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The Englishman from Toumbia starts to “hear” Greek

Tom Winnifrith
Monday 15 December 2014

I do not speak Greek. And I cannot understand it. But given that virtually no-one in my home village of Kambos speaks English, I am exposed to it whenever I wander into town and I am now starting to “hear it.”

I was sitting opposite the olive factory with George the chief olive picker at the Greek Hovel as we waited out turn to drop off some olives. A little old lady, her back arched and curved and dressed in widows black opened the front door of her tiny house opposite, pulled out a chair and just watched the bags go in and out. She asked a question of George while looking at me and George replied. She nodded knowingly.

Whilst I did not understand the question I can guess what it was since the answer was “He is the Englishman who lives in Toumbia.”  The lady’s response indicates that folks in Kambos know that there is an Englishman in Toumbia, that is to say me.

Toumbia is not actually a place. It is the name for the area behind Kambos up in the snake friendly hills on the way to the mountain where there are perhaps 20 houses of which, maybe, three or four are inhabited. My nearest neighbours may be two miles away on either side but we are all in Toumbia. So Toumbia is not really a place just an area which contains the odd farm-house, of which are few are not abandoned. It is a place where folks in Kambos may own olive trees, where the goats and sheep can graze and, of course, where the snakes can go unmolested.

And I am the man who speaks no Greek but can spend all day at lovely Eleni’s tavern writing and looking out at life passing by; the man who fell off his bike at 5 MPH outside Eleni’s providing the incident of the summer (until the double murder) in sleepy Kambos, the man who is terrified of snakes but lives at the top of snake hill. Ho, ho, ho…the fool! That is the Englishman from Toumbia.

I digress. My point is that I am starting now to hear Greek. Next up is learning to speak it. But that is for avrio (tomorrow)


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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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