I need to share this. But first some context. While in Ikaria I stayed at Nas Beach where, perched on the cliff overlooking the beach, is Thea’s Inn. Thea is a delight and looks after anyone who comes into her orbit. More on her and her inn soon… but you can learn how to make her soufiko here.

Meantime, Elias is Thea’s husband. A farmer who brought me his goat milk each morning while I was in Ikaria. And cactus fruit. And cucumbers. And always knew when I was about to walk into Thea’s for dinner. He walked outside to greet me, often with a wisdom perfectly suited to my mood.  He’s somewhat psychic. Deeply heart-based.

Elias told me this “joke” while he drove me to put petrol in my motorbike the other morning (I’d run out and hitched home the night before). We were screaming along a dirt track and he was yelling back at me in his broken English:

A simple Greek fisherman finishes his day at the taverna and is drinking some Tsipouro (a Greek grappa). A German (it’s always a German in these Greek jokes) leans over and says, “Why only catch two or three fish on a single line when you could catch more… and with the money you earn you can buy a boat? It will make your life easier.”

The Greek takes things on board and the following year both men are drinking in the taverna at the end of the day and the German leans over and says, “OK, I see you’ve bought a boat. You’ve been successful. But why only one? Fish some more and buy another. And get some workers. You will become very successful. Life will be better.” It goes on for a few years in this way.

Finally, the Greek is drinking and socialising in the taverna and the German is back once more for his annual holiday. He says, “You’re here all day now. Why are you sitting around socialising all day. You should be out working!”. The Greek looks at the German incredulously and replies, “But wasn’t this the whole point?!?”

Yes, the whole point! Isn’t the whole point to work hard and do all the right things so you can stop and rest? Why would you do it otherwise?

I love this.

The tragic and telling German/Australian/American/(insert uptight nation of choice) ending, of course, would no doubt see the fisherman no longer able to enjoy a Tsipouro at the end of the day because he’s too stressed and busy managing his fishing fleet and staff.

This is the sad reality for many of us. It has been for me for 30-odd years. We lose sight of something so simple.

When Elias told me his “joke” I punched him.“That’s friggen perfect!” I said. He laughed out to the goat fields we were passing. He’d told me his “joke” on The Friggen Perfect Day that I needed to hear it, too. “Yes, it’s good you hear it today,” he said.

You might also like to read this about living with your rags that I wrote about a few days ago.

While I was in Greece, in the middle of this horrible crisis, the Greeks kept telling me that the Germans were imposing the harsh financial restrictions being suffered at the moment (the sense is that the whole fiasco very much stems from Germany and is linked to compensation that wasn’t paid to them after the war…long, complicated) because they’re jealous.

I’ve been told this over and over. The Germans are jealous. It’s the talk of the tavernas. “The Germans want what we have,” they say. The Western world (they seem to enjoy leaving themselves out of such a grouping) wants what they have.

I ask what it is that they have exactly…and the answer’s always rather loose.

Mostly a knowing smile.

Sometimes that lovely little cock of the head to the right with a little blink that they do, that says “Yes” and “Of course” and “some things don’t need to be said, but we’re on the same page and I’m going to acknowledge this with a gentle gesture”. Sometimes the answer is just a glass of watered down wine. Stin Iyiamas!

We may be jealous. Or not. It’s not the point.

I’m admiring. Admiring of the way they’re so proud of their way of life. What I find interesting is that this is a nation that rolls its eyes at the inefficiencies and corruptions, but at the end of their long, hot days, they truly believe they have things right.

It’s not arrogance. It’s a parochial knowing. And it’s a knowing they really want to share – they don’t just want to brag about it from on high. Greeks grab you and tell you to sit down and relax with them. They share adages that remind you everything is OK. They reach out to you when they see you stressed.

Sigs Siga, they say. Slowly, slowly.

As an aside: Greeks don’t tell. They show and share. When you ask for a direction, they don’t point and issue lefts and rights. They grab you by the arm and lead you two kilometres down the street, until you’re 75 per cent on your way. In Athens, when I asked for advice on an authentic restaurant to eat, the New Hotel’s manager Natassa (above) took me by the arm, grabbed a posse of friends and walked me to her favourite place (Paradosiako Oinomagirio) and dined with me.

I want to rewrite the ends of my jokes. You too?

 

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