Sasha and the Grim Greek

Sasha and the Grim Greek

Introducing a couple of characters we encountered on our short stay in Sofia. Hostel Nightingale – charming name, flattering leaflet we picked up in Belgrade, it’s a bit down on its luck these days, a little scruffy, not always fragrant thanks to the age of the building and the inadequacy of Sofia’s sewage system, you know, not quite up to the usual standard of hostel. And with a very odd array of quasi- residents among whom…….

A strangely dark and menacing figure, Sasha is always somewhere around the hostel. She appears to live here and do a bit of light cleaning and baking but is not ‘staff’. Sallow face and bluish lips that part to reveal a hollow cavernous mouth with four teeth at most but evenly arranged, you can hear Sasha coming, tap, tap along the wooden floor with her crutch. Something slightly piratical about Sasha – a transgender Long John Silver sans parrot and no patch as yet although it would be fetching, I imagine. Not sure why the crutch; her skin-tight leggings patterned with women’s faces reveal no obvious disability. maybe she had a hip replacement or an accident? Who knows – it seemed too rude to ask. That may have involved a lot of intrusive pointing, arm signals and the like. On our first night at the hostel, Sasha appeared to be the night watchman and we were woken by a terrible banging on the front door followed by some gruesome high-pitched screaming; my Bulgarian may be poor but I know for a fact that what was said was abusive. In my sleepy disorientated state, I assumed it was Sasha doing the screaming. We discovered the next morning that Sasha too had been quite discombobulated by this episode – the screams apparently from a nutty neighbour on the floor below (nutty being indicated by the standard international sign of pointing to one’s temple and twisting the finger). We started to warm to Sasha the more so when she wanted to help whenever she could. We had got her wrong, not piratical at all but possibly someone with no-one else in the world who makes her home here in exchange for helping out a little. Note to self, withhold judgement a little longer…..

A strategy that would also have worked with the Grim Greek. At first she seemed friendly enough, with fantastic English and ready to suggest how we might spend our 2 days in the city. We never got her name but we found out a lot about her. She is, there’s no other way to say this, obese. Morbidly obese is a clinical term, I know but it would be apt in this case as it neatly sums up her attitude to most things in life – look for what’s rotten, it’s bound to be there. She is half Greek half Bulgarian, lives in Thessaloniki and is studying ecology on a distance learning course and is here in Sofia for exams, She lives in the hostel when she comes to Sofia, pouring her ample bulk into a generous armchair and sitting huddled over her laptop all day long. Quite why she needs to add ecology to her string of qualifications is a mystery. She speaks 5 languages and virtually runs the university department where she works as a PA, even delivering the lectures when the professor (who earns twice her salary) doesn’t bother to turn up (lazy sod); our fat friend is also a football manager manquée since, given her claim to have no interest in the game and hardly ever watch it, she is able to deliver a set of expert opinions at every stage of a match, about its quality, the likely outcome, alternative strategies that would work better, and displays a highly-developed cynicism about corruption in the sport at all levels. Phew! I set this all out in one sentence to convey the perpetual and unstinting commentary with which she indulged us in the second half of Spain v Chile on Wednesday night. What a dame!

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