All the while, sitting at your table looking out over the Argonafton, hawkers from Africa and Asia keep trying to sell you grim religious pictures, cheap plastic toys or knock-off DVDs. God knows what they have risked to get to the promised land of the European Union. Roma children are begging in the street and ask for the unfinished pizza slices.
There it all was, amidst the comfort and prosperity of European life, a hierarchy of hope, disillusion and discontent, as seen from a pavement café in a Greek port.
In the meantime the English press have been obsessing over the Blair memoirs. All agree as to the excruciating written style:
"On that night of the 12th May, 1994, I needed that love Cherie gave me, selfishly. I devoured it to give me strength. I was an animal following my instinct, knowing I would need every ounce of emotional power to cope with what lay ahead. I was exhilarated, afraid and determined in roughly equal quantities."Then there was Iraq, with a consensus, bordering on neurotic hatred, that the desire to bring down the regime of a brutal, mass murdering dictator and replace it with a democracy was somehow an act of unparalleled malevolence.
There was little in the coverage on Blair's social policy, other than to describe it as 'centrist' and essential to winning power. There was even less on the whole Third Way farrago, an intellectual mish-mash if ever I saw one. Few doubts were expressed about the nature of public service 'reform'. And there was nothing on the strange death of adult education, my particular obsession.
When I look at the New Labour years, what strikes me as vital is political economy. Blair was not an unsuccessful Prime Minister, but he was an unsuccessful Labour Prime Minister. Deeply attracted to fashionable nonsense (the weightless economy anyone?), the Blairite government fully accepted and accelerated the Thatcherite settlement, only moderating it through supply-side driven investment in public services. There was an easy association with wealth, privilege and a celebration of inequality, though only on 'merit' of course. And it did this at the very moment when Labour had the power and popular approval to challenge, revise and lead the country away from the prevailing neo-liberal consensus.
And all this leads to the scenes at the port. For us Europeans this isn't desperation or starvation, it isn't the hunger, disease, shortened and blighted lives of the slums of the developing world, nor is it the brutal racism directed presently against the Roma across our continent. It is a feeling of unease that things could and should be better, a nagging worry about the future, a sense of injustice at the immunity of the rich from the sacrifices now being imposed through economic austerity programmes. Lost potential, lost lives, curtailed dreams seem to be an ever present reality. Stories that highlight individual tragedies are sprinkled amongst general unease.
And when Labour bought into the political economy of Thatcherism they made themselves complicit in all this. This is the legacy awaiting the new leadership, only now they have to challenge a coalition government that Blair seems only too comfortable with. We will have to wait and see, but, like Paulie, I am not hopeful.