Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Some Things Never Change

Strolling up through a side-road in the village of Pilona at about 10.30 on a Sunday morning, I'm struck by the fact that all I can hear are the cicadas rasping away like a thousand moustachioed barbers sharpening their cut-throat razors on their straps. Arriving at the village's "main street" from a small side road, I turn at a spot almost exactly opposite the local cafeneion, the terrace of which is packed to capacity with men, to walk down the gently sloping street. Some things change, some things seldom do. Some change extremely slowly and, in my opinion, although perhaps these are customs which are not considered "PC" these day, I rather like them nonetheless.

The custom of the Greek village men, whereby they spend the mornings drinking Ellenikos and chewing the fat in a bar devoid of women's company hasn't changed appreciably for centuries in this neck of the woods, despite many women having adopted a more modern view of late. A few play dominoes, some backgammon (which the Greeks call "tavli") and even a few others cards, but many simply sit, sipping at the rich brown froth, hands on walking sticks, the handles of which twitch violently as the owner makes a point with emphasis about what the politicians ought to be doing.

The hubbub of their voices follows me as I walk the few metres or so down to the village "supermarket", which is more of a lock-up beneath a couple of apartments really. It's situated on a corner, the road to its side climbing steeply up towards the village church beside the main road between Lardos and Kalathos. Yes, Pilona [different link this time] even has a "by-pass" of sorts, which means that many outsiders never get to see the centre of this nondescript village.

I call it nondescript, but it's a kind of compliment really. It's why I like Pilona, because it has no pretenses and precious few tourists. Only locals ever venture through the centre of this village. Outsiders whizz by along the road atop the hill, quite ignorant of this little oasis of typically Greek sleepiness just metres below them as they glare ahead through dusty windscreens from beneath their baseball caps whilst their women try to make sense of the map which they're turning this way and that as they seek out more places to visit, or yet more beaches from which to swim.

Yes, the occupants of those little brightly-coloured steel boxes on wheels would like to think that it's a little archaic for the cafeneions to be an all-male domain during the pre-lunchtime hours in a Greek village, and yet I can't help thinking that these would-be judges are falling foul of a similar kind of sexism. After all, how often do I see the woman at the wheel whilst her fella consults the map, eh? Not often and that's a fact.

Reaching the supermarket I snap out of my reverie and recall the reason for my excursion on foot from our friend's Brenda's garden a few hundred metres away. My wife and I have been hacking back at the undergrowth since 8.30am and we need some heavy duty plastic bags/sacks in which to stuff all the green waste which we've now amassed into piles on her patio. 

In the cool dimness of the store I see a man seated on a stool a couple of metres away from the modest little L-shaped counter on which rests the tired cash register. No security here. None required. You could pick up a few provisions and drop some coins on the counter for the proprietor to find later if you wished. The man is evidently, as is often the case in small Greek villages, a result of a bit of interbreeding as I can tell by his facial features and strange way of talking when he responds to my request if I can pay for the roll of plastic garden sacks which I've retrieved from a shelf. He's dressed in fraying faded navy blue trousers (no shorts, you seldom see shorts on a Greek villager, even when the temperature is hovering around 100ºF) and braces over an equally aged blue and red check flannelette shirt.

"I'll take these," I tell him. Whereupon he gets up from his stool and hobbles past me into the sun-blazing street outside and calls a woman's name as he crosses the side street to the modest little bar next door. I follow him out and am momentarily blinded by the intense sunlight, before focusing on a middle-aged woman who's emerging from the arched gateway across the street. She's dressed in black with a lighter-coloured apron gracing the front of her stocky form as she gives me a smile and walks wordlessly into the store. Going behind the counter she pings the till open and I hand her a five Euro note. It's evident that she doesn't realise that I can speak her language when she goes to tear a plastic carrier bag from a roll hidden beneath the counter, still remaining mute.

"There's no need," I tell her in Greek, which elicits a warm smile and an "efharisto! Na'ste kala!" from her as I turn to go.

Walking back the way I came I resist the extremely strong urge to go and plonk myself at a table among the village men and order an Elleniko. I have a thousand branches and twigs to chop up and stuff into these plastic bags. After all, two women await my return.


  1. Have never stopped in Pilona 'proper' john, in fact i didn't realise there was such a place. I'm slightly concerned about this interbreeding though.....was the poor chap a centaur? Or did you mean inbreeding! You are quite right about the lack of women tourist drivers and I have to admit I'm guilty of very often leaving it up to hubby. The problem is I keep bruising my knuckles on the drivers' door while trying to find the gearstick with my left hand!

    1. Well done Vicki, once again you spotted the deliberate (!?) mistake!!! I can't correct it now though, otherwise your comment won't make any sense!! By the way, hire an automatic girl, that ought to do it.

    2. An automatic girl..................what would she do????????????

    3. Do what to Alec???????

    4. Oh dear, as a female,driver and frequent visitir to south Rhodes, I wish more females would drive around the island.
      Just good fun seeing male faces as I get out of car. Plonia is almost a step back in time.

  2. Hi John,

    I just read about the fires in Petaloudes valley. Hope everythings under control.

    1. The fires are out now, but quite a lot of damage to some very beautiful forest areas. I'll find out first hand tomorrow, when I do Butterflies & Halki.

  3. I remember the days in Rhodes many years ago - around 26 years ago to be exact!! My friends have a villa in Pilona.

    Keep up the good work.