Saturday, 16 June 2012

500: When the bouzouki goes berzerk

When the bouzouki goes berzerk, a phrase I've had in my mind since I came here, summarising the way I see what goes on around me.

The weather is perfect. It's hot enough to dress lightly without getting burnt - no need to take a jacket. It won’t change – this is as good as it gets. While waiting for the signal to board the bus, they have their last cigarette. Water, biscuits and sandwiches have been packed for the trip – that’s just for the road. A few have bought their frappes with them. But most haven’t – they know there will be ample time for cold coffees on the way.

school assembly before the trip to knossosThe children pile onto the bus with their mothers, preferring to sit with their classmates while the mothers pair together. They begin the novel experience by pushing any button their fingers can reach – first they lift the armrests, then they open the ashtrays, finally they press the button on the side of the chair to push down the back rest. The teachers come round to check that everyone is wearing seatbelts.

The driver reminds everyone that no smoking, eating or drinking is allowed, and the journey starts. At first, the familiar sights of the town as seen from the elevated level of the coach window maintain a certain level of interest among the passengers. Passing the port, squeals of delight are heard as everyone sees a docked cruise ship for the first time. But they soon begin to tire of craning their necks to stare out of the window. Most mothers now begin to share out the sandwiches and biscuits they were carrying in their bags.

«Βάλτε μουσική!» says one, and the others copy her in chorus. The driver obliges, as Paparizou promptly starts playing, which makes the girls lift their arms in the air, their charm bracelets clanging like an orchestra made up only of xylophones. 


Not too much later, the bus stops by the cafés near the seaside. Time for the first frappe during the journey – the early-morning home-made one is now too tepid. Besides, the café has a pool, looking out towards the sea, and a bright-coloured plastic children’s play area with fake grass underneath. While the mothers sip on their ice-cold glass, the children eat their first ice-cream.

The short stopover has whetted their appetite for more travel. After another stopover for a visit to a cave and one more to support the local pottery makers, everyone is now hungry.


«Όποιος λέει ότι δε πεινάει λέει ψόματα!» a yiayia calls out as they exit the bus in the neighboring town.

«Μαμά, πεινάμε!» cry the children. They’ve only had two or three ice-creams so far, aside from a few biscuits and sandwiches on the bus.

As they pour out of the bus, they head towards the direction of the kitchen smells. The fish tavernas seem expensive; a view of the sea seems like a luxury now.  The aroma of σουβλάκι wafts from the side street behind the harbor. A few ποικιλίες later, all washed down by some ice-cold retsina, they’ve all become a πύραυλο. Meanwhile, the children are onto their fourth πύραυλο* – all their Christmases have come at once, even though Christmas is still seven months away.


Feeling much heavier than they were before they sat down, they schlep back towards the coach that had over-heated in the midday sun as it waited for them at the bus stop. They wait impatiently for the bus to leave but time doesn’t pass quickly enough now. The air-conditioning won’t begin to work until the bus starts moving. Once it goes, sighs of relief are heard all over the place.

Food and drink raise the κέφι. Spirits are running high and passions are rising. The sound of the μπουζούκι bursts over the intercom.

Tolis Voskopoulos is the only son and last child of a greengrocer who had 11 daughters. He began his stage career in the sixties, and is now considered a well known tax evader Greek actor and singer. His fourth wife is Angela Gerekou, the former Playboy pin-up Deputy Minister of Tourism, who was forced to resign after it was revealed that her husband owed over €5.5 million in unpaid accumulated taxes, some of them deriving from his third wife's bank deposits which she couldn't justify. In February 2011, he was sentenced to three years in prison for his tax debts, time which he has never done, of course; a year later, it became known that he was contesting the sentence, and has so far paid only €515,000.

«Λαϊκά μας έβαλε!» the children whine.

«Όπα!» their mothers swoon, as Toli's mellifluous voice bursts into song. In delirious happiness, a boy gets off his seat and begins to dance, sweeping his hands in the air and snapping his fingers, culminating in a break dance as he collapses on the floor supporting himself on one knee.

«Κάτσε καλά!» roars the bus driver, "or I'll stop the bus!"

*πύραυλο = rocket: in Greece, a mass-produced pre-packaged ice-cream cone
*** *** ***
For a more subdued version of the same story, click here.

©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.