Statice. Luludhi ya simera.
Statice, our flower for today, stands out against a background of already drying scrub along the beachside. The carpet of daisy like joy is dying back now and only the blood drops of poppy still bring colour all over.
France. An education.
When I was about 16 I went on my first big solo trip, flying to Lyon in France and then taking the train to Clermont Ferrand to stay with a family there.
It doesn’t sound much now, people fly places all the time, but back then they didn’t, certainly not school boys from Redruth.
I was homesick. I was always homesick. But I got over it.
My hosts were a fantastic family whose contribution to my education I only began to understand many years later.
At an event with Mme Iva I first saw a jeroboam of champagne having its cork sabred.
Simply seeing a jeroboam would have been enough for me. I’m sure there wasn’t a bottle that size in Cornwall, let alone within my limited experience.
Then seeing some guy take the top off with a sword. Well. Any wielding of a weapon was seriously impressive to a boy of 16.
But what was completely lost on me was that the guy with the sword was Valery Giscard d’Estang, the then president of France.
Be still. Be bored. Enjoy it.
My education didn’t stop with watching the country’s top man enact emergency access to fizzy wine.
Victor, the father, tried to interest me in the work of another local boy Blaise Pascal. It was he who wrote “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”
I couldn’t sit still for five minutes back then, in fact it’s only the current circumstances that are teaching me to do so nearly 40 years later.
This time of enforced stillness is a whole lot easier to bear than I’d ever have expected.
Weeks slide by with only the gathering fizzy Friday bottles to evince their passing.
I can sit for an hour as Polly amuses herself playing Grey Pebble, Grey Pebble Beach. Most most often I simply sit and watch. And I feel richer for this. I admitted this week that I now place more value on the pebble that Polly and I have hunted for over a fortnight than most other things. As I throw it among its oh so similar counterparts I feel real fear that Polly might not find it this time. So far she has always delivered.
Perhaps I’m beginning to understand Pascal’s point.
And here’s a thing. Pascal penned his wisdom in the early 1600s. Think how much more distracted we are now.
It is solved by walking.
Let’s stick with quotes from the ancients for a while.
I have long loved the simple “It is solved by walking” accredited to St Augustine. He was around in the early 400s AD. It’s also credited to Diogenes, a Greek philosopher from about 800 years earlier.
Movement, but slow movement. Distractions, but not too many.
Walking shakes down what you’re thinking about. Walking helps two of you sort it out.
Walking meetings are the best if you only have one person to talk to. But even as the boss it can be hard to convince team members that they’ll get more from 30 minutes walking and talking, than from the same time sitting in a meeting room.
Meetings are rare for us these days. But walks are a significant part of every day.
An expanding network of paths.
From our spot by the beach there is a network of tracks leading into the mountains that seem to open up new ground every time we tackle them. We set off confident in the GPS that works so well at sea level, but soon the signal drops and we’re back to old fashioned navigation by what feels right.
During the week that system led me into trouble and left me scrambling ever upwards for about half an hour before I found the track that I’d seen from a distance.
A hack across country at home can be hard, here it’s doubly so as so many plants bare a thousand evil lances instead of the simple thorns of our English brambles.
While some plants rip at your flesh other offer compensating joy.
Sage is everywhere, it’s in flower, and on a hot day it releases its precious pungent oil to the wind. Every few steps crush another thyme bush. Furze adds a sweet note to these savoury herbs. Pine oozes sap and fragrance.
There are orchids. But generally the colour show has already passed. I’m so glad to have paid attention to each blossom as it appeared.
We’ve a walk to a waterfall planned for later today. It rained heavily on Thursday, and on the high ground the snow is melting fast, the falls should be in full spate.
A truly outside life here must be tinged with madness, to be ever exposed to the violent movement of air must change you.
We live in a windy place in Cornwall, but nothing compares to our adopted Cretan home. In the 40 or so days we’ve been at Koutsounari it has been windy for 25. Now and then it’s a mild warm wind from the south, the rest of the time it’s the fierce gusting beast rushing down from the mountains behind us.
This wind gusts.
During a lull there’s quiet, exaggerated by what went before. During the quiet you can hear the next gusts wreaking havoc a mile away, fast covering the ground, whipping up anything that’s not tied down.
Overnight heavy rain lashed us for hours, machine gun blasting the plexiglass roof lights, deafening inside, the noise distracting from the van’s lurching as it’s tossed like a coracle on waves.
A switch is flicked. The 60 mph wind drops to nothing in an instant. With nothing to drive it the rain is gone too. In the morning the sun rises, the sky is perfect blue, there’s little evidence of the terrifying turmoil of the hours before.
Our neighbours are upset by this weather, but we welcome the variety, even though the wind is exhausting.
A growing family.
Minty’s pride has levelled out at seven cats. Scabby Cat has disappeared, and Prinny only passes through now and then, but that number’s set to change.
MissC, formerly Cuddles, then Miss Cuddles, now simply identifying by her rapper’s moniker of MissC, is pregnant and pinking up nicely. In another few weeks there’ll be a litter and Minty will be beside herself.
It has been interesting to see the definite characters of the many different cats but is hasn’t endeared me to them. If I lived on my own in the countryside I’d perhaps entertain keeping a mouser, but then, if I lived on my own I’d most likely choose a flat in the middle of the action. Although I’m rarely sociable, I like to see life happening around me. Better by far to live with Minty and leave her responsible for the scratchy ones.
The virus and the restricted life of Greece.
During the last week Britain has seen roughly 5,000 virus related deaths.
In Greece there have been 10.
In a financially ruined country where the government changes more often than the weather the brilliant handling of the crisis has elevated its leaders to hero status. Prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has delivered a leadership masterclass while infectious-disease advisor Sotiris Tsiodras is currently the most popular person in the country.
They have a difficult path to tread now. The economy depends on tourism, but opening the gates would invite infection from abroad.
This week it was announced that some easing of the social distancing laws will be considered from Monday May 4th. The excitement is already building.
Meanwhile the police patrol the beach several times a day. We feel it. But once we’re across the road and into the hills we rarely see a soul.
When the time comes I will be sad to leave here, the draw of home has waned and this simple existence of olive trees, tomatoes and goats has begun to take hold.
House of happiness.
Greek architecture rarely excites. Anything that’s half decent stands out. At the top of the village there’s this beauty, a work in progress. To stand on its terrace gazing across the Libyan Sea lifts your spirits and fills you with joy. We pass it several times a week. We wouldn’t want to live there, but we’d love to stay…
Music to bake to: Nick Cave’s Grinderman 2. There’s a large tray of peppers, tomatoes, aubergines, chickpeas, garlic and onions roasting slowly. It’ll be served with a brown spaghetti. For the wonderful chop fest I chose the raucous excess of Grinderman 2. Every track a screamer. Every track building to the strange beauty of the Palaces of Montezuma.
A pause. This blog is a record of our travels, of our learning and adventure along the way. While now we’re learning to be slow, satisfied and simple I’m not sure it warrants a weekly post. We’ll take a pause, and be back with you when we’ve something so say. Thank you all for sharing the journey this far.