It was our last day in Rhodes, we scoured the market for gifts to take home to family, Richard and I, traveller pals we were, holidaying in Greece in 1979 at a time when most wouldn’t venture beyond Whitley Bay, “Rhodes?” they’d said to me with puzzled faces when I told them at work, “Where’s that then, is it that place near Morecambe ?”
“How nice dear” my mother had said to me when I’d told her.
“You want to go to Lloret del Mar” my father had instructed when I told him, “its smashing, loads of bars”
“He’s going to Rhodes dear” my mother had told him, this while we were all dining at Sunday lunch
“We’re going to Rhodes” I’d informed him
“Where the bloody hell is Rhodes ?” he’d asked
“Yes dear, where the bloody hell is Rhodes” my mother had also asked
“Its in Greece for gods sake” I’d informed with an exasperated sigh, as if I’d known all along rather than just finding it on a map the week before.
“Why the bloody hell do you want to go to Greece ?” my father had asked, for there always had to be a reason for him, and a cost.
“Just because we do” was the best I could do.
“You don’t want to get mixed up with Greeks, they did nowt for us in the war”, my father really should have joined the diplomatic service, I’d told him that many times before.
“Well I hope it stays nice for you” added my mother, she still had no clue where we were going.
And now on the last day of the holidays there we were wandering the street markets in Rhodes town looking for a cheap offering to take home for our mothers, what the hell do you buy your mother when you’re 22 years old and never give her a second thought for 98% of your life ?
“Cheap lace” some random Greek yelled in my face as I sauntered past his lace stall
“Very nice” was my first mistake, I made eye contact, spoke to him, the deal was on.
“I geev you good price, you English yes ?”
“Yes, how did you guess ?”
“Just got lucky, I geev you good price English”
“I’m sure you will, but I don’t want any lace, thank you anyway”
“Look, ees first class qualitee, I geev good price, fife hundred drachma”
“Thats too much”
“I make bargain, you make me offer”
“I don’t want a lace tablecloth”
“You make me offer English”
“If I ever wanted a lace tablecloth I’d make you an offer, but I don’t want one, no thank you”
“Ees vary spacial price, four hundred”
“I don’t want one”
“You vary hard English, ok, for you, special offer, dree hundred”
“No, honest, I just don’t want it”
“You vary good at this, ok English, I throw in napkin too, look, it matches, dree hundred”
“OK you make me do it, I geev two napkin and beautiful lace tablecloth, dree hundred”
“Two fifty ?”
“OK, I geev dree napkins…”
And so my mother got a lace tablecloth that she didn’t need and three napkins and it cost me just slightly more than £1.
“This is very nice dear” she said to me when I got home, “but why did you only buy three napkins ?”
“They were very expensive mother” I explained, “look, this is top quality Greek lace you know, lace like this doesn’t come cheap, I couldn’t afford the extra napkin mother, not at these prices…”
Round my little finger my mother was…