Born in Athens at the end of 2016, Frank started out as a white fluffy hat that I traded in a ‘Free Shop’ (set up primarily for refugees) The hat caught my eye originally as I saw its’ potential as a kitten or maybe a Scottish Terrier pup, as turned upside-down the ear flaps became ears – The seed was planted for a new puppet. I kept my eyes open for other materials: black fur fabric perhaps and I started Googling: black and white cats, dogs, glove puppets… and I daydreamed; a new, cute little kitten or puppy would be a fine addition to my puppet troupe. Whilst out shopping in Omonia and Monastiraki with Valaria, I spotted a silky-fluffy black cushion cover for 3 Euros. A bit steep, but I could’t resist. Eyeballs, I needed eyeballs! A pack of 6 ping pong balls for 1 Euro. Result!
Meanwhile, I’d been making another ‘Muppet-style’ puppet head – cut out of 1cm thick foam. I was using a template I’d found on-line – one I’ve used for other puppets: two Labyrinth goblins and Little Gob. The black and white pet wasn’t happening as spontaneously as I’d hoped: the black cushion was noticeably different from the white hat and just wasn’t looking like it belonged to the same creature. I was annoyed with myself for spending foolishly. The hat needed padding out and as I searched about for small pillows and cushions, I tried the foam Muppet head: It fit perfectly! I didn’t hesitate.
Get a head in life! Before long, I was frantically after a mouth and rummaging through the bins looking for a piece of suitable plastic: nothing. My cap was on the table, laid before me. I sprung its’ peek between my thumb and fingers. It might just work …I cut it apart – a little lop-sided, but quite like an Elvis sneer, so I glued it in place and covered the khaki green peek with a scrap of puce pink cotton – remnant from a Boyzone tote bag, I think. A quick addition of some white foam for teeth and he was snarling! Next the eyeballs: No paint, so permanent marker circles for pupils – The black cushion cover found its’ way back and after playing around with various silly hair styles and big beards, we had indeed, a head.
Ain’t no body …A few days later, I was back in the Free Shop riffling through the rails and shelves, pulling out kids dungarees and boys’ shirts. Unfulfilled, I waited outside for my friends. “Here!” – and I was awarded a small bundle of woolly garments Robin had swooped up from next to the overflowing dumpster. I shrugged my shoulders, shoved them into my rucksack and mooched back home. It was only later when I emptied my rucksack, that I saw the woolens for what they were – and what they could be. First, was a hand-knitted chunky scarf: a couple of folds, snips and stitching back together and it made for a lovely jumper. The other item, a knitted hat went straight on his head – perfect! He looked great and less manic now in his new attire. I’m sure there comes a point where puppets take over and define their own identity – like those macabre films about ventriloquists. Is this what is happening to me?
It’s all in the name “What’s he called?” Valeria asked. “Frank” we replied and I pulled his arms out straight and we raced around the table like he was some crazy, mad truck driver. Then somewhere along the way, he/we? decided he wanted to be an artist. Truck driving wasn’t for him. I didn’t really mind, I liked him and insisted we had our selfie taken so I could show him off on Facebook – Blimey! Over 100 likes, including 10 loves! and a sir-name: Mr Fluff-Waffle – and so Frank Fluff-Waffle or Fotis Afratos Faflatas – as he’s become known in Greece, was ready to see the New Year in. And what do you know? Today, in Greece, the 6th January is the Nameday of Fotos! – Both Fotis and Fotios come from the Greek word “fos”, which means light. Therefore, Fotis is the enlightened one.
Χρόνια Πολλά! Party revelers might have been lucky to catch a glimpse of Frank dancing and wishing folk, “Kalo Neo Etos!” But despite his vibrant appearance, he’s ridiculously shy and introverted and retired early in the night. However, on the long bus ride home with musician friend, Sakis – Frank felt inspired. The artist in him called out and was finally being heard. The Cretan lyra would be his instrument. All he had to do now was find one…