Thursday, 13 November 2014

Driving the Flock (More pics added)

We've often, when taking holidays in times past, stopped to watch a local shepherd tending his sheep in the Greek countryside. It's one of those serenely bucolic scenes that has one ruminating on how this means of living hasn't changed since time immemorial. 

I'm sure you've done something similar. You're trying to find that exquisite beach that someone told you about, where you'll probably not be bothered by anyone's company for hours, while taking the occasional dip in crystal clear waters and, as you round a small hillock on your dusty way, there among the olive groves you see a flock of sheep, some with their bells dangling and jangling some without, casually combing their way across the landscape in their perpetual search for something lush on which to chomp. Somewhere nearby too you'll catch sight of the shepherd, occasionally quite a young lad perhaps, one hand working a long gnarled staff [a la Gandalf] as he strolls along, keeping a beady eye out for the welfare of his charges.

We get a lot of goats around us here and have come to learn over the years something which we didn't know before coming to Greece to live - the difference between a goat's "bleat" and a sheep's "baa". Yea, go on, have a chuckle at my expense if you like, but I couldn't have told you the difference when I lived in the UK. Now having learned the difference from experience, their "voices" seem to me to be the wrong way around. Goats always give me the impression that they're a bit tougher, more streetwise, and less easily led than sheep. After all, isn't that why we describe someone who is easily led as a 'sheep'? Yet the bleat of a goat is an octave or so higher than the deeper "baa" of a sheep. When we hear sheep now they often sound like a bunch of MP's in the House of Commons in London, heckling some Minister or other as he makes a speech with their "baa's" and waves of their order papers rendering his task all the more difficult.

Now goats, when they bleat, well they sound like nothing else. I can't compare it to anything except more goats.

Anyway, this particular rambling concerns sheep. Usually during the high summer we don't see a sheep for love nor money. I dunno where they go or are kept, but it ain't near here. The goats, on the other hand, are usually everywhere come August when, as I've often said before, they'll hang around the perimeter of our garden making it very clear that they'd love to drop in for a snack.

Now that "winter" has arrived and the rains have finally begun the goats are scarce once more and the local shepherds are once again herding their sheep up along our valley. Even as I type there's a substantial flock a few hundred metres down the slope from the garden and they're all chewing merrily on the new as-yet-modestly-sized green shoots which are breaking through the once rock-hard ground as a result of the rains. The day before yesterday, in fact, we had to go out for a while and so set off down the lane in the car at around 10.00am. Rounding the bend near the old pig pen a few hundred metres further down from the gate we encountered a lane full of sheep, much as one would in rural Ireland, Wales or I suppose the rest of the British Isles.

I rather enjoyed meeting them as I'm always amused at the demeanor they display as they kind of "chat" about whether to move aside and let us come through or not. We were in no hurry and wondered whether they may in fact be Dimitri's sheep, since we know he often herds them overnight into an enclosure not far below us for weeks on end during the winter months. Very often they are tended by our friend Massur (There's a photo of him with my beloved here, as he features in chapter 4 of "A Plethora of Posts"), who can be seen perched on his parked and battered motor scooter beside the lane, while he plays with a piece of straw to while away the hours as the sheep graze.

So, as the sheep deigned to shuffle out of our way we progressed a little further round the bend, expecting to encounter the shepherd, probably one hand taking his weight on a crooked staff of wood as he guards the woolly creatures under his care. Sure enough, there he was.

To our left there was a clearing of dried grass and, parked on it at right angles to the lane was the shepherd, a young bloke I'd say of about 30, if that, sitting in his neat little Seat Ibiza, one hand resting on the top of the steering wheel, fingers evidently tapping along to the loud thumping music that even we could hear from within our closed-windowed car, while his other hand was just drawing away from his mouth amidst a cloud of blue smoke as he exhaled vigorously from the ciggie he'd just dragged a deep pull of. That particular hand flew out of the driver's window (which, of course, was open all the way down) and gave us a cheery wave as we crept past, both of us of course returning the greeting in like manner.

Makes you feel comfy inside eh? To see such age-old traditions still being kept up. I find myself musing about another hundred years from now, when old folk will probably be saying, "Aw, I dunno Stelios, I miss the old ways. You know, when a shepherd would sit in one o' them car-things all made of metal and plastic with four rubber wheels. Not like these new-fangled hover-cars of today, all carbonucleotide fibre and stuff and flying all over the place. I'm forever ducking these days.Things aren't what they were, mark my words."

Yesterday we took a stroll around the block and there were the sheep all safely gathered in. They must be Dimitri's we decided, since they're in his field, the one he always keeps them in. Looks like he's deputized another cousin/nephew/family friend to help out this winter, one with a definite aversion to walking too far. At least though he knows how to 'drive' the sheep, eh?

"What do you think Soula? She doesn't look familiar to me." "You're right Aliki, but it was worth taking a gander, eh?"

Today our "traditional" shepherd brought his flock right past our place, so I snapped these too...

He gave us a wave as he cruised by in his tradional old shepherd's mode of transport...

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