Thursday, 22 December 2011

Sympathy For the Shoppers

Yesterday it was the shortest day of the year. It dawned cloudy with sunny intervals. Then a light shower fell as we stared helplessly at a huge pile of logs which we were hoping to chain-saw down to stove-sized chunks so that we could stack them in our wood-store. We needn't have worried. By mid morning the sun was blazing and the thermometer under the car port was reading a respectable 20ºC. Time to get out the chain saw, fuel, oil, gloves, goggles, saw horse and wheelbarrow. We were in business.

When we finally ran out of fuel for the saw, I stood almost up to my knees in sawdust and we'd wheelbarrowed a respectable quantity of logs around to the wood-store where my wife, the professional wood-stacking expert, had stacked them neatly in tiers which saw the wood-store look a bit more like the kind of wood-store you'd expect to see outside a Greek's house at this time of year. It is now fuller than it's been since the day we commissioned it and we still have a pile of metre-and-a-half lengths of timber under the car port, which we'll cut (the wood not the car port) once I've given the chainsaw its much deserved service and new chain after the holiday weekend.

We were so hot that our sweatshirts were living up to their epithet. We both removed them and gave them a vigorous shake to relieve them of the sawdust which was clinging gamefully to them and prepared a lunch of my wife's freshly made bread, topped with chopped tomato, beetroot, carrot and onions, all mixed in a little olive oil, mayonnaise, balsamic vinegar and a pinch of curry powder. It's really messy to eat and you end up with fingers and serviettes the colour which would suggest that you'd just used the chainsaw for the purpose to which it was put by that masked geezer in Texas all those years ago, but boy is it tasty. We washed it down with some chilled white wine and lemonade (to make a long drink with a bit of zest!) and then agreed that a walk down to the local Carrefour Express store was in order, since the cupboards were getting a little bare and the forecast for today (Thursday 22nd) was disgusting to say the least.

Shopping list duly updated, we set out with a couple of re-usable shopping bags under our arms with a view to just purchasing the essentials, since it's about a twenty minute walk, mainly along a dirt track, before we reach the main road through Kiotari, just a long from the Rodos Princess Hotel. It was around 3.00pm and the sun was still shining in a sky now almost empty of cloud. At times like this we do occasionally proverbially pinch ourselves to remind ourselves that it's the shortest day of the year and we're too hot walking!

Once inside the newly-extended store at the cashdesk we greeted the young Asklipian girl who we usually have a chat with, although we haven't yet asked her name. The last time we were in we'd lightheartedly chided the store's owner about the fact that he hadn't been stocking any cans of tonic for months, a fact which had seriously complicated our shopping plans on a regular basis. On seeing us she excitedly declared that they'd now got stocks of tonic and "Einai to prassino!!" [it's the green!!] she declared. This was because we'd also suggested to the boss that we didn't like the taste of the BAP tonic (a Greek soft drinks company) and we'd prefer it if he bought in Tuborg, which comes in green cans.

For the moment, quite forgetting the fact that we'd walked down and that we didn't have the car waiting conveniently outside, we knew we'd have to purchase at least a four-pack of the tonic to show appreciation for their thoughtfulness, so we threw those into the basket and shopped away, chucking all kinds of stuff in which we realized we were in need of and which we hadn't added to the list of essentials which we'd earlier determined would be all that we would be buying today. By the time we reached the till, stuff was dropping off the top of the basket, it was so full. After having apprised our young friend at the till of the fact that we were going to have to walk this booty all the way back up to the house (to which she'd wished us "Kalo dromo!" in jest), we set out; me with a stuffed re-usable bag in each hand, both of which were making determined attempts at lengthening my arms, and Yvonne-Maria carrying the two extra plastic carrier bags which we'd had to use to get everything in. Of course she was mortified at all the damage to the environment she was now causing by using two new bags!

We'd not walked more than three or four hundred yards when a white saloon "tooted" and drew up at the roadside beside us.

"Who's this?" asked my wife.

"No idea," I replied. I didn't recognise the car at all. Nevertheless the passenger door flew open and the occupant called out, "Can I take you somewhere?" The driver was a retired man who was on his way home to the village of Istrios, which is up in the hills along a recently tarmac-ed road which loops from the Vati-Apollakia road, through Istrios and Profilias (not Profitis Ileas, confusing or what?). These two villages are lovely, situated as they are quite high up and both of which sport a couple of excellent tavernas, which do brisk business on Sunday lunchtimes during the winter months. In fact some years ago in the depths of winter we'd taken lunch with John, Wendy, Tim and Sylvia at the one in Istrios, called Notos, and we'd not been surprised to see a whole bunch of faces from our neighbourhood already in there, enjoying the atmosphere created by the log fire in the corner.

One of those faces we'd instantly recognised was Gianni the butcher, who keeps his free-range pigs just down the valley from our home. He and his wife not only greeted us when we walked in, but made sure they sent a drink over to us while we ate. Not bad considering that we don't patronise his establishment owing to the fact that my wife and I don't eat anything that used to have a face. The place was packed to the gills.

Anyway, our "good Samaritan" at the roadside asked us where we lived and we replied, "up the mountain." He said he couldn't take us all the way up there, but surely he could take us along to where our track forked off from the road, to save our arms from being pulled from their sockets. We acquiesced and climbed in. He only had about 400 yards to drive before we reached our "dromaki", but in that brief time had ascertained where we'd come from, how long we'd lived here, whether we owned our own house and what work did we do. It's par for the course, you have to accept that it's quite normal to be asked all kind of personal questions when making someone's acquaintance. Yvonne-Maria even suggested afterwards that he only stopped because, as he'd told us that he used to live in Canada, he wanted to practice his rather good command of the English language, since of course he could tell by taking one look at me that I wasn't Greek. He was almost disappointed when we talked to him in Greek.

Still and all, after we'd thanked him and bade him goodbye, we walked up the hill in the warm afternoon sunshine towards home, resolving mentally that the first thing we'd do once inside the front door would be to strip off and shower; well, maybe after first having put the kettle on for a cup of Earl Grey (get the priorities right I say), and remarked on that rather lovely aspect of the culture here which almost dictates that if you're driving past someone who's on foot, you ought to take an interest in them and offer to assist on some way. I've lost count of the number of times that we'd been approached by passing motorists, many of them strangers, because they had spare seats and were able to speed up our journey with little inconvenience to them. On not a few occasions we'd had to insist that we actually wanted to walk, it's why we were out there in the first place!

Today dawned in stark contrast to last night. As forecast we'd experienced one or two rumbles of thunder during the night that could have been mistaken for an earthquake they were so close that our teeth shook, and the rain had arrived. On and off this morning as I type this we've had some real stair-rods and strong winds. Just as well we'd done the shopping and cut some wood yesterday, as today is a staying in and enjoying the storm from the warm and dry vista behind the French windows day. Although as I go to press the "publish" button to make this post go "live", the sun's come out again!

1 comment:

  1. Love your posts as always John, this reminds me of our last trip to Rhodes when we went to Mount Tsambiko, we were driving up the hill in our hired Jeep, when we spotted a couple striding up the hill, well one of them was, the other was lagging behind, so we stopped to offer them a lift, it seemed the right thing to do.......after they realised we weren't pirates, or muggers, they got in, they seemed very grateful...........maybe I was Greek in a previous life......