THE style around here is haphazard and nonchalant — including everyone’s transport.
You’ve never seen anything like it, not even in Africa, and that’s saying something.
In Johannesburg, about 25 people can squeeze into a 15-seater minibus taxi, when the necessity arises, but four human beings on a tiny scooter?
You gotta believe it!
Yesterday you’re walking from Eressos to Skala, a distance of about 6km when you include the stretch to the Kafatan One’s nest at the Women’s Beach in front of Da Luz.
You realise you’re taking your life in your hands stepping out into this maelstrom.
The pace may be sedate in these villages but hang, on the road between Eressos and Skala Eressos, they certainly make up for it!
Not everyone though is hell-bent on getting from A to B as quickly as possible, with no regard for life or limb. Not everyone’s bike engine revs like crazy mosquitos.
One bloke comes chugging along with a hand on one handle bar. The other one clutches a fruit that’s heading for his mouth. Chew, chomp, chomp. Chug, chug.
Three chattering teenagers race by, on one scooter. Two of them, their feet hang loose, precariously close to the ground.
Off they go. Laughing. All the way to the beach. Their towels fly behind them
Then the family of four.
Daddy in front with his elbows out like wings, a mother hen protecting her chicks.
He’s leaning forward a little, as if to give the trip some momentum.
Two little ones in the middle, looking this way and that, and mama at the back.
Solid and sure.
These aren’t motorbikes or anything, just ordinary scooters, from tiny to only a bit bigger.
They come in various stages of dishevelment and sometimes you wonder how anyone could sit on a tattered old seat like that.
Just about every one of these two-wheelers is customised.
Plastic crates or baskets or any old something to carry things in are attached to them in various positions: front, back, on the part where they put your feet.
They never know when they might need to come to a sudden and unpredictable halt, and pick some oregano or wild spinach. Fennel, perhaps? Maybe they’ll stop. Simply to stare.
They don’t know when they’ll have to take their dog or dogs somewhere.
Yes, they have to be prepared.
The pooches sit wide-eyed, in their crates. Their ears almost blow back when the bikers race around. But the dogs don’t budge. They dare not!
The cars are another story.
Dusty, whether they are new or not, and dented — if they’re older than one week!
Or so it seems.
Madame X parks her cute car outside your house, where the car park is, for our area of the village.
You wash it, and suddenly it gleams. Pretty thing.
Then it’s time to find the sun visor, for the big front window.
Uhoh…. it’s a long search in that Pandora’s Box of a boot!
Perhaps it’s a Greek thing, or at least an Eressos thing (you don’t know), this carrying your life around in the back of your car.
Everyone seems to do it, even the ex-pats carry a hotch-potch of Gott knows What.
Sometimes this paraphernalia overflows onto the back seat: anything and everything clogs the cars. Ok, not all of them, but it’s not strange to see things, anything lying there, innate.
You see a man on a quad bike. He needs four wheels — the size of him.
He has a very formal and smart carrier tied to the back, the local yokel crate is pinned to the front.
It’s got the residue of some vegetable stuff in it.
You watch him take his right leg in hand to get off his quad. It rises about 10cm as he unseats himself.
Yes, they’re good at constructing mobile contraptions, the people in this area.
There’s even a giant-sized tuk-tuk — dishevelled and rudimentary — that parks in Eressos Square.
It reminds you of Snowy Struthers’ buggered up old Beetle that we used to ride around in at Mazeppa Bay, in the Transkei, South Africa, when we were kids.
One day, us rural types, Snowy and me, we took two Joburg girls for a spin.
We laughed like hell when we rode over a cow pat (on purpose, mind you).
It splashed and splattered onto their legs through the rusted floor of the VW.
Boy, did they shriek, those city girls from the fancy suburbs.
That ruined any chance of success in our amarous overtures.
So, we smoked cigarettes instead, and vomited behind the beach shack at Mazeppa.
You’re remembering this on the way to the beach yesterday.
Your feet in walking boots without socks squish mulberries.
The juice is blood, South African blood. Marikana — the big post-liberation massacre of striking platinum miners. A rape every four minutes too, in your blighted homeland. The murder of lesbians.
Poor thing. South Africa. It’s stuck in an apartheid paradigm — racial tyranny, brutal sexism, and a president who spends R225-million on his private home.
The liberators (sies!) are the opressors now, and the much-vaunted constitution pays lip service to human rights. You could cry, and sometimes you do, it disgusts you so. It hurts, yes it does.
Thankfully, there’s no lurking malevolance or the evil of sinister and indiscriminate violence here.
You breathe a sigh of relief.
The agrarian ambience soothes you; the smell of the earth, sheep shit; the swifts and the swallows go seriously tweet tweet. They’re swooping and soaring, singing with glee.
You love the way there’s always somebody busy on a piece of land, growing something, tilling the soil. The plants are health, so green.
There’s lots of cultivation going on. You see people dropping off fresh stuff at the restaurants, the vegetable shops, the mini-markets.
They park their scooters and walk in with the stuff, fresh and fullsome.
It’s sort of a culture here, this selling from a vehicle.
This doesn’t happen in Athens, says Madame X.
There are any number of trucks, some with loudspeakers, others without.
They carry anything from clothes, to pots and pans, fresh fish in a fridge.
Yesterday there was a van in the sqaure loaded with garlic, long strands of it.
It was a kind of makeshift campervan; garlic at the bottom and then a level above it, for sleeping.
You’re on your way to the butcher, after the beach, to buy a steak for the candlelight dinner you’re imagining for yourself.
It’s the butcher opposite Portakali, where you bought a whole chicken last week, for chicken soup.
You swear it’s free range, even without it carrying a contrived city label telling you so.
He slices a piece of meat for you, and you say Bones for Dogs, please.
You imagine he will give you the gristle he has chopped off.
No! He goes to his freezer and comes back smiling.
Wow! A whole packet full of meaty bones, for mahalla.
Vento licks her lips. It’s her first bone, and she loves it.
Madame X’s little ones will get theirs soon.
Note to self: maybe it will stop the Yorkie going for the villagers’ legs.
ps: You’re happy you’re not brushing your teeth every three hours anymore, in anticipation of Madame X planting a smacker on your loving lips.
You know it. She is never going to kiss you. Period.
pps: Yes, Afrodykie is clever but not clever enough to have come up with the name Afrodykie. That brainwave belongs to Gabrielle Bekes, who sat next to you at the Sunday Times in Johannesburg.
Thank you, Gabrielle, for this wonderful gift. A brand, at last! xxx