There really doesn’t seem anything better to do in this reluctant Spring of ours other than to retreat into my warm and hazy past. I’ve been delving around in the photo albums and the memories came flooding back. Perhaps you’d like to share a trip back with me, to one of the most romantic destinations in the world : the Greek Islands. I’m planning a little series of posts, just to warm me up. Maybe they’ll hasten the Summer.
I’m starting with a tale of high drama. What better arena? I spent just one afternoon in Athens- in some respects both the longest and shortest afternoon of my life. It was to be “the icing on the cake”, but it ended in farce.
I had spent an idyllic fortnight in the Cyclades, and the timeslot before catching the plane back to England was just sufficient to allow a glimpse of the Greek capital. It had to happen. I couldn’t wait to see the Acropolis in all its glory.
Nothing ever prepares you for standing on a site like this: the weight of history and expectation. I ascended slowly and respectfully in the warm day. Impossible to be alone, of course, but it was still possible to gaze in awe and to stroke the ancient stone.
A bare section of wall invited me to sit and sip at my bottled water, and for one last look.
Feeling serene, I took Michael’s hand, and headed back down the mountain. Time was short and I had no definite plan other than to wander and absorb.
“Where is your handbag?” asked Michael. There was a stunned silence before I said “I must have left it on the wall”. Galvanised into action, I fled back up to the Acropolis as fast as my legs would carry me, my stomache churning. My passport was in the bag.
Of course, the wall was naked, though I looked and looked, not wanting to believe. I had about 2 hours before I had to be back at the hotel to collect my case and the bus to the airport. At the time, possibly the worst 2 hours of my life. Have you ever tried to hail a taxi in Athens? I must have been invisible, because I was dancing about, waving like a demon.
Eventually, the Greek Embassy. I don’t know what I expected. A cosy armchair with a cuppa and a rich tea biscuit? A reassuring pat and the necessary papers produced with a smile? The reality was a cross between a very severe post office and a police station, where I waited in line, feeling the weight of my transgressions. And the tick of the clock! How many times did I look at my watch, yet trying not to do so. Avoiding Michael’s anxious eyes.
A flimsy sheet of paper was finally produced, with an injunction to obtain a passport photo and return. Wholescale panic! Where in the whole of Athens was such a thing to be found? Why didn’t I carry a spare in my back pocket? This was before the days of photograph booths. Out into the street, eventually a photographic studio loomed and I was bundled unceremoniously inside, and dragged back out again, precious minutes later. Back to the Embassy. Wait in line. Got it! Oh no- not another desperate attempt to hail a taxi!
Well, I made it, though I’ll never know how. Fortunately the flight tickets were with the baggage back at the hotel. It will come as no surprise to you to find that on all trips abroad, Michael now carries both our passports. I also have him to thank for the photos. I wasn’t trusted with a camera back then. I wonder why?
Oh, I almost forgot! The handbag was returned to me, intact, many months later. So, that was Athens! Come with me next time, and we’ll go to the islands.