No Good Boyo’s meandering tale of social acceptance amongst çay-drinking Turkish tokers brings to mind the greatest compliment I have ever been paid in my life.
It occurred on the island of Crete, in a tiny family-run Taverna geographically but not philosophically close to the grim disco strip of Malia. Its keeper spoke fine eccentric English and he used it to complain in a lengthy but convivial sort of way about my compatriots and their behaviour on holiday. “Why you need get so drunk?” he asked as he brought out our bottle of enjoyably vile retsina. “Why you want get nakt? Why you want take clothes off in street and get nakt?”
I couldn’t honestly answer, and nor could Mrs B. We were both fully clothed and had no intention of getting ‘nakt’ in his street. While our starters were preparing he pulled up a chair to continue the theme. “Why you want shout? I not come to your house and SHOOOOOOUT in your street. Why you want do that?” He cupped his hands in front of his mouth and demonstrated, literally, the business of “SHOOOOOOUTing”.
I couldn’t help but agree with his gist, though I did make the observation that his own compatriots were more than happy to take money from mine in return for drunk-making liquors. He conceded the point with good grace.
I ordered up the special, which the Taverna-keeper - who had, I now noticed, extremely oily hair - kindly translated to me as “Chicken chops.” It was a platter of chicken thighs, wings and things cooked in some sort of oregano seasoning and was sublimely delicious. I have a weakness for chicken things anyway and attacked the plate with carnivorous greed, using fingers and teeth to pick off every last morsel til there was nothing but a heap of gleaming, decimated bones. The keeper took our plates back into the kitchen and then a few minutes later hurried back to deliver it, the greatest compliment I have ever been paid in my life:
“Sir! My wife, the cook… she ask me to tell you… She say, You really know how to eat chicken!”