Saturday, 24 November 2012

Just another stanza in life's journey

As Mr Grigg makes a rude sign at me through the newly-cleaned French windows, I stop to ponder on what our Big Fat Greek Gap Year is all about.

We're going back to Dorset for a week on Thursday and Mr Grigg asks me today as we drive in brilliant sunshine to Corfu Town: 'We've been away for nearly two months. Is it what you expected?'

And do you know, I don't know what I expected. I am not very good at thinking things through or having a fixed idea of what the future might hold.

I think it is warmer than I imagined Corfu to be at this time of year. It's as quiet as I thought it would be, with the tourists long gone and tavernas closed and woodsmoke in the air. And it's been a challenge being with Mr Grigg every day of the week. Yes, definitely a challenge.

I have missed my family, friends and Lush Places terribly, much more than I thought possible. I miss my dogs and cats and I miss the walks to Bluebell Hill. I miss my job and workmates and not having my own money in the bank. I miss my independence.

But  a spell has been woven and, slowly and surely, Agios Magikades is turning into a Greek version of the Enchanted Village back home. 

It's not about the end result, it's about the experience and what we gain from it.  It's all part of life's journey. Which leads me rather neatly to this poem by C P Cavafy, translated by Rae Dalven, and based on Odysseus' quest to return home to his native island.  


When you start on your journey to Ithaca,
then pray that the road is long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge.
Do not fear the Lestrygonians
and the Cyclopes and the angry Poseidon.
You will never meet such as these on your path,
if your thoughts remain lofty,
if a fine emotion touches your body and your spirit.
You will never meet the Lestrygonians,
the Cyclopes and the fierce Poseidon,
if you do not carry them within your soul,
if your soul does not raise them up before you.

Then pray that the road is long.
That the summer mornings are many,
that you will enter ports seen for the first time
with such pleasure, with such joy!
Stop at Phoenician markets,
and purchase fine merchandise,
mother-of-pearl and corals, amber and ebony,
and pleasurable perfumes of all kinds,
buy as many pleasurable perfumes as you can;
visit hosts of Egyptian cities,
to learn and learn from those who have knowledge.

Always keep Ithaca fixed in your mind,
to arrive there is your ultimate goal.
But do not hurry the voyage at all.
It is better to let it last for long years;
and even to anchor at the isle when you are old,
rich with all that you have gained on the way,
not expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches.

Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage.
Without her you would never have taken the road.
But she has nothing more to give you.

And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not defrauded you.
With the great wisdom you have gained, with so much experience,
you must surely have understood by then what Ithacas mean.

Another translation is on YouTube, read by Sean Connery and set to music by Vangelis.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Friday, 16 November 2012

A cat's tale

And the cats patrol the rubbish skips on the corner of our road. In among the poo bags, the vegetable peelings and a fluorescent tube a kitten could use as a lightsaber, they might find a fish head or two.

At every skip and wheelie bin, there is a cat, guarding its territory. A large ginger one, a tortoiseshell which is surprisingly fluffy given the climate, copious black and white ones and the odd fat tabby.  One with a stubby tail, another with a weird eye. Nobody wants them.

And in the valley, the dogs bark, setting off a chain reaction among hounds and mongrels chained up outside what look more like shacks  than houses. The geese start to honk and turkeys scuttle through the olive groves.

In the village square, a cheeky golden Labrador is young, footloose and fancy-free. His Alsatian-cross-collie paramour, with looks only a mother could love, waggles her tail at him in flirtatious abandon as they weave in and out of each other through the narrow streets of Agios Magikades.

I go to the waste ground to collect some mint and a peacock butterfly flutters by. This evening, the smoke of a dozen bonfires will lie low across the plain, like ribbons of mist.

And in the market, people are shopping for the weekend. The wild greens, Xorta, spinach and cucumbers still at four for a euro. Calamari at fourteen euros a kilo, John Dory at fifteen and giant prawns at eighteen. Lamb chops, beef steak, pork and sheftalia for those in the know.

So more leftover fish heads for the cats.

That’s about it.

Love Maddie x 

Saturday, 10 November 2012

A quiet stop-over in Corfu's sin city

Down through the island, along a back road purporting to be something bigger, the smoke from bonfires wisps up into a crisp, blue sky as people clear the ground below the olive trees in preparation for the harvest.

A middle-aged woman with a strimmer waves to a older man with a small truck full of clippings. The nets are laid out. A smell of autumn is in the air, although the days are warm and, for us, hot enough to swim.

Lefkimmi, Corfu's second town, is dozing and, down by the river, the mullet swish along the murky water in front of closed-up tavernas.

An old widow in black, with a scarf on her head for protection from the sun, can barely walk when standing.  But, on her hands and knees with a hoe, she is making good progress on cleaning the soil.

Further down the road, young men, sitting in leather and raffia chairs, drink iced coffee in an incongruous cafe bar, looking out across an odd architectural mix. Work is for the old.

A police 4 x 4 cruises up and down up the streets and over the bridge and back again, looking for Lefkimmi Vice. There is none, now the young Brits have deserted Kavos, that fleshpot fake, that sin city strip a few kilometers away.

He fails to spot three boys on scooters on the trail of a female on two wheels.

The closest the policeman gets to vice is when he almost runs over three amorous dogs after a bitch on heat.

The human equivalent at Kavos is a thing of the past this autumn. Today this godforsaken place is like a deserted outpost in the Wild West, flanked by nightclubs and bars called Buzz, Madison and Future, Rolling Stone, a shop called Bulldog Tattoos and the omnipresent McDonald's.

Where on hot summer nights teenage boys celebrate their GCSE results by synchronised mooning while the girls get their breasts out, now there is nothing, not even a tumbleweed trainer or a fleeing flip-flop to suggest they were ever here.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Sunday, 4 November 2012

It's so quiet, oh, so still...

In the UK, snow is falling on the Enchanted Village. Here in Agios Magikades we open our windows to sunshine coming up around the mountain.

Our Sunday morning is broken by the the cockadoodledoo-ing of a dozen cockerels, whose yelling gives an aural perspective to the landscape.  That sets off the dogs (it sounds like hundreds of them), then the geese and then the turkeys.  And then the church bells, to a dreadful tune which even Hades, the god of the underworld, would not recognise.

Later, the pigeons flap in the citrus trees, chainsaws buzz in the distance, wood is chopped and Mr Grigg prunes the palm.

The streets are quiet in Corfu town and, despite the sunshine, the mistral wind brings a chill into the shadows.  Yesterday, we took a late Saturday afternoon stroll and soaked up our surroundings, enjoying quiet sightseeing out of the heat and the tourist season.

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...