Friday, September 03, 2010

Its all Greek to me

It was L's birthday. We like to celebrate birthdays if our finances allow. This year his birthday fell on a Monday, and so we chose the Sunday to celebrate instead, and took the long winding road, between the mountains - to the sea.

First stop was Seal Point, scene of much surfing in the past, and even with an onshore wind there was a gentle point break, and a few relaxed surfers, gliding by.

Next was Jeffreys, and, still in search of a sea view we ended up at The Greek, all blue and white decor, and a bone fide Greek in attendance. His daughter was seated at a table near ours, lace miniskirted, spoiling someones baby - they all were, that whole Greek family eating around the table, doing that family thing that Greeks do so well.

I should know, Greeks have been part of my life for a very long time. I chose Maria to be my very best friend when I was just thirteen. She was totally different to everyone else - ivory skinned, with black ringlets and black eyes. Her and her family were beloved to me for many years (and still are)....

I remember their dimly lit house, attached to their cafe (of cause) and the huge tins of olives always open in their kitchen, with slotted spoon with which to scoop up a large quantity of calamata olives when we passed by... Her father dispensing cokes from behind his counter, her mother making lemon soup.

I loved going with them to the Greek Orthodox Church in Port Elizabeth, for Easter. Maria and her sister dressed me for the occasion. They were both exceptionally beautiful and they made me up as best they could, blow dried my relentlessly straight hair, sprayed me with perfume.

Together we sat in the pews, after kissing mother of pearl icons, being showered with gold leaf petals and leered at by virile, swarthy men. We whispered and giggled under the condemning gaze of a flock of black crow woman who stood up front and chanted. We bowed left and right to the sound of unintelligible Ancient Greek and our eyes stung with the incense that rose from the priests' swinging lantern.
Oh how I loved it all!
The wedding crowns in their glass case beside her parents bed, the Parthenon hanging in the lounge, Zorba their dog, the smashed plates later at Evas wedding, the dancing, round and round...

But that wasn't the end of the 'Greek Thing' in my life. During my drop out years i.e. trying to write, trying to dodge the Security Police. trying to make sense of it all... I did my share of waitressing. And I did it in Greek.

Tropicana in Port Elizabeth was where I spent many a long day and many a long night. My free meal was souvlaki, my coffee was not complete without a diamond of baklava. My best tips came from Greek Seaman, whose parties were fuelled by Ozo and kept me working and dodging their hands till the early hours. I have carried laden plates of Greek lamb whilst kicking aside the debri of smashed plates, the powerful aroma of garlic clinging to my clothes for days afterwards. I never drink one of those coffees topped with beaten milk without thinking of Mimi's orders to put lots of 'vrot' on top!

My friends sometimes visited me there while I worked, drawn by the Moussaka, Dolmades, Calamari, Spanakopita and Galatiborika! I served L there a couple of times, when he was a 'seven years older than me man' and I was just a crazy girl, and we laughed over our coffees I'm sure, before he went his way and I went mine.

I ate at Maria's Restaurant in Cape Town when just a girl - L paid but he was still only a friend then, and someone my sister shared a house with. Nearly twenty years later he took me there again on our first official date, and I think I regaled him with Greek tales from my past. We drank wine that lovely Greek way, in kitchen tumblers that you can slam down hard on the table top, when making a point! I remember Greek lamb, falling off the bone soft from being cooked in a clay oven, and piles of olives and garlic.

And now we celebrated his fifty five years overlooking the blue sea of Jeffreys Bay. I ate souvlaki and he succulent lamb, we had plenty of olives, and wine , followed by coffee (with 'vrot') and baklava. We walked on a sand blasted beach before driving home.

Driving home I felt it might be time for me to watch 'Mama Mia' again. For the Abba adolescent memories, but also for the blue sea, the white buildings clinging to the hillside - for Greece.