The news from Greece reminded me of a visit to the Athens Festival some years ago. We were part of a whole plane load of clowns and jugglers. They were mostly American, very loud, sported purple Mohican hairstyles or spangled tights and were determined to draw attention to themselves. One black guy disappeared into the toilet for the whole flight and reappeared as a white man just before landing.
The Bath contingent, resplendent in immaculate grey business suits, restrained silk ties and crisp white shirts remained aloof. To top off our smart ensembles, we wore big round red noses. This was many years before Comic Relief and people, including the self-consciously zany clowns, stared in disbelief. We had out-zanied the zany!
Astonishingly we were allowed through both UK and Greek customs with our noses in situ. It was quite a flight. A whole row of seats was taken up by an assortment of unicycles, accordions and other tools of the clowning trade. The complimentary drinks flowed but it’s surprisingly difficult to sip a gin and tonic while wearing a false nose! Back then even the cabin crew smoked on board, something that seems unbelievable these days.
We remained implacable amongst all the forced jollity until we reached our hotel. Boy, did we have sore noses!
Next day, still in our suits, we dressed as caryatides and posed by the real thing on the Acropolis. The plaster capitals on our heads were extremely heavy and it was very hot. My companions went to bed with stiff necks at the end of the day. I didn’t admit until years later that mine was made of lightweight fibreglass.
On another day, we did our famous leaky briefcase routine. We walked around with briefcases full of water, leaving tell-tale trails on the dry streets of the labyrinthine Plaka district. We paid two toothless old ladies to keep filling the cases so we could replace with a full one and carry on. Armed with a hose and funnel, they took over a public toilet to carry out this important duty, and woe betides anyone who wanted to use the facilities for their proper purpose. These black-clad harridans shooed them away in no uncertain terms and art prevailed!