Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Mixed bag

Well, I'm back from my holiday.  Feeling a bit mixed at the moment.

Katelios is still beautiful.  It was quiet and peaceful, the hills around were golden and green (wheat fields and olive groves on the lower slopes, scrub and maquis above), the beach was unspoiled, the sea clean and clear as sapphire.  My doubts about staying in a block of studios in the centre of the village were groundless; this early in the season, I was disturbed more by the squeaking taps in a neighbouring room than by any noise from the tavernas and bars along the street.  My studio was lovely; comfortable and well-appointed, with a balcony giving me sea views to the left and mountain views to the right.  Sparrows chirped on the roof every morning, and swallows and housemartins swooped by constantly.

If I wanted a dip, I could go downstairs and across the road, and be on the town beach in two minutes, or I could turn left and walk along the front for five minutes and be on scruffy, sandy Ayia Varvara beach, with the amethyst silhouette of Zakynthos looking like Bali Hai on the horizon.  Shade trees, benches, a couple of rubbish bins, a pinewood changing cubicle for the more modest bather; sand and fine shingle, gently shelving so that one walked for 50 yards to get to chest-deep water; no currents, sandy sea-bottom, perfectly safe swimming with little lapping waves, and small fishes coming to inspect your toes... 

A row of tavernas and cafes along the front, above the town beach, and a couple more one street back.  Good, classic Greek food; by gum, Hellene cuisine is fine stuff!  I don't just mean souvlaki and moussaka, but things like horta and home-baked gigantes, lemon potatoes, briami, skordhalia, beetroot served with its own greens, and so much wonderful fish...  Tremendous local wines, too.  If you wanted a change, La Floridita served ginormous fresh-cooked pizzas, or a pleasant nameless beach bar halfway along the strand would do you a salad and a toasted cheese-and-olive-paste sarnie, and a bottle of Mythos or Fix...

If you wanted a more untouched spot, then forty minutes' walk on a rocky cliff path over the headland to the east would bring you to Mounda Bay and the almost entirely undeveloped - and quite spectacular - strand of Kaminia Beach.  One small cantina, set well-back behind trees, and two very modest hotels, on a golden sandy beach a couple of miles long.  It's a turtle nesting site, and it would seem any further development has been stopped because of that.  Hurrah!  For my money, the walk over the headland and then along this beach to Cape Mounda, the southernmost point of the island, is one of the best I know in Greece.  On the Cape there are wind-sculpted caves and tumbled boulders, and the path gets scrabblier and scrabblier until one fears turning an ankle.  In fact I just stopped there, and sat on a sloping rock above the waves, to meditate in the utter isolation on The Eternal Spirit Of Hellas...

As well as several very lazy days having a stroll, a swim, a sit in the sun, and then a read in the shade, I did this walk one day and another day I went on an organised but nonetheless highly enjoyable day trip to Ithaka.  Ithaka is beautiful; I was moved to poetry.  May share that, may not; it's a rambling semi-homage to Cavafy's "Ithaka", and I'm not sure if it's any good or not!  But the island herself, being high and green and secret, was very good indeed.

So far, so good.  Warmth and good food, good bathing, plenty of time to relax under a tree and read Fat Novels no's 1 and 2.  But there were downsides.

Firstly, minor but desperately irritating, I caught a cold.  All of that good swimming and good eating is less exciting when one has a sore throat and a stuffy head, and is periodically letting-off explosive sneezes.  It's the classic run-down thing; I was tired and I didn't have enough resistance to fight off the germs. 

Secondly, those squeaking taps I mentioned?  Someone who had access to them used to squeak them rather a lot.  I can't say I'd prefer neighbours making noisy love every night (I've had that, elsewhere), but someone who turns a squeaky tap on, and off, and on again,and off again, on-and-off steadily for about tweny minutes at 2.00am is almost as inconsiderate.  I have no idea what they thought they were doing.  But thanks to them waking me at these unholy hours with their random-tap-turning obsession, I don't think I had a single unbroken night's sleep.  Boo.

Lastly, my alarm clock began to play up; so because I am a Big Girl and know what I am doing with modern technology (Oh Yes I Do), I set up my mobile phone to give me an alarm call.  Which it did, most efficiently.  But in turning it on, last night while I was packing for my return journey, I picked up a text message from my landlady giving me notice to quit the place I'm living, because she and her partner are putting the flat on the market. 

B*llocks.  I hate flatshare-hunting, and I hate moving, and I was already feeling worried about coming back to face the latest stage of the restructure at work.  Now I also have to face finding somewhere new to live.  Neither area of my life is clear and straight at all, suddenly. 

So if anyone reading this is in south, and in particular south-west London, and wants a lodger or a flat-mate, or knows anyone else who does, let me know. 

I need to wind this up, wash up my supper plate, and finish unpacking; and then I need a fairly early night.  Work tomorrow, and I am still on Greek time.  And I have a ticket to see the Draft Works bill at the Linbury Studio tomorrow evening.  To remind myself of the consolations of London; the things like culture, that I would miss most painfully if I were to chuck it all in and decamp permanently to Greece.  I would miss my friends, too, and some of my colleagues; and I would miss bookshops.  I can see myself spending a fortune on Amazon, and setting up a amateur theatre group and a choir and a cinema club, just to try and have some Culchah in my paradise.

I think I would fail as a lotus eater.  But I do crave my little doses of lotus from time to time...

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