I guess there are branches of Lidl all over Europe, the world, who knows, and all pretty similar, I imagine. In and around Kalamata there are three. Some years ago, Herbert watched a guy with a machine cutting the big expanse of grass around one of these supermarkets. He went in to ask if he could take the cut grass for his sheep. He met the manager and the girls at the tills, and came away with the hay. He went back each time the grass was cut.
At the back of the building were large skips for rubbish, into which went foodstuffs too, out of date stuff, perishables: fruit, vegetables, bread, cakes, cooked meat, fish. Most of it, as everybody knows, perfectly OK. Herbert began, on his hay gathering visits, to climb in to the skips to forage for any thing his animals could eat. Previously he had done the same in the skips behind the vegetable market. Nobody seemed to mind. But then a problem developed and the open skips behind Lidl were replaced by locked skips. Too many scavengers, gypsies, who knew?
But the girls in the shop were, it appeared, unhappy with the waste and since they already knew Herbert, an arrangement was reached. Each day at four Herbert backs his car up to the rear door of the supermarket and the girls hand out all of that day’s out-of-date stock. The deal is that he takes everything away. Some days there is a lot, some days a little. This system operates without the knowledge of the management, so from time to time, when a new manager arrives, there is a certain clandestine quality to the operation.
Herbert’s animals, in consequence, are extremely well fed, on squashy vegetables, stale bread, milk, etc, but then, of course, there are the twenty plastic bottles of fruit flavoured yoghurt, the split carton of detergent, the cooked meats, the unfrozen chickens, the vacuum packed fish, the cellophane wrapped cake. He has no say in what arrives.
So, for some time now, our own diet has been supplemented periodically by eccentric avalanches of foodstuffs which have to be eaten immediately. Diana, who lives in a yurt above the village, takes stuff too, and passes some of it on to her friend Deborah, Andreas, the Romanian labourer takes it for his family. We pass on items too, Linda and I, but always the problem is time. It’s all perishable stuff and needs to be distributed/consumed pretty quickly.
My friend Gordon, who visits quite often, and who seems to do most of the cooking when he is here, talks about The Herbert Challenge, which requires you to make a meal from whatever arrives on a given day.
Of course, we don’t mention these things to people whose standards we think may be higher than ours, nor, interestingly, to Greeks that we know. Greeks can be sensitive about what they construe as charity. Some obscure sense of pride seems to prevent them from accepting anything used or second hand. There are no charity shops at all in Kalamata, nor any second hand shops, come to that. Actually, a second hand shop did open recently, though, as I understand, most of its customers are foreigners
One day last year, Herbert collected twenty unfrozen, frozen chickens from Lidl, far too many to be eaten. What he did was to cook them all and load them into his car. He drove round the district, stopping at each of the big roadside bins, where the mangy cats live, and throwing out a whole chicken.
Unhappily, Herbert has recently fallen out with his friend of twenty four years, Nikos Abramis. He was very close to the Abramis household. The story of the recent quarrel is tortuous and hard to piece together. It involves, among other things, the sale of two pigs, and dark rumours about the part played by Herbert’s dogs in recent sheep attacks. Laughable, you may think, but both of the principle protagonists, Niko and Herbert, have been wounded by the affair. Herbert cut off the water supply to Niko’s livestock, so I suppose there will be no going back