Efthalia noticed the changes on her walk to the market that day. The worst potholes in the road had been filled in with great clods of earth, grass, roots and all. She almost stumbled on its evenness. Cratered for as long as she could remember, she’d often found her way home through the ruts and swells of the road in the dark, even when there was no moon to see by.
As she reached the outskirts of town, a new handwritten sign greeted her. Bright blue and orange paint on glaring white matt screamed “Welcome to Potirissi”. You’d only know we were in Greece, thought Thalia, by the wobbly waving flags in the four corners of the sign. How depressing.
Next there were the brightly painted cans with haphazard flower arrangements shoved into them: artistically arranged outside Genia’s small house, but then she was known for her art and craft projects that scattered from her terrace and down throughout her wilderness of a front garden. Mostly witchcraft, not craft, thought Thalia. The two women hadn’t spoken in years.
The pots outside Stavros’ house stood ready for inspection. The old soldier’s need for order in everything but his trouser buttons wasn’t lessening, she noted.
Where the shops started, Thalia could see a bunting of hand-painted Greek flags. Like a shunting train, it made its way in a jagged creep, crossing from balcony to balcony all the way down to the main square. Lanterns hung from the bunting, weighing it down in the middle, causing them to bump gently against the roofs of the few cars.
Strange, thought Thalia. None of this was here when I came down for the Easter weekend services.
She pressed on down the road, heading for Takis’ bakery. He would know what was going on. The man was better at local gossip than he was at baking. Thalia caught the scent of spanakopita from Gerasimo’s bakery, where she normally shopped, and sighed. I’ll just buy one thing from Takis, she told herself, one small thing, pump him for information and then I can buy my usual pies from Gerasimo on the way home.
As Thalia suspected, Takis did indeed know and was holding court behind the counter of his small cupboard of a bakery, in an alley just off the newly-whitewashed main square. He twisted worry beads around his fingers before flamboyantly launching them again like a yoyo, with a flick of his wrist and a clack of the bead.
“… It is true, my friends. He arrives today. All very hush hush but Yanni in Limani says that he has his taxi all ready to carry him here to Potirissi. It is a very proud day for our little town…”
“Where is he staying? I have rooms…”
“You have rooms, Daphne? No, no, no. They are not good rooms. They are not with a view. I have the best rooms in Potirissi. They all look to the sea. He is from an island race, they like to look to the sea.”
Efthalia edged closer towards Christos, the owner of these very desirable rooms.
“The Prime Minister has booked MY rooms, the best in Potirissi,” said Christos, thumping his chest. “His personal secretary telephoned to me to book.”
“But how can he come here?” said Efthalia. “How can he come here when he does not even exist? We have no Prime Minister. Not until the new elections next month.”
“Kiria said Takis, whipping his worry beads up into his fist. “It is not OUR prime minister who is coming. NO! It is the prime minister of England! Sir David Cameron. And when he is here, he will see the real Greek peoples, the honest Greek peoples, not the politicians and bankers, these bandits in Athens. He will go home and tell to the other Europeans, but most that Kiria Angela Merkel. He will say her how we need the Euro. How it is better for us and how Europe is better with us. How we augment it.”
“Oh yes, yes, he will! When he sees Potirissi,” they chorused.
As the temperature climbed and the sun sizzled down upon the glaring white square, no Potirissian thought to go home. They sat in the shade, with a doll’s cup of coffee in front of them, waiting for the arrival of the great Prime Minister.
They watched Yanni’s taxi bump its way down the main street, gently knocking each lantern like a bad slalom skier.
They watched Yanni swing the taxi around in a wide arc almost too close to the harbour’s edge, before getting out and opening the rear passenger door.
They saw a copper flash and then yet more blinding white emerged from the taxi, all crumpled into grey sandals and long brown socks. It unfolded into a tall skinny man in stone shorts and a pale blue cheesecloth shirt with a granddad collar. Around his neck was a red bandana and on top of matted strands of greying hair was a stone-coloured safari-style slouch hat.
Yanni slapped the man on the back, “This is my friend, Kirie David Cameron, all the long way from England.” And with that, he got back behind the wheel of his taxi and drove off.
David Cameron removed his hat, ran his fingers over his head, so that his hair looked as startled as he did, and blinked.
“Ahm nae from England, but Scotland. Ehm, Scotia. Where do I find yon Christos?”
Efthalia was the only one left in the square with David Cameron. Every other Potirissian had melted away, although Efthalia suspected that Takis and Christos were watching from behind the shutters of the bakery.
She pressed her hands together and put them to one side of her tilted head.
“Siesta?” said David Cameron.“They’re no sleeping, are they?!”
“Hypnos, yes,” said Efthalia. “But come with me, I have rooms to rent. Come, Kirie David Cameron, first we go to Gerasimo’s for spanakopita.”