As I make preparations to travel to Greece once again for the olive harvest up at the Greek Hovel, my mind drifts back to the last weekend of our summer vacation. My trip in a couple of weeks will be a solitary one, my annual chance to be part of a community that is tied by its DNA to the olives, but also to detach myself from the insanity of life back in Airstrip One. It is a chance to consider what I want to do with the rest of my life and other matters and, obviously,to drink a lot of ouzo and Metaxa. But back to last summer.
You may remember that while folks in Kambos took a relaxed approach to the plague with a 99.97% survival rate, the Greek Authorities were, like the two brained politicians who lead us across the world, imposing ludicrous rules on their citizens and on visitors to the Hellenic Republic. And that changed the last weekend of our stay.
It was meant to be a special day when the villagers started a procession at the main church and then trouped around al the other eight tiny churches of the village including the one that might hold a dozen souls at most which is at the start of the lane that eventually reaches the Greek Hovel. This was a celebration of the ascension into heaven of the Virgin Mary. The villagers may not all participate but they respect what is going on. And so lanterns are put up by most houses, flickering as the sun goes down and as hundreds walk around the village behind an intoning priest and other men carrying a cross and relics.
This is walking in the open air, so surely an unlikely way to spread the plague. But none the less either the State or the Church or both had decreed that there would be no procession this year. I wonder if they processed under Nazi occupation or during the civil war? I suspect that they did and 2021 really is an aberration.
And thus we went for supper at what was Miranda’s in the town square, a bit later than usual. This was Saturday. On Sunday we’d be packing up and having an early night ahead of that last swim and the trek back to Airstrip One so this was our last night out. We lingered after the meal. Joshua had an ice cream and we went to a neighbouring table where my friends the great bear of a man, Vangelis, and Nicho the Communist sat drinking. I was aware I might not see them for a few months or maybe some new covid rule would mean I would nt see them for even longer.
So I bought them a drink. They bought me and the Mrs one. And one thing led to another. Conversation with Vangelis is hard as he speaks not a word of English. I tried a few words of Welsh but that only confused him more before Nicho explained what Welsh was. But we chatted, we communicated, Jaya snoozed, Joshua played with Nicho’s grand nephew and other kids and we drank a lot more. You don’t get breathalysed on the back roads up to the hovel which, as Joshua notes, I know like the back of my hand. Late at night you won’t meet another car either.
The square was packed. Almost No masks. No social distancing. But at least there was no religious parade to stop the virus spreading. Various of the other folks I have got to know over years of olive harvesting came over and there were more drinks. Not so lovely Eleni sat with us and discussed openly why she was selling up. I live here in Wales for at least ten months a year but Greece is my home and those folks out in Kambos are my friends. The Mrs understands that more, each time she visits.
In a couple of weeks I shall be back. After a hard day harvesting olives the men and the odd woman will meet up for eating and drinking at Kourounis, at whatever Miranda’s will be called now and at the new place which I hear is not flourishing. We will huddle indoors, to escape the biting evening cold and the air will be thick with the smell of tsipero, ouzo and nicotine. Folks with aching limbs after a day harvesting will buy each other many more drinks. There won’t be masks. People will laugh though the harvest is so bad that some may cry.
That is for the future. On that last Sunday we swum a lot and we had a final pool party for Joshua, with his friends the Guardian reading loons from up in the mountains L&G. I gather that after 18 months they still have not made it back to Britain. Lucky them. n early night. A last swim and then,with sadness all round, the trek home began.