Thursday, 24 October 2013

Among The Rolling Hills

Van Morrison's album "Into the Music" is belting out full tilt on the hi fi. He's telling me about how he "writes his song with his pen" among the rolling hills, my wife's knocking up a simple salad to eat for lunch, along with the delicious loaf of local bread we've just picked up from the Sofos supermarket down the road and so, at just after 1.30pm, with the temperature hovering at around 29ºC in the shade outside, it's a mellow Sunday in October.

We have just returned from a two hour walk. We went down the lane (where we spooked about a hundred goats as we approached the herd), across the road and down to the beach. There we tracked along the beach road past the Paralia Taverna and a scattering of villas along the roadside, all facing the beach, then took the right up past the Kabanari Hotel, and back along the Gennadi-Lardos road, where we dropped into the cafe near the Sofos supermarket for a frappé.

Sitting in the café, sipping at our iced coffees, watching the comings and goings of people and cars, we spotted Pandelis, who runs the DIY store at Gennadi, as he drove into the parking area to pop into Sofos.

Pandelis and his wife Maria run a DIY store on the main road in Gennadi. The other evening we'd walked into their store just as they were preparing to close, which would be just as it was getting dark. Maria, short and full of girth, rose from her chair behind the desk on which is mounted their till and a host of other paraphernalia and gave us her widest smile and bade us sit down. We hesitated (we'd just wanted to say hello and not walk right past, thus prompting them to feel like we'd been rude); she was, after all, cashing up and no doubt anxious to get her feet up, but she insisted. Calling out to her husband, Pandeli, she asked how we'd been and if we still have work as the season draws to its close. As we were answering her question, the booming voice of Pandeli sounded through the store, "Aaaah, Kalos tous!!" he said as he appeared in the doorway at the far right end of the store. This was the door that led into another showroom area, three sides of which is glass and is well stocked with huge plastic pots of emulsion of various colours and quality levels.

Among the stocks of paint though, is also to be found a kitchen table, topped with the ubiquitous flowery oilcloth cover and attended by four wooden kitchen chairs. Pandelis had risen from this very table to come and say hello, still masticating some of his evening meal, which on this particular evening was pasta. Whatever time of day one may enter their store, there is usually at least one and sometimes a collection of various family members gathered around this table passing the time of day, most likely too over a drink or something to eat.

After we'd spent the appropriate amount of time talking with this humble and hospitable couple, we set out again and continued on our way.

It was to this occasion my wife referred as we saw Pandelis driving into the parking area while we were sipping our frappés. She remarked, with a degree of amusement, on how different the shopping experience was at Pandeli and Maria's from that of Homebase or B&Q in the UK. "Imagine," she said, "dropping into B&Q for a few washers and some adhesive or something and the staff are sat around a kitchen table eating lunch, pet dog at their feet, like it was their lounge or kitchen." It's an ideal situation for Pandelis and Maria though, since they treat the area of their premises in which they store their stocks of paint like a kitchen-dining room, and thus don't need to be too far away should a customer come in.

A little later, as we walked back up the lane to the house, we heard an engine and turned to see Manolis and Felitsia, the local goatherd and his wife, approaching in their 4x4 pickup. It's their home from home, as you'll know if you've read the chapter "High on a Hill" in volume two of the "Ramblings" books, "Moussaka to My Ears". they drew up alongside and Manolis wound down his window.

"Yia sas pedia," he said, to which we responded with a like greeting. Y-Maria asked, after we'd enquired as to their wellbeing and how their two sons were doing, "When's it going to rain then?" Manolis raised his head with the faintest hint of a "tch" on his lips, as if to say, "who knows?" Here in Kiotari, we've only had two days since last May on which it's rained. Both have been during this current month and neither time did it really come to anything. The lane had returned once more to its most dusty state, which basically means that it's a total impossibility to keep your car clean. Every time we pull up under the carport the rear end of the car looks like it's just had a bucket of dust tipped all over it. Plays havoc with your upholstery too. It gets inside the car whatever you do to try and keep it out.

Manolis and his wife are working overtime to provide their four hundred goats with sufficient water. The goats have taken to their usual late summer habit of rubbing themselves against the chain-link fence around our garden, in the hope that it'll give way and they'll be in like a shot to enjoy the rich, green tasty morsels within.

In fact, a few weeks back, during an afternoon siesta, their efforts paid off and they got in for the first time in about six years. At the far end of the orchard John (our landlord) parks his speedboat on its trailer and the fence has to be opened and closed to facilitate the boat's trips to the sea and back. Thus the fence has a weak spot at that point. The better half and I had retired to our bed at around 3.00pm, with a nice cup of Earl Grey and our books (one of life's absolute luxuries, especially when you throw in, or rather - dunk - a McVities digestive biscuit) and begun reading, awaiting that delicious moment when you feel yourself drifting off, which in my case is usually about five minutes after I start reading. Somewhere around 4.30pm we were awakened by the sound of a goat's bell. Now, that in itself isn't unusual, but the distinct impression that the goat is in bed beside you is, just a little.

I leapt starkers from the bed, tore into the kitchen and drew up the blind, hoping that the sound had just travelled owing to the afternoon peace and quiet. Aaaaaaargh!! Standing beside the car, not three feet from the kitchen window, was a huge male goat, horns and all (which don't work, which is why they wear bells - sorry, couldn't miss that opportunity, could I?) and he was munching cool as you like on one of our magnificent hibiscus bushes, scarlet flowers disappearing at a rate of knots.

By now Maria was also at my side and we took a milisecond to look at eachother, before diving back into the bedroom for something to put on before beating the bedroom-to-front-door dash record by several valuable seconds and tearing outside to try and minimize the damage.

There must have been twenty or more goats all across the orchard, plus four or five which had bounded the low picket fence between the orchard and our garden, all chewing away on the trees and our precious garden plants.

Now, when you have this kind of problem, ie: a herd of goats scattered all across your garden, you can't simple run screaming at them, in the vain hope that they'll go in the right direction, which is, toward the broken down section of fence where they'd first come in. No sirree. If you just run at a goat it simply looks at you for a split second, just to see if you're serious, then bounds away in the opposite direction from which you're approaching, which may not necessarily be in the right direction. It frequently causes other damage to your flower beds, stone walls or other garden stuff in the process too.

So, we had to think on our feet. We had to work in concert to come at them from such a direction as to ensure that they retreated toward the breach in the fence from whence they'd come. This necessitated me running the opposite way first, so as to come at them from behind the house. Some fifteen minutes and countless denuded geranium plants later, we'd finally got them all out and I was busy re-tying the fence back together with pieces of twisted wire, all the while cursing under my breath the fact that virtually all the citrus trees in the orchard had lost their lower leaves, both the vines had been reduced to woody twigs just a foot or two high and numerous lantana and other plants were looking like they'd been pruned with a very, like that's a verrrrrry, blunt pair of shears. Torn stalks, stems and branches were everywhere.

Flopping down into a couple of outdoor chairs we took stock. Ah, well, it could have been worse. Thank goodness for goat bells. Without those we'd have probably awoken much later to absolute carnage, instead of a hit and run quick lunch for the goats.

Standing in the lane a half a kilometer or so below the house talking with Manolis and Felitsia about the need for rain, we both knew not to bring up the subject of the recent caprine invasion. By the way, as a side point, did you know that the words "caprice", or "capricious" were coined from the word "caprine" - that is pertaining to goats. Why? because of their whimsical and impulsive behaviour. Sheep, bless 'em, will follow a shepherd. Goats far more often do their own thing. Come to think of it, I know a few caprine people.

Anyway, after we'd bade farewell to the goatherd and his wife, as they'd trundled on up the lane in search of their charges in a cloud of dust, we reflected on the thoughts we'd had when first we'd arrived here back in 2005. Yet another patch of wild hillside had been fenced off and turned into a private garden; wild hillside that Manolis' goats had been grazing for many years prior to our turning up. Yet even though this was the case, he and his wife had stood vigil before our fence was eventually completed to prevent their goats from invading our fledgling garden.

Not much later we were coming in through the garden gates and I for some reason found myself humming Van Morrison's "Among the Rolling Hills". You know how it is when that sort of thing happens, at the first opportunity you just have to dig out that album or specific track and play it.

1 comment:

  1. Oh dear, your lovely garden! Ours is about to be ravaged by high winds, or so the forecasters would have us believe!
    Yes, it would be hard to imagine going to B and Q and finding the staff sitting down to lunch with friends or family. Mind you, we all know the story of the family doing some DIY shopping who found their young child using one of the loo's in the bathroom display area of the store................