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May 05, 2006

An infuriating day

Thursday must have been one of the most infuriating days since we arrived in Crete. It all went wrong when we got up basically. In fact if ever there was a day when I just wanted to go home, get back into bed, and just try again the next day, then this was it.

We wanted to get an early-ish start in town, but ended up really faffing about, so went to get the bus just after 11. About 30 minutes later the bus arrived. It was heaving, but there was a spare seat at the front, so Claire's mum sat down there. It soon became apparent why it was empty, as she was next to one of Hania's special characters. He took a keen interest in her bag, and gently took it from her to turn it round in his hands to admire it. Later on he wanted to have a lengthy examination of her watch. I don't know how she had the patience. In the meantime the bus had picked up more people, and Claire and I were shunted towards the back, trying to keep a watchful eye on "bag-toucher".

Having moved further along we were next to a pitifully half-hearted whining child - who lost her hairband when her parents got off the bus - so I had to dart down the bus after them to give it back to them. Then at our stop I ended up helping some woman carry her pram off the bus. Since when did I become the children's champion of Hania?

And our stop came a lot later than usual. Half of the town was unexpectedly being dug up, so the bus took possibly the longest available diverted route to the centre of town without actually passing through Iraklion. It did, though, pass the bike shop where I had my eye on a particular bike, which allowed me to see that it had been sold.

Our first task was to buy a DVD player or DVD recorder. The shop we went into had a dazzling array, and the most unhelpful staff, which is very unlike Greek stores where normally you are beating off shop assistants trying to help you. In the end we basically realised we hadn't decided whether we wanted to spend €60 on a DVD player, €200 on a DVD recorder, or €400 on a HD/DVD recorder combo.

We went to a second shop to compare prices, but again found nobody to help us. One of the odd things about electronics shops here is that most of the goods don't have prices on, and if they do, as soon as you start chatting to the staff they immediately say "Oh, we can do a better price than that". We hung around for five minutes, then gave up.

Next stop was OTE, lugging Claire's poor mother behind us. It has been twenty days since we ordered our phone line, with no sign of it arriving. We "queued" up for about fifteen minutes whilst the people in front of us were served, and then a series of people butted in front of us. I lost my patience in the end - and as we were about to be queue-jumped for the fourth time I just stepped in front of the guy and said "Οχι. Οχι!" - "No. No!".

I started explaining the situation to the woman, who immediately informed us that we had been waiting for twenty-five minutes in the wrong place, and we needed to go to an entirely different OTE building to deal with that. She then helpfully gave us some OTE helpline numbers, that you can only call from the OTE line that we still don't have, which was, of course, the reason we were there.

Peacock I had some work to do, but before I headed off to the internet cafe we went to the little park that is near the OTE office. They have an animal enclosure there, and the day brightened up when we got to see some very young baby kri-kri, and a male peacock giving an elaborate, and unrequited, display.

We had some coffee in the cafe there - it was really lovely with old gramophone record players, old radios and cash registers, and some beautiful wall-sized paintings of Hania.

After coffee we divided our labours. Claire & Pat went off to find the second OTE office, and I went back to get prices on the DVD players, top-up our mobile phone and do some work.

Whilst chatting over coffee we had settled on getting a DVD player with a VHS recorder. I know it is yesterday's technology, but back in the UK we both still have a lot of VHS videos, and Greek TV is so random that I can't bear the thought of squandering one-off writeable DVDs on overnight films that may never actually get shown/run early or late/are so filled with adverts that they exceed the maximum record time of a disc, when we could instead stick in a VHS tape on long play record for 8 hours overnight.

So I went to Expert, the 2nd shop we'd visited in the morning, and the place we'd bought our fridge/washing machine/TV/kettle/toaster from. This time I got hold of a shop assistant and they had a DVD/VHS model that seemed OK for €169. I said I'd think about it and went off.

Earlier in the day, when things started to go wrong, I'd laughed with Claire that maybe I shouldn't open up my laptop and connect it to the internet today. How prescient that turned out to be. I think for the first two hours I was at the internet cafe I got twenty minutes work done, and the rest was spent restarting the laptop after various crashes and failures. If it wasn't someone sending so large an attachment via Gmail that it crashed my browser, it was my anti-virus software choking on some other email and causing the whole laptop to hang.

I ended up spending 4 hours there when I should have only needed an hour-and-a-half. I think they think I am mad - and again they gave me one of my beers on the house as I am spending at least €10 a day there, sometimes more. Today I just decided to explain that I was waiting for my phone to be installed at home, and that I had work in London I had to do, as up until now I figured they thought I was having the most boring holiday of my life.

Claire had txted to say OTE was "sorted", so as I started off for home I tried a couple of kiosks to buy the portable ISP dial-up cards that I hope will get me hooked up to the internet straight away. The kiosk owners looked at me like I was an alien. So even when we get the phone, I now know I don't know where to get the cards to get me online.

After the laptop debacle, trying to salvage something from my afternoon I thought, well, I'm only going to go home and tell Claire about this DVD/VHS machine, and she'll say get it, so I might as well go back to get it now. I went back to Expert, was served by a different member of staff, and said "I'm interested in this, how much is it?"

"€199" came the reply.

"No", I said, laughing at the €30 hike since the price was last quoted to me at lunch-time, "with discount for cash?".

"€199 is with discount. List price is €212."

[long sigh....]

"OK, thanks, I'll come back"...

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