Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Day 10: The Last Time I Will...

I had heard from Munich that this flu virus had a sting in its tail. Both T-M and William had been really stricken for three days and then felt better on the fourth day, only for the virus to return refreshed on the fifth day and render them even more stricken.

Now the fifth day of this flu virus for me happened also to be my last full day in Greece and I always like to imbue my last days anywhere with a kind of sentimental, melancholy, bitter-sweet procedure which requires me to keep on thinking, “hmm, that’s the last time I will do x”, where x is some poignant activity such as buy bread here or see the afternoon sunbeams slant in through the window or clean my teeth in this bathroom (this procedure is closely related to the incredibly masochistic thought process which starts with “this time yesterday/this time last week/etc…”).

So I simply decided that if this virus wanted to make its comeback on my last day it could quite simply fuck off.

I was therefore going to ignore the virus, to ostracise it, to send it to Coventry, to shun it.

The first step in this plan was to shun peppermint tea and drink coffee for breakfast. This would be proof that I was ok.

Shunned peppermint tea.

Drank coffee.

Couldn’t face breakfast.

Felt dizzy.

Shunned dizziness.

One thing on my list of ‘things to do in Greece’ which I still hadn’t managed was to have a meal in one of these typical restaurants I mentioned in Day 2, which serve the ready-cooked food: etoima. So I decided to go and have lunch in one, expecting to be hungry having shunned breakfast.

I set off, carefully negotiating the sheer downward slope of the road - possibly for the last time. All the way down I successfully shunned the shakiness and the wobbly feelings in my legs. The restaurant I was heading for was just after the fourth parallel, Egnatia on Sophou Leontos. Felt a bit light-headed now and there was a slight film of perspiration on my forehead but I also shunned this, arguing it away as the result of not eating breakfast.

Anyway, there it was, my estiatorio, Ta Nea Ilysia. Fairly busy but only Greeks eating there and amongst them a couple of Orthodox priests and if you want a sign that the food is good and cheap there is none better.

Now, I love mousaka but I always feel a bit awkward about ordering it because it’s just so ‘typical tourist’ – like a bunch of Japanese going into a restaurant in England and saying, “ah, we hwan the fish han ship”.

So I went in and looked at all the other things they had, considered them carefully, almost ordered one meal…almost something else and then said, ermmm…mia mousaka”.

Things normally happen slowly in Greece but when you order your meal in a place like this a frantic burst of activity ensues. The cooks shout the order, “vale ena mousaka” in the kind of loud, urgent voices which sound more as if they are warning the customers that the place is on fire, the waiters scurry around getting your table laid, bringing a bottle of water, a basket with cutlery and slices of bread, salt and pepper, toothpicks and then, within 5 seconds of ordering and sitting down, your meal is in front of you.

I thought about having a drink, a beer maybe or a glass of retsina but decided not to. This staggeringly obvious danger signal I shunned by thinking that in Ioannina we often only had water with lunch.

I had one mouthful of the really excellent mousaka and I realised I was full. I hadn’t been hungry in the first place. I actually felt pretty ill.

Shunned that – munched my mousaka manfully. I could actually feel the colour draining out of me as I munched – but I managed to get through the mousaka. Paid the bill with shaky hand and left.

I will draw a veil of discretion over my golgothic struggle back to the flat and the various manifestations of red-hot vitriolic invective I directed at this flu virus which, I now admitted, I had failed to shun. Suffice it to say that, thanks to this execrable virus, I didn’t even have time to think, this is the last time, etc…

I have since read that it is in fact not the flu virus which makes you feel as if you had died three weeks earlier, it is in fact your very own immune system which produces stuff like prostaglandins, interferons, interleukins (cytokines), leukotrienes, defensins to fight the virus and turns your body into a devastated chemical warfare zone – however this does not mean that I have any intention of apologising to some sub-microscopic strand of nucleic acid – I have my principles.

And my principles I shall not shun.

1 comment:

Anji said...

All in all a memorable holiday