thus extremely unlikely. But Sotiria was not a cheat nor an underpaid assistant on the make, and I duly left the shop and forgot all about it for another 24 hours. It was then that, spotting Kostas idling by an enormous sack of potatoes intended for the numerous island restaurants, that I put the same query to him.

“Is that mushroom price there per packet, or per kilo?”

He smiled at me and my novice English imbecility and said:

“Per kilo of course, and cos it’s half a kilo it will cost you just 2 euros. Think about it, vre. No way would it be 8 euros a bloody kilo, it’s not prime steak, it’s only sodding mushrooms.”

Quite quite, I thought. But instead of telling her dry old boss that I had been overcharged yesterday, I decided I would leave it till tomorrow when Sotiria was back and we would settle the difference as unembarrassingly as possible. I would ask to be reimbursed the 2 euros and would generously spend it all on whatever was most appealing in the shop, currently assessed as 1 packet of Papadopoulos Lemon Cream biscuits to which I have become very seriously addicted and which cost 1.40 euros. Bump that up to 2 euros, shall we, with a single can of chopped tomatoes, an indispensable standby for the serious cook?

I was rehearsing all this puerile arithmetic in my brain when suddenly it hit me with a severe concussion that when the shots were called and the nonsense was discarded and the truth be told and the wool be pulled from everyone’s eyes, alas and in fact nobody owed me anything. For I gradually like some dubious sleepwalker recalled that a week ago I had owed 70 cents to Sotiria for a tin of urgent tomato puree and had forgotten all about it up till now. Then and worse than that a month back Bojan the Serbian handyman had sorted my bathroom plumbing using some astringent chemical got from Kostas for I remembered, 2 euros, but which had been got on credit and assigned to me and which I had instantly forgotten about also. The net result was that before yesterday I had owed Kostas 2.70 euros, and now deducting the mushroom mistake, I still owed him 70 cents and he did not owe me a solitary shit.




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