Thursday, 30 June 2011

Greece: all at sea

In Sivota, the waves are crashing against the quayside. Mr Grigg and another skipper break into a boat to move it away from the sea wall. The crew is not aboard, they are out on a calmer part of the mainland and oblivious to the drama unfolding.

The day before saw Mr Grigg attempting to dislodge a blockage from the heads. Balancing precariously in the dinghy, he pumped air in to the outlet, only to be dislodged time and time again by the swell. Finally, there was a whoosh and the sea became momentarily brown.

He wouldn't mind, but it was not even ours. We could tell by the sweetcorn.

The bad things are put behind us as we sail across to Lakka, a gem of a blue bay on Paxos, and then we take seven attempts to anchor securely. Each time we think we have done it, the anchor does not hold and we find ourselves perilously close to the next boat or the rocks.

Later, when all is calm and we are tucked in nicely, we take a short taxi ride to Pratigos and a new taverna overlooking the sea. There we meet my former hairdresser - who just happened to be on the same flight over with her husband - and someone I have not seen for years. This retired West Dorset farmer has settled in well to his new life, he and his wife are learning the language and have brought their teacher along to prove it.

After a lovely meal and conversation about the crisis facing Greece - the people blame corrupt politicians and say they want the country to go bankrupt so they can re-set the country's course - we take a taxi back to the port, the driver bringing his wife along for the ride.

Tonight we will visit our old friend's new home where we will eat, drink and be merry - but not too merry in case the anchor does not hold.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Catching up with old friends

Holed up in Corfu with Mr Grigg, he playing Odysseus to my Calypso, the waves are jumping for joy. The sea is slopping around like an upset stomach.

We are back in the Ionian. For ten days - not nearly long enough for my liking, but better than nothing - we will pootle around, sailing here and there wherever the wind, and the mood, takes us.

In the airport queue, by a quirk of chance, I see old friends who are on their way to see another old friend who has gone native on the island of Paxos after selling his farm in the folds of Dorset's beautiful Eggardon Hill. I always said to the father of Number One Son this person was 'my first reserve' - jokingly, of course, but enough to keep him on his toes.

But now I have Mr Grigg, my number one husband, my only husband, who today celebrates his 60th birthday, with a glass or five of Corfiot wine (Grammenos Family). The wind has died down now, and we are gently bobbing on the quayside at Mourtos, on the mainland, while our old friend, Andreas, at The Bamboo Place is walking fast, like a running train, serving the people who are all his 'friends'.

A day or so ago, on a windswept beach in the north of Corfu, we look for one of our favourite tavernas, The Three Brothers at Astrakeri. It is all shut up now, and we are sad. This place was an unspoilt gem, where the three brothers - Jack, Costas and Spiros - sat far apart from each other on plastic chairs up against the back wall, while their wives slaved over a hot stove. This is the place where I sampled octopus in red sauce that has never been beaten. And now it is gone.

So we head up the hill, downhearted, looking around us.

'Oh look,' Mr Grigg says. 'The Three Brothers.'

We smile and think 'that's nice' and then the car screeches to a halt as I yell out 'stop!'

It is The Three Brothers re-born in a slightly different location, with just Costas and his octopus-in-red-sauce-cooking wife at the helm and his three sons front of house.

It is Jiannis I recognise: a young, very talented graphic designer who spends the winter working in bars in Birmingham.

'Hello Maddie!' he shouts. 'I see two thousand people every year and I remember you!'

So we sit on the balcony, overlooking the wild coast and an electricity junction box.

After the national strike, the power is back on, and Jiannis' mother is cooking.

So by the light of the setting sun, we feast on octopus and think ourselves very lucky to have stumbled yet again on another enchanted village, far away from our own, but on a par with our lovely Lush Places.

And in the evening, the excitement mounts as I Skype a friend I have never met. The lovely, loyal and beautiful Pondside, in preparation for our book club meeting across the internet when we get back home, linking Vancouver Island with our special part of Dorset.

We are reading Mistress of Nothing. But me, right now I feel I am mistress of all I survey.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x