The early morning was very warm, I was up at 5.30am reading, very dark, the mountain asleep. Not even the dogs had yet woke to start their matinal cacophany. Around 7.00am with various domestic sounds shimmying the hill, the sun, although we cannot see it, has picked out the profile of the Albanian hills in the east, a few miles across the straits. Small threads of dissipated cloud are scattered loosely across the sky. Today is Sunday and I bet another scorcher. The first plane of the day is landing at Corfu Airport 15 miles away.
As I write and look to the east the clouds are becoming stronger though still infrequent. Five minutes ago they were a wispy grey, now that the sun is becoming braver, they have reddened and the sky above them bright blue and beyond the hills the blue sky turns to green and then quickly misty grey. The early fishing boats head north up the straits, the first ferry appears on its southerly course and its track tells me it is bound for Patros, the first large port on the Greek mainland and access to Athens. It is such a pleasure looking out over the water at this time of day, hardly a sound, the clouds have now taken on their daily white, there is a deathly still but everything is happening. We await the threatening sun. The eastern sky is in torment and the misty grey of a few minutes ago is now red, an angry, violent red. Whilst on either side, there is just mist. The anticipation is overwhelming and at last the first bloody ray as the sun peeks over the hills. The time 7.45am and Day 7 begins, the burgeoning rays bathing our side of the mountain in brilliant light within seconds. Never have I seen such wondrous precision.
However it is not such an auspicious start for me because I have the job of clearing last nights barbecue debris and washing the soiled dishes. With every idyll, there is the rough side of life but by the time the first sleeper awakes, I had the villa shipshape and Bristol fashion so that the horde on awakening could muck it up again as breakfast was prepared. I am not a complaining type of person but I do like to avoid a mess, so I just bravely plough through the days washing and cleaning, whistling and singing to myself. Yesterday I washed one particular glass 15 times but c’est la vie.
One of us is leaving tomorrow and three more arriving bringing our establishment up to 14. I am looking forward to the increased duties. I find it so difficult leaving the hard work to our two maids, it isn’t fair, so I tend to have the rough taken off their duties in order to make it easier for them as they are such nice friendly women. I know we are paying for their duties but I think ladies should be coddled not scourged. I would be no good at all in days gone by.
Day 7 just loitered by, the sun’s heat excessive, even the locals are saying it is August weather. They expect relative coolness at this time because there are many jobs to be done but this heat detracts from their purpose.
For Sunday lunch we had two chickens, heads left on and one not cleaned out. Our buyer erred in that he did not realise chickens had guts and anyway he thought he was in Tesco’s. Muggins was volunteered for the task. With limited tools for the task, I set about my problem with gusto and by the time I was finished, I had a spatchcock but Helen, honed on the aftermath of WW2 and the adage Make Do And Mend, expertly trussed up the carcase. Two hours in the oven with lemons and onions and with an accompanying salad and vegetables, we had a meal fit for a king. So little fat on these birds and the meat so tasty. The afternoon was spent round the pool ,whilst one of us slept off the effects of two much sun the day before. I read and dozed, the heat genuinely had become oppressive, a few hours rain would be nice but it is not part of this scene. Which reminds me, where do they get the tap water from. There is no shortage and the tap water seems of excellent quality. That evening we had a one course meal in Taverna Agnadio, just up the hill. An unbelievable view but only average food. However it was local and it was our excuse to buy a few plastic bottles of his excellent rose wine.
It is Day 8 and time for another sunrise, dawn broke 20 minutes ago and the sun is girding its loins to appear in all its glory in about 25 minutes time. The first ferry from Italy has glided past and this is going to dock in Corfu. We have to leave for the airport shortly where Paddy Jo has to be back in Dublin. She is appearing in two Harold Pinter plays at the end of the week and has to be word perfect. Another daughter, man and child are due in from Venice at 10.45pm this night. Between flights a little tour of the island is in order. We shall see.
We breakfasted quickly and away to the airport. It was only 10.00am and the terminal was in a state of chaos. People herded and shunted about the place as though we were cattle at a mart. First we had to queue for check-in and then a queue for X-ray of all large luggage and then the usual security check. It took Paddy well over an hour before she was through to the departure lounge and she was an individual traveller. I really pitied those on tours like Thompson’s and SunTours, it would certainly be my last package holiday, but I amm 66 and never been on one, so there ain’t much chance now. They were lined up like school children outside the terminal buildings and brought in about twenty at a time. They all seemed distraught but I expect they will go through the same indignity next year.
We decided to make for Paleokastritsa on the western side of the island. A beautiful place consisting of three little coves with a crystal clear warm sea at each one, we will be back I am sure but first we visited the islands donkey sanctuary. A totally charitable organization depending on tourist charity. I was shocked to see the state of some of the donkeys, blind, legs broken and walking on their knees. One had its back broken, they said by somebody with an iron bar, so much so its body was shaped like the letter U. I asked what quality could some of these animals have and their only answer was that at least they were not working. That seems a poor excuse for animals bred for work and I just felt it a waste of public charity in vet’s bills and general running costs to keep these poor creatures alive.
We lunched at a sea side Taverna where the kids and some adults went swimming between courses. The food like most tavernas in Corfu was poor and expensive. The beach was full of 70 year olds in bikinis, fair play to them. Apres dejeuner we went off to the supermarket on the way home. A great place for local produce and Prosecco for Helen at four euros a bottle and good fruity Prosecco at that. A session in the pool for some followed by variou cold meats and salad. The tomatoes on the island are wonderful, full of bite and taste, not at all like the tasteless, rubbery things we get at home. A few glasses of rose for some and off to the airport for the incomers. Paddy had e-mailed from Dublin and was even then busy on her scripts for the opening in six days time. Ouzo and gin and tonics and a chat about that disgusting Savile character, who we had all known about for years but the establishment had been protecting for years. Why? Because the establishment were at the very same thing and Good Old Jim could have taken the lot of them down very quickly. I blogged about him over two years ago but that was about him supplying young lads for Ted Heath to fornicate with. How did I know this? Because the initial asignments always took place in a mate of mine’s restaurant in the New Forest. Ted picked out the ones he liked and Jimmy took the rest away with him, a bit like fruit on a tree. The whole stinking lot of them need clearing out and I hope this is the start. I hope this story does not die a death or pick out a few easy scapegoats.
Anyway bed at 2.30am after a traditional Greek ouzo welcome for the newcomers and a late start on a very hot day. It is 9.30am and must be around 30C with a mist coming off the sea making the dry arid hills of Albania almost ethereal to view.
The morning spent shopping and preparing lunch. Marinaded mixed meats roasted for a couple of hours with potatoes and runner beans washed down by German beer and then a snooze in the shade as the afternoon sun once more stepped into the mid 30sC. Whilst on holiday the e-mails never stop intruding as legal types keep beavering away at the various clerical abuse cases I am aware of. One such after giving me their present stance finished by asking what I thought of Greece. I told her that if Corfu represented Greece then I thought the country beautiful but full of people who did not deserve it. Most wanted to take everything in your pocket without offering a proper service. Cash was the creed, no cheques, no credit cards. The price was never the price but always less than the final bill. The black economy rules. Whether this has always been the case I don’t know and perhaps the present financial disrailment might have caused this gangsterish behaviour. I have noticed that if you are confident however and hold your ground, they normally back down to save face but it takes a few days to learn this confidence. As always the country and mountain people are better than those in the strips along the coast. In the main we are lucky, isolated in our villa perched on a cliff face, a long way away from the crassness of the coast. In height that is, not horizontal distance.
Normal rules on basic health and safety do not apply. I do not mean the suffocating rules that affect the West but fairly basic things like the wearing of crash helmets, safety barriers on sheer drops on mountain roads, cigarette smoking, general construction industry behaviour, insurance matters. Everything of that nature is legally binding but is not applied and this laxity in life might be what caused the present tension. This is me talking who does not really believe in any controls on human life but I suppose I have got into the habit through strict regulation at home. So that is the conundrum, it seems to be the most beautiful place on earth but tainted with massive flaws, a little like a loose woman but where would we be without them. (Do I smell controversy)