Of trains, delays and Albanians

I have not been long in Greece. I have seen no ruins, no palaces, no archaelogical digs.I have seen a bus station, some queues, a few small towns, a deserted skifield, and a lot of signs written in a language that I know nothing of. Except theta. I remember that from maths. My general impressions lack colour, a little washed-out: perhaps the grey day is to blame.

And now I am in a train station. It is peopled by the usual bunch of misfits. The one-eyed young man who wanted to sell me sunglasses (‘Please, very high quality’), who was stumped to learn that I already had two pairs. The walking-along-and-shouting-for-no-reason man whose eyes no one would meet. The people who pan the contents of rubbish tins for gold. The people sitting on their luggage waiting for a train that might be hours or days away.

I met my first two Albanians too. The first one did nothing for the reputation of his country by pushing in front of me in the queue. The second was more amiable, and slightly behind me, but I always got the impression that he was trying to edge in front as well. Not that it really mattered to me, since I had to wait four hours for the train anyway. But still.

A motorcycle and a van are being driven around on the platform. Not entirely sure why this is. The drivers do not look official in any way. I am sure that it would not happen in many other countries. But no one seems concerned at all. Just step out of the way and let them go by.

Ah the train!

My travelling companions seem a diverse bunch (I have been singing ‘Graceland’ all day – ‘my travelling companion is nine years old, he is the child of my first marriage’).

There is an old man in a leather jacket with a weathered face, a walking stick and his prayer beads in his hands. His wife sticks close to his side. He is not interested in what is happening out of the window. But he trys not to laugh (or is not amused?) by the conversation of the others.

There is an educated young man with a Mambo top and more than one simcard for his cellphone. And a man pretending to read his paper so he can steal glances at the young woman who sits opposite (with her brother?). He is not reading very fast.

The window is open and the air outside is cool and refreshing; a stark contrast to the prevailing close, cloying smell of cigarette smoke that pervades all of the few public buildings I have visited in Greece. But I do not have the words to ask the young woman not to close the window just yet. And so it closes.

There are lots of people apparently without seats. Or not using them. Perhaps because it is okay to smoke in the corridors.

I have a prejudice against attractive people (one young man has just walked by). I always assume that they are flawed in some way; that they are ignorant or foolish or lack intelligence. And I am always amazed when I meet people who are attractive and do not seem to suffer from these flaws.

I am not quite sure what drives this inbuilt reaction of mine. I am trying to rid myself of it. A very sour grapes kind of thinking. Like the fox, I guess, in the Aesop fable (did anyone else read them as a child?).

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