In August 2009 we spent a few days here being wined and dined by the company that Mr Tab agreed to come to work for. Most of the time we were here we were driven around in an air-conditioned car and fed in the type of restaurants where no one ever spends their own money. For about four hours when Mr T was in important discussions involving work I was left to my own devices. I decided to take the metro from just outside our city centre hotel up to the northern suburbs here it was suggested we should find an apartment should we come to live in Athens. It looked easy, one straight line all the way up to the end and I’d been told it took about 30 minutes.
At this time I spoke no Greek other than ‘thank you’. In fact, I’m not sure that I could even really say that but I made a vague effort in that direction. After we’d been on the train for about 10 minutes there was an incomprehensible announcement and at the next station everyone got off. Although I like to think that I’m daring and different I am really, at heart, a sheep and am happiest when I am following everyone else so I got off the train too and followed the herd until they all climbed onto buses and then we started on a very long, stop-start journey through the traffic of some unknown part of Athens. It was August and the bus had no air conditioning but I did at least have a seat.
As I was sitting on the bus the important men talking about business decided to go off for lunch and suggested to Mr T that he call me to see if I would like to join them. Clearly they’d sussed out that I was at my happiest while shoving food down and in this first flush of wooing Mr T they were desperate to make sure that Tabs was happy too. After calling me Mr T explained to his future colleagues that I was on a bus somewhere in Athens with only the vaguest idea of the direction in which I was heading they reacted as if I’d been kidnapped. People were shouting at each other in Greek and finally they asked Mr T why he had let me do this. I’m not sure if he tried to explain the thing about letting your wife do something or not but it seemed that they still wanted to be friends so were happy enough to let it rest.
I finally made it up to the end of the line about 1 hour and 40 minutes after I’d started my journey. I had enough time to drink a cup of coffee and be distracted by some spanakopita before I needed to do the whole thing again. That evening when we went out for another eatathon I mentioned that I’d had a rather long journey up to Kifissia and had to take a bus and were they really sure that this was where we should live? Oh indeed, it was where we should live because it was only a little problem about the track and it would be mended by the time we moved here. Well maybe they were thinking we were moving here in 2020.
I suspect that along with inventing democracy, souvlaki and fakelaki the Greeks invented the metro system too and that this work has actually been going on since the dawn of time. Like the Parthenon it is a work in progress and as we never see the Parthenon without a crane so we shall never see metro line 1 without a bus. If you happened to want to get from the northern suburbs into the city then take the 550 bus. And some air freshener.