The next post will be on before Wednesday July 4th
NO GO, NO WIFI
I mentioned recently my friend Kostas, a successful professional Athenian in his mid-50s who has family connections with Kythnos and who is, what’s that word I really hate, conflicted. Or rather I see him very obviously as that, whereas he is quite happy to hold diametrically unreconcilable opinions regarding this out of the way and relatively tiny Cycladean island. Kostas give him his due reveres the pure and simple old-fashioned Kythnos, with its elderly goat farmers straddling patient little donkeys, alongside the winding monopati footpaths and their handsome kserolithia dry stone walls, unlike their Cumbrian counterpart having a huge lozenge-shaped support boulder at regular intervals. He also loves the authentic version of inland village life where the cafes and restaurants crowd the main narrow thoroughfare, meaning a kind of amiable congestion where everyone is on top of everyone else and there is no way of feeling lonely or alone however hard you try. It is a village life where the little shops, especially those selling clothes and household goods are in unwinnable competition with the internet or a trip to Athens or Lavrio laiki agora/ folk market, and where exhilaratingly if you happen to be on a budget, many things are a third, a quarter, or sometimes a tenth of the island price. As a result, they get few customers other than the old and the loyal and an occasional tourist, and consequently feel no obligation to man an empty shop, but leave the key in the door and wait for the hopefuls to ask anyone passing by where Antonis or Tasia might be, usually no more than 50 yards away in a café, happily chatting to a pal.
However, touched as he is by that antiquated village life, it also irritates Kostas and especially when it comes to those Neanderthal tavernas that have no websites, where the proprietor, usually elderly, doesn’t speak a word of English, and has to do laborious mime or affably drag the tourist into the kitchen to point at what is on offer. The old lady who runs such a restaurant would never show a menu to a Greek, but simply tells them what she has prepared today. However, she has to have something visible as a document for finicky foreign tourists, so there is a notional menu full of English mistranslations which I love and which Kostas really hates. One old monoglot proprietor I know has revithia down as ‘cheek pies’ instead of ‘chickpeas’ and sadly Kostas doesn’t find that hilarious at all but reprehensible. He points to the pleasing contrast of the new gourmet place up the road, where they have a gorgeous flash and twinkle website, the handsome young manager has trained as a Michelin chef in Thessaloniki, and where both he and his wife have excellent English to lure in all the foreigners. At which point I retort that the gourmet place is only open June to September, i.e. when all the money is to be made, but old Kyria Evangelitsa is loyally open 12 months of the year, many of those winter months with one or no customer per day. Kostas snorts and responds with default libertarian gusto apropos working to market forces, and accommodating to demand, meaning it makes no sense at all in 2018 to be open when no lucre is to be earned. And it gets even worse than that. He froths at the mouth when he says what lovely premises the old lady has, crying out for exploitation so to speak, including an upstairs balcony with a glorious and heartrending view of the lovely old bougainvillea-clad houses, that is almost never used on account of the fact that Evangelitsa, nearly always without any waitress help, is so old and rickety she doesn’t like wobbling and staggering upstairs, so encourages everyone to eat below deck.
So there you go. Picturesque as she is Evangelitsa is a worrying failure because she foolishly stays open when there are no customers, because not only is she without a glimmering website in 4 languages, including Finnish, but she has she never touched a computer in her life, she offers no wifi to smartphone-staring clientele, and she gets someone with a baroque grasp of English to have gavros/ anchovy down on her menu as ‘arogant fish’ (eh?), bekri meze as the startling ‘drunkard’s appetizer’ and kolokythia keftedes, meaning ‘courgette fritters’ as ‘pumpkin balls’ which sounds fruitily risque to me, I don’t know what you think.