At nine-ish a bus approached. A pale hospital green with the KTEL emblem painted on the front and IOANNINON in the destination window.

This must be it.

We stood outside the café and waited for it to pull up. We were alone on the pavement. The bus wheezed and groaned to a halt. The doors started to open. Suddenly, from nowhere came an enormous crowd of little old ladies in black. They swarmed around the doors of the bus, pushing and shoving and elbowing, a mad aggressive black froth of bus travellers trying to board; squeezing and squashing themselves between the passengers on the bus who were engaged in hand-to-hand combat trying to get off.

We stood with our mound of luggage and gaped; waiting patiently – true to our British-in-bus-queues-iness – for the chance to get on too.

Arguments were raging, screams and ululations were coming from the little old ladies, dust was getting kicked up everywhere. Sometimes it seemed that those getting off had the upper hand and were successfully getting themselves extricated but then those outside would rally again and press them all back on amidst grunts and groans.

Gradually though, it seemed the wild battle was resolving itself and everyone was managing either to get on or get off as they wished. We grabbed the handles of our cases in readiness.

The doors of the bus snapped shut and the bus shot away.

The people who had got off and had been involved a few minutes before in a life or death struggle were now smiling and chatting and slowly drifting off to their homes…and we were still standing there…cases in hand, guitar round my neck…

The woman in the café just glanced at us as we went back in with a look which seemed to say, “that was fate, you stupid foreigners”. She was a real Anagke in an overall.

Pote ine to …” we started.

Stis thotheka!

Thotheka? TWELVE O'CLOCK!!!??? Three more hours of hanging around here…?” We slumped despondently back into our seats at the table outside and ordered more coffee and watched the dust slowly settle in the road again.

We used the time to make a strategic plan of action. This time we would be prepared. It was something like this; when the bus stopped Deborah would run over to the door and make sure it didn’t close and I would run back and forth with the cases and bag and guitar and throw them on one by one. Then she would jump on and I would jump on behind her…and we agreed to take NO PRISONERS – anyone in the way would be trampled on! The little old ladies in black would learn what it means when two British citizens want to catch a bus!

B-hour approached. All was still quiet in the square…uncannily quiet. You could hear the odd dog barking and someone in the café expectorating a week’s supply of phlegm from his lungs. I had the feeling hidden eyes were watching us from behind the twitching curtains in the windows opposite.

High noon was approaching. My trigger-finger…or rather case-handle fingers were getting twitchy. I practised picking up a case quickly…zish!…zash! “Ow…fucking ‘ell”, I dropped it on my foot.

A bus was coming…a rickety blue thing. It passed by without stopping.

“That wasn’t it, was it?”

“No, look, there it comes!”

True enough, in the distance another pale green bus was labouring up the street trailing a cloud of dust.

We braced ourselves for the imminent onslaught.

The bus got closer.

I kept looking from side to side for the arrival of the black-clad host.

The bus pulled in. The driver got out and came to help with the cases. We got on. We sat down.

The bus left.


Chapter 8

Back to Contents

No comments: