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So I told Nicho the communist about my snake encounter

Tom Winnifrith
Saturday 28 May 2016

As you may remember, Nicho the Communist delighted in telling me upon my arrival in Kambos that the snake harvest had been excellent this year and that the fields around my house, the Greek Hovel, would be full of them. During the past few weeks he has several times asked after the snakes, managing to speak and laugh at the same time. And so having encountered one, I felt I should relay the news to him.

We were sitting, as you might expect, in the Kourounis taverna. I told him what had happened and he looked straight into my eyes and asked earnestly "Did you kill it?"

You and I know that as the snake slithered away from me into a bush I moved in the opposite direction and regarded it as a good thing that we part company. But that is not the Maniot way. Someone from the Mani would see it as their duty to dive into the bush and club the serpent to death with whatever lay to hand. Should I fess up to Nicho that I ran away or would that be seen as almost as bad as supporting Turkey in the Euros? "It escaped" I said. He grunted, suspecting I think, that I was not really that keen on snake killing unless it was from the safety of a car or a motorbike.

It is not just the Maniot men who have the killing gene. During the Greek war of Independence from the accursed Turk, the rebellion started in the Mani. The men took time off from fighting each other in blood feuds to march on Kalamata and slaughter the Ottoman garrison on March 23rd 1821 just six days after the Mani led Greece in declaring war.

Later on in the campaign the Turks thought that since the Maniot fighters were engaged in hostilities in the Kalamata area they would send 1500 Egyptian soldiers by ship, forty miles down the coast to land at Diros and then seize the Maniot capital Areopoli which is a couple of miles inland. The Turks landed their men but 300 Maniot women and some old men were working in the fields, harvesting crops with scythe and sickle. The maniot women fell upon the accursed invaders and catching them by surprise drove them back them back. As another 300 Maniot old men and women arrived the panicking Egyptians had to swim to their ships or die. Very few made it home.

There are other tales of heroic Maniot women fighting the accursed turk through the ages. And as such when anyone from this region sees a snake they will pursue it and destroy it in a fearless fashion. For snake read Turk. I am afraid that I just do not possess this fighting gene and though I am now more relaxed about snakes, the idea of pursuing one into the bushes is just a step too far.

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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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