A Love Affair With Greece by Mary Irvine
My love affair with Greece began at a very young age when my father thrilled me with the myths, legends and history of ancient times. I dreamed of visiting these exotic places and walking in the steps of Odysseus, Theseus, Socrates, Agamemnon. The names were endless. To see the stadium at Olympia, the Charioteer at Delphi, the frescoes at Knossos – my dream was all-encompassing.
It was some thirty years later that I could begin to fulfil my dream. Following increasingly more regular visits to Greece my son, perhaps tongue in cheek, suggested I should reverse the journeys – live in Greece and visit the UK. This didn’t sow the seed but it maybe helped it germinate. I did move to Greece, living first in Athens and then on a small island in the Saronic Gulf.
This has given me a vast amount of material to draw on when I finally took up a new hobby, writing.
A Year’s Sabbatical
After spending a year organising unpaid leave of absence from my job at a 6th Form College, arranging finances so that mortgage/bills were paid, leaving a key with a trusted friend to ‘keep an eye on things, arranging accommodation in Greece – a garçonerie in Piraeus – and having ‘more farewell parties then Marlene Dietrich’ to quote my friend, Richard, I left Yorkshire and travelled down to London.
On August 15th, my name-day, so very auspicious I took a flight from Heathrow to Athens. I had taken the precaution of purchasing a return ticket valid for one year. Never did like burning my boats!
The next day I was invited to join some friends at the Pizza Hut- very Greek – in Kifissia. It was fine – a Pizza hut is a Pizza hut.
We then decamped to the Astir Palace in Vouliagmene, a most luxurious hotel adjoining the beach where my friends hoped to gain entrance to a disco, strangely called ‘The Empire’. Whose empire I never did find out. No longer there as discos and night-cubs regularly re-invented themselves as they vied to be the next venue at which to be seen!
Although there was no queue as such – the Greeks do have a word for queue, ουρά, they just don’t find a use for it – there were a lot of people milling about although the word ‘posing’ would be more accurate. I asked why we were not going in and was told we had to wait to be selected. Selection sounded ominous. Apparently two men, bursting out of their suits, chose people who were considered, by their dress and demeanour to be worthy, were invited to avail themselves of the privilege of paying an exorbitant amount of money to gain entrance, after which they would then pay astronomical amounts for drink. My immediate reaction was to say’ stuff it’! My friends explained that I was their ‘ticket’ to entry. I was a foreigner and they were entertaining me. Whatever, it worked and we were actually let in, all five of us for free.
My year in Greece had truly begun.
This section: Mary Irvine: Writer and Philhellene
Filed under: Mary Irvine: Writer and Philhellene
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