It’s not been the easiest of upbringings to have a name like Spartacus. There were the innumerable chants at the start of a new school year when a new teacher would call out for me. “Who’s Spartacus?” she would call and before I could say “I am”, numerous wags and tails would chirrup, “I am!” or even more predictably “No, I am Spartacus!” and the class would descend into much giggling and strutting. We may merely have been in Class 5C but we all knew our Kirk Douglas movies.
It was one of the earliest clues which hinted at dad’s identity. No-one else in our wide and diverse household had any interest at all in Greek culture but we all have dim and distant memories of him visiting mum in the late 1980s and throwing his weight around in a style which could only be interpreted as having an interest in all things Greek. Whether this was his tedious plate throwing after dinner, inept attempts to play the bouzouki or delight in bamboozling us with his references to Greek mythology, the effect was the same. Dad would visit, cause some Greek inspired mayhem and mum would be left clearing up the mess.
You could be pretty certain that if he ever went underground, chances were that you could find him holed up in some Greek restaurant, stuffing his face from the great taramasalata tub in the sky which seemed to provide every Greek restaurant we ever went to with exactly the same fish roe delicacy.
So, after my abortive trip to Oldham where I ended up on Saddleworth Moor, there was only one place to go to: the Taste of Greece in Bolton. Scoring an average of 4.5 on Trip Advisor, this Greek restaurant is exactly the kind of place Dad would be inclined to visit if given a break in his busy schedule:
“The food is cooked fresh when you order, authentic Greek gyros cooked by Greek staff. The owner is from a little village called Kremasti in Rhodes. He has definately (sic) brought with him the skills of presenting and making delicious food at amazing prices… Its only tiny but so very clean and the toilets are downstairs so if you have a disability you may struggle. He will also play greek music if you ask… Just the kind of restaurant to visit if you want to throw plates, play Bouzoukie badly, stuff your face with Taramasalata and reference Pericles and cause mayhem…”
The Trip Advisor reviews were an undoubted sign of where he would be found over the weekend so on Saturday afternoon I revved up the car and headed west off the Moors towards Bolton.
But “dystychós” as he might have said had I found him in the restaurant, it was too late by the time I arrived. He’d been there of course – a half eaten table of meze paid testament to that – but a fire in the city meant he’d had to leave without finishing and go and be prime ministerial.
Such has been the life of a young Spartacus when it comes to trying to come face to face with his father. Always on the wrong end of a platter of meze and mayhem. It had to stop and this election campaign had to be the time to end it.