One of my ideas of purgatory is spending eternity driving around the centre of Athens trying to drop a hire car off on time. Amazingly I managed just that today with no problems. With a few hours to kill I asked the nice lady at Hertz where the British war graves were and she answered in a confident fashion. My father thinks his Uncle Francis is buried here although he was killed in North Africa and so off I wandered. It goes without saying that there were no War Graves at all where she sent me but that is another matter.
About half a mile along, in a decent part of Athens a man asked me for the time. I am a nice fellow so fished out my phone and said 4.01. He seemed terribly grateful and happy to meet an Englishman. His brother runs a Greek restaurant in London and please could he give me his address for a free meal.
I did not really want a free Greek meal in London and was rather more interested in the War Grave but he was insistent so I went along ruck sack over my shoulder and entered a small bar where there was one waitress, one young lady sitting reading a book and an Old Man. My old Man said “have a beer” and promptly disappeared. Have a seat said the waitress.
I reluctantly perched on a bar stool but assured her that I did not drink. At her insistence I agreed to have a diet Pepsi. At this point the young lady wandered over and in broken English tried to engage me in conversation. Rather impatient to see the first old man again I answered in monosyllabic fashion but after less than a couple of minutes of her gazing into my eyes she asked if I would like to buy her a drink?
Even before I spotted the menu showing a diet coke at 8 Euro and anything else at 15 Euro plus I had knew that I did not want to as
a) I have a lovely partner who I am looking forward to seeing in a few days’ time (even if she is a deluded lefty)
b) I had more interest in seeing the grave of my Great Uncle
c) Whilst I am pretty confident that I could pull a 20 something bird if I wanted to I am not arrogant enough to think that I could do as things stood, given that I am dressed like a tramp, have not shaved in two days, was making no effort whatsoever and that I had only met this bird two minutes previously. I may be a tad naïve but even I smelled a rat.
d) The young lady (unlike my Bird who joins me on Friday) certainly did not pass the John Inverdale test.
e) The young lady had far too much make-up on which made me think of George Orwell's cheap hooker in 1984 although this young lady was slim and had her own teeth unlike that character. Perhaps this might not be an entirely inaccurate call when I come to think of it. But it was most unappealing.
Sensing my hesitation the waitress pushed the drinks menu towards me at which point I saw the prices and said very loudly “this is a con.” Picking up my bags I retreated rapidly repeating loudly “this is a con” several times. I am not sure if they understood my meaning but let’s face it, it was a con.
I emerged and scuttled down the road as rapidly as I could manage with a heavy rucksack on my shoulders but with my honour and my wallet intact.
It is all very well Greeks bleating on about how all the Africans and Asian immigrants have made Athens a nasty crime ridden place to live but it strikes me that Old Hellas has plenty of home grown talent in that department too.
I realise that such establishments exist everywhere but it was a rather shocking experience none the less.