Saturday, September 20, 2008

Yassou. Notes from a small island.

Home again. Home via the combined evils of Corfu Airport and First Choice Airlines - both of which let one enjoy queuing and the company of the nation's low-life to the full. However like any chivalric task - emptying a lake with a sieve for example - they are necessary evils and any time spent enduring either makes return to the green and gentle sun-drenched slopes of the Long Mountain so much sweeter.

How was it, the holiday? Well, since you asked, it was OK. The Paxiots were as charming and welcoming as ever they have been. The island's rugged landscape; the terraces of grey-green olives wherein a breeze might sigh, the scented maquis and its clicking cicadas, the turquoise Ionian rattling a stony shore, tumbling white pebble against white pebble and the milky dawns and dusks - these things do not change. The routine for the summer visitor follows a comforting and familiar pattern too - those returning know where and what and when to go and do and eat. Excepting a few idiosyncrasies it is not a challenging place to be. I recline and let the sun rest on my pale northern face, I have books to read, there is good hearty food to eat and, because I am on my holidays, the prospect of a glass of Metaxa at the end of the day. Why hurry? If you want fast, hire a speed boat.

But what is this? It is a cloud on the horizon - no, not just one, but more and more bubbling up from the south. Shortly the sky is gunmetal grey; the sea likewise. Beyond the breakwater of the small harbour at Loggos, 'cats' paws' flick the surface of the previously still Ionian. In the distance the Greek mainland disappears in cloud. We hear thunder on the other side of the island - at first mistaking the rumbles for some Greek revving up a motorbike. By degrees the electric storm reaches us and its violence does not make for a peaceful night. The morning air is sharp and metallic, the heavens open and rain falls and falls and falls. Water cascades off gutterless roofs. Roads are a watery sheet. We remind ourselves that after such a downpour they will be more slippery than usual - there is a residual film of oil on them from the ubiquitous olives.

After a summer such as we have had in the UK we are not impressed. The Paxiots are perilously short of water though and welcome this September storm; the island is without any springs or water source and all water must be caught and stored in cisterns and the big reservoir. The summer's influx of tourists puts an increasing strain on the island's resources. Fortunately winters are quite wet in the Ionian and this is achievable. (The big reservoir was, until this break in the weather, empty and a man, a brush and a bin liner had been sent to sweep it out.) I think we appreciated their need for water....
The storm blew through and we watched its tail-end over the mainland. That vertical shaft of cloud is rain. Those people must have been pretty bad in a former life to deserve that deluge.

The weather did improve and life resumed its tranquil pace although towards the end of the week strong winds got up - those gentle 'cats' paws' turned into galloping 'white horses'. Yachts and little dinghies sought shelter in Gaios, Loggos and Lakka. The island ferries and Hydrafoil which link Paxos with Corfu and the mainland were cancelled. We wondered if we would be able to get off the island and in fact went to bed on the day before departure convinced we would be extending our stay. However, come the morning the sea was flat and with a wistful glance at a rosy opalescent dawn we were bundled into a waiting taxi to begin the homeward journey, riding off into the sunrise.

I should add we travelled hopefully as my suitcase contained, as well as clothes, a gallon of the best Paxiot olive oil, a bottle of vodka (opened) and a bottle of vinger (ditto). Oh, and a piece of roof tile. Despite the best efforts of baggage handlers at Corfu and Birmingham all arrived intact. Phew.

And finally, instead of views, flowers or shots of a grinning family here's a cavalcade of transport Loggos-style. Love those crazy trucks.
And now we are back in the small mountain kingdom of Trelystan. After a week away things seem much the same but subtly different. An autumnal hint to the air and fruit trees glowing with apples. Today has a thin sun but there is some warmth in it. We will manage without the Aga for another day or two yet.

It doesn't take much effort to shift from 'being away' to 'being back'.


Anonymous said...

Beautifully written with lovely accompanying photographs.

CJ xx

snailbeachshepherdess said...

The sun will warm you very soon I can see you peeping through the mist as i type! Now what exactly have you lugged a piece of roof tile back for?
Shame about the weather over there, dont think I could ever cope with Corfu airport or First Choice queues, Tuffins car park is enough for me!

Lindsay said...

Lovely photos - especially of the storm.

Pondside said...

Roof tile??? Explanation please!
Sorry to hear that the necessary rain fell on your week of holiday - not fair at all. It sounds as though you're feeling the usual 'good to get away and good to be back', but I hope that you did manage to feel a bit holiday-ish.

Dreaming Stone said...

Great photos and always interesting to read about somewhere I've never been.

Just to let you know that I've nominated your blog for an 'I love your blog' award though you have almost certainly already received it from others :)

LittleBrownDog said...

Love those crazy truck photos. And lovely to have you back.

Jaywalker said...

How is the farmer's tan (glad you say that too, most people look at me like I am crazy when I say it)? Also love the trucks...