Wednesday, 31 October 2012

A Greek witches' brew for Halloween

In Kerkyra, the holidaymakers have packed up and have gone home. Direct flights will, for the winter months at least, be a thing of the past and we will need to go via Athens if we want to get back to the Enchanted Village.

Tavernas are closed, tables and chairs are stacked up in the corners. In Corfu Town, gift shop prices have been slashed in the old town. Novelty olivewood products, ancient Greek erotic calendars and evil eyes try to charm the visitors from the cruise ships as the tourists wander around, idly, not sure if they will, not sure if they won't, thank you very much.

The pace is much slower. Even the boy racers have stopped racing.

The smell of woodsmoke replaces the sweet and sour smell of old drains. The nets are out beneath the olive trees, in case any olives should drop before the harvest in a few months' time.

Like the UK, the clocks have gone back. We are still two hours ahead but it gets darker much earlier.

But the sea is still warm. Beautiful and warm.

At Halloween, as the winter approaches, the ancient lands stir. Greece was the home of two of the oldest female sorcerers in the world: Circe and Medea. They flourished in myth and in Greek and Latin literature.

Medea could control the elements, landscape, moon and stars. She was an expert in plant magic, knew just what to do when it came to the evocation of ghosts and was the one who cast the evil eye over the giant bronze Talos, as he patrolled the island of Crete.

Circe, Greek literature's first witch, transformed men into pigs by getting them to drink a drugged potion. She rejuvenated them back again, could render herself invisible or send her soul flying through the air. She was capable of erotic magic and was an expert in necromancy. And for all we know, she still is.

And don't get me started on those cruel Thessalian witches. If you ever get the chance, take a look at the reanimation of Thelyphrons in Apulieus' Metamorphoses. Far more entertaining than any zombie film or £2 trick or treat outfit from Tesco.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Just say no - it would be rude not to

The month here is hurtling towards its end and Halloween, the Witch's New Year. A time when the veil between past, present and future is oh so thin. So thin you might just be able to see beyond into the other world.

Here in Agios Magikades, as in many other Greek villages, the dead have the best view of all.

No trick or treaters, I hope. For this is the land of ancient magic, where Thessalian witches drew down the moon and people still believe in charms to protect against the evil eye. More of that later in the week, perhaps.

But today, as the clocks went back, Greece recalled a less ancient and more modern history. Here in Corfu, war memorials, public buildings and village squares were awash with Greek flags. There were marching bands and recollections of stronger, firmer times when in October 1940, the prime minister Ioannis Metaxas said 'ohi' to Mussolini's ultimatum on an Italian occupation. It brought Greece into the war on the allied side and 'No Day' is now commemorated every year.

In Thessaloniki they used Ohi Day as a vehicle to protest against austerity measures.

Here, though, after a nice meal in our favourite taverna, The Three Brothers in Astrakeri, Mr Grigg offered me a glass of wine.

 I, naturally, said 'yes'.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Sailing into the sunrise

We finally arrived on Monday, after a week's delay. Mr Grigg shaved off his Hemingway beard, our good luck ran out and we broke down again in Italy, the day after a white-knuckle ride through the Mont Blanc Tunnel.

No laughing matter
After half a day waiting for Marco the mobile motorcycle mechanic to fix Bella the Beetle, we pressed on, the car coughing and spluttering, lurching and lumbering as it followed Mr Grigg in his Land Rover work-horse.

I said five hail Marys the next morning and the next, even though I'm not a Catholic. I prayed to Zeus, Hera and anyone else on Mount Olympus who was listening.

The flag on the ferry Eleni unfurled as we sighted Corfu.

Flying the flag
And here we are.

Lots to do, lots already happening and, one way or another, I'll be sure to keep you posted.

But one of our first ports of call was the daily market in Corfu town.


Oh, and here's the new world from my window.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

We could be here for the Juration

There is only so much miserable weather I can take during our enforced stay in Jura on our Beetle drive to Corfu.

Still, if we're here for the Juration, while we wait for the dynamo and regulator to be fitted to the old VW by a Renault garage where they speak very little English, there is always wine, history, natural splendour and food.

There's a bit of writing to be done, and catching up on admin. And the good news is that the weather is bad, too, in The Enchanted Village.

And then there are always books. And what a diverse collection.

I have just read The Curse of Brink's Mat, the inside story of the 20th century's most lucrative armed robbery, and loaned to me by ex-detective Nobby Odd-Job.

Then it was over to the charming The Cat of Portovecchio by my friend, Maria Strani-Potts (highly recommended if you want to immerse yourself in a Corfu fishing village in the 1950s), and I've just downloaded School Ties, a novella by another friend and former colleague, Emma Lee Potter, on to my Kindle.

What with those and Restoration and Merivel by Rose Tremain, I'm sorted.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Monday, 8 October 2012

Are we there yet?

So we're in a French gite, right, where we've been licking our wounds for the past four days after car trouble in Jura.

We have to wait until Tuesday for a new dynamo to arrive from the UK after the Renault breakdown garage said it was 'impossible' to mend. The man from VW Heritage says otherwise, and we are crossing fingers, arms, legs and toes and anything else we can find. We want to set off for Italy on Wednesday.

We will be approximately a week late at our destination, Corfu.

When Bella the old Beetle shuddered to a halt, it was as if she'd been saying: 'Enough, for goodness sake. I need to rest my weary springs. Just a short break will be fine, and then I'll be back on my tyres again.'

So we checked into the Hotel Charmless, made bearable by the lovely receptionist, who was manning the fort while the owner and cook were away (together? A French tryst maybe?), and her eight-year-old son who was ready for bed in his Spiderman pyjamas.

'Good evven-ing,' the child said, in the French policeman's accent from Allo, Allo.

The Champneys bath gel I'd insisted on bringing helped calm frayed nerves in a roadside hotel set between the traintracks and flyover, and where the corridors smelt of stale cigarette smoke.

But when the dawn rose the next day, we had found ourselves, quite by accident, in the heart of Jura wine-making country. Result.

There could be worse places to be.

So we swapped the Hotel Charmless for a gite in a small village.

Today, on the road to nowhere, we were reminded of the Enchanted Village: Fog.

We made the mistake of Skyping home and then watching Mr Grigg's videos from our wonderful Jubilee celebrations in Lush Places, where I ran the disco and the old man led the boys in a well-rehearsed routine of The Village People's YMCA.

It got me thinking about all we had left behind. The village wedding, and Mr Putter's kilt.

Mr Grigg and Champagne Charlie slipping off to tap the beer barrel.

The hard work going into re-opening our village shop - now looking more and more likely to be somewhere else rather than in the heart of the square.

The harvest supper and all that village entertainment.

The arguments about where we should site the fireworks this year.

And the controversy sparked by just having a few sheep in the churchyard to keep the grass down.

It's making me all incredibly homesick. But, unlike Orpheus, there's no turning back.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Batten down those hatches, it's recycling day

It's blowing a hooley out there.  The wind is lashing against the windows and the dogs are play fighting in front of the Aga before...