Living on Crete.
When we arrived on Lefkada in November 2018 we had many conversations about living in Greece.
How strange that 18 months later we effectively live on Crete, but not by choice. While it’s not by choice we have no objections.
Climbing back onto my bike.
I bought my Orange P7 at least 30 years ago. It’s now something of a classic among people excited by such things.
When I climb onto it now my 55 year old self whispers gently to the younger man within reminding him that the invincibility of youth has passed. That falls hurt, lots. And that a passing bus isn’t there to be chased.
We rode to Ierapetra town today, just to prove to ourselves that we could do it. To know we can get any supplies we need without moving the van.
It’s not far, it’s probably a 12 mile round trip. But neither of us has been on our bikes in a very long time.
The beer will taste all the better tonight. The pancakes will barely touch the sides. And tomorrow we’ll be reminded of our adventure every time we sit.
The streets are empty. All the preparation that was ramping up a fortnight ago has stopped. Only a few large building projects are forging on optimistically.
This Sunday the supermarkets were ordered to open. At home they have to be ordered to shut now and then, but here opening on a Sunday simply doesn’t happen. As part of our ride we nipped into an empty Lidl to pick up some supplies.
Among the worry there was humour. Before going into the store everyone has to disinfect their hands, then put on plastic gloves. There’s comedy as young and old fail in our attempts to open plastic bags for our veg when we’re wearing plastic gloves slick with disinfectant.
After some research we found that the Sunday opening was ordered because the food markets were told to shut yesterday. The fruit and vegetable market is as much a part of Greek life as the kafenion (old man’s café), and all the bigger towns have theirs on a Saturday. Next week every other market stall will be allowed to open, and those that open then will be closed the week after. Complicated.
Dog walking. Crete style.
ArchieVan backs onto Long Beach. It’s about 50m to the water. There are worse places to be stuck.
In between van and beach is a dirt road that an occasional Greek runs along, but it is mostly used for dog walking.
Not dog walking the way we know it.
Greek dog walking involves driving somewhere with your pooch. You chuck him out. Then once he’s had a pee you drive off and the poor bugger has to run along trying to catch the car. That’ll make him want a poo in no time, so you stop for that (not picking it up though, that would involve getting out of the car). Then you drive a bit further by which time the overweight dog is ready for a coronary.
I’ve even seen dogs trying to catch their dad on a scooter, worse still they’re sometimes on a lead, attached to a scooter.
I’ll try to get a photo before I post the blog next week.
Keeping dogs as pets is new to Greeks. They haven’t got the hang of it yet.
Although the medics tell us masks are ineffective against the virus I’m beginning to understand people wanting to wear them. Our only risk points are at the shops and I find myself shallow breathing when I’m in close proximity with anyone.
Initially the mask wearers spread fear through an otherwise rational population more quickly than the media. But they’re becoming commonplace already.
Here we see some curious examples of mask use.
Both of my favourites take place in cars:
- Two people. Same car. Both wearing masks. If you’re that close and he’s got it you will have it very soon.
- Any number of people wearing masks. Masks pulled down. So they can smoke a tab. Priceless.
Eight cats are now in residence around the van.
George (formerly Ginger) and Sick Girl have been brought back from the brink of starvation. Panther’s coat looks better.
Sometimes five cats will accompany Minty on her walk up to the loo. It’s a funny sight, cats on their tiny legs aren’t built for human pace. They tend to slink around, with occasional bursts of speed when there’s a catch to be made, but the walk with their adopted human involves a fast pitter patter of feet over the pebbles that sounds quite lovely.
The cats are good for using up remains from dinner. Those last couple of spoons full aren’t enough to save. As we don’t throw any food away I usually end up eating what’s left – preserving this fine physique takes work. But now the cats enjoy a late night snack of dahl, chilli, soup, or last night it was a pancake.
Crickets. Amateurs at flight.
The crickets here are as big as small birds, but nowhere near as good in flight. Their flight appears to be a launching with little control over direction, and landings are rarely smooth.
A cricket is most interesting when one motivates the cats.
Cats hear the cricket crashing about and all are on guard.
They’ll leap high in the air to catch the giant grasshopper, and often succeed. The next bit’s not so good for the insect. Even though he’d be a nutritious crunchy snack, he’s more likely to be a toy, caught, released and caught again, until he finally gives up on his strange chirpy life (always ‘his’ as it’s only the blokes that make a noise).
The Greek restrictions have always been more strict than those in Britain. Although the population is only a fifth of England’s the health service is basic and the strain is likely to be immense. On Sunday the government clamped down again. Now we have to complete a form or text a central number every time we go out to state where we’re going and why. It can only be to visit doctors, pharmacy, supermarket or exercise.
Thank God for the exercise option.
It’s an interesting time. Lots of good. Lots of stupidity. Everything turned up to 11.
We miss home more when we know we can’t get there.
For people who have been overactive for most of our lives we have adapted tremendously well to this forced period of low activity.
I suspect many are wondering at their choice of partner by now.
I suspect many are gaining weight.
Here we’re eating less and eating well.
Forced to confine my area of experience I try to notice more within that area. The daily progress of the flowering weeds is central to my dog walks. Smells too. There’s a furze that’s more gentle than that of Cornwall, it has sweet coconut notes that fill the air when we ride by.
Outside the campsite loos two lemon (maybe orange) trees are in flower. The waxy blossoms are mad with bees and smell fantastic. They have an exaggerated jasmine scent that’s perfectly positioned to perfume the smallest room.
I’ve downloaded a new Greek learning app, for hours I can be heard muttering phrases that only I and the most tolerant of Greeks will understand.
Minty tends the campsite flowers.
We’ve requested cleaning products so that we can take over the cleaning of the showers and loos. What a thing. I once considered myself above cleaning other people’s toilets. But I made the most money when I grew out that particular ignorance and started doing just that.
The owners of the campsite brought us loads of cucumbers this week.
We probably buy one cucumber a year, so our win of a dozen in one go is going to be a challenge.
Chopping them into salad makes them go too far so we share a whole one before lunch.
I made tzatziki for the first time. It was a bit wet, but tasted great and the next will be even better.
A pot of Greek yoghurt, a grated cucumber (squeeze out as much water as you can), the juice of half a lemon, two fine chopped garlic cloves, and a good sprinkle of salt.
Food flavoured with raw garlic and lemon juice – hard to go wrong.
Our German neighbours saw a crate of tomatoes fall off a pickup on their way to town. They brought back a glut of bruised toms for us all.
We’ve since realised that the hungry should hang out on bends.
To slow an over laden pickup would loose momentum and so drivers adopt a steady pace that’s gentle on the straights and not too reckless through the bends. Gravity acts on the contents of their crates and as we cycle along we see a wealth of tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers in the bends. Most will stay there, rot, and hopefully germinate to bring a new variety to the roadsides.
Feeding the feral.
There’s been a new movement control form introduced for those who feed the feral cats and dogs.
There are thousands of feral cats, and probably very few rats as a consequence. Every night you’ll see folk walking around with big bags of food leaving piles in familiar places. Polly’s wise to this. She’ll often sneak off on a walk to graze a pile of cat biscuits.
Feeding the wild is a big thing. So significant a part of Greek life that the government has seen fit to include it as a reason to be out and about.
Another significant event in Greek life is Independence Day on 25 March.
While the world generally celebrates the end of a battle, the impatient Greeks didn’t wait. Instead they celebrate the start of their 1821 revolt against the Turks.
Every year thousands of people fill the streets and the restaurants taking a day off from Lent. This year this was no one about. They’ll make up for it in 2021.
Spring forward. Stay safe. Stay sane. Stay positive.