Gordon G Hall
Writer and Neo-Philhellene

Short Stories about Greece

If it had been hot it would hardly be worth mentioning such. July in Halkidiki is supposed be hot, that is why we all love it so much. But today it was super-hot, the sort of day when you dare not look at the thermometer in case it registers 40 degrees, the sort of hot that makes grown men retreat from the beach and switch on the air-con in the car, the sort of hot where nothing moves – not even the sea. Except of course for the English!

Clad like a figure from the Colonial past in white sun hat and safari jerkin, and allowing only the latter-day luxury of sandals, I parked the hire car in a convenient spot and headed for the beach. Whilst I was well aware of the lack of tide it seemed unwarranted that I should break the habit of a lifetime and leave my footwear at the edge of the water. Thus it was that I covered the final 20 yards at an unseemly pace saying “ouch” at every fleeting footstep as the sand seared the soles of my feet.

The sea was warm, but a delightfully cool warm compared to the air temperature. I lingered. I was careful of my shoulders’ exposure and the effect of the sun upon my, oh so slightly, balding pate. This was not the normal dash and splash of those accustomed to the North Sea, this was how holidays in Greece should be, long and sensual and loving. My eventual retreat from the warm coolth was only a trifle spoiled by a hectic leaping across the even hotter strand to the sanctuary of my sandals. But altogether it had been a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

I am not one to linger upon the sand. I do not ‘sunbathe’ and my fellow bathers had firmly retreated beneath large sunshades, the like of which I do not possess, nor indeed wish to possess. So gathering my towel I made my way with seemly haste to the car and its magical cooling system. Having knocked the sand from my footwear I switched the engine on and basked in the cool air emanating from the multi-vented fascia. This was a Good Day!

Reluctantly I had to move on. I engaged first gear. Nothing happened. I switched the noisy air-con fan off, better to hear if the engine was running. It was, but the car was not! I tried reverse to the same effect. Reluctantly I opened the door offering myself as a hostage to the painfully hot day. I walked around the car. Three wheels were perched merrily upon solid ground. The fourth, the nearside front, was digging itself in the general direction of Australia.

The situation required physical labour. I removed my safari jerkin. I knelt, bare knees upon kiln-roasting sand, I dug with my bare hands, scrabbling at the loose sand. I tried again. Nothing moved. I left the car in gear and walked around to survey the situation. The wheel was gently rotating having dug itself far enough into the yielding substrate to ensure that the weight of the front of the car was now borne by its front bumper that was resting its chin lovingly upon beautiful firm ground.

I needed help.

There was none immediately to hand save a couple of groups of mothers and kids. It was male help that I required. I marched firmly in the direction of an unsuspecting male that was sitting innocently under a large sunshade.

“Parakelo,” I ventured.

He looked around, clearly expecting further words from me.

“Milate Anglica” I stumbled.

He shook his head.

“Autokinato stuck.” I said, making pushing gestures.

He looked puzzled “Elena”. A slightly plump and rather jolly looking woman came over. A few words were exchanged. She turned to me. “Kalimera, I speak some English. You need something?”

I explained, several times, my predicament. Elena was calmly patient as I tried to get her to understand, remaining so as I spoke louder and louder, as is the wont of every Englishman when foreigners cannot understand them.

She smiled. “This is my husband. He will help.”

Husband and I set off across the silicon furnace. As soon as we reached the car he grasped the situation. He made ‘stay there’ signs and left in the direction of a large and expensive looking villa.

I dug with a stick.

I sweated profusely

>Five minutes later Husband reappeared carrying a long-handled spade and a catholic collection of sticks and planks.

He dug.

I continued to sweat.

Two more men appeared from the beach and disappeared into the villa. They reappeared. Our collection of assorted timber was enhanced. There was a lot of shaking of heads and the equivalent of “tut, tut” in Greek. There was much good-humoured encouragement of Husband to dig further or faster or both.

The taller of the two men beckoned me to the front of the car. “Pull” he said, making a crooked finger at me.

“I don’t know,” I said, “It’s a hire car”.

This clearly exceeded his grasp of English. He pointed to the right of the bumper. “Idi? Ne?”

I shrugged

“Ochi, Idi.” He pointed to the left.

I shrugged again. Clearly this stupid Englishman did not understand about towing brackets.

Meanwhile the excavations had proceeded splendidly and timbers were being inserted under the errant wheel. There was a good deal of hammering of timber with timber until Husband, clearly the leader of this scratch team, gave me a thumbs’ up sign. I started the engine.


And we went.

I stopped the car and got out to shake hands with my rescuers, but they were having none of it. “Angilica, filee mou,” said husband and, leaving the car in the middle of the sandy track, propelled me into his villa, followed by the rest of the crew.

A convivial half hour, turned into a convivial two hours. Tsiporou was consumed in considerable quantities so that I was rather less steady on my feet by the time  I bid farewell to my new Greek friends.

I suppose I imposed upon them, but I left with the firm belief that they had welcomed the opportunity to rescue this stupid foreign visitor, not least because my predicament had rescued them from the banality of beach-lounging with their families.


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