Sunday, 24 October 2010

cough your way to fitness


STOP! if you're serious about Abs
Dear Blogees, My wife and I have been on a bit of a health kick lately and you'll be please to learn that the swimming that I had to run so hard to be allowed to do is going well, I am the urban dolphin but it is my wife who has discovered probably the most effective total Ab workout I have ever seen. She started nearly a month ago and already her waist has tightened and definition is easily visible. The workout itself can be done anywhere and what's more cannot be denied, when the workout comes you workout, like it or not.


Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Chasing paper 2





I am a bureauphobe, a papyrophobe, I am macrophobic, I am frightened of the wait before a rubber stamp thumps a form, even strip lighting in civic offices gives me the heebie-geebies. And yet all I wanted was to go swimming at the new local pool, an innocuous ambition with the goal of putting some shape to the amorphous silhouette that had begun to greet me each morning in the bathroom mirror.



Here it is necessary to get a piece of paper to get a rubber stamp to procure a form to make an application to make a declaration that you require to lodge a petition to get a piece of paper. Trees all over the world shudder at the sound of the Greek language and if you are worried about the greenhouse effect stop hounding Jeremy Clarkson and his cronies, you only have to look to the Greek civil service. The whole world could go to Tescos in Hummers and it would not touch the damage they do every day. Not only is it the obscene consumption of the rainforests but the petrol that is burned collecting and recollecting reams of stamped paper at offices dotted all over the city to find that one has been incorrectly stamped or that that law has is the meantime been changed to include the requirement of 10 years back-tax declarations from your great-grandparents or an autograph from Elvis.
Thank-you very much!


The nice young lady at the pool gave me a booklet and a list informing me that I would be required to obtain a certificate from my doctor and a dermatologist. I didn't have a GP, another phobia, so I had to go to the national insurance offices to have one signed up. The new GP informed me that she required a cardiology check-up and some blood tests, back to the insurance office to sign up a cardiologist.

Well now I'm sitting here with the faint smell of chlorine and a satisfying pertness in my muscles, all my tests were good and I've forgotten most of the road that got me here. Greece has become an a addiction, just as the obese head I carry in the morning doesn't stop me having a couple of glasses of wine at the end of the day, coughing hasn't stopped me smoking and I'm still married. Masochistic tendencies, maybe but at least I get to do it to me before they do.
   

Thursday, 23 September 2010

2-stroke and diesel don't mix


ouch!
So there I was buzzing my orange iconic Vespa back up the incline to my beloved mountain, enjoying the wind in my face when it happened. The front wheel rejected the party line and I bounced off the beautifully polished asphalt landing in an undignified heap in a ditch. The screech of still-financed metal shedding paint as we slid to a halt cut me to the quick. I threw my skid-lid at the floor petulantly unable to do anything else save suck the tears through my eye sockets and retain some decorum.


“You alright mate?” a BMW driver enquired (maybe they do have hearts after all).

I want my mum, I thought looking down at my previously unblemished crutch-buzzer. Could he offer tea and Jaffa cakes? No! I nodded that I was relatively unharmed keeping my upper-lip stiff and Britannic.

He pointed out something on the road just in front of his bumper. My Ebay watch, which apart from a broken strap pin was totally unscathed. Is there no justice in the world?

I picked up the bruised scooter, dented near-side bubble and bent leg-shield. Suck suck choke, the saline tears began to sting. She started after a couple of kicks when I realised that I’d broken my big toe. Ouch!

The traffic began to flow and then I realised the cause of my calamity, diesel. Isn't fuel expensive enough without unscrupulous tanker drivers spilling it all over the already treacherous road surface throwing middle-aged reborn Mods bouncing into ditches.

Protect and serve?
I followed the trail of oil up the hill to its ultimate end at the junction for my village.

The next day I stopped on my way past the police station to make a report. I limped in sporting a freshly scabbing elbow and expressed my woe to the desk Sargent who fobbed me off with feigned concern despite the fact that the trail actually past the station. On my way down I saw the aftermath of another bumper-bounce on the same bend.

I've straightened out the worst of the damage now and my elbow will be ready for a new tan soon but I implore drivers to be patient when stuck in a traffic jam caused by a slow moving scooterist on the windy parts of the road to Hortiatis.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Ebay ethics

Ethics begin with an E
Like most expats, I rely heavily on the Internet for my creature comforts. Greece has always been a little expensive for some things but now after incurring the wrath of the IMF and Eurozone central bank for some little accounting errors things are getting out of hand.

Monday, 30 August 2010

I love the smell of 2-stroke in the morning

I recently bought myself a Vespa, not one of the new four-stroke models but a real old classic. They make them in India now much like the VW beetles in Mexico and Campers in Brazil. I wish one of the old colonies had been chosen to keep building the Mini. I saw one of the old Coopers in IKEA carpark the other day (yes I know IKEA again, just trying to get some peace and quiet and some underwear) I’d forgotten quite how perfectly formed they were, far tidier a design than the new one and more to the point much more mini. It looked tiny next to my FX4s London Cab (more on that another time).
Anyway, I’ve had a wonderful summer buzzing around on it. Truly rediscovering the joys of wind in the hair with no haste.

Update: I had to sell the Cab. My eyes have yet to dry.

Chasing Paper

Clear instructions indeed! 


So, there we were wandering around IKEA as you do, enjoying the fact that the kids were in the play pen and we could complete entire sentences without fear of interruption when my wife’s phone rang. It was one of the nice ladies from the daycare with glad tidings for any overstretched parent, “A program has be announced whereby parents could get free daycare.” The nice lady had scant details but she did give us a name at the town hall of someone who could fill us in from Monday morning. This was not an opportunity to be sniffed at, as like most overstretched parents free daycare would relieve a huge dent in our expenses. We were duly elated and the wedding present that we had intended to buy there gained a revised budget. 


Monday came and my good wife called the Town hall to garner more details as to our application. The nice lady told my wife that she herself was privy to scant details at that time but would call at some point with definitive instructions. She then took the kids off to my mother-in-law’s. The sun shone quietly and I got down to some serious writing, but noticing the worktop overpopulated with breakfast debris decided instead to tackle the feeding of the dishwasher first. Remembering that Top Gear had shown a new episode, I decided that I should have a quick look to see if it held any interest. I’m sure my laptop needed a format but of course this would interfere with my writing schedule. My bowels moved slightly and I harked back to the last time I had an uninterrupted movement. My phone rang. I could not have been more moved, so I didn’t. The number was withheld so I decided it must be the Town hall. “Could I please speak to Ms So-and-so?” I enquired, Britishly in Greek.

Keep your eye on the paperwork
but don't fall in the shit.
“She can’t speak now call back in 15 minutes...” kerderrrrrrr. My gratitude was cut off with a dialling tone, which incidentally sounds like a British engaged tone; nuff said.

The Top Gear team baffoond around on the screen in cars that cost more that my mountain abode for another quarter of an hour when I paused and called Ms So-and-so.
“She’s unavailable call back in half-an-hour,” seasoned in the ways of Greek protocol I smelt a runaround brewing.
“!5 minutes now 30 minutes,” I riposted “Can I leave a message?”
“No.”
“Should I give up hope now?”

Hope?
“Sir , I’m afraid I can’t help you. She’s probably dealing with the subject that you are calling about. Call back and she’ll be able to help you.”
Well, Jeremy, James and the little one drew their conclusions at the Masarati (note to self: sell house, buy one, make sign “Bends for petrol!”)
Called again, “Ms. So-and-so is unavailable.”
“My wife called this morning, I have called three times now. Who can I speak to about the daycare program subsidy?”
“Oh, you need to call the citizens services.” (as good a translation as I can make: Basically an office that does all of the gratuitous bureaucracy that the responsible office has or will drive you to psychopathic or suicidal outrage before telling you that you are missing a stamp or that they are closing. They do exactly the same job but with a smile. ) She did, however give me the phone number. “Oh, you need to call the citizens services.” (as good a translation as I can make: Basically an office that does all of the gratuitous bureaucracy that the responsible office has or will drive you to psychopathic or suicidal outrage before telling you that you are missing a stamp or that they are closing. They do exactly the same job but with a smile. ) She did, however give me the phone number. “Hello, citizens services. Make it quick I’ve got a long queue here!”
“I’m calling about the daycare program.”
“Oh, the deadline is in 5 minutes you won’t make it, have a nice day.”
‘But, but I was told.”
“Sorry, can’t help, got lots of people here, bye.”
I called the Town Hall.



The conversation that ensued was in no way becoming of a cultured middle-class gentleman but I'm of Irish decent, born and raised in Essex and I learned Greek from the streets. I threw more than a few Փ’s in and demanded to speak to the mayor who was also unavailable for comment. So, I jumped on my trusty Vespa and buzzed down with murderous intent.
On arriving I was greeted by a nice lady who had all my details and was ready to pass me over to Ms. So-and-so who turned out to be a young nice lady, not at all offensive to the eye and was apologetic to the hilt offering the national mitigation of “well, this is Greece”. She explained that she didn’t know the criteria of the subsidy and she would simply be passing on the details to someone else, she wasn’t sure who this would be but that my application would be valid. I maintained a sustained level of aggression making it clear that I would not be fobbed off. She smiled in a please-don’t-hit-me type way and fobbed me off.
Some balls yesterday.









We’ll see...


Update: Everyone at the daycare got the subsidy... except us!

Monday, 16 August 2010

Retail therapy?

Before
The other day me and the wife decided to go out shopping to see what was left in the sales. The kids weren’t thrilled but we made it sound like an adventure. By the time we got back in the car to go home we had got some new sheets for the kids, the wife got some undies, a couple of whoopi cushions for the kids and a divorce. I don’t mind going to IKEA because they have a nice little smalland parking for the little darlings but we have to shop at other places from time to time as there’s only so much Swedish furniture you can eat. I’ve been wearing this UGGDAL wardrobe for two seasons now and it’s roomy but people are starting to talk.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Weekend at Mother-in-Laws

This weekend we took a trip down to the mother-in-laws, she lives in a little village at the bottom of mount Olympus, home of the gods and my mother-in-law, connection purely coincidental I assure you. We arrived bedraggled by our long haul, well, hour and half’s drive to be greeted by her usual hospitality of make yourself a coffee I've had a hard day in the field. She works on the five visits then you're home rule, believe me when I tell you that I've done my utmost not to reach that number of visits but a good number of them were taken up with wedding preparations. Anyway I must mention that my mother-in-law, despite having the usual ravages of time bestowed upon her and five fused vertebrae, insists on maintaining her two acres of garden in a way that some deal with a karmic debt with added bragging rights.
Ah, good, you're here,” a good start to a conversation you might think but I knew better. “A couple of trees need trimming at the bottom of the field.” told you. “Would you mind?”
Of course,” if only I could. “I'll do it."

From Under Dark Clouds

The Century of DIY