It is now the day after Boxing Day. Between arriving back in Wales on the 16th and Christmas Eve I decanted six litres of the olive oil pressed from my olives in Kambos earlier this month. Today, as my recovery from the illness that struck me in late November, accelerates I sat down with my son Joshua and enjoyed a plate oil that oil with some crusty bread for the first time. It was delicious with a peppery after taste hitting the back of your throat. It reminds me that I have yet to complete the tale of this year’s harvest.
Having collapsed at 4 PM on the Sunday, my sleep was broken for two hours as I recorded a podcast and hammered out an article or two. I really did feel like the Tailor of Gloucester but I was soon back in my bed, or rather the upstairs sofa where I had collapsed and the next morning thirteen hours sleep left me feeling a bit better. None the less, harvester T, nine years my senior did the heavy lifting.
Veteran harvesters will know where we were. With it still raining intermittently we stayed on the top terraces not risking clambering up and down side terraces, and moved on towards the second ruined house on the property and to the area beyond which is always high yielding.
I still have planning permission and have drawn up plans with George the Architect to build a second house here with two bedrooms and a living room. I think I want to tweak those plans and will renew the application this year and so when my ship comes in I can start work. But for now the stones in the area have been largely removed to be used on the reconstruction of the main house. If you did not know that there was a dwelling once hear you would not guess.
We worked hard all day. The grill which we use to separate leaves from olives was moved down to where we worked and when it yielded a sack of 25 kg ( an English Gentleman’s sack as opposed to an Englishman’s sack of 35 kg or an Albanian’s 50 kg sack) it was taken back to the house to be decanted into Albanian’s sack at the end.
That evening in Kambos both Thomas’s and the place once known as Miranda’s were closed. It seems they are shut in the winter so whole families can harvest. And so it was a shared Metaxa, for I was still not well enough to enjoy a proper drink and T is a modest drinker at all times, and meatballs c/o lovely Eleni at the Kourounis taverna. I had a brain wave….
With Eleni translating I negotiated for George, one of my drinking pals who speaks not a word of English, but who had helped bring furniture up to the hovel in his 4×4 last summer, to bring our full Albanian sacks down to the village on day 7 ( Tuesday) at 4.30 PM. As to tying them with a proper not, a perennial failing of mine, mad lefty L was pitching up at 4 PM. Having earned an honest crust running outward bound courses for posh public schoolboys, as a good socialist would do, L can tie knots like the best Albanian in town.
And so we were prepared. We had one more day to harvest. We knew that meant that some trees would be left unharvested but we reckoned we already had 600 kg of olives and a day to get some more. For two old men, one of whom was clearly not well at all, with zero Albanian assistance that looked like a damn good effort.