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The Greek Hovel summer 2023, losing more faith in humanity: the Belgian Lady

Tom Winnifrith
Sunday 3 September 2023

I did not recount the incident of the Belgian Lady during the last olive harvest, outside of a paywall protected podcast, because I wanted to avoid offence. But for various reasons my capacity to hold back seems to be diminishing so here goes for the events of the last few days have left me feeling less and less good about humanity.

Last summer my friend Nicho the Communits introduced me to P, the chap you see below, as a man to prune my trees and strim back long grass. But at a certain stage he said that he had to go help the Belgian Lady. The Belgian lady in question is about a decade older than I and has been living year a good while, being liked and accepted by folks in Kambos. I had enjoyed a drink with her and she seemed a decent sort who does not scrub up badly at all.

I accepted that a job was incomplete and thought I would sort things out when I came back before Christmas for the olive harvest. By the time I arrived and facing a heavy harvest with just one helper from Airstrip One, the incredible T, I sought out Albanian assistance. For reasons I think you can guess, the itinerant Albanian helpers from these parts have all disappeared.  But one night as T and I sat in the ouzeria and pondered  how we were not, on our own, up to the task in wandered P. He got out his phone, the Belgian Lady who was back in Belgium, translated and he was hired.

Then, in walked Nicho the communist. I said I had help and pointed to P. At which point my friend Nicho bellowed “No! No! No!” and made it clear that I was not allowed to hire or engage with P. A difficult conversation with the Belgian Lady later P was unhired and she understood why. For it seems the Belgian Lady had ditched her Belgian husband and was now shacked up with P. This conservative community had decided, en masse, to send the two of them to Coventry.

Given my track record of divorce I thought this harsh and wrong but took the cowards way out. T and I agreed I did not have much choice.

Wind forward to this summer and I saw P and the Belgian Lady wander into the square one evening and sit down. The whole village was there but I felt bad about what had happened so got up went over and very publicly said hello. Warm embraces followed and after my family had finished eating elsewhere we accepted an invitation for them to buy us a drink.

This might have been a risk as the whole village watched but it appears that, other than Thomas the restaurant owner of whom more later, most folks, even Nicho the Communist, had moved on and the Belgian Lady and P were no longer being cold shouldered. It seems I was owed a days work and P came up a couple of days later to strim all around the house, pool and water tanks. After the battle of the snake versus my heroic self I was glad to have an area cleared of long grass.

With the Mrs, a good Greek speaker, translating we agreed for him to do another day which he said would cost 50 Euro which is roughly what I paid him in the past.  But a day later I started chatting via WattsApp to the Belgian Lady to confirm the date of P’s next visit and his rate and was horrified to be told that he now charged 15 Euro an hour. In a long exchange she ‘fessed that the normal rate was 50 Euro and that I had been paying that much last year (actually, I paid 40 Euro a day as I told her) but her man was especially skilled.

50 Euro to 120 Euro is a mighty big hike. I am conscious that rather too many folks in Kambos seem to think that I am as rich as Croesus and thus, as most years, I have already been offered land to buy at a price that is insane. Thomas the restauranteur, who is pushing the proposal, insists that if I don’t buy this land which is close to me, if not adjacent, some Krauts will buy it within weeks. More fool them if they do. His price is insane.

The Belgian Lady and I have put this incident down as a misunderstanding and we move on but P is not being hired. I shall do some more strimming in the winter with my own machine when the long grass hides no snakes. However, the incident is the sort of thing that leaves my heart feeling heavier. My feelings for Kambos are just a bit cooler.

Of course, nearly all the folks in the village are wonderful. I walk through a crowded square saying “yas” or some other greeting to so many if they have not got in first with a warm and affectionate hello. Lovely Eleni and her family are wonderful. My children generate clucks of approval from so many with old ladies blowing them kisses. But this misunderstanding and a few other matters which I shall detail over the coming days make me just a little bit less charmed and a little bit more grumpy. I can now see a situation where I would sell the Greek Hovel. It is unlikely but even considering it all would not have happened a year ago.  More on that later.

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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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