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BON NUIT, MONSIEUR GEORGES (Chania Chatter 5)

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We are going out to dinner … to a rather nice courtyard restaurant situated in the maze of side streets in the old town … but first an early evening drink at one of the numerous harbour side cafes and restaurants. We go to one we have not been to before because it has comfortable sofa seats with a great view. We are thinking about a glass or two of sangria but the very nice waiter suggests mavrodaphne which is apparently nicer and cheaper. We are persuaded and he brings us our drinks and lots of nice nibbles … and he is quite correct about the mavrodaphne.

Two nice ladies of a certain age come and sit on the table next to us. We fall into conversation. They do not know what to drink so we recommend the mavrodaphne. Our waiter is impressed by our sales technique and whispers in my ear that we can have 10% off the bill, which is a good thing because we liked ours so much we have just ordered two more glasses?! He brings us all our drinks, lots more nibbles, and four shots of complementary cocoanut flavoured raki as well. The conversation flows!

The ladies tell us that they are from Sweden … and we have an interesting conversation about what life is like in Sweden. I confess that the only significant thing that I know about Sweden is that apparently it has no rules?! The ladies think that this is hilarious … but they don’t disagree with me. We ask them if they like the mavrodaphne? One does, but the other is not so sure. She swigs down the complementary raki. ‘That’s better!’ she says.

We pay our bill, leave our nice Swedish ladies with no rules … who are now on their second glasses of mavrodaphne and second shots of raki … and head for our nice courtyard restaurant. On the way we pass George’s restaurant, where we had dinner on our first evening in Chania. George is out front trying to hook punters in as usual. He doesn’t recognise us but steps out in front of me. ‘Bonsoir, Monsieur …’ he says, and then goes off into a lengthy spiel, in French, about the merits of his restaurant. ‘Why is he speaking to me in French?’ I wonder … but then I realise that I am wearing a French tee shirt with ‘Paris’ emblazoned on the front and therefore George thinks that I am French. You do have to admire these Greek waiters command of languages, by the way. They seem to be able to speak umpteen languages fluently.

Fortunately (thanks to my intensive Dualingo French Course which tells me that I am now 49% fluent in French) I can understand most of what George (or should I now call him Georges) is saying. I patiently wait for him to eventually pause for breath … and then I step in. ‘Nous sommes Anglais’ I tell him. The shock slowly registers … and while he is silent for once I gently take him by the arm and point to the harbour. ‘Let me tell you about my grandfather’ I say, ‘my grandfather used to say that you have to have this harbour in your heart!’ ‘And now is the best time of the day, and here we have the best view of the harbour, and here (pointing to the table we sat at a week ago) is the best seat in the restaurant!’ Julia is falling about laughing as I repeat the sales patter Georges beguiled us with that first evening back to him word for word. Georges gives me a rueful smile.

We have a great evening at our nice courtyard restaurant in the old town. The food is great, the music is wonderful, and we have a thoroughly enjoyable time. Julia goes missing at one point and suddenly I see her up near the stage talking to the Greek musicians. ‘Oh! No!’ I think, ‘She is going to try and play Blackbird on one of their funny Greek instruments with umpteen strings and various knobs and things?’ But she is just thanking them for their contribution to a great evening and giving them an extra tip.

We walk back to our apartment along by the harbour. It is much quieter now but Georges is still outside his restaurant trying to hook a few more punters in. He sees us and smiles. ‘Bon nuit!’ he calls out to us. ‘Bon nuit, Monsieur Georges!’ we reply … and we all fall about laughing.

Jim Binney

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