Monday, 22 March 2010

Nutters I have known #1: the Basque

According to Will Self, 70% of the world's nutters are in University in some shape or form. In a way it makes sense. Universities are inhabited by people who spend lifetimes focusing on something so small and intricate, that they often lose any sense of reality. Communication with the environment becomes a burden rather than necessity. Wearing white socks with sandals all of a sudden sounds like a good idea. But that's not to say these people are bona fide nutters. They are simply eccentric. But the most eccentric of these most definitely strayed into nutter territory. This series of blog posts is dedicated to these weird and wonderful (when they are not your flatmates) people.

Being a student and then working at Universities since 1993, you understand that I have had way more than my fair share of nutters. Maybe I am one of them myself. Memory is a tricky thing, it makes you think of them in better colours than you really should. You need to really rake your brains to re-discover the fury you felt at the time, so that you depict them fairly and accurately.

#1: the Basque scientist
The one who by far takes the biscuit, the top prize, was a flatmate of ours called 'Juana'. The Mrs-Blackbeard-to-be and myself lived in this extremely cold and damp flat at the top floor of a lovely Victorian house. The house being lovely made up for the rotting windows and the extreme cold. Or so she says.

Juana was a Basque student in Engineering, doing research on something I never quite understood. She went on to get a research post, working in the lab. In any case, she was one of the most driven uni-nutters I have ever known. She had an Italian boyfriend who visited weekends and was a half-nutter himself, but we'll deal with him later.

Here are some of Juana's traits:
  • She was so extremely stingy that she often ate food way past its sell-by date. On one occasion she got poisoning from expired prawns
  • In order to save money, she took a bus day ticket, went into town, loaded herself with groceries from the open market, came home, dumped the bags, got on the bus again, went to the big supermarket and returned with another load of groceries
  • the above visits happened on Fridays, because that's when said supermarket had loads of 'reduced' items-hence the expired stuff
  • she bought food for 8 people from the market (5 pineapples for a pound, 3 melons for 50p, that kind of thing). As it was impossible for any human being to consume so much food in a week, most of it lay rotten in the fridge or in the fruit basket
  • she refused to pay with a card at the supermarket, because "the black man at the checkout may memorise my card number". Her words, not mine.
  • She was paid for a 9-5 job at the lab, but she woke up at 6, went for a swim, started work at 7 and came home at 7. 12 hours. She also went weekends. She slept at 8.
  • So that she wouldn't spend money, she made a pot of coffee in the morning, put it in a plastic container, and re-heated it in the microwave at work
  • She would have a tub of double cream on its own as dessert. (I suspect she thought it was some kind of yoghurt)
  • When the boyfriend came for the weekend, after dinner she'd order him to their room for a 15-minute sex session after dinner. She then slept and he sat with us to watch TV. He liked Van Damme films. We didn't.
  • On Sunday mornings she woke up, filled up a huge pot full of dry chick-peas and water, put it on the fire and then went back to bed. The chickpeas needed a good 2 hours of boiling. She did this so the boyfriend could take some boiled chick peas back with him. He also carried his dirty clothes with him on the train so she'd wash them for him.
  • Although she lived with us for more than 2 years, she never got used to the idea of having a cat in the house. He constantly startled her, and she reacted like this.
  • She ate so much pre-prepared food that she often blocked the toilet with her stools. She then spent hours locked up in the loo, hopelessly trying to unblock the toilet with bleach and huffing at it. She never used the toilet brush. When I told her that she could, she was offended.
  • She often tried to burn us down by forgetting the stove on.
  • A colleague of hers broke up with her boyfriend. Juana thought that she was a slut because she'd had an ex-boyfriend-in her mind, you're only supposed to have the one, marry him and have his babies.
I was very happy when she eventually moved out.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

The dream of the spherical goddess

Ever since I hurt my ankle and gave up football, 18 months ago, I have been wanting nothing more than to kick a ball. It's as if my heart defies what the body knows: I've hurt both ankles twice. Last time it took me over a month to walk, and I can still feel that my ankle is weak, probably permanently. But I sometimes go to bed and the moment I close my eyes I make that killer pass from right-back all the way to the winger. It can't be helped. I've been playing the game ever since I can remember. Some of my first memories are of the World Cup of 1978, with that fantastic poster. I remember my dad going to the coffee house to watch games with the other men in Ayia Phyla, that's about it.

I even vaguely remember Aston Villa's 1982 European Cup win. But my first, big football memories were from the 1982 World Cup in Spain. The images flood back: naranjito, the mascot, the brilliance of Brazil with Socrates, Zico and Falcao. Everyone around me loved Brazil and wanted them to win it. But I somehow rooted for Italy. Our local grocer's was giving away world cup posters of teams, and I landed one of Italy, clad in their away white strip. It's funny, but that simple coincidence in the course of my childhood, one of many, has determined my support for a national team which never plays attractive football. And then there was Marco Tardelli. In the final against Germany he scored, and produced the most passionate celebration of all time: he turned and ran towards his team's bench, screaming 'goal' and crying tears of joy. That image has remained etched in my memory, the explanation to why football inexplicably becomes the passion for millions of people. That was it. I've been supporting Italy since.

As a player I was never great. When I was in school there were no real positions-everybody followed the ball, wherever that was, to form a huge scramble of feet, elbows and heads in search of the goddess. We used to play in a dusty field next to my mother's house, clouds of dust rising. I remember taking a bath afterwards, and the water turned red in the tub, the colour of the soil, blood from my knees. We'd have matches with teams from other neighbourhoods, with all the hostility seen in a Barcelona-Real Madrid classic.

A stint in the youth team of my village didn't really last all that long. I guess, as Roberto from Byzantium said to me once, "the mind is quicker than the body". He of course meant that we were getting old. I think it also means that some people can produce on the pitch something resembling the brilliance we saw on the screen. I couldn't. I was useful I guess. I could kick the ball, and as I grew older, I developed a good sense of positioning and passing, to compensate for my complete lack of pace and mobility. I also gradually developed the ability to pass and shoot with both feet, so I could play anywhere on the pitch. Except goal.

In the meantime I began to worship the divine ponytail, Roberto Baggio. He represented all I loved about football. Talent, commitment, work ethic, but most of all he was a sound character in a sport where these were rapidly disappearing. I started playing for the uni team as an undergrad, and then when I came to the UK I bumped into the Byzantine Roberto, another one who 'excelled' on the pitch after the age of 30. By then I'd moved to defence, using my 'wisdom' as a counter to the lack of physical condition. I began to play hard, but also developed my passing based on the Italian defenders who never ever hoofed the ball, but rather patiently brought it out and started counter-attacks. I hated giving the ball away more than anything. Roberto, like his Buddhist namesake, played in attack. His 'genio Italiano' as Captain Steve called it, served him well, and he went on to score goal after goal for our struggling team. Bizzarely I never scored, not even when we (rarely) came up against teams considerably weaker than ours whom we thumped. And then, when I went to Italy for Roberto's wedding, I bagged the perfect hat-trick in a match among his friends the night before his big day. I bagged one with the right foot, a screamer with my left, and a header in the first half. And that was the last time I scored.

And now I just watch. I thought of taking up coaching. Archery. Something. But nothing is like it. No matter how many hours I play the guitar, the buzz is never the same.

Clubs and national teams I love and have loved
The miracle of Denmark, 1992
The wonderful Czechs, 1996


I am sure Roberto will remind me the ones I forgot...
Dedicated to Eduardo Galeano, whose writings on the goddess are the best tribute to the passion.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Πηλά τζιαι ρόφκια (μέρος Β')

(συνέχεια από το Α')

Άμαν τζιαι εφκήκεν ο ήλιος για τα καλά, τζιαι η φύση γυρόν τους ήταν πιον όξυπνη, εσηκωστήκαν σιγά-σιγά τζιαι εμπήκαν πιο μέσα στο περβόλιν. Ερέξαν που μες τα δεντρά ως την άλλην άκραν του περβολιού, εγυρίσαν τζιαι αρκέψαν να παρπατούν που μες το περβόλιν, φακκώντας παλαμάκια, σφυρίζοντας τζιαι πετάσσοντας μέσα-μέσα καμιάν πέτραν ποτζιεί-ποδά για να φαράσουν τα πουλιά να πετήσουν προς τες ελιές που είχαν στημένα τα βερκά τους. Την ίδιαν ώραν, είχαν τζιαι τον νουν τους άμπα τζιαι δουν τίποτε που εμπορούσαν να παίξουν με τα λάστιχα τους. Ο Αγγελής είδεν έναν αμπελοπούλλιν πας το κλωνίν μιας ελιάς. Εσημάθκιασεν με το λάστιχον τζιαι ξαπόλησεν το αλλά εν το κούτσιησεν. Έφερεν το λάστιχο στο στόμαν του, έφτυσεν μέσα αλλό έναν βούκκον σκάγια τζιαι εσυνέχισεν με το φάραμαν.

Άμαν εφτάσαν πάλαι στο τέλος του περβολιού, τζιαμαί που εκάθουνταν πριν, εκάτσαν πάλαι πουκάστην τερατσιάν τζιαι αννοίξαν τες τσέντες τους. «Ελπίζω να έφερες κανέναν χαλλούμιν ποτζιείνα της μάνας σου» είπεν ο Παράσκος του Αγγελή. «Ακατάγνωτα, εν κάμνουμεν δίχα του» επολοήθηκεν του ο Αγγελής. Έφκαλεν που την τσένταν του το χαλλούμιν, λλίες ελιές, κανέναν-θκυό αγγουράκια τζιαι λλίον ψουμίν φρέσκον που έψησεν η στετέ του, ούλλα τυλιμένα σε μιαν μαντηλιάν της κουζίνας. Ο Παράσκος έφερεν τζιαι 2-3 αυκά βραστά τζιαι εμπουκκώσαν κάθοντας πουκάστην τερατσιάν, θωρώντας τον ουρανόν τζιαι παρατηρώντας τα πουλλούθκια. Ένας κουρκουτάς εθώρεν τους με περιέργειαν που μιαν τρύπαν στον κορμόν της τερατσιάς. Είδαν έναν μπουλούκκιν μαυρόπουλλους να πετούν ψηλά, προς τον νότον. Αχ τζιαι να πιάνναν κανέναν που τζιείνους, ήταν όμορφα πουλιά τζιαι το κελάηδημαν τους ήταν πολλά γλυτζιήν. Αλλά είχαν άλλα πουλιά να πιάσουν προς το παρόν.

Εποσπαστήκαν που το μπούκκωμαν, εσυνάξαν τα πράματα τους τζιαι αρκέψαν να παρπατούν προσεχτικά προς τες ελιές τους. Που μακρά εμπορούσαν να δουν ότι είχαν πιαστεί λλία πουλλούθκια, αλλά εκοντέψαν σιγά-σιγά άμπα τζιαι φαράσουν άλλα που ήταν κόμα μες τα δεντρά. Ο Παράσκος είδεν μιαν τζίηκλαν πιασμένην πας σ’εναν βερκίν τζιαι εβούρησεν να την πιάσει άμπα τζιαι καταφέρει τα τζιαι φύει. Εφκήκαν πας τα δεντρά τους τζιαι εσυνάξαν γλήορα ότι επιάσαν: αμπελοπούλια, κοτσιηνολαίμηες, μούγιους, κοτσιηνονούρες, δακκαννούρες. Ο Αγγελής έβαλεν ούλλα τα πουλλούθκια που ετρώαν σπόρους μες το κλουβούιν του: κανέναν-θκυό ζαρτηλούθκια, έναν τσακρίν τζιαι θκυό κουτσομουττούθκια. Ότι έτρωεν σπόρους εκρατούσαν το για το κλουβίν, τζιαι κάποια ήταν πολλά πολύτιμα για την ομορκιάν τους τζιαι το κελάηδημαν τους, όπως τα ζαρτήλια τζιαι τα κουτσομουττούθκια. Τα άλλα πουλλούθκια επνίαν τα, τζιείνα ήταν να καταλήξουν στο τραπέζιν.

Εστραφήκαν πίσω στην τερατσιάν τους να πνάσουν. Αφήκαν το κλουβούιν με τα ζωντανά πουλιά πουκάστες ελιές για να φέρουν άλλα με το κελάηδημαν τους. Εκάτσαν λλίην ώραν τζιαμαί αλλά εβαρεθήκαν να κάθουνται ύστερα που λλίον. Ο Παράσκος ήβρεν έναν ττενεκκούιν αγιωμένον τζιαι εκούμπησεν το χαμαί, μπροστά που την τερατσιάν. Ο Αγγελής μεμιάς εκατάλαβεν το παιχνίδιν. Εσταθήκαν τζιαι οι θκυό λλία μέτρα που το δεντρόν τζιαι αρκέψαν να το σημαθκιάζουν με πέτρες μέστα λάστιχα τους. Μετά που θκυο-τρείς απόπειρες, εκούτσιησεν το ο Αγγελής. Το ττενεκκούιν έκαμεν έναν κούφκιον ήχον τζιαι πετάχτηκεν κανέναν μέτρον πιο τζιει. Εξαναστήσαν το τζιαι αρκέψαν ξανά π’αρκής. Ούλλα ήταν τσιάττισμαν για λλόου τους.

Μετά που λλίην ώραν, είπαν να ξαναπάν στα βερκά τους. Αρκέψαν να παρπατούν προς τα δεντρά σιγά-σιγά, αλλά η ησυχία εταράχτηκεν που την τσιριλιάν του Παράσκου που έδειχνεν με το δάχτυλον προς τες ελιές: «
Μαυρότζιηκλα, μαυρότζιηκλα!» Ο Αγγελής εξαπόλησεν ότι εβάσταν τζιαιμαί που ήταν τζιαι αντάκωσεν του βούρου, φτάνοντας στο δεντρόν μετά που εκουτσούφλησεν τζι έππεσεν μες το φρεσκοκαμωμένον χωράφιν. Εφκήκεν γλήορα πας το δεντρόν τζιαι έφτασεν πας το κλωνίν που ήταν πιασμένον το πουλλίν. Έπιασεν το απαλά-απαλά με το δεξίν του, κρατώντας το βερκίν με τ’αριστερόν, ξικολλώντας το σιγά-σιγά να μεν του χαλάσει τα φτερά του. Εβάσταν το σαννα τζιαι ήταν το πιο εύθραυστο κομμάτιν πορσελάνη στον κόσμον. Ένιωθεν την καρκιάν του να χτυπά γλήορα τζιαι δυνατά. Εκατέβηκεν σιγά σιγά που το δεντρόν, κρατώντας προσεκτικά το πουλλίν. Αγαπούσαν πολλά τες μαυρότζιηκλες, γιατί εν επιάνναν συχνά τζιαι εκελαηδούσαν πολλά όμορφα. Εκαθάρισεν την κόλλαν που τα ποούθκια της με λλίον νερόν τζιαι έβαλεν την μες το κλουβίν.

Σιγά-σιγά ήρτεν η ώρα να συνάξουν τα βερκά τους τζιαι να παν έσσω. Τα πουλλούθκια μες το κλουβίν εθέλαν σάσμαν. Αρκέψαν το σύναμαν, με την αντίθετη πορείαν που εκάμαν το πρωίν. Εσυνάαν, ετυλίαν τζιαι εβάλλαν τες μάτσες μιαν-μιαν μες τες κουκκουρκές τους. Άμαν ο Παράσκος ήταν πας τη δεύτερην του ελιάν, άκουσεν έναν φτερούγισμαν βαρετόν πουπάνω του τζιαι είδεν την νοσσιάν νου
γερατζιού να κάμνει κατά το δεντρόν στο τέλος της σειράς. Είδεν το τζιαι ο Αγγελής. Αρκέψαν να φωνάζουν πέρκι φοηθεί τζιαι φύει αλλά τίποτε. Το γεράτζιν έσσιησεν τζιαι έκατσεν πας σ’έναν βερκίν που ήταν πιασμένος ένας μούγιος. Άρπαξεν το πουλλίν τζιαι πέτησεν, παίρνοντας τζιαι το βερκίν μιτά του.

Εσυνάξαν τα πράματα τους, εχτός που το χασημιόν βερκίν του Παράσκου, τζιαι εσαστήκαν να στραφούν έσσω. Ήταν μετά το μεσομέριν τζιαι αρκέψαν να πεινούν. Ο Παράσκος εφιλοσόφησεν το πράμαν: «Ε, νομίζω το γεράτζιην εκέρτησεν τον μούγιον, παίζει τζιαι τζιείνον το ίδιον παιγνίν με μας». «Ναι, μεν έσιεις παράπονον. Ρίζει περίτου που λλόου μας πας τα πετούμενα τ’ουρανού», απάντησεν ο Αγγελής. Περπατώντας προς το περβόλιν με την τερατσιάν, οι μιτσιοί εσταματήσαν τζιαι συνάξαν λλία ρόφκια. Εκάτσαν πουκάτω που την τερατσιάν τους, εκόψαν τα, εγλύψαν το ζουμίν που έτρεξεν μες τα σιέρκα τους, τζιαι εφάν τα λαίμαργα. Θέλεις ήταν η ώρα, η πείνα τους, ο ήλιος που έλαμπεν μεσοούρανα, τζιείντα ρόφκια ήταν τα
καλλύττερα που εφάν.

(φώτο δαμαί)