Saturday, 23 August 2014

Searing Heat and Some Skulduggery

If the weather forecasts give us mid thirties then we know we're in for trouble. Put simply, for every temperature that's forecast you can usually add four or five degrees and that's what we actually get. For the BBC's website, make that ten. We'd been warned to expect a few days of really high temperatures and, since yesterday turned out to be a day when we were both off together, we decided to pack up a small picnic, stuff our towels into our beach bags and head down to the beach for the day. Best place to be when it's reeeeally hot, so we thought.

We arrived at about eleven, got ourselves "camped" with the appropriate quantity of our "stuff" arranged all around us under the parasol and settled in for the day. A quick swim to set us up and cool us off and then it was back to the sun beds to read or listen to some music. We'd even stopped by the Gré Café on the way down for a couple of take-out frappés, so we had those to sup too, bliss. 

On the subject of music for a moment (ever the man to look for an opportunity to digress, me), I'm entirely into Van Morrison's live concert of Astral Weeks right now. He recorded it at the Hollywood Bowl in 2008 to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the original album's release. I've got to say, I'm completely gone on it. The man's a genius. You either "get" him or you don't, but if you do, what an experience that album is. 

The other half? George Mazonakis was her choice for the day.

The fact is though, by three o'clock in the afternoon we were laying under that parasol suffering. I know, I know, ought to be grateful and stuff, but every point at which one area of flesh was in contact with another, for example the legs, the armpits etc., was totally soaked in perspiration. The towels on which we lay were drenched too. The sand was so hot you had to run across it to keep the burns on your feet to only 3rd degree instead of 2nd or 1st. The breeze that we'd hoped would be the key benefit of being down there instead of at home was actually hot, not just warm, it was hot. It was like permanently standing in front of your mum's fan oven with the door open when she's cooking the Sunday roast. Yes, one could argue that going in the sea would cool us off, but that would have meant our heads and shoulders being in full sun, so it was only a temporary fix. There was nothing for it. We packed up our stuff, ran across the beach on tippytoe to keep the burns to a minimum and piled back into the car, which for once we'd brought with us instead of walking down. Plus I'd been able to get it under the best tree at the back of the beach so it wasn't like a furnace when we got in, phew.

Driving back up to the house the car showed an exterior temperature of 42ºC, which is a whopping 107 in the old money, or if you're American perhaps. That's the hottest day we've ever had in nine years of living in Kiotari. In fact, today is the 9th anniversary of the day we arrived, yay!! If we have 42º here in Kiotari, I dread to think what it must have been in Lindos and Pefkos, where it's always a few degrees hotter than here, owing to the rocks and stuff.

Once back home we had an outdoor shower, drank copious quantities of iced water and took a cup of Earl Grey tea to bed, where we lay in total darkness with a fan running and mercifully fell asleep. I know I've mentioned this before, but it's really amazing how a house with the windows all closed tight and the blinds likewise, will stay at a constant temperature, despite what it's doing outside. For example, as I type this today the thermometer in our kitchen reads 29, whereas outside the three thermometers we have positioned strategically read from 39 to 42. The indoor temperature never exceeds 29 if we keep the place closed up tight and in darkness. OK, 29 may sound a bit on the warm side, but if you set foot outside and then come back in it's positively chilly, take it from me. At least it's tolerable. 

"Why not just use the air conditioning?" yoy cry? Why not indeed. Well, we're all different it's true, but air-con is responsible for more summer colds than any other single cause. Plus it dries out the room so much that your throat soon resembles emery cloth and your eyes persuade you quite wrongly that you have developed conjunctivitus. How did people in hot countries manage for all the ages before the invention of air-con? They closed the place up and kept it dark. Plus it's not very "green" to be using air-con all the time. I know, hobby-horse and all that...

Anyway, changing tack slightly, I mentioned that we'd taken the car to the beach whereas we usually walk down. The route we follow when walking it is a dusty lane that's been a public right of way for decades, at least since the Italian occupation back between the two world wars. It's on this lane that we pass the fenced-off plot of land that is farmed by our old friend Agapitos, who has some olive trees and a respectably sized vegetable patch in there, alongside the concrete water cistern that feeds the surrounding area with drinking water. Walking back from the beach a few days ago, at around 7.00pm, the usual hour for Kyrios Agapitos to be tending his patch, we noticed some newly posted and slightly bemusing signs along his fence...

As we reached the gate, his ancient, but well preserved pickup truck was parked outside and so we knew he had to be in there somewhere. We called out and, sure enough, he emerged from the thick of vegetation about twenty metres away and strolled across to meet us. 

"So, what are these signs all about, then?" We asked him, "We thought you'd suddenly developed a liking for the RAF or something."

He smiled, but it was a smile of resignation, of exasperation, and replied, "Kyrie Yanni, Kyria Maria, I had to put these up to warn Mr. ______________ that he has no rights to infringe on my property. As you know, he has already attempted to change the course of this lane, which runs right past my gate here. Fortunately, Kyrios _________________, whio owns the land next to mine that Mr.______________ wanted to re-route it through said no. But he wants to do more development up here and I'm in his way. So these signs are to tell him where my land legally ends. That wooden one, see where it says 40m, that's because my land goes beyond this fence right to the edge of the lane, where you see I've placed one of the markers, showing where my land ends, 40 metres from the wall of the water cistern. He's already made it plain that he wants to move my fence BACK a few metres."

The man he's talking about already owns several large hotels around here. We have nothing against him, in fact some of his employees who we happen to know tell us that he pays the wages of his staff. There are other hotels around here where the workers haven't been paid since June. These things the tourists often don't know about. To be frank, I've always tried to keep the blog positive, but sometimes it seems right to mention some of the slightly less attractive things that go on here. It wouldn't do for the tourists to stop coming, because that would only make the workers' plight worse still. Quite what the solution is I don't pretend to know, but I do know that many hardworking night porters and room service maids are living on fresh air at the moment. Such is the way where you have the "haves" who have it all and the "have-nots" who are basically slaves. there you go, I've said it now.

So Kyrios Agapitos is sad that he seems to have a fight on his hands with an old neighbour who's become much wealthier than our friend. When you have such clout it often seems to others that you are above the law, since the old "brown envelope" gets anything you want done when you want it, allegedly!

Agapitos simply wants to carry on as long as he can, harvesting his modest few olive trees and growing vegetables to feed his family and to give to friends and acquaintances like us. This apparent "adversary" is of a similar age, which makes it all the more sad that he seems to want to continually expand his commercial empire, extending existing hotels, building new ones and trying to infringe on land belonging to what used to be an old friend and fellow villager.

It'd be nice if the man in question were to think about being satisfied with what he has and perhaps try chilling a little more, maybe passing a day on the beach now and then. Maybe not when it's quite this hot though, eh.

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