Friday, 28 March 2014

On a Doily and Driving Up Lanes

Making the latest of our regular visits with out friend Gilma way down South the other day, he was just pouring boiling hot coffee from his "briki" into my tiny bone china cup for a most agreeable Elliniko when his telephone began to ring. I glanced in the direction of the tinny electronic tone and couldn't see a phone anywhere. Beside his flat-screen TV which looks so incongruous in a hundred-year-old cottage, there was a white lace doily which displayed evidence of something lumpy beneath it. Acting as though it was the most normal thing in the world, he put down the briki, turned toward the doily and whipped it away with a flourish to reveal a surprisingly state-of-the-art snazzy cordless phone sitting on its cradle beneath.

The illuminated display on the handset revealed that it was his wife calling from town, at a safe distance the other end of the island. He picked up the phone, tapped the green button and held it up about two inches away from his right ear. Me and the better half exchanged amused glances as the easily audible high-pitched chatter of an unmistakable old woman's voice began rattling on immediately, in response to which Gilma quickly fell into a pattern of saying "Yes, no, entaxi, sure" at intervals of about five seconds each. Those words he then continued repeating in various permutations whilst regularly rolling his eyes heavenward and throwing us a smile.

This conversation… correction, it wasn't really a conversation, it was what? An audience, a lecture, whatever, you get the picture, went on for the best part of a quarter of an hour. All the while the longest word Gilma got in was "entaxi [Fine, or OK]". It got so that I fully expected him to place the phone on the shelf and carry on preparing his own Greek coffee whilst just approaching the phone and calling the occasional "yes" or "no" into it just to give his wife the impression that he was paying rapt attention. She could talk for Greece and no mistake, judging by the pace she was keeping up. After what seemed much longer, but was probably (as I said above) only about fifteen minutes he was able to get a comment in with "Well, got to go, Gianni and Maria are here" and finally replaced the phone on its cradle.

The best bit was the way in which he grabbed the doily and tossed it skillfully back over the phone so that it rested crease-free in the same way as it had done before the phone had rung, completely covering the pesky device. As he did this he cast a glance our way as if to say, "There! Now she can't see us!"

I got the distinct impression that keeping that doily there was some kind of statement, one which he took great satisfaction from and which his wife probably never got to "hear".

"I take you on shortcut. Is much quicker. Take the right here," says Fotis, an elderly relative of our friends Lena and Petros, they of the cooker saga in chapter 10 ("Just Being Careful") of "Tzatziki For You to Say".

You don't want to take Fotis anywhere by car. No really, you don't. His penchant for suggesting alternative routes is legendary among his family and, since they all now know the possible consequences, they leave it to others who haven't yet had the pleasure of having him "back seat drive" to experience it for themselves.

You can be simply driving from one village to another, or embarking on a trek half way across the country, it won't matter because you won't be in the car long before old Fotis will say, "I tell you quick way. You make the right here." You may well reply "Yea, but Theio Foti, this road that we're already on takes us all the way there." It won't make any difference, he'll still say, "I tell you. Make the right here and I show you. See if we don't get there quicker. See if we don't."

It's as though he suffers from an irrational need to get himself (and anyone else who happens to be in a vehicle with him) lost in the "interior" as often as he possibly can.

Petros told me that he's lost count of the number of times they've gone up narrow lanes together, the kind that usually very quickly turn into boulder-strewn tracks where birds of prey circle in the thermals above them and lazy goats chew on the prickly undergrowth in that odd way they have of moving their jaws as they eye the travellers disinterestedly as they trundle past with a deep sense of foreboding written all over their faces. The last straw, Petros said, was the time when, after half an hour or so of this, culminating in a skid-ridden climb up a very steep fissure-laden dirt track that ended up disintegrating into simply wild scrub land, they'd had to try and turn the car around with the track only being one vehicle width across and with a deep ravine looming menacingly to their right.

Petros says that this one single occasion was probably the reason why he needed a new clutch shortly afterwards. Plus, by the time they'd got back to the tarmacadam road and finally set off in the right direction, they'd lost the best part of an hour from a journey that need only have taken twenty minutes in the first place - had Petros of course not given in to uncle Foti's insistence that he knew a short cut.

Once they were back on the properly-surfaced road, Fotis declared, "Well, I told you but you didn't listen. You took the wrong lane my boy. Now, you see this next one…"

Petros didn't tell me if they were still on speaking terms.

PS: Latest clutch of snaps...

A foal in a field along the quiet beach road in Kiotari.

And here she is with mum.

A quiet corner of Lardos village just before sundown.

This is Sea Lavender. It's very rare around these parts and we've been keeping an eye on this patch for a few years. If you pick it the flowers keep their colour in a vase even after the stems have dried out. In view of its scarcity around these parts, we tried to uproot some a while back and plant it in the garden. It didn't take.

I never get fed up of the colour of the sea here, all year round. In the foreground are Margaritas, which are just coming out now and give a spectacular show every April.

Another youth, this time a donkey in a Pilona olive grove.

Once mum became aware of my presence, she resolutely kept herself between me and her bairn.

1 comment:

  1. May I suggest 'diatribe' for the phone call? I love these glimpses you give us, of the lives of people with whom most occasional visitors to the island would not have any contact.
    Nice piccies too