The men…

… of the village, mostly middle aged to old, form a sort of Club, based on the untidy tables and chairs outside Nikos’ taverna. The members of the Club have a number of habits that are strange to my eye. For hours on end, they occupy the uncomfortable wooden chairs that characterise every taverna in the world, and which grace Nikos’ in abundance.

These chairs are famously constructed with no rake whatsoever and very small seats, so that the occupant is forced either to sit very upright or to use them unconventionally. The members of the Club perch on these chairs in a number of poses which defy the Kama Sutra for variety. For example, the sitter’s legs may be stretched and the chair tilted back on two legs to an alarming degree. There are various crouch positions in which the croucher only touches the chair with the corner of one buttock. There is the cowboy pose, straddling the reversed chair and leaning on the back. There are a variety of sideways postures, with or without tilt on two, or even one, leg.

The Club members arrive, conventionally insult one another, if the growls and shouts are anything to go by, then call a tiny order to Nikos. Nikos will ignore the order for half an hour or more, unless pressed, as bringing the coffee, gazoza or ouzo too quickly might imply a request to drink up and leave. Fierce arguments often break out, which flare rapidly into shouting. A combatant may also slam the salt cellar down on the metal table for emphasis, shake a huge fist under another’s nose, or stand up in feigned horror at the adversary’s impudence, capsizing the chair loudly. Two huge members, truck drivers, I think, often tear chunks of chest hair from each other, accompanied by the conventional insult “Turk!” or “Bulgar!”, as they blow the tuft of hair to the breeze. Conventionally, the victim remains impassive at these junctures, pretending nothing has happened, for to show pain would be to lose. Then all may sit for a while chuckling or tossing their worry beads.

This morning, there was a particularly loud set-to over the partial re-instatement of the two Greek athletes who were banned from the Olympics for drug test dodging and staging a fake motor cycle accident (go figure). The newspaper carrying the story was repeatedly cuffed, snatched, and thrashed in the course of the discussion, though Nikos assured me they were all of a mind on the matter. Apparently, there is an American, or, perhaps, Swiss, plot to do Greece down. Partings after a two-hour glass of water may consist of anything from fraternal hugs to bellowed imprecations, all in great good humour, as I now perceive.

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