Junta Days Chapter 03

Now, what to do? I had thought of looking around Crete as I had before, but with the car this time. That might be easier than stumbling over rocks and sleeping in olive groves as I did the last time I was here. Yet I had come for a job with the intent to live here – hopefully in a house. Plus the fact that Niki, the girl on the boat, had given me this name: Costas Stavronitas. She said that he might give me a job. At least she said that he might be crazy enough to give me a job, which may not be the same thing but to me, right now, I couldn’t care less. Also his office was hardly two hundred metres from where I sat drinking this coffee.

One hour later I was still sitting in the cafe. I had been through it in my mind over and over. It cannot be that easy to get a job in Crete. So I doubt if I will get a job that easily. Ergo: why bother to ask. No doubt he will laugh at me. Was my greek good enough to ask for a job? By that time anyway I had eaten some breakfast, drank another coffee and had a free raki.

I knew that if I didn’t go and ask for a job I would deeply regret it. So how bad could it be? It is nothing, I’m just asking politely for employment as do millions of people every day. I was offered a second raki by the cafe owner and I have to say that I drank that too. That’s it, it is now eight am and I am going to the office to ask for a job. No problem. I wasn’t sure if it was the raki speaking, but I paid my bill. Drove the car up to Eleftheriou Square and parked right outside the travel office and the cigarette shop. I walked in and there at the back of the office behind a huge desk was someone that I hoped was Costas Stavronitas. There was nobody else in the office. No staff, no customers, nobody.

‘Excuse me’ I said quietly ‘I am looking for Kirie Stavronitas.’ No reply. Not a word. He seemed to be staring straight at me and, if it hadn’t been for a slight snore, I would have sworn he was awake. This is ridiculous, I thought. I coughed loudly, as one does.

‘Aaaah’ he sort of said, and then jumped up in his seat. ‘Kalimera, err ti thelete?’

I replied in greek telling him that I was english. ‘English?’ he said in english. ‘What are you doing here, do you want a ticket, where do you want to go?’ All this in perfect, and I mean perfect english.

‘I don’t want to go anywhere’ I said.

‘But this is a travel agency. Everybody wants to go somewhere who comes in here. That is what we do. Now where do you want to go. Italy? Egypt? Where?’

‘I wanted to talk with you’ I said. ‘A girl on the ferry called Niki told me to speak to you.’

‘How is Niki? She is a wonderful girl, so tragic, lost her father fighting for the communists in the civil war. I know her mother and I used to be good friends with her father in spite of him being a communist. Why her mother collects all those goats I will never understand. Ah yes, a wonderful girl. But why did she tell you talk to me if you don’t want a ticket?

‘I need a job’ I blurted out. I just felt he was losing me, I had to make it clear what I was doing there. It must have been the raki but I thought I might be going insane here talking about nothing when I was scared to death of even entering the office.

‘Ah’ he said. ‘You want a job. Mother of God an englishman has walked in here off the platea and he wants a job. But do you know about travel agencies, do you know anything about Crete?’

‘Yes’ I said, ‘I do.’ I then explained to him that I had spent the good part of the year two years ago in Crete travelling over a lot of the island then I had gone back to London to work at NUS Travel and I spent the last summer on the north coast of Norway.

‘Whatever did you do on the north coast of Norway? he asked astonished.

‘I worked in a fish factory to make enough money for my car and to get here to get a job in Crete’ I said, ‘I really love this island and I want to live and work here. I can speak some greek as well.’

‘Let me get this clear’ he said. ‘You are english. You know Crete fairly well and you speak greek. You have also worked in a travel office before in London and you went all the way to the Arctic to make enough money to buy a car to be able to get to Crete to get a job and live here. Is that right?

‘Yes’ I replied, ‘that is exactly right.’

He got up from the desk, picked up his keys and told me to come with him. I went. We turned up the street just off the square and walked along to a little bar immediately behind the police station. It was easy to tell, there were policemen entering and leaving the building with a big sign that said Astynomia – police in greek. It was the same for the bar. Policemen leaving and entering. We walked in and near to the back of the bar was a table with three men sitting there. One was in police uniform, he looked senior, maybe a captain or something. I had no idea. We sat down at this table. I was dumbfounded. I didn’t know what to say. I said ‘sherete.’ Hello.

Then Costas went into serious greek for about five minutes. Stopped and the policeman thought about what he said. Then he replied in complicated greek for another five minutes. Then the two other men had their say. I had pretty well no idea what was said because my greek wasn’t that good and I was still pretty well dumbfounded. We were all served coffee and a brandy – a greek brandy. An interesting way to do business if business is what they sought to do. I sipped my coffee as Costas and the others continued to talk.

Finally Costas turned to me and asked me my name. ‘Ray’ I replied.

‘You now have a job’ Costas said. ‘This is the chief of the police here in Iraklion and he said that you can have the permits, a residence permit and a work permit’. He introduced me to the other two men whose names I cannot remember. ‘In a few days you can go back to the police office and they will issue the permits. Congratulations.’

From dumbfounded, I became astonished.

‘Now let’s go’ said Costas and we said goodbye to the senior police officer and his friends and walked back to Eleftheriou Square where we sat in one of the cafe bars there in the sunshine on the pavement tables.

Costas then explained that he had in fact been looking for someone for some time to look after the office. He preferred an englishman because he said the cretan peasants were so lazy and an englishman that could get by in greek was excellent. One also who loved Crete and had already worked in the travel business was ideal. ‘Thank god for Niki’ he said ‘maybe I’ll buy her mother another goat. Soon she will have a herd. That will be interesting in central Iraklion.’

He bought more coffee and more brandy failing to notice that I had left the one they had bought in the last bar. He explained that he was related by parentage to the best of the venetian families on the island. That they were here around five hundred years ago didn’t seem to matter. The travel office is what he does, he explained. It will grow and we will have many customers one day. Tourism in Crete is the future. ‘Any questions?’

‘Well there is one’, I replied, ‘where will I live?’

‘That’s no problem’ he said ‘you will live in the house near my mother’s villa. Come, I will show you.’

We got into Costas’ Mercedes and he drove me out of Iraklion and up past Knossos. I looked at my watch. It was barely ten o’clock. I had arrived in Crete, found a job and a house, got a residence permit and work permit. All in four hours. I told myself to relax, stop worrying, take it as it comes. Maybe by lunchtime I would rule the world.

One thought on “Junta Days Chapter 03

  1. Hi Ray
    I have been working my way through your chapters and have to take a break for dinner now but will come back to your Junta days. Your impressions of Crete in 1966 are wonderful. I learned a lot and enjoyed the vicarious journey. No wonder you came back.
    Thanks
    Marni Jackson

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