Saturday, 29 March 2014

The island gears up for Easter

The fields are full of asphodels.
The lines are full of washing.
The sky is full of blue.
And the aisles in Jumbo are full of decorated eggs and candles.
Easter is on its way.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Greek Independence Day in Corfu

It's Greek Independence Day today.
More eloquent and knowledgeable people will have plenty to say about it, I am sure.
But after a glass of tsipouro and my good friend Betty's chocolate cake for breakfast in the village plateia...
...lots of activity during the day in the village, Corfu Town and then batter-fried salt cod and skordalia for lunch...
...unusually for me, I'm lost for words.

More videos at my Maddie Grigg YouTube channel and more photos on my Facebook page.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Of wild flowers and ancient mythology

The island is wearing a wonderful garland of flowers this spring. The grass verges look like they've been decorated for a rural wedding, with purple honesty and yellow mustard flowers  complimenting each other obligingly, while white daisies act as ethereal highlighters, softly pointing the way.

It's the most beautiful time of year in Greece and in Corfu in particular. 
Greece has more species of flowering plants and ferns than any other country in Europe. There are some 6,000, six times more than France and making the British Isle’s 2,300 seem paltry in comparison. 

According to Hellmut Baumann in his book Greek Wild Flowers and plant lore in ancient Greece, ‘nowhere in Europe have conditions been more favourable for the development of such rich flora. This is due to diverse combinations of geological, topographical and climatological conditions’.

One of my favourite sights is of the olive groves full of the giant spikes of common asphodel. These are the flowers that carpet the Elysian Fields.

But I've yet to see the village cow in all her glory, the one who, apart from her colour, reminds me of Io, the nymph seduced by Zeus who then turned her into a white heifer to hide her from his wife (and sister) Hera.
But Hera wasn't fooled. She tethered Io to an olive tree and got the many-eyed Argus Panoptes to watch over her husband's latest conquest.  Zeus, in turn, sent Hermes to kill Argus but then Hera sent a gadfly to torment poor Io and she jumped into the sea - which ever after was called the Ionian.
But Io lived happily ever after. She found her way, eventually, to Egypt where she begat a whole horde of descendants including the fifty Danaids and, the greatest hero of them all, Hercules.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Friday, 14 March 2014

Sticks and stones will break my bones

The old man sat on a chair outside the kafenion, his face covered in blood.

A small crowd gathered, one person stepping forward to give him some comfort. It was an Englishwoman, one of the most compassionate people in the village. Last year, she had even saved the bug-eyed cat from extinction.
She soothed the old man the best she could, said a few reassuring words in Greek as another English person put something warm around the old man's shoulders.

He was in shock, possibly suffering from concussion. He was gabbling away in Greek and then began to cry.

An ambulance was called and took an age to materialise. In between times, the police came to the plateia twice, once to talk to the old man and the next time to come back to say the alleged assailant, who was said to have hit the victim on the back of his head with a stone, told the police he did not know what they were talking about because he was asleep when it had happened.

But the old man's wound had come from somewhere. He had probably been lying on his patch of land, bleeding, before coming to and staggering up to the plateia for help. You could tell that, the Englishwoman said, by the way the blood had matted from the wound at the back of his head around to his face.

The word on the street was that it had been a dispute between neighbours, with a stone thrown by someone at least twenty years the old man's junior. It was lucky it hadn't killed him. He was well into his eighties.

It reminded me of when I was a child, growing up in the Westcountry in the sixties, when stone throwing among neighbouring farmers was not unheard of, especially when it came to jealousy over a piece of land the assailant thought should be his.

This kind of thing happened all over the world, I thought, between individuals, tribes and countries. It is happening in Crimea as I write this. But it jarred in this peaceful spot, this lovely village tucked away far from the madding crowd.
The ambulance arrived to take the old man to hospital where, as far as I can tell, he still is. The alleged assailant has locked his gates, refusing to come out. There may be more to it than I know, but it's clear the village has reached its own verdict.

Their thoughts and prayers are with the old man.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Always look on the bright side of life...

When you're chewing on life's gristle, don't grumble, give a whistle...
I love the Greeks.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

If you hear a bluebell ring...

This is a lovely piece of film promoting Cornwall, Dorset's bare-legged cousin.

It reminds me of Bluebell Hill in Lush Places. A place where you connect with your spiritual side, especially in May.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Friday, 7 March 2014

The swallows are on their way...

A little bird tells me that swallows have been seen in Corfu.

Deep joy. I love swallows, house martins and swifts. Always so happy, chatty and having lots of fun.

Last year they gave us hours of  entertainment.
It'll be a while before they're up here in Agios Magikades.

But at least the rain's stopped and there's blue sky above the mountains.
It's still cold but the washing is billowing and we've been able to get on with work around the garden.

The vine's been pruned and the trimmings put back for barbecues in the summer.
And Mr Grigg was last seen heading off with our neighbour in his truck to work in the olive groves. It's all go here.

Tonight there'll be a coffee in the kafenion before heading back home for Odysseus on Greek TV. With Armand Assante and Greta Scacchi, it's not exactly the poetry of Homer but it'll do for me.
So, with the weather improving here in Corfu and a mini-heatwave predicted for the UK this weekend, things are looking up.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

And so our Greek Lent begins

So now we're here, back in the bosom of Agios Magikades. And very chilly it is too.

There's cloud obscuring the mountain and a thin mist of rain falling. The leaves on the jacaranda tree shiver while wisps of smoke from the village's chimneys trail across the rooftops.

But even in the cold, it's beautiful.

After the excitement of Clean Monday, where the beginning of Lent is marked by kite flying and the tavernas are full of people eating seafood, lagana bread and halva, things get back to normality.
And for us, a self-imposed fast: no alcohol for forty days. No alcohol for forty nights.

The rain gets heavier and the cloud over the mountain turns the setting into a scene from The Land That Time Forgot.       
But still the sparrows chirp in the trees and the children yell in the school playground. And the bottle of ouzo sits unopened on the dining room table.

Salvation is just around the corner.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Sunday, 2 March 2014

A bus journey across Greece

Achileos Street, Athens
The Parthenon in the distance
 Kostas, our taxi driver, looks like a younger version of Michael Douglas.

'Thank you,' he says, flicking his shoulder length hair when I tell him. 'He is more handsome than me. My wife, if I tell her customer say that, she kill me.'

He drops us off at the Athens bus station after telling us the politicians are corrupt.

'We have same family, same bad for thirty or forty years. How can we have good with same politic?'

He apologises for his poor English.

'It's much better than our Greek,' we say.

The bus station is full of noise and lots going on. A gypsy woman tries to sell me tissues and points to her stomach saying 'baby'. And then an Asian man goes by, selling bagels. The only person to get any money is the man with his long stick of lottery tickets
There are whistles of guards, trundling cases and trolleys, bus engines throbbing, horns honking and people lined up for destinations all over Greece. They look poor, and that's because they are. Shoes, coats and the look in their eyes say it all.

A bus station dog, a long-nosed Labrador-cross, pads past and saunters into the betting shop, tail wagging. But he's out of luck and heads down the platform.

And then our nine-hour journey begins. It's raining hard on the first day of spring.

Stalls of colourful kites in all shapes and sizes line the rainy roadsides beyond Athens. They're selling them for Clean Monday, a public holiday in Greece which marks the start of Lent.

And as we pull up to the toll booths at the beginning of the motorway to Corinth, the pure blue and white of the national flag of Greece flutters side by side with the red and black bastardised swastikas-but-not-swastikas of New Dawn. The party's shaven-headed faithful are handing out leaflets to passing motorists.

The sight hits me in the breastbone. I feel physically sick.

We cross the bridge over the Gulf of Patras and head north.
Hours later, we disembark from the ferry Kerkyra after our voyage across the Corfu Channel from Igoumenitsa. It's still raining hard and we head for the bus station where we hear the deep, gruff voice of our neighbour who is giving us a lift back to the village.

And when we arrive at our house, some flowers and a nice bottle of home made red wine is waiting for us.
A quick trip to the kafenion for an ouzo before it closes and then baked feta, beef pastitsada and half a litre of red at the oldest taverna in the village, still serving food well after ten o'clock.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

A horror film for Halloween

On Halloween, I head out under the cover of darkness, a tub of sweets by the front door for young trick or treaters on the prowl with their ...