“We held them off for a week up there back in 1944,” said the press attaché, pointing up to the Acropolis.
“The Germans?” said Sophie.
“No, dear lady,” said the attaché, a pop-eyed man with a military moustache, “the Greeks.”
Sophie glanced at Forrester, puzzled. “I thought the British were on the same side as the Greeks,” she said.
“We were on the same side as the Greeks, yes,” said the attaché. “But not the communists.”
They were inching their way along Aeolos Street, which runs west from Stadium Street to the foot of the Acropolis, and every few yards the car had to slow down to avoid old ladies spilling into the roadway offering hot chestnuts, green-dyed cakes, black market cigarettes, candles decorated with pictures of the Virgin Mary, transfers of the crucified Christ to stick on your arm, and fireworks with which to celebrate Holy Week, 1946. Forrester had flown to Athens because, to his amazement, the Empire Council for Archaeology had finally given him the funds for his expedition to Crete. But it turned out there were people in the Greek capital who wanted to see him before he set off for the island, and the press attaché from the British Embassy had been waiting for them at the airport in a Lagonda, which must have been in use before Archduke Ferdinand went to Sarajevo. Possibly when the Archduke went to Sarajevo.
“During the war, of course,” said Forrester, “the communists were some of the best fighters. And we were all on the same side.” Every other house, Forrester noted, now seemed to be daubed with red communist slogans.
“That was then,” said the attaché, whose name was Lancaster, “but ever since the Germans left, the Reds have been trying to take over. Came as close as dammit just after I arrived, too, in forty-four. Hence the fight outside the Parthenon.”
“Which I imagine would have been a very good defensive position,” said Forrester.
“That’s my point, old chap,” said Lancaster. “Made you realise why the Greeks put the Acropolis there in the first place. It looks magnificent – but it’s all about power.”