‘Beware of Greeks bearing mountains’ my old gran used to say as she sat there sandpapering the budgie – I should have listened. Regular readers of this mishmash of home truths, rant and erotic fantasies will remember that a few months back I mentioned that I met a Greek friend of mine in the street and he had asked me to climb Mount Olympus with him. Those of you who were awake may also remember that I said yes. I should have been taken away there and then by the men in white coats to that nice hospital with the rubber walls where everybody is gentle with you. Here followeth a full and true account of what befelleth during those days even unto the third generation of lawyers, all of whom have had a good gander at the text in case of libel. The following is a true and honest transcript of my journal for those Greek Days.
RETURN TO PARANOIA – THE FIRST COMEDIC ASCENT OF METAXA – SUMMIT OF MT OLYMPUS 10,000FT AND COUNTING.
Day Minus One
I arrive back in Manchester from Connemara at 4.30pm, and have to race to the YHA shop for a head torch and a Platypus water carrier both of which I left in Ireland and which no doubt the mice in my cottage will be playing with now. I go to Waterstones to hear Pete McCarthy reading from his book on Ireland McCarthy’s Bar which is very perceptive and very funny, then go for a pint with him. After a very abstemious two pints of Arthur Guiness’s Best Black Mischief I go home, leaving a pub before closing time for the first time since I was seventeen and got dragged off by a loose woman from the sixth form of Notra Dame Catholic Girls School. I spend all night paying bills, sorting post out and packing and finally crash 1 am.
Day One – Eggplant Shoes.
I lie awake all night aware that I have to be at the airport at 5.30 am trying my hardest to sleep for the four hours until the taxi comes but can’t. I am plagued with stupid fears – what if the alarm doesn’t go off? What if the taxi doesn’t come? What if they come knocking on the door for that library fine I never paid in 1958? What if I end up in the school playground wearing only a vest and it doesn’t cover my willy?
I doze off at 4.44. At 4.45 the alarm goes off. I shave my teeth and brush my face, dress erratically and adventurously in a Hawaiian shirt of the kind of pattern and hues that would induce an epileptic fit in a three toed sloth; baggy walking pants, boots and my Tilley hat and go downstairs to greet the dawn and the Pakistani taxi driver who asks me where I’m going.
I assume that the controller has told him I’m going to the airport and think that he means where am I going ultimately.
‘Mount Olympus.’ I answer.
He looks for it in his A to Z of Manchester then asks if its near the University. A few more misunderstandings later we head for the airport. I speak to him once or twice in the simple spirit of conservation, explaining that Olympus is where the Gods live but joking that they will probably be out. ‘That Zeus is a real character. He’s always getting dressed up as a swan and going off for a bit of rumpety pumpety with young Greek women.’ This I know as a fact from O Level Eng. Lit and Yeats’ poem Leda And The Swan.
The taxi driver is now totally convinced that he is carrying a madman and is really relieved when I load my trolley at the airport and vanish into a crowd of Northern Sun Seekers who are assembling for their annual two weeks of sun, sin, sand, sex and salmonella.
5.45 am Dimitri and Danny arrive. Dimitri is my friend the Greek cafe owner and Danny is his son, a tall, witty, twenty year old Jewish lad (his mum is Jewish and that makes Danny Jewish) who has the manners and mien of a gentle young rabbi.
So there we are, three men heading for a mountain, a Greek, a Jew and a lapsed Catholic Zen Buddhist Atheist with a serious Guinness habit.
I have a row with the check in girl who tells me our hand baggage will have to be weighed. She then tells us it is too heavy. It isn’t what she says but the way she says it, as though we are all three of us puppies that have just crapped in her best hat. She is very pretty but comes from one of the former Eastern Block states and has the manners of somebody who has been drummed out of the KGB for cruelty. I point out that two thousand pounds worth of cameras and lenses will not like travelling in the hold. She tells Dimitri I am shouting at her. I shout at Dimitri that I am not shouting at her – she is shouting at me. I go off to cool down and she shouts at Dimitri who has even more of a problem than me because his hand luggage contains a digital camera, a laptop computer, cables, chargers, batteries etc. and a mobile camera to transmit pictures of us on the top of Mount Olympus to the waiting world (actually the Barnsley Bugle and the Manchester Echo – a couple of free sheets where Dimitri advertises his Dolmades, Taramasalata and Salsa Evenings). Dimitri puts most of his stuff through as hold baggage. I take my cameras out of my hand luggage and put them round my neck. She weighs the lenses and they are ok. We get our boarding cards. I put my cameras back in the hand luggage and watch as our fellow passengers load up with several tons of duty free fags and booze each.
We go for a coffee at one of the food places. The coffee tastes of nothing. It is a vacuum, a negation of taste. Dimitri has a row with the cafe bar manager just to keep his hand in. So far Danny has had a row with nobody and we tell him he’ll have to buck up his ideas soon.
Next month We reach Paranoia after sundry adventures and discover that Dimitri’s Greek is worse than mine – but this is the least of our troubles.