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

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...