Monday, 5 September 2016

The sequel to our Greek odyssey in Corfu begins

It is morning on Nikiforou Theotoki Street in Corfu Town and someone is playing a clarinet. They're high up in one of the tall, Venetian buildings and practising their scales, the notes rising slowly and then falling again, up and down, up and down.

The smell of garlic wafts down through the street from the Restaurant Rex. It's early September and the shops are full of cut-price summer sandals, on sale now that the season is coming to an end.

A new pair of shoes is just what I don't need, having bought a pair of shoes every week for the last six weeks as a bizarre way of coping with my grief.

Mr Grigg shares a surreptitious rice pudding with Gorgeous George and then he meets Eleni on her fruit and veg stall. A friend in the market is better than money in the purse.
 
'Why you been away so long?' she says.

Back in the village, a swallowtail butterfly flaps by and lingers, lazily, on the cerise bougainvillea that spiders its way along the front of the syllagos, where just a few weeks ago they were mixing the sperna for the annual feast day on August 15th, the national and religious holiday that marks the falling asleep of the Virgin Mary.

The chattering swallows are still here, but printing their boarding passes for the long flight ahead.
A moth takes a rest on a mosquito screen outside Dukas taverna and reveals a scary face on its body and wings.
Pavlos and Vasso put on pork in the oven, just for us.
It's ten months since we've been here in our village, the place where we spent a year away from home. Locals walk through the plateia and nod a greeting and then do a double-take and come back for kisses and hugs when they see who it is.

'You been away too long,' says Canadian George.

There are hugs and commiserations from Betty, a trip to The Three Brothers at Astrakeri to give Yianni Pianni sheet music for Side Saddle, with the instruction that he must learn it by the time we come back next time. And in the kafenio, the men still play cards.

On hearing my sad family news, white-haired Maria, who speaks no English and communicates with us by the use of facial expressions, hand signals and our smattering of very poor Greek, breaks down in tears.

She lost her husband sixteen years ago.

'She is still sad but you have to be strong,' Kiki from the kafenio says.

I tell her about my broken heart, for which I needed hospital treatment.

'You have the memories, Margarita. Now you must travel and see many things.'

In my book, Kiki is likened to Athena. She has a wise head on young shoulders.

Meanwhile, Mr Grigg is told by the proprietor of the kafenio, eager perhaps for another coffee sale, that he has the skin of a thirty year old.

Filming is just about to start in Corfu for a second series of ITV's The Durrells and actress, producer and singer (and Tom Hanks' wife) Rita Wilson is one of five prominent Greeks of the diaspora to be honoured by a new stamp.

And then there's my book.

'Paw, paw,' Kiki says. 'My sister-in-law has read it. British people have read it. They like it very much.'

'Yes,' says an English woman. 'And now you must hurry up and write the next one. We want to see what happens next.'
That's about it.

Love Maddie x

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