Sunday, 30 August 2015

How to stop a dog chewing through shoes

Artemis the Dog should have been called Chewy, really.

Not as in Chewbacca, although she looks very like a Wookie.
But Chewy as in, well, chewy.

These were my best boots. Lovely.
 Now look at them, along with Mr Grigg's best shoes.
At eighteen months, she's still a puppy.

'They take a long time to mature, Korthals Griffons,' says the dog trainer.

'How long?' I ask.

'Oh, about ten years.'

Even here, perched in our eyrie on our Greek village (cue excuse to show photos of Agios Magikades), she is still up to her old tricks.

After an encounter with a pair of my grand-daughter's beautiful golden butterfly sandals...
...we've improvised a storage place for shoes. It's one of the door grilles, which we point out to everyone who comes to stay.
When things are out of her reach, she just can't be bothered.
She'll sit in the plateia, the locals making a fuss of her. 'Artemi, Artemi,' they say.

And then she goes home, and tries her luck on a ten-litre box of white wine given to me as a birthday present and left on the floor. (They're generous, these Greeks. It's all about filoxenia).
Luckily, she doesn't break through the inner sanctum. Otherwise, we would we have to rename her Dionysus.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Xronia Polla on this very special day in the Greek Orthodox Church

The incense hits my nostrils as soon as I enter the church.

We're at the back, listening to the chanting. The candle-style light bulbs in the chandeliers overhead give the interior of this church an ethereal glow. The air conditioning's on and it's much cooler in here than it is outside in the plateia.

Just before nine, big blotches of rain turn into a downpour. The people who, seconds ago were sitting on the kafenion tables around the plateia, huddle inside and under the awning. And then the rain stops, the bells clang and the parade through the village begins.
Up to the next church we go, in one door and out the other side, and then up to the top church and the cemetery. Votive candles glow in the churchyard and people peel off from the parade to pay their respects to family buried in ornate graves.

And the parade returns, past busy tavernas and open-mouthed tourists who can't believe their luck in coming across such an interesting tradition.
We sit outside the kafenion and plates of food arrive, unbidden, at our table.

'You are welcome,' village friends say. 'We have plenty to share.'
In the plateia again and the men shut themselves in the syllogos to mix the sperna, a concoction of boiled wheat, raisins, almonds, sugar, pepper, aniseed and cinnamon. Known in some regions as koliva, this ritual food is meant to symbolise death and resurrection.
Earlier in the day, the wheat slowly softened as it bubbled away in great cauldrons on fires built in the school's covered play area.
Now, it's the women's turn as the doors to the syllogos open. They gather around the table and make quick work of bagging up the sperna, ready for the church service in the morning.
It's the Festival of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, one of the most holy of holy days in the Greek Orthodox Church.

Today, the church is full and hot - no air conditioning on - as the congregation comes and goes throughout the service. After two hours, the man goes up the ladder to clang the bells one more time.
The people emerge from the church with sprigs of basil and bags of sperna. The collection plate is taken around the plateia for donations from those who have missed that part of the service. And then sperna from a large basket is distributed.
Children and adults tuck in.
There are smiles, kisses and hugs. Girls and women stroll around in smart clothes usually reserved for Sunday best. An old man beams and makes a beeline for us to shake our hands.
'Xronia polla,' he says, the greeting for the day, which literally means 'many years'.

We feel privileged to be part of this very special village on this very special day.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Varkarola: Bravo to the good people of Paleokastritsa

We've got a table reserved for four and we're in poll position. Once we've feasted we'll be out of the starting blocks and sitting on the wall overlooking the beach.

We're in Paleokastritsa in north west Corfu and we're getting ready for the Varkarola. I've blogged about it before and all the background you need to know is right here.

I am a sucker for ancient mythology and the story of Odysseus is one of my favourites

Tonight, it's a re-telling of one of the hero's many adventures on his ten-year journey from Troy to the kingdom of Ithaca. In the bay at Paleokastritsa, to the soundtrack of 1492: Conquest of Paradise by Vangelis, he has a massive fight with Poseidon, the god of the ocean, played by a diver who pops up from nowhere out of the sea and then sets Odysseus' raft alight.

Odysseus is shipwrecked and surprises the Phaeacian princess, Nausikka, who had been playing on the shoreline with her handmaidens after doing their washing.

The kind King Alkínoös provides Odysseus with a boat so the wily hero can return to Ithaca after a twenty year absence.

The event celebrates the 'miracle' of Saint Spyridon whom the Corfiots believe saved the island from Turkish occupation on 11 August 11, 1716.

A few weeks ago, even the locals couldn't tell us if the  Varkarola was going to happen in these cash-strapped times. There wasn't a poster to be seen.
But with sponsorship and fundraising, this incredible event went ahead. Bravo to the good people of Paleokastritsa who put their hearts and souls into one of the most amazing and moving spectacles I've ever seen.

I hope businesses throughout the resort reaped what they sowed.

This is a fantastic video from last year by John Lanasis.
No doubt there'll be another film from last night: we saw a drone overhead, following Odysseus out to sea before the most amazing display of fireworks and then the thump, thump, thump of a beach party.

Here's a few of my photos. They don't really do the event justice but you get the drift.
Some passing Scherians have a beer and then pose for a photo.
There's tat and food from stalls in the street.
And a diabolical balloon seller.
Someone's mode of transport propped up outside a hotel.
And then Number One Son and his girlfriend wind their way back to the car. 
That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Down came the rain in Corfu

It's been hotter than a hot thing in August since we arrived in Corfu.

I don't like moaning but it's been too hot. Some of the time, there's just been no air. The pressure's been closing in on my head. It felt like a balloon in a vice. I didn't like it.

Then yesterday morning, as the sun came up over the olive groves, you couldn't see the sky, just the outlines of cypress trees on the horizon.
Storm clouds were gathering.
We had a quick frappe in an empty plateia while Arty gave the local cat population a good talking to.
Two friends didn't have much to say to her though when we came home.
Arty could tell there was something in the air.
And then it came.
That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Friday, 24 July 2015

The heat is still on in Greece

In front rooms and in coffee bars, on sun loungers and all through the internet and the media, there is confusion and differences of opinion.

There are so many aspects to this crisis.

If I hear anyone nod sagely that the Greeks are at fault ‘because they are lazy’ I will personally insert an Olympic-sized discus up their rear end.

Read more on The Lady Shed, for which I'm writing today.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Kalimera Kerkyra - a return visit to Corfu

I turn my back for five minutes and find my husband in bed with another female.
Arty has climbed up onto the mattress and is having a cuddle, blatant in her enjoyment as she rolls over to have her tummy tickled.

She's not even allowed on the sofa, let alone the bed.

'Don't look at me like that,' Mr Grigg says. 'She's been so good on this trip, I couldn't refuse.'

We can see Corfu from the cabin windows.

Kalimera Kerkyra.
Someone is keen to get going.
We stop for a comfort break, have a quick paddle in the sea and then we're off, up the road, through the village with its single traffic light and down into the olive groves and up into the plateia.

We stop the car. Elvis, who runs the post office and who has this nickname for his unfailing ability to grab a microphone and croon whenever there is a panygyri, is sitting outside the shop. I wave that special Greek backhand wave and he smiles and says kalimera. And then he realises it is us, gets up and kisses my husband and me on both cheeks and is introduced to Artemis.

A woman in black waddles up the road and we give her a wave. She waves back, politely, and then the penny drops.

'Margarita, Andreas!' she says, as Mr Grigg walks up to greet her. There is much gabbling in Greek, Elvis pointing to Artemis and repeating her name several times and great, beaming smiles on our old friends' faces.

We sit in the plateia for iced coffee and more kisses and greetings. And then it's back to the house.
We were last here nine months ago. It feels like we've come home.
That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Monday, 20 July 2015

If music be the food of love...

'I've got a plan,' Mr Grigg says, when he gets back from walking Arty around the block while I work on my laptop to the beat of high-speed Italian internet on our way to Corfu.

I need some light relief. We've been driving through Europe in a heatwave these last few days. A heatwave, and with a hairy, panting dog in the back of the car.
This dog, which you would think was crossed with Muppet but is, in fact, pure pedigree, has coped well, especially in her cooling coat. Not so us, though, in traffic jams and searing heat in the busiest week we could ever have chosen in northern Europe.

'Everyone is going on their holidays,' our hostess explains, as we sign in to the latest overnight stop on our way to the ferry at Ancona.

'Anyway,' Mr Grigg says, as we bask in the cool of an air conditioned room. 'We're going to wash the dog, have a shower and then put her to bed. And then we're going out for a bite to eat and then we're cycling into town.'

I have reservations about the last part of the plan, ever since falling into a hedge late at night on a bike with no lights at Mapperton, the police close on my tail but, luckily for me, interested only in poachers.

'I haven't told you all of it,' Mr Grigg says. 'There's a band setting up in the park. Jazz funk, I think. We're going to have something to eat and then cycle there to see them perform.'

Great, I think, as I wobble on yet another bike with no lights, down unfamiliar pathways, the bike making the noise of a very loud dynamo but no illumination to guide me, only the shape of Mr Grigg in front saying: 'I just know you're going to love it.'

I curse myself being married to this epitome of bonhomie as I hit another pothole. It's tricky riding a bike in sandals and knickers not big enough to cover the whole of your bottom.

So I whinge and moan and so does the bike until we get to a small clearing in the middle of an unlit park. There are eighty people at the most, sitting around tables, drinking, listening and laughing. On a small stage, there is a nine-piece band, complete with horn section, fatback drums and a pinch of organ.
'You're going to love this,' Mr Grigg says. And the thing is, I absolutely do.

Here we are, sitting under an Italian oak tree, the glow of the Ferrera sky in the distance, listening to a funked up version of California Soul and then something by Earth Wind and Fire.
The band are called Les Maitres Chocolatiers and they're very good. The video is not great quality but you can picture the scene when you hear them play.

Last time we were in this city we accidentally chanced upon a flag throwing festival. That's the thing about travelling ad hoc. You never know what you might find.

Fingers crossed when we make our way over the Adriatic and then down to the Ionian. Our thoughts are still with Greece.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

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