Life’s a beach
FRIDAY and you’re in your office, Kafene, the wifi-spot and restaurant where you work in Eressos, The Village, say the locals.
It’s private there, and you can find quiet corners where there is no glare on your computer screen.
The whole week you’ve watched as the mother and sons walk in with packets of fresh produce: fish, vegetables, meat — any type of ingredient from around here.
Mama, Yannis calls, as Despoina swirls something around in a bubbling pan.
He’s getting the house speciality for a regular, spaghetti and shrimps.
He shows the serving to you, and widens his eyes.
But you order the courgettes filled with mince meat and a short-grained rice.
They’re plump, these courgettes — about the diameter of the inside of a toilet roll.
They’re anchored in a pale yellow sea of lemon, egg and flour, a kind of lemon curd, only runnier, and much tastier.
You’d like some of that green stuff too that you saw Despoina eating, and it’s not spinach.
It grows on the farms around here, says Yannis, casting his eyes about.
He’s laying out a large paper cloth so he can bring the food to your table.
You tell him you don’t mind eating without it, and he shakes his head.
Greek rules, he says, and fastens it to the table top with a stretchy piece of rope-like elastic.
The wilted greens, bottle green they’re so nutritious, are served with a generous wedge of lemon.
Yannis advises you to squeeze a lot of the juice on them.
The next morning, Saturday, you toil in your new garden at the house you’re renting from July 20.
You plant spinach, and some lettuces, and plenty of dill for all the fish you’ll cook and eat in the height of summer. You sweep the yard and start to stack and sort the stuff that’s lying around.
Miss T emerges from her morning coffee and rollup reverie, the one she enjoys at the round table outside her front door.
A spurt of energy propels her to pull out some peppery-smelling tree-type things.
She even sweeps up garden debris, into a dustpan, and lobs it over the stone wall, into a plot with a ruin on it.
You follow her example, and away go all the garden offcuts.
The exercise exhausts her. You’re caught in the momentum of the work.
Let’s have a nice rest, she says, and you sit and enjoy some more of the coffee she’s made.
At lunch time you pack your bags for a weekend in Skala.
You call Babis, one of the taxi drivers — you named him Babsi in an earlier blog … wrong! — you phone so he can take you to the beach.
Babis is also a fisherman; with a little boat, he says.
You’re going to go out with him on it, in a week or two. You’re going to chug out from the harbour at Skala, where antiquity’s mole is still visible. You’re going to go fishing in the Aegean.
We stop to fetch another woman, Stella.
Some visitors in a hire car back off down the narrow alley. Babis waves his hand out the window, to encourage them to squeeze in against the old walls, but they hurry away in reverse, out of sight.
Stella is also a fisherman, says Babis, as she clambers into the back seat.
But you can’t go with her.
Her boat is too big; it’s a commercial fishing boat, he says.
You pay him E5 for the fare and say the amount in Greek. You show off some of the other words you’ve learnt, just listening, just letting your ears let the sound in.
He smiles a big smile. You’re quick with Greek, he says, and his whole face settles into his cheeks.
You drop off the chicken and veg for the Sunday braai/barbecue at the Kaftan One’s place.
She lends you her little bicycle, and you feel quite happy riding around Skala on it, until you nearly pole-axe the Queen Bee, who’s a Busy Bee today, with papers in her hands.
I mean, you’re so intent on saying Yasou — and keeping the tiny-wheeled bike going in a straight line — that you forget you’ve got a loaded rucksack on your back, and it just about topples you as you swerve to miss her.
At the beach you swim for hours, far out into the sea; a nice slow swim, sure and strong.
You love it. Floating too. Just floating, in silence, with your ears under the water.
A womb with a view, of a blue blue sky.
You get out to find two topless American women sitting near you. They’re talking quite loudly about swimming: crawl, backstroke and the merits of each technique.
You pipe up: Errrr … I like breastroke, you say.
And laugh heartily. They look at you askance and you lie back on your kikoi.
You can hear the sheep bleating and the cocks crowing, even though Da Luz beach is packed with all sorts of people.
The younger Hellenes, in posses of male and female, they lean on their elbows and flirt with each other.
They adjust their beach wear and talk a lot. Ela this, and ela that.
That night you go to a party at Flamingo.
You’re just about to blub coz there’s too much dub, then Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Bum crack you up.
They’re nimble on their feet, as large as they are. They copy each others’ steps on the dance floor.
Cute. Tweedle Dee’s got some rythym, but Tweedle Bum?
Her wedgie seems to be cramping her style but she’s having a good time.
She doesn’t notice her slacks are caught in the pathway of her derriere.
You laugh with delight. You’re feeling daft tonight.
At Parasol, after midnight, you can’t keep still. Everbody else is sitting around, as if there is no music playing.
But you, you work up a sweat. Are you dancing to forget?
Where are you from, asks a young woman, when you sit down.
Afriki, you say.
We’re from Venezuela, she says, in halting English.
There are four of them, and they came from Mytiline for the party, Parasol’s 18th birthday.
The place is packed but you don’t know anybody there.
The moon turns into a burnt orange with a third of it sliced off. It’s sinking into the sea.
It lights a bright ocean path to tomorrow.
There are no answers tonight, no matter how thoughtful you are, sitting on a bench almost at the water’s edge.
You down your water from a plastic bottle and walk slowly to your friend’s flat.
You can’t sleep.
Nor can Skala. It’s noisy. At 5am there is still no rest on the short main street.
By 7, when you wake up (yes, two hours’ intermittent sleep), the LAPD is already open, and the waiter is carrying Greek coffee on a tray to the first of the rotund men to arrive.
Your friend makes breakfast, then you amble your lazy way to the beach again.
But you’re anxious to get home and the sun’s raking your back.
There’s no Sunday barbecue for you.
You have a big week ahead, and some outstanding business to attend to, (some of it is quite close to your heart).
Gregoris drives you to your hill house in The Village.
Peace and Quiet and Vento, they walk down the stairs to greet you, just as you open the big street door.
They wag their tails and whisper, they whisper at once the story you long to hear.