I arrived at Athens airport at midnight Greek time on Tuesday. 24 hours after the Real Man Christmas party I was still feeling a little fragile and so walked zombie like to the hotel airport and wet to my room to crash. The bed swallowed me up and I was asleep. So far so good.
I made it to Athens bus station the next day and caught my bus to Kalamata where I went to the best hotel overlooking the sea front. In summer all the hotels in town are booked out months in advance. But it is November, and the town is dead. 50 Euros including breakfast and I was ready to get back to work and immediately called John the bike man, a venerable source of information on local brothels and much else.
A deal was struck. I have a new bike of which more later but it has real power! The next morning as agreed I met up with John and I drive the bike to Kambos. He was to follow in a car to meet me at The Greek Hovel with my bags and coats. Easy, 1.30 at the hovel.
Driving up into the mountains my head was simply flooded with happiness. In summer the fields were a straw brown. Today they are the sort of green you associate with a water meadow in Oxfordshire. The flowers popping up are almost alpine. I wore a shirt but felt warm as the sun bore down. As I climbed higher and higher old familiar sights came into view. Pretty soon I could see the Kambos church in the distance and before I knew it I had swept into the village.
I waved at the man at the garage and at the man at the first snake repellent/rat poison/hardware store. And then pulled up by the Kourounis taverna home to lovely Eleni. I shook hands and chatted to Vangelis owner of the second snake repellent/rat poison/hardware store. Nikko, the husband of lovely Eleni welcomed me back and I had a coffee on the house and then headed back to the hovel to meet John the bike man.
1.30 came and I called. “I will be there at 2.30”. By 3.30 there was still no John. He had my PC, my phone charger and my phone was now out of battery and indeed he had everything including my keys to the hovel. The keys are actually a bit of an irrelevancy since if you know how you can clamber onto the front balcony which I had done to make myself a coffee. But WTF was going on? Even by Greek standards this was poor form. And so I thought I’d walk towards the village hoping to meet John but failing all else to borrow a phone from the man at the garage to call him. 25 minutes down dale, up dale I arrived and the garage man said “in post room.”
Hmmm. A letter from my father delayed by the Greek Post? A utility bill? Er..no it was my bags and coats. Deadweight 20 kg. There was no choice. As I climbed up snake hill the sweat poured off. This was like rugby training at London Irish. But I am an older man now. I cursed John with every step.
As I marched up snake hill I wondered about snakes. Were they in hibernation or had some of them forgotten that November is beddy byes time? I heard the odd rustle in the bushes and was conscious that it was still pretty warm but tried just to think about how needed to get home. I marched on. And at last I arrived. The keys worked, the door opened. As I had already established by my break in there were no rats there. No snakes. My sanctuary at the Greek Hovel was wildlife diversity free.
Greece and Greeks are, by English standards, unreliable. C’est la vie. I get frustrated and occasionally I get angry. John and I spoke. I had no anger. That is the way here. Think of the plus points.