In our village cafeneio, this mild pre carnival evening, it’s possible to imagine ourselves back into a rural England of the middle ages. At one table: a cleric, an alderman, a shepherd and a hospitaller, soaking up their liquor with wild mushrooms and the lupin beans of Lent. Elsewhere a carpenter, a baker, a charcoal burner’s son, and a rude mechanical. (These trades are all real).
Enter a pedlar bearing exotica from the Orient, in the shape of a Chinese lass with a basket full of cheap tat: solar lights, lumberjack shirts, torches, and toys. The alderman’s wife, of a certain age - all bleached bouffant and impressive chest - falls for a tacky green-eyed battery-operated cat, its mangy fur and plangent ‘miaow’ a little too realistic.
Enter the second, a band of mummers, μασκαράδες, identities completely concealed by their costumes. They shake hands, bash the odd head with a priapic balloon and swig a complimentary raki, all in unsettling total silence. The disguises are modern – a soldier in camouflage, a Munch Scream, a Cabbage Patch doll – but they carry with them an age-old air of revelry, anarchy and not entirely good-natured mischief. The Lord of Misrule rules, ok.