Saturday 6 June 2015

Greece and Turkey(s)

Annamaria gets the girls mobile.
The eagle has landed. My travelling wife is returned from her mission to tie up those loose ends for our late friend Diane in the Greek island of Poros. Poros was Diane's favourite (and 'only' by the end) holiday destination and she went two or three times a year every year from when Mum took her, aged 27, around 30 years ago. She was well known and loved there by many locals and, indeed, many café owners there now, she bounced on her knee as babies of the café owners 30 years back. Liz went with her around a half dozen times in recent years and was there for the trip when Diane married John out there (remember the famously miss-spelled 'Happy Webbing" cake?). Latterly, Liz would go out on the Spring trip, and Diane took John in the autumn.

Annamaria, Liz's main guide, with her son
Andreas. Thank you Annamaria - we owe you
so much.
In these recent trips they would always use the same hotel, owned by a local lad but run by the two 'old dears' of the family, always affectionately known as the "Yia-Yiás" (pronounce it Ya-ya's, it is an affectionate term in Greek for Grandma). That was an obvious start point but Liz had a mental list of similar haunts - pavement and indoor cafés, restaurants, even a Taverna across the water up in the mountains surrounded by lemon groves. She wanted also to visit all these local contacts and friends to say a kind of 'Goodbye' on Diane's behalf, explain to them, if she can, how Diane died, sympathise with them and somehow share with them that there will be no more visits from their bubbly, happy, English 'regular'. I must hurriedly apologise if I am making a hash of this 'explanation'.

Liz gets a cuddle from superb old gent, Andreas Lazarou
Liz is fortunately helped in this task by there being some among the Greek (or long-term Poros visitor) mutual friends who speak good English, notable a lovely lady Annamaria who even suggested hiring a moped with pillion seat to help them get about. Liz has no Greek and is further hampered by the fact that Diane had the Greek so she used to guide and organise everything, but also used the local names for things which everyone on Poros would know but would not be in any guide book or on road signage. "The Yia-Yiás" is not the real name of the hotel (!) and a café which they all know as "The Bulgarians" because back in the day when there were a lot of Bulgarian economic migrants on Poros, that was the café where they all gathered at lunchtime or of an evening. One favourite haunt (known locally as Thanasis Café) had actually closed down in the intervening time; just a clear pavement and white-washed windows.

Beekeeping burger man.
So Lizzie was not much looking forward to this trip and wished it would go away, but knew that it wouldn't and that she must steel herself and do this last thing for our much missed friend. She knew she must go alone because to take me or any other 'third party' might make it look like she was really on holiday to the Poros folk, and if she went with widower John, there would be raised eyebrows at him, so recently bereaved, "swanning about" with another woman and former best friend of Diane. They are salt of the earth and genuine Greek Orthodox people with a keen eye for old traditional values. They deserve respect and so does Diane's memory and legacy. No, this had to be a single-handed journey, but she was sure she'd cope. She was only away from here 7 nights; time flew. Now it is done, it is done for good. 'We' may return to Poros, maybe in our later years, when we have a bit less livestock and a bit more time.

Burger bee-man's signs
But how to go about these very difficult 'meet and greets'? How do you address an old old mutual friend who (you hope) knows of Diane's passing and that you have come out to the island just to say a kind of goodbye to these valued loved ones? Liz had mentally put together a quick few sentences telling of Diane's last day, including the happy tea party with her London friend Stefan, husband John off on his dogwalk with Diane's request for 'posh cheese' the last words he heard, her quick, clean, painless end from the pulmonary embolism, that she died at home and on her own bed.

Gifts from Greece - brandy. Actually, to be more accurate,
"Greek alcohol drink of natural aromas and distils"
Many of the Greeks would openly weep there on the street where they met and hug Liz tight. One poor lady actually met Liz as she came out of a washroom, recognised Liz, guessed why she was there, burst into floods of tears and had to be ushered back into the washroom by Liz while she got herself back together. Some of the greetings were a bit less harrowing, one (Angelo) they caught up with as he was out on his boat in the harbour and Liz ended up yelling friendly abuse across the water to him about why he never had his phone turned on or charged up, before heading for a café. Two other favourite old boys in Diane's crowd, she met while they were taking their regular walk along the sea front (Captain George (fisherman) and Eleftherios (fishmonger)). To a man/woman, they were very concerned about Husband John, was he coping? Was he eating OK? Greek men apparently will often go to pieces when first bereaved.

Greek sweets - they are (phonetically)
"ah-mee-gda-lo-ta" - don't ask me to
spell that in the Greek alphabet!
The old boy, Andreas (now quite elderly) who owned the Taverna up in the lemon groves was just awake from his nap, being looked after by his lovely carer, was still a bit befuddled from sleep and has no English, but he was happy to sit by Liz patting her knee and smiling - he seemed to know that he'd seen Liz before and that she was here for a good reason, but the carer explained that he had not taken in Diane's death and that she would explain it to him in due course when he was more with it. There, inevitably also one lady who had not heard of Diane's passing, so Liz had to actually break the news, and there other people who over heard Liz talking to the 'ones on the list' and chipped in with "I knew Diana too...." (They all called her Diana out there).

On the right a hard Greek sheep's milk cheese (nice enough)
but on the left, the freshest, most gorgeous feta I ever had
the pleasure of tasting.
In this way Liz worked her way round the town and completed the task. She was very much ably assisted by our good friend Annamaria who scared Liz half to death by suggesting that rather than walk, they hire a moped and zoom around like proper Greeks, dicing with the traffic. Liz took her first pillion ride with eyes tight shut, head down and both hands gripping Annamaria's waist hard enough to bruise the poor girl. By the end, though, she was apparently sitting back, hand by her sides, big silly grin and "I'm on a BIKE" in her head!

Newly hatched turkey chick, still damp from the egg.
With the job done, Annamaria decided they both needed some rest, relaxation and recouperation. Annamaria had taken time off work (in Athens) to shepherd Liz round Poros (we are so so grateful, Annamaria - thank you so much) but now needed to go home so that she could return to work, but she suggested that Liz come with her, stay in her house in Athens and relax till the time came for the flight home. Just what the doctor ordered. We also need to thank the bro-in-law, Sparks, who did the airport and railway station taxi-runs in Dublin and put Liz up overnight at either end of the Poros mission, cooking a nice line in breakfasts. Thank you Sparks.

In one final amusing aside, Liz managed to meet 2 more beekeepers while she was out there and even enjoy some bilingual conversation about bees, where she'd have only minimal vocabulary and the Greek guy maybe a tiny bit more English. One was just a man with a burger van where Annamaria stopped in the car for some light snacks; Liz spotted a pic on the van of the burger seller in a beekeeper-suit and realised that he was also selling honey. The other, a guy named Costas (Annamaria is his daughter's Godmother) had been minding the Annamaria's son (also called Andreas) while Annamaria was looking after Liz on Poros. Liz and Costas were also found showing each other pictures of their and our animals, and letting Liz photo their geese. In Greece, though, honey quality is judged on darkness of colour, with the real burnt-umber colours being the best, so Liz did not show them pics of our straw-coloured product. They would not have been impressed.

Finally a bit of nice, surprise, good news from home - we woke up the the cheepings of just-hatched turkeys. We have 8 eggs in the incubator and were not expecting any hatches till day 28 (June 8th) so these little ones are 2 days early. We have 2 out so far and a third well on the way to cracking the top off the shell, so watch this space for a final score.

1 comment:

mazylou said...

Oh Matthew. You made me cry with that.