A Fat Greek-English Wedding Armchair

by Andrew Leech (aleech@ath.forthnet.gr)

Michael was earnestly English and Evie most poetically Greek. Why they had decided to tie the knot and hang each other as high as Parnassos nobody knew. But there it was. Two of the most literal and literary characters one could ever hope to meet had gone and done it! Or to be precise, agreed to do it; and, furthermore, to do it in really swanky style.

Both Evie and Michael were jazz enthusiasts. People who in England would be found in some smoky pub on a Sunday night, drinking local ale to the strong saxophone rhythms of trad jazz mixed with the tapping of beer mugs and chelsea-booted feet. Oh, it was a glorious way to spend a wet Sunday; and, in Athens, when Michael would sit at her feet, listening to Evie reading, it seemed her voice would take on those rhythms they remembered from distant, smoky, damp Oxford jazz clubs. Taking Mike back to the days he remembered on the island when, together with the former ambassador of Olea, they would both read Homer on the battered, stone jetty, legs swinging enthusiastically through the warm water in time to stirring jazz records on an old wind-up gramophone; their toes syncopating and furiously tapping the water in response to the weak beats in the various blend of sounds. Yes, jazz had travelled its full gamut; from rain filled cold UK Sundays to sweet warm languid Greek island Mondays.

The local priest was a jazz enthusiast, too, who - after several glasses of the finest Nemea - would always promise to add stirring changes to those monotonous Byzantine chants used for wedding ceremonies. However, now the couple had actually decided to marry - and wanted to implement those changes - he was wondering exactly how to present the case to his bishop. Perhaps, he thought, it was better to just make sure none of his regular worshippers turned up that day and pray that the bohemian crowd coming for the off-beat wedding would quickly melt into the vastness of the Athens night, afterwards. He partly grinned and partly shuddered at the thought of Michael and Evie prancing round in circles, exchanging marital garlands and moving in time to strident trumpet, trombone and saxophone solos. Would his earlier wine inspired suggestions be accepted by the clerically Orthodox, or would they simply degenerate into a horribly macabre and unimaginable Byzantine travesty of a New Orleans Mardi Gras? It needed at least another glass to even dare face the thought!

But weddings need presents and presents need thought; and good friends need lots of thought for truly imaginative and useful presents. So it was not until we had actually splurged out and bought ourselves one that we realised exactly what the couple needed: an English leather armchair. The only true and flawless symbol of the intellectual marriage of fine minds and mature contemplation that also aided a healthy digestion of the gourmet delicacies a productive brain required to fuel its perfect operation. Yes, a leather armchair it had to be! And preferably one with a foot extension that turned it into a glorified chaise longue the moment the book was lowered and Morpheus intruded to make his presence known.

There were two armchairs in their Oxford house, but not even a whiff of one in the Athens establishment. Yet the latter was just as full of intellectual alpha rhythms. By now, the armchair had, become more than just a good idea; it had become a vital necessity for civilised life. No more would the earnest couple sit on hard chairs, at even harder tables, gazing at pages whose words had become incredibly stony and indigestible; the stiffness of the cold posterior moving slowly up the spine till it filled and dully occupied the entire cerebrum!

With a leather armchair one could read, single or duo, in a variety of positions, and never suffer the mental constriction of the hard wooden kitchen chair. Especially if placed near a warm, open, smoky, pine fire on a chilly, windy winter night and on a white, woollen, floccati rug, a leather armchair would make the difference; would add the ultimate drop to the cosy feeling of togetherness. And a bottle of Nemea, of course, would add just the right final touch to fondly remember and recall their memorable and unorthodox wedding - when those Byzantine Saints came Marching in!

Seven doctors and a damp squib

It was only recently that the world was jolted awake by the news that seven Asian doctors had decided to try their hands at terrorism in the UK. First, outside a club in London's West End, they filled up two Mercedes with gas canisters, petrol and long nails, leaving a mobile phone inside to detonate the charges. But the charges failed to detonate.

Next day they filled up a Cherokee Jeep with the same combustibles and tried to ram it through the main entrance to Glasgow airport, having set both vehicle and driver alight with fuel before making the final run. This, similarly, failed to detonate.

What are most worrying here are the implications for Britain's National Health Service. If seven doctors cannot even make one simple car bomb detonate, what on earth could they be doing to their patients? I mean, doctors are not your common or garden uncultured and uneducated cannon fodder bomber. They are trained and educated to handle precise instruments, aren't they? Yet, seven of them couldn't manage what the smallest, most untrained and simplest of Greek terror groups managed practically nightly during the 1990s!

I would be terrified to live in the UK and face the thought of one of them operating on me if I had the misfortune to enter hospital there. Even a simple appendectomy might be fraught with the chance of forgotten scissors or swabs left within - or even a mislaid mini mobile phone! Thank the Lord we live in Greece where our doctors might set a bad example by smoking too much, but I feel they are definitely more proficient in the skills they practise.

(Posted 22 May 2009. Previously published in ELT News, September 2007.)

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