The Greek tablecloth

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”
“No really…”
“OK you make me do it, I geev two napkin and beautiful lace tablecloth, dree hundred”
“No, look…”
“Two feefty”
“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…

2 thoughts on “The Greek tablecloth

  1. Dear Mr Chicken
    I have just trawled the internet to see if I could find a contact for you as I have recently made an amazing historical discovery. Unfortunately I am not good with computers and have spent several hours browsing a range of designer kitchens and the latest supermarket offers for chicken drummers. Eventually I found the jerry chicken blog and have spent the morning splitting my sides laughing at the tales and gasping with amazement at your fantastic paintings (not in a Jack Burt taking his first drag on his woodbine on a friday night type of gasp).
    Having spent the past 20 years with a bedroom that resembled a battered wives refuge ,Jane and I finally decided to ‘do it up’. This entailed dismantling old mfi wardrobes and furniture which had been erected with the ‘help’ of Peter Burt so every joint was secured with a badly hammered in bent nail , every nail being a different size and type taken from his ‘odds and sods’ collection).
    Moving all the dismantled junk (furniture) into the loft (for re assembly when the kids have their own home -clearly I am turning into Pete ) meant clearing out the loft first, and I came across the sketches we did of our Rhodes adventure which had not seen the light of day for 30 odd years! How bizarre that on the day I am trying to contact you about this you write a blog about the trip. The only item missing is a map of Rhodes however I still have a sense of relief when I recall the good use it was put to.
    Hope we can meet up so I can give you your share of the discovery.
    All the best

  2. Well talk about coincidences 🙂

    Would be good to have a pint, my email address is, drop me a line and I’ll send you my phone number.

    On the other hand I don’t know my phone number, I booked my car in for a service today and they asked me for my mobile number, I’d have more chance picking the lottery numbers than guessing which ones were in my mobile number, I had to ring the receptionist so she could write my number down, then she wrote it down again and handed it to me with one of those looks that said “poor old lad”.

    It was a bloody good holiday though wasn’t it, more on it tomorrow.

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