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The Greek Hovel Olive Harvest 2021 – day 2 and a schoolboy error in Kambos

Tom Winnifrith
Wednesday 8 December 2021

After admitting to Nicho the Communist our day one harvest of 3-4 bags, we at least started day 2 with a full quota of four harvesters following the arrival of B. His passport photo makes him look like a strapping member of the Waffen SS but he is in fact a charming fellow who speaks a lot more Greek than I do. Once again, the weather was unhelpful.

Sometimes I was in a T-shirt, at other times a jumper on top and just now and again a West Ham puffer jacket was needed to keep off intermittent rain. Wearing a West Ham top had an added joy as  all my fellow harvesters appear to be Spurs supporters.

I have not told the admirable S this, but when I am here with Albanians my job as the junior member of the team is to sort out cut branches and mats filled with leaves and olives in the sieve. The Albanians know that I am the weakest link.

S is not the weakest link at all. I think I am. But she was happy to man the sieve and also make periodic cups of tea and a lunch for us all. By the end of the day we were up to 9 bags. Well, I say 9 bags. A Greek bag is full to the top, tied tightly with twine and weighs 50 kg. Our bags are rather lighter and it is agreed that when all the trees that have fruit are harvested, we will-sieve to take out more leaves and decant into fuller bags. So our 9 bags were, perhaps, five 50 kg bags. But that is still a quarter of a tonne and 35 litres of oil.

By around 3.30 PM it was sheeting down with rain and we gathered in the four nets to take them back to the sieve. All of us worked to pull olives from the branches we had cut and to just call it a day. We went inside and I did not bother to change out of my wet clothes as I hurried to do my work for ShareProphets. That, not olive harvesting, pays the bills. As a result I was shivering and feeling less than 100% as we headed into town for supper at which point I made a schoolboy error.

I parked on the main street in Kambos so that we could all take a tour of the olive press. Its boss greeted me warmly though insisting that we all mask up. I showed the harvesters how it all worked at which point a man insisted that we all drank a small glass of oil fresh of the press. It was amazing and with that inside us we walked down the street intending to head through the square to what was once known as Miranda’s. That was my schoolboy error.

But on the corner of the square I spotted Thomas, son of Miranda, owner of the new restaurant.  I mentioned this in the summer.  Do not get me wrong, Thomas serves up very good food and is a charming fellow but I have a real problem with him. That is to say, as soon as a tourist sets foot on the square he comes up to them and while oozing charm, gives them the yak and pushes them to dine with him.  These high pressure tactics are what you see at the seaside here in Greece but are not the real Greece. He took custom from the old Mirandas thus forcing a change of ownership and it is just not the Kambos way. Here,we sit back and let the world go by.

So I pick no public fight with Thomas but opt to take my custom elsewhere, that is to say to Kourounis and what was Miranda’s. Nearly all locals take the same decision. Thomas may be the best cook in town but at Miranda’s folk pay a bit less, drink and sing loudly, smoke and let the world go by. And if the fucking tourists go to Thomas so much the fucking better.

But Thomas said hello, I said good evening in Greek and then he said will you be eating here? I am such a rotten coward that I said “of course”. At this point I should note that what he served up was absolutely incredible. It is easily the best food in Kambos, the sort of fare that would do a London restaurant proud. And it was cheap at 12.5 Euro a head with a stack of booze included. But we were the only diners. Poor Thomas needs tourists and the summer and then he will ooze charm in a manner that is far too aggressive for me.

My fellow harvesters loved his food and I am in no doubt that when they take a break here in the summer they will be his loyal customers. But I shall not. For me the cheaper, more traditional if basic food at what was Miranda’s with my village neighbours sitting at the other tables will do fine.

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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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