Sunday, 4 September 2016

An Onomatopoeic Post

Y'know, I've called this blog "Ramblings From Rhodes" ever since I started it a long time ago, but until now I've never actually called a post a "rambling" or "some ramblings". Of course, they all are in truth, but this one's got a sort of, well, even more rambly feel to it, with no specific subject, just a bunch of observations from the past week or so. Thus, since it's truly some "ramblings" this time, I've called it an onomatopoeic post.

Incidentally, it's quite appropriate really. Onomatopoeia is, after all, a word derived from the Greek. Onoma means of course, name, while the other bit is an old fashioned Greek word for make or do, in fact poieo would be best be translated as maketh, or doeth, forsooth.

So, I hereby doeth, or indeed maketh this new post, which, in keeping with the above introduction, shall doubtless ramble on a bit about different stuff. Sorry if I tend to inject the odd bit of King James English here and there. It'll be entirely involuntarily, in truth I doth admit.

Last week, as I was travelling back (after the Halki trip) from Kamiros Skala with a mere handful of guests from our part of the island, we were being driven by Mihalis, in his slightly ageing 19-seater minibus. It's OK, the seats are all in pretty good condition, but when he operates the door, which of course opens and closes immediately to the right of my "rep's" seat beside him, he often has to reach across my lap when closing it and tug vigorously at the substantial metal bar that is attached to the inside of the door and swings outward as the door opens and slides back. He gives it a tug to ensure when the door is closing that it actually closes all the way and engages with the lock with a confidence-inducing "clunk". When he opens it, I usually have to give it a helping hand with my elbow too, just to get it started on its outward and backward trajectory. I just hope that the guests don't notice too much. 

We'd arrived back at Kamiros Skala and two hundred or so passengers had spread out on to the quayside like an enthusiastic family of ants, and I'd located our chariot only to find another surly Greek of about Mihalis' age standing beside the door with a huge smile on his weather-worn countenance. He bellowed to an out-of-sight Mihalis that it was time to get back here and open the door and, once our guests had shoehorned themselves in, also climbed aboard and sat right behind me, in my "rep's" seat.

As soon as we were on the road the two Greek fired up a lively banter about folk in their village, those who'd just died, were about to pop their clogs, or perhaps had recently contracted some dire illness that would surely lead to their imminent demise. There were too, it has to be said in fairness, the occasional references to someone's business, or son or daughter in far away Canada or Australia. It soon became apparent to me that these two men went back a long way. 

Mihalis is one of the drivers I work with who is difficult to put an age on. He's stocky, without being overweight and doesn't have too much of a "beer-belly". His face is square and framed by a good head of only slightly greying thick hair and its colour (the face that is, not the hair) betrays long years of living under a Greek sun and not using moisturiser. On first meeting, you'd probably understandably put him down as a Horiatis, a villager, the rural type. He surprised me some weeks back when we'd worked together by coming out with the fact that he'd spent a month in Australia last winter with his daughter and family, who lived somewhere near Perth. I throw my hands up and admit that I'd sort of concluded that the furthest he'd probably ever travelled would have been to Rhodes Town. It is true that many a village type from the more remote villages do consider a trip to Rhodes Town as being quite an adventure, verging on the reckless.

Mihalis, though, once you engage him in conversation, is far more widely read and travelled than his appearance would have the casual observer give him credit for. I find him immensely likeable and very affable. This other chap that last Thursday was sitting behind me and nattering away with Mihalis must surely have been his brother, they looked that much alike to me, even down to the fading jeans and red polo shirt. All Greek men of a certain age live in comfy-fit jeans, never shorts. Shorts are still a new-fangled fashion statement that's one step too far for these chaps. Definitely something those younger men of, say up to 40, may be daring enough to put on, but your average horiatis of any age upward of that? No chance.

Their conversation gave away their closeness and easiness in each other's company, since occasionally one would say to the other, "No. You're wrong there. Stamatis will be well over 70 now and it was Soula, his sister, not Vaggeli's, who had that hysterectomy last year." This comment wouldn't in the least cause offence, however and the conversation would remain wholly and entirely relaxed and affable. Thus I was led to interject when I saw an opportunity, "So, you two related then?"

The bloke behind me (never did catch his name) answered, as Mihalis just cast me a sideways smile, "No, just friends from the same village. You thought we were brothers, right? A lot of people do. We do even look alike, don't we!"

He was right, they did. Mihalis told me that they went back to their childhood years and thus was explained their total ease with each other. Judging by how old I'd estimate them to be, their friendship must have been well over 5 decades long, maybe longer.

And thus I found myself experiencing a moment of melancholia. Making the move as I had, eleven years ago last week in fact, from my home turf to this island some 2,000 miles away, I was no longer in a position to have such enjoyable chats with any friend of mine. Isn't it true anyway that the habit of 'getting on the housing ladder' and moving home into something ever bigger and better as one's career progresses tends to rob us of the joy of such friendships now? Yet that seems to be the modern way of the world in the UK. When I was brought up, which means to begin with in the fifties, married couples still had the habit of living in the same house for virtually all of their married life. The children would grow up there and, after having flown the nest, always return to spend high days and holidays with mum and dad, watching dad prune his roses or cut a cabbage for Sunday lunch, which we used to call dinner when I was small. 

Then along came this idea that a house was no longer a home, but rather an asset to be disposed of should one find oneself in a position to acquire a more desirable one. I'm not saying that moving house is always a bad thing, of course. But the expression "starter home" does betray a lot about the way society has changed in places like the UK.

Here it's still very different. Local people hardly ever sell their property. They always gravitate back to their home village and community. This is a huge factor in why the crime rates are so low and people don't lock their doors in villages even today. By and large they still allow their small children to go out and play anywhere in the village, safe in the knowledge that they only have to put a foot on the doorstep and yell, and their offspring will soon come scampering back safe and sound for their meal or bed time.

I found myself envying these two men. Mind you, I am full of praise for the positive aspects of the internet, which, although now used to promote child porn and ways to build your own nuclear device, is a marvellous way of getting back in touch with old friends, isn't it? Only about a year, maybe 18 months, ago I got back in touch with someone I was at school with, someone who was a fairly good friend at the old City of Bath Boys' School of the late sixties and very early seventies. Alan in fact is in the habit of driving, with his wife, down across Europe most summers and sends some exceptionally witty, erudite and photo-filled reports of these trips to his friends as a PDF file via e-mail. I find it immensely pleasurable to receive these bulletins and exchange a bit of news with him now and then. It's still not the same as face to face banter with lifelong friends though, is it?

Just a couple of weeks ago, we'd been accompanied by a dolphin on our Sunday "Bay to Bay " boat trip [see this post, last two photos]. As the guests scrambled to the bow to watch the spectacle, Makis, the captain of the boat, told me a couple of amazing facts about dolphins. We talked about how intelligent they are and how they seem to join boats chugging along at a stately 10 knots simply for fun and can swim alongside effortlessly without the benefit of a diesel engine and screw under the surface of the water. Makis reckons that since, as we know, they breathe air like we do, it's phenomenal that they are able to dive up to 1200 metres down below the surface and then get back up for air in about nine minutes. Makes my lungs ache just thinking about it.

Somehow the conversation with a couple of guests came around to the deer on the island of Rhodes too. As it happens we had a very big stag in our lane just two nights ago as we were coming home in the car after dark. Never tire of seeing them. But I seem to remember being told that the reason they were introduced to Rhodes was to help keep the snake population down. For some reason I'd never thought of this before but, since deer don't eat snakes, how exactly were they meant to be of help in controlling the population? Makis reckons that deer are very adept at trampling on snakes, thus killing them. Maybe some reader out there will know if that's the case.

But soft, what light through yonder window breaks? Yup, it's about time I got myself back off to bed to see if sweet slumber shall I encounter. A post I hath made and thus I shall give it a rest for now. Nighty night.


  1. Thoroughly enjoyed reading this it certainly resonated with me in so many ways

    1. Thank you Sallyann, I'm grateful both for your interest and your thoughts!

  2. Been a silent reader to your great posts since we met in January. Absolutely love them all. Anyway have been reading your Halki posts with interest as we have tried twice to visit, first time boat was cancelled due to choppy seas(July!) and last October we rose at the crack of dawn, drove round to Kamiros Skala to discover day return boats had stopped for the season. We are coming to Lindos again on 24/9 and are wondering if we should attempt "3rd time lucky". Do you know if the boats from Kamiros will still be operating say 29 or 30/9 or would it be safer just to get the ferry from Rhodes town. Hopefully you can help me on this one. Thanks and best wishes from "the hardy holidaymakers" (at least 2 of whom are returning again in Jan 2017) Karen

    1. Karen, my wife and I spent a few days chilling on Halki during mid-October in 2014. The boats are very rarely cancelled due to the weather, so you were just unlucky I suppose. The boats don't actually stop at the end of the season, but they do pare down the schedules. Islanders depend on these boats all year round in fact. If you go to my "Nearby Islands" page though, there you'll find contact details for the boats. Maybe make a phone call before setting out? Hope you make it, it's so worth it!

    2. Hi John thanks very much for replying. On hindsight we should have phoned before we attempted to go last time, gave us a bit a laugh though feeling that Halki was doomed for us. Anyway will hopefully manage a visit this year and have printed your Halki pages with phone nos etc, thanks for suggestion. Will peep our horn if we see in you in the passing. Thanks again and best wishes to you and your wife. Karen