“But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,” faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.
“Business!”cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. “Mankind was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The deals of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
The elderly Mr SM (Shipping Magnate) ushered us into his substantial office and gestured to the leather sofa. “I give you two minutes,” he held up two fingers and perched his slightly unkempt, rather portly, untucked self on the arm of a chair. “I tell you what to do if you want to work with us,” he began.
“You are shipbrokers?” He studied Hubby’s card. “It is good you visit. What bring you to Greece?”“We sold you an ASD tug a few years ago,” offered Hubby, naming the boat.
“Ah! Most expensive tug we ever buy! But … she BEAUTIFUL, problem free,” he leaned over and stared at both of us for a moment. “You want anything? Chocolate? Greek coffee?” “Sit, I bring you Greek delicacy!” And with that he disappeared into the ante-room.
A few moments later a timid assistant appeared at the door. She smiled, nodded, and placed two small bowls of quince jelly on the table in front of us.
We ate our quince jelly quietly.
A large antique-looking map covered one wall of the office. Through the window, ferries in the port of Piraeus blinked in the afternoon sun. On our right hung a couple of aged photos. One showed our Mr SM with … Bill Clinton. What?!
We exchanged looks.
Out of sight in the ante-room, Mr SM began to dictate an email to his secretary, “Bonjour, Monsieur le Président, Je voyage régulièrement à Paris … “
More looks exchanged between me and Hubby.
Quince jam finished, I took out my phone and risked a snap of the presidential photo and ‘stole’ a chocolate from the bowl on the table. Hubby scolded me with raised eyebrows. I shrugged my shoulders.
The pantomime continued. French letter complete, Mr SM began a one-sided tirade in high volume next door. This, we presumed, was aimed at the dusty man in overalls we’d spotted through the door. Though it was all Greek to me, I clearly understood the tone and I wondered if quince jam was going to be my last meal …
Thus concluded our two days of business in Athens – our very own Greek 3 Act play. Thankfully not a tragedy.
Obviously, I lived to tell this tale.
Athens, my musings:
- What’s with all the stray cats?
- Athens does ruins like no other city – both ancient and modern side by side. And almost no wall is exempt from a lick of graffiti. In it’s own sun-bleached, Greek-columned, narrow-alley-ed, sprayed-art, al fresco-taverna-ed way, it is beautiful!
- There is a wonderful tension about who invented what – the Greeks or the Turks? This applies to coffee, kebab, tzatziki, Greek salad (I’m with the Greeks on this one) and many more.
- I got lost in the vocabulary of the city’s antiquities – destroyed, rebuilt, restored, vivid colour, deity, marble, mosaic, ritual, worship, reinforced, invaded, Zeus, Athena, Nike, temple. But from the fallen columns to the lofty Acropolis, I loved all of it.
- The Monastiraki Flee Market is the biggest I’ve ever seen. Streets and squares and alley-ways filled with something for everyone. We took pot luck on 4 vinyl records, chosen on the basis of the album covers.
- In Greece, business is conducted through face-to-face meetings, a glass of wine, food and unsolicited advice about life. It’s personal.
- Every Greek we came across, from taxi drivers to tugboat captains to the avuncular Mr SM, treated us with kindness and respect.
Herewith some snaps:
P.s. Mr SM speaks English in a heavy Greek accent – when you ready the story, think My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
P.p.s. I cannot share with you my illegally-obtained presidential snap of Messers SM and BC, because I value my life.
P.p.p.s. I think I had a Greek salad at every meal. There was little standardisation apart from tomatoes. One restaurant even saw fit to leave out the Greek feta! I was not impressed.
P.p.p.p.s. We saw an English subtitled play called The Killing Game by the very morbid, but brilliant Eugene Ionesco. Probably one of the best theatre productions Hubby and I have seen in years.
P.p.p.p.p.s. Mr SM not only gave us considerably more than 2 minutes, but also gave us marital advice in the form of: “Is good you are working together” and then ended with “Invite me to supper, I in London on 2nd April“.
P.p.p.p.p.p.s. We got a lovely dose of winter sun (12-20 degC) and a dip in a jacuzzi overlooking the Parthenon. Athens, we’ll be back!