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As I wandered from Fleet Street to Ludgate Hill my mind wandered to Kambos and the Greek Hovel

Tom Winnifrith
Friday 18 November 2016

I know the area at the bottom end of Fleet Street, where it turns into Ludgate Hill and you wander up to St Pauls, like the back of my hand. Twenty years ago I worked around there at the Chronic Investor and used to walk home Eastwards. For two decades, at Christmas I would go to midnight mass at the journalists' church, St Brides. The area has changed a lot over the twenty five years that we have been acquainted. Unlike me, it has smartened itself up. But it is still familiar territory.

And thus I needed no map to walk from the pizza restaurant to last night's mining presentation which I attended in order to be disruptive. On the way, I made a call to lovely Eleni in the village of Kambos, the nearest settlement to the isolated Greek hovel to which I decamp in a couple of weeks.

Eleni would have been sitting in her taverna in the heart of the village ( population 538) with the place packed with the regulars, all local folks. At this time of year, very few foreigners venture to the Mani. Indeed in Kambos, since it is more than half an hour from the sea, tourists only ever pass through even in summer. They don't stay.

In the Kourounis taverna, everyone drinking and smoking there works with their hands to produce something real. Some may have outside jobs. My friend Vangelis, the man in the pink shirt, delivers for Dixons; Nicho the communist is a manager for an organic food company. But they, like everyone else have olive trees and will be gearing up to start harvesting already. Indeed I can't imagine there are many deliveries in austerity stricken Greece these days so that leaves more time for ones beloved olives. Others in the taverna are shepherds or goat-herds. All are somehow related to the land.

In London folks earn far more, rushing between meetings and shuffling bits of paper. Is there really any point to it or are most folks just playing a game and making money? But everyone bustles hither and thither from meetings to smart restaurants and back again. The cost of a meal for two where I was last night would keep me in food and drink in the tavernas of Kambos for a week.

The buildings as Ludgate Hill heads towards St Pauls are a mixture of old and new. A Wren church nestles next to a 1960s block. But then pretty soon you are at Paternoster Square a modern and impressive construct. They all sit side by side but the district is smart and contains many impressive buildings. There is a buzz and excitement as folks rush around London like the ants in our fields back at the hovel on a day when they are set to swarm. In Kambos there is no such buzz, no drive to make money and no vast choice of over-priced and pointless goods and services on which to waste your cash. There are no new buildings and in fact very little of note.

I am perhaps a bit hard on London in saying that I loathe it. I can see the point in visiting twice a year to see the ants rushing around. But it is not my world any more. More than a few days in London leaves me drained, exhausted and vaguely angry at the pointlessness and crass consumerism of the place. Bring on Kambos.

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About Tom Winnifrith
Tom Winnifrith is the editor of When he is not harvesting olives in Greece, he is (planning to) raise goats in Wales.
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