Christmas / by Adrian Joyner

I guess Christmases abroad are always going to be weird. For a start, in Greece they place a good deal less emphasis on Christmas than they do on Easter, or even New Year, though we happened to be in a big toy store in Kalamata (Jumbo) on Christmas Eve and it felt pretty much like the commodity fest we remember from the UK.

We usually make our Christmas phone calls to family and friends from the public phone box in the village, using phone cards. It’s cheaper than using the mobile, and you know when people have had their four minutes’ worth because the line goes dead. Everyone under thirty in the UK that we spoke to seemed to have received a flat screen TV from Santa.

The walk up to the village to use the phone proved highly sociable. Today we encountered Dina and Giorgia, Niko’s grown up daughters, on their way to feed the sheep: Dimitri, a nice bloke who looks a lot like Bing Crosby, on his way to feed his goats: Walter, an ex-foreign legion Austrian, emerging blearily from his tiny house after his post lunch nap: and a retired English couple out walking their dog. They rent a house in the village whilst their new house is being built, or, as it seems, not being built. The malign effects of the worsening Euro/sterling exchange rate, combined with reduced interest rates on what they have invested, means that, at the moment anyway, they can’t afford to continue.

We had invited our neighbours Herbert and Mikhail and two other Austrian friends to the wooden house for Christmas lunch, and had bought turkey, the ingredients for stuffing, sprouts, etc, in order to give them an English Christmas dinner. 

The turkey was in the oven and everything was under control, when Herbert phoned to say that he and Mikhail had gone down with the flu. A few minutes later, Holger and Margaret phoned to say the same. 

One o clock saw Linda and I, touts seuls, looking at one another over a giant roast turkey. Now the cruel part about all this is that Linda was due to fly to England on Boxing Day to spend a week with her parents, so I had a week of turkey soup/curry/rissoles/kebabs/pie/fricassee to look forward to.