Minty convinced me to post a blog today and send some sunshine, and a semblance of normality, out to the world.
On Friday 13th as the grip of the virus tightened around Greece we arrived at Camping-Koutsounari a few kms outside of the fruit growing town of Ierapetra.
Ierapetra looks rough, dirty, functional.
Unusually for Crete there’s a high Muslim population. It was strange driving through on Friday and seeing so many men in their kurta, although we didn’t see any minarets.
Despite the ugliness of the town, the beach is long and straight, the developments along it are very smart, and our campsite opens to it.
Arriving on a campsite. The clean.
There are only two other vans. English Pete is his modern VW Combi who we met in Paleochora, and a German couple in a very smart Hymer penthouse on wheels.
Once the van was parked it was a race for the shower.
Day one was planned as a head shave (KC) and body clean (both).
Day two I gave Minty her shortest haircut yet. Next out came the exfoliating gloves for a serious scrub.
The van had all doors and windows open for a couple of days of complete airing as we put every possible item through the washing machine. The first load dried in the warm breeze before the second load was finished.
Who’d have a dog?
Polly is our pretty, intelligent, cashmere soft, delicate, and slightly broken Poodle.
Unusually for a dog Polly has little perceptible odour.
Most of the time.
Polly guaranteed her own scrub by finding a goat’s carcass to roll in.
Long dead animal always has a distinctive stench that is sure to set off your gag reflex, but dead goat is worse (or better, if you’re a dog). Even in death the pungent goat funk dominates every note, like their milk or cheese, only stronger. By the time I caught the dog she was delighted with her perfume and about to start snacking on the remains.
We held her down, shampooed, rubbed, and rinsed her.
She was disgusted.
She now smells sweet again.
Day three was scheduled as ArchieVan’s first wash since St Just, but then came the winds.
Kostas at Zorba’s warned us last week that many houses on the south coast of Crete are not well located to shelter from the Meltemi winds.
We thought we knew a thing or two about crazy gales. We lived on the edge at Tregiffian, above Sennen, for many years. It’s a breezy place. The strongest wind to hit England was recorded at nearby Gwennap Head blowing over 100 knots, nearly 120 mph.
We scoffed at his Meltemi.
We were wrong.
Nothing could prepare us for the onslaught.
Our weather app told of strong winds, yet still they didn’t predict anything like the whipping that we’ve had for two days, with another three days to come. Walking the dog is out of the question. Staying inside we’re safe, but on the verge of motion sickness.
Although I’m often critical of Greece’s unimaginative buildings, at least there’s nothing loose. In England the streets would be a killing field of flying slates and loosened plate glass windows.
Here they were prepared. During the previous few days there was a fury of tree trimming, and now we know why.
I have a little film of the wind blowing me off my feet, but to load it here would blow my data allowance.
The wind doesn’t blow constantly. There are occasional lulls that give you a false sense of safety, but then you hear a distant rumble and you know the next blast is perhaps a minute away.
During one such lull an old boy drove up to the van in his pickup.
He introduced himself as part of the campsite family. He told me we were in the grip of a crazy situation but that his family keeps smiling. He presented me with a bag of bounty from his garden and wished us well. We were touched. I even went on Instagram after a three month detox to celebrate his kindness.
I could describe our situation in grim terms…
We can’t leave the campsite as none are accepting new arrivals and we’ve read that the police are moving people on from their wild camping spots.
If we did leave the site we still can’t leave the island as the high winds have grounded the ferries. All flights have stopped too.
But in actual fact we feel incredibly fortunate to be here.
We arrived for no reason other than to do our washing, and stayed long enough to realise that leaving would be a bad move.
The mile long beach is about 50 metres from the van, and 20 minutes walk away there’s a well stocked mini market. There’s a pharmacy too, but hopefully we won’t need that.
Other than the three vans here (Team Geriatrix arrived the day after us, the third time we’ve stayed near them) we see no one.
Over the course of a week Minty has transformed the figures of the scrawny cats that were hanging out waiting for Easter arrivals. Her pride has grown from 5 to 8 and I have to admit that they’re rather nice, although I’m amazed to find that they do even less through a day than even a dog.
There’s Ginger, ‘arf n ‘arf, The Puma, Mother, Sick Girl, Tabby and two who have yet to distinguish themselves sufficiently to warrant a name.
Polly is appalled and tries to ignore them.
Their presence does mean that Polly’s confined to the van more than usual, but until today it has been too windy for her to venture out much.
It’s heartening to read tales of St Just where the community has stepped up to care for its vulnerable. It feels special when you’re there, and proves itself whenever times are tough.
On a bigger scale, we were surprised that it took crowded Britain so long to bring in its seclusion measures, and still hasn’t gone as far as the more naturally isolated Greece.
There’s only one Greek per square km for every five English. Perhaps it’s that which makes them so sociable.
We wish everyone well. Let’s learn something from this, and let’s try not to squander the quietest time that any of us has probably experienced since our last school summer holiday. Some of us might not even remember that far back!
Stay sane. Stay safe.