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The Greek Hovel August 2020: day 1 and it's Masks at Manchester

Tom Winnifrith
Monday 3 August 2020

No not a reference to the former vocation of my Mancunian pal Dan. Instead the start of our trip to the Greek Hovel. The Mrs had booked a 7.45 AM flight which meant a 4.30 AM departure from the Welsh Hovel. The Mrs had an early night, I decided to stay up accompanied by Bradley Walsh, Suzanne Jones, John Thaw and David Suchet and to try and do a bit of work. I reckoned I’d catch up on my sleep on the flight. No-one had told me I was sitting next to Joshua.

A taxi to the airport was uneventful and on arrival at Manchester the Mrs and I donned our face nappies. On the minus side, I hate wearing one as there is no scientific data to show it has any purpose, it is very uncomfortable and I feel it is state control for the sake of it. But it is the law at the Airport so I obliged. On the plus side, Manchester Airport is usually a crowded nightmare. It is as I imagine like hell on Christmas Eve. Not today. What bliss.

There were a few refuseniks on the mask front. A group of Asian lads ahead of us swaggered and did not wear a face nappy. A few folks had quiet words with them which they ignored. And then airport staff intervened and they were forced to obey orders. On the way between checking in a large hold bag and passport control, we met L&G, two retired folks who have a house in a mountain village above Kambos. He stood for parliament for Labour many moons ago and they are both rabid Guardian readers. Not understanding the finer points of libertarianism, they quickly branded me Tom the fascist. As you know, Guardian readers believe that anyone marginally to the right of Keir Starmer is a fascist.

Despite the fact that they are misguided on almst every single major issue of the day, we share common passions and get on well. I have never understood those who say “I could not kiss a Tory” or be friends with a Trot. After all, the Mrs is a card-carrying member of the Labour Party. And we et on fine. I digress. L&G it, quickly emerged, were mask fanatics. As big state folks they thought Boris had cocked it all up by not shutting down every private business in Britain and instituting house arrest for all from the GetGo. As you know. I too think Boris has cocked it all up bit for rather different reasons but we found happy common ground: Bojo is utterly useless. You see: I am a bringer of peace and harmony. I should be running the UN.

On the flight L&G had booked seats right at the back. They explained that this was to halve their risk of catching the virus. As we discovered on landing, they had been surrounded by mask refuseniks and some words had been exchanged. L&G have pledged to protect the Mani by self-isolating for ten days on arrival so, as this was almost the first flight into Kalamata, we are almost the only Brits here and out and about.

Joshua was a nightmare on the flight so there was little sleep. The easyJet stewardess gave me a bollocking for not wearing my mask. I pointed out that I was eating a sausage roll which was a good defence as it was true. And that is the idiocy of these rules. Joshua and others under 11 had no masks. A few folks refuse and say “what are you going to do about it?” Almost all others take off their masks to eat or drink and the aircraft recycles the germs everywhere. It is utterly pointless. Air travel has become even more dreadful than it was before. I think back to boyhood travelling to Athens with my father by rail. Okay it took three days but was it this grim?

On arrival we whistled through passport control at the shed that is Kalamata airport. The lady checking our line wore no mask. The guy checking the other line had a full face-nappy. The Covid controls consisted of a man (with mask) checking the forms we had submitted to the Greek Government and waiving us all through at once. There were no random tests at all. The Mrs got a message from Vodafone warning her that the Greeks might make us quarantine for one day! One day! What is the point?

As we emerged from KLX airport Helen, the cheapest car hire in Kalamata, was there to great me. She was wearing no mask but moved to put one on. At that point I ripped mine off and said “don’t worry” and so we carried on doing business as we have always done. Had she been greeting mask jihadis like L&G she would have played ball. But her instinct is the very Greek one to just get on with life. I didn’t have any euro but promised to pop into Kalamata on Tuesday to pay her and with that we sped off to buy four canisters of snake repellent in Kalamata and then to 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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