I decided to put the paints away today and see if there was life beyond the garden wall, human life that is.
I know there’s plenty of wildlife; I was up at the crack of dawn again, rudely awoken this time by the deafening frogs ‘mating chorus’, down in Paraskevi valley. Judging by the almighty din, there must be hundreds of them!. Plato * wrote this about the humble frog:
“Modelled in bronze, this servant of the Nymphs, this damp songster, this friend of rain, this frog who delights in bubbling water-springs, is the votive offering of the wayfarer.
For on a day of torrid heat it saved him from the thirst tormenting him. The timely singing of its amphibious mouth led him to a moist hollow where he found water.
Following carefully that guiding voice, he came upon the well he sought for”
Blinded by the strong sunlight that streamed in as I opened the shutters first thing….
and greeted by a blue cloudless sky which held the promise of a lovely day, I decided to set off for Skiathos town. At this time of year the local bus service is reduced to a bare minimum (3 times a day if we’re lucky!). I was prepared for a long wait but within moments a girlfriend drove by and I gratefully accepted a lift into town.
The first thing I noticed was the eerie emptiness of the cobbled streets. The whole town was SO quiet – virtually deserted apart from the occasional curious alley cat.
but eventually I did find signs of human life when I met up with some friends at a favourite haunt: ‘O Batis’; a lovely restaurant with a fabulous view (perched as it is on the steps above the harbour) run by Christos and wife Lena.
I enjoyed a typically Greek meal of Horiatiki (Greek salad) and fried calamares (squid) – though I probably wouldn’t have chosen that particular dish had I met this chap BEFORE I sat down!
The following few hours were idled away in typical Greek island fashion; sipping coffee at a port-side cafe, listening to fishermens sea stories and watching the antics of the sea-gulls as they circled a solitary fishing trawler in the harbour .
Later on I was taken to meet a very interesting character called Giorgos. He’s the local resident ‘rag and bone ‘ man and his old store and yard is an amazing Aladdin’s cave stacked to the ceiling with old wooden dressers, chairs, carved doors, ancient pots and baskets. I was in seventh heaven till I discovered he was not actually in the business of selling anything; restoring all his ‘found’ treasures is simply his passion.
But eventually, after a lot of persuasion (and the promise of a painting or two from me!), he agreed, reluctantly, I could buy a couple of things which he insists on restoring and delivering to me before taking any payment. He then invited us into his home nearby which is filled with beautiful, old, traditional Skiathos furniture that he’s rescued and lovingly restored over the years; fine examples of a bygone era that, sadly, has all but disappeared now.
His charming wife plied us with a typical island ‘welcome’ treat; home-made quince preserve and a lethal almond liqueur! All the while I was trying to remember where I’d seen Giorgos before, his face seemed so familiar. Then it came to me; it was he who had transported the donkey to my olive grove last summer (remember the post ‘Greek Wedding, ‘Mamma Mia!’ style’?). Since then her owner had died and after finding her in a sorry, neglected state, he rescued her too and restored her to such a state of good health that he now affectionately calls her ‘Luxandra’ (the name, he told me, of a legendary literary (and particularly ‘large’) character from Constantinople who was famous for her exceptional culinary skills.
It was 8.30 at night before I made my way to the taxi rank on the deserted port where , unusually, only one cab was in service and (to give you some idea of just how quiet Skiathos is right now) the driver appeared rather surprised, then clearly delighted, to have a customer and drove me home. It transpired I was only his second fare of the day!
* This epigram is attributed to Plato (VI – 45) and is taken from ‘Poems from the Greek Anthology’, translated by Forrest Reid and published by Faber & Faber