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Report from the Greek Hovel Number 12 – Coping with Fear

Tom Winnifrith
Thursday 17 July 2014

What in nature scared me a few days ago? Snakes? Yes big time. But also rats, bats. scorpions and the dark. I also have a great fear of heights but that has not been an issue to date as I settle into the Greek hovel. But the rest of my phobias have come in spades.

I know there are snakes on the land here. I saw one on what is known as the snake veranda the first time that the Mrs and I visited. And Foti says he has seen plenty of them in the olive groves. Cheers mate. So far I have not seen one. Perhaps my snake repellent system is working? I touch wood. I awoke early today and spent a couple of hours clearing some of the leaves and detritus that lie on the path to my door, the snake patio next to it and the entrance to the room below the snake veranda. The path is now clear and as I returned tonight for the first time I could not hear “crunch, crunch” and was not wondering what lay beneath my feet ready to spring out and bite.

The rest of the detritus, which snakes love, goes tomorrow and later on this week I shall be spraying the immediate vicinity with snake repellent. I am not taking chances.

After a third load of junk disappeared tonight with Foti and his pal, both lower floor rooms are now almost empty.  The bat room still needs a bit of clearance before I tackle digging out its earthen floor but the paradise for rats that existed a week ago has gone. Now the almost clean floors have a few “rat sweeties” on them. Rats are becoming less of an issue and, while I would not want to wake up at night to find myself staring one in the face, I am actually less scared than I was. If I met one in daytime I would now like Foti seize a broom or a spade and go for it.

The bats seem really very harmless and small. There is no rabies in this part of the world and I was happy to chase the last bat resident here away today.

To be honest I had not thought about scorpions until today. I popped into the local garden centre/poison store for a chat and the chap there mentioned them asking how many I’d seen. Cheers pal. Lovely Susan Shimmin from Real Mani reassured me this evening that scorpions are at their most poisonous after hibernation in the spring but by now are only vaguely poisonous.  She advises me just to hit them with a broom in the way that I smash any bug that is foolish enough to venture inside my almost perfectly enclosed bedroom.

The dark I cannot avoid. The village of Kambos is well lit. I linger there at night (as I still have no internet at the hovel) in the taverna which is open until 1 AM or later. I delay the drive back to the hovel by swapping emails or writing something I need not write. But eventually I must face the dark.

Leaving Kambos the road is unlit and I am the only car on the winding and rough track. As I drive down to the old and large monastery with just one monk left in it I find myself imagining ghostly processions of long dead monks dressed head to toe in black. Do I believe in ghosts? My mother swore that she saw the “Grey Lady” at the gates of Portman Lodge on the edge of Bryanston in Dorset when she was young. I think that I do not believe but driving past the monastery in the dark my mind runs riot.

After I reach the valley floor the road gets far worse as I start the long climb to the hovel. I saw a rabbit yesterday but I am conscious that I am alone. I dread finding an obstacle in the road and having to get out of my locked car to clear it but when I reach the hovel I have no choice.

It is ten yards from my car door to my front door. I leave the light on before I go but they are still ten dark yards as the shutters are closed to keep the wildlife away. As I reach the front door I fumble nervously with the keys desperate to get inside and to shut out the dark. Having checked for signs of wildlife I lock the door and am, I think, safe from nature until the dawn.

But outside the dark is everywhere. And there are the noises. There are still cicadas clicking away, you can hear dogs bark across the valley but there are other sounds that you cannot quite explain. With my shutters firmly drawn I cannot see the dark but it is out there. However much I want a pee I simply cross my legs until dawn – I dare not wander outside and round the house in the dark to use the (very smelly) facility.  I really must build my portable eco-loo!

I am now man enough to sleep with the light off. I am sure that I will get used to the dark and conquer my fear but I greet the morning as my friend and with enthusiasm.

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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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