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BUSKERS AND BEGGARS (Chania Chatter 4)

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Most evenings we wander down into the old town either for an early evening drink by the harbour or for dinner … sometimes both! It is so lovely just sitting in the sun watching the world go by, whether that is the Glass Bottomed Boat going out for the sunset cruise, or the horse drawn carriages taking their customers for a tour around the old town, or simply locals and tourists walking by. Julia and I are both inveterate ‘people watchers’ … what stories must lie behind some of the people we see … and we love to ‘get into conversation’ with people.

There are lots of street musicians dotted around the harbour, and playing outside and inside several of the restaurants throughout the old town. Most of them are very good. We especially like the traditional Greek music – the Zorba the Greek style stuff – although plate smashing doesn’t seem to be much in vogue these days (probably to do with the fragile Greek economy). Julia has been having guitar lessons for the last few months and has become quite good – she plays much better than me these days – and so she is much taken by the guitarists especially.

We are sitting in a harbour side restaurant one evening and there is chap playing a guitar just across from us. He is not very good actually and I can sense Julia itching to take over and have a go. Suddenly she is up out of her seat and talking to him. ‘Do you know Blackbird by Paul McCartney?’ she asks him. It is one of the songs Julia has learned and which she plays very well – proper notes and all, not just strumming like what I do?! He has never heard of Blackbird or Paul McCartney. ‘You know,’ Julia says, ‘one of the Beatles!’ He has never heard of them either? Julia takes his guitar from him (nobody ever argues with Julia when she is in full flight) and proceeds to play Blackbird for him. His takings immediately double!

Not only are there a good few buskers in the old town, there are also a good number of beggars. There are quite a few children begging – who also play instruments such as small accordions and drums or who sell bangles and necklaces, etc. They can be quite aggressive and have to be chased away from the restaurants by the staff. I never know how to respond to beggars. On one hand I feel very sad for them … there is one old lady, dressed from head to toe in black, who sits and begs for money with her dog. She only has two words/phrases in English: ‘Hello’ and ‘Give money’. There is young woman with a baby in her arms … but I notice she also has very expensive highlights in her hair? There is a guy who sleeps rough … with several dogs who always sleep next to him. I think perhaps, at the end of our holiday, we will go round the old town and give some of them money … it seems to be the right thing and something Jesus himself would probably do?

Jim Binney

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