Archive for October, 2005

Something I notice…

Wednesday, October 26th, 2005

… here in Greece is the seasonality of so many activities. In the UK, you are seldom aware of the time of year, except for the temperature and length of day. In Greece, lots of things are seasonal. We were getting the most fantastic figs in the shops last month. Now the olive harvest is beginning. And we’ve had a bit of rain – less apocalyptic than the early storms. In England, everyone grumbles when it rains. Here, there is much celebration.

I rescued someone’s PC from oblivion by virus last week, and was ACTUALLY PAID for the job, in money, well, Euros.

In my excitement of last week’s news from Lionel, I forgot to mention something. I was just walking over the rather threadbare patch of wiry lawn across the road from the harbour on last Monday or Tuesday, I think it was. Suddenly, I felt rather woozy. I wondered whether it was a hangover or a stroke. I nearly fell over, but I clutched at a sapling. That was when I saw old Vanidis sit down very suddenly on the street, and heard a number of surprised cries. And I was aware that the sapling I was holding was whipping back and forth a bit, while half a dozen cooking oil tins containing geraniums and busy lizzies fell from their uncertain perch on the balcony rail above the laundry into the street. It was, of course, an earthquake, my first, and it felt like standing on a plate of jelly while someone shook it back and forth. Weird, but it didn’t last long. Much jollity among those of us on the street. It’s significant, though, that we all glanced out to sea, just in case a tsunami was on the way!

Unbelievable News…

Wednesday, October 19th, 2005

When Lionel e-mailed me last week, I replied asking him to try and check out whether the hunt for me in the UK is officially over. I figured that, being in Canada, he could “play the daft laddie”, as they call “being disingenuous” in Glasgow, and pretend he knew I’d been connected with this computer crime and was trying to contact me. He e-mailed a colleague at London University, who spoke to another colleague who has a PhD mature student who once was a policeman and still has contacts in Scotland Yard. As Lionel says:

The upshot of it, old friend, is that 
they have not only lost interest in you,
they have lost interest in the case 
altogether, and no-one is being sought 
in connection with it. Hercule Poirot, 
Lord Peter Whimsey, and Sherlock 
Holmes have been reassigned to more
important work, searching for the brains 
behind X-Factor, if any.

What a relief. I can’t tell you. I was forthwith encouraged to apply for a replacement passport. Though I had doubted whether they would have actually connected me with their missing witness, I now feel safe. Strangely, though, having been pining for England when I couldn’t go there, now it’s October, I think I’ll stick around here for a while.

Oh, and if you’re listening, fauxhunter, I’m not going to spoil your fun by revealing my whereabouts in this blog! Keep guessing, turkey!

Wine…

Thursday, October 13th, 2005

… Ah, yes, wine.

It’s a funny thing about wine in Greece. Sometimes the cheapest, cloudiest, least prepossessing stuff in 40 litre plastic carboys is extremely good. Not usually, I admit, but surprisingly often. And if a taverna is any good, so is its house wine, I find. And it’s very much cheaper than wine in a bottle with a label. Especially if the label is, say, French.

People say that Greek wine doesn’t travel. What they mean is that when you drink it in a taverna with the sun baking the street, the aroma of Greek cuisine and cigarettes drifting across your nostrils and the tinkle of a Theodorakis ditty on the nicotine-caked speaker, it tastes completely different than if you take it home and drink it over your Marks and Sparks Gourmet Lo-Cal Complete TV Dinner for One while watching Eastenders. And if that is what they mean, it is inevitably true.

But it’s a strange thing that I find Greek wine often does not travel within Greece. Most of the mainland wines – from, say, Boutari and Demestica – seem to travel well within Greece, and even all the way home to Britain. But island wines are different. The wines of Rhodes and Crete are fantastic in their home territory, but disappointing elsewhere, and it really has to be that the total experience of these wines includes the ambience of their source. And so it should be.

I turn now to retsina. Many would say that retsina is so different that it is not a wine at all, but that’s unfair. It’s like saying that Guinness is not a beer (OK it’s a stout, but stout is a variety of beer). The fact that, on first acquaintance, retsina tastes more like what you would imagine diesel fuel to taste like is unarguable. But then which of us would say that our first sip of beer or draw on a cigarette was an entirely pleasurable experience? Like many other vices, the appreciation of retsina requires a degree of dedication to the task.

I am happy to say that, while I still prefer unresinated wine, I have acquired a taste for retsina. It has the following questionable virtue: it’s hard to drink enough of it to get legless. I know. I tried last night. I succeeded, but it was hard.

Olive Grove

I suspect I’m…

Thursday, October 6th, 2005

… getting to that dangerous position with my blog, in which I often feel I have nothing to say, so I say nothing. It’s not nearly so dangerous as the position I’m in now, having nothing to say, and saying something.

Had a nice email from Leonard. Desmëi has forgotten me and has found a new enthusiasm – protecting the “native Canadians” in her local reservation. As Lionel remarks,

we used to call them Red Indians, 
and they don't look as if they need 
protection - I think they're running a 
big casino in there.

Today we had the first…

Monday, October 3rd, 2005

… of the autumn thunderstorms, accompanied by rain in stair-rod proportions. The storm was extremely welcome, coming, as it did, after a spring and summer of unrelenting hot, dry weather. People who have lived here all their lives are hard put to remember a year as taxing as this. On an island where rain is relatively rare and usually short-lived, it has not been felt necessary to instal storm drains in the streets or on the roads. The result of this is that when a lot of rain falls at once, it starts to flow towards the sea, and it is common, on rounding a bend, to encounter a minor tributary of the Mediterrean dashing across the road. After this morning’s brief deluge had stopped, I got on the bike and went into town, fording the occasional brook and temporary pond.

Next door to Nikos’, over the summer, the fruit-stall has come up-market, and the owner has put a concrete base over the packed mud on which his stall used to stand, and built half a shop, from which he is now trading. It is important to realise that the law in Greece favours those who do not complete a building, as incomplete buildings are exempt from some tax or other. Unfortunately, this concrete base has formed an effective dam between Nikos’ and the sea, and Nikos’ taverna was flooded to a depth of about an inch. The most terrible row was going on when I arrived, and I joined the idlers and coffee drinkers seated outside the taverna to watch the fun, which consisted of Nikos and Spiros yelling at each other, accompanied by threatening arm gestures. As the crowd of spectators increased, so did trade in the two establishments, so both were forced to take time off from hostilities to service customers, by which time Nikos’ flood had ebbed and his wife had mopped out. I suppose this is the last we’ll hear of it until the next downpour.

And here, a remarkable picture I took early this morning as very damp air rushing in from the sea met the mountain and was forced up, creating visible wind over the shoulder of the slope.

Visible wind