Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Bon voyage

So we say goodbye to the Putters, the Greek mainland and Keffalonia and Ithaca and Meganisi and hot, hot weather.

 And a total of eight books:
  • Eat Pray Love
  • Diary of a Nobody
  • One Day
  • Keith Floyd's autobiography, Stirred but not Shaken
  • The Moonstone
  • That Summer in Ischia
  • The Book of Tomorrow
  • The Lost World
Guess who had a Kindle for her birthday.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Sweet dreams are made of this

The boat has been a part of our lives for a few years now. Last night, it even featured in my dreams.

Mr Grigg and I were sitting having a drink at De Vinchies, a now defunct club in My Kind of Town, when various hen and stag parties walked by, in high heels and Oompa Loompa outfits. Mr Grigg then suddenly declared he was going to bring the boat through.

Cut to a canal-style lock, with the tall masts of Nestor just fitting in beneath the nightclub roof, and then the beer-sodden, fag-ridden nightclub floor between the boat and the sea beyond.

I told him it was impossible but he insisted he could do it. The brightly-dressed clientele lent a hand to lift the boat's bow across the floor, much to the annoyance of the bar staff who were concerned at losing trade. I then presented a barmaid called Ann with a raffle prize before going back to lead the yo-heave-ho. It was no good, they couldn't lift it.

And then I woke up.

I am used to these vivid dreams in the Ionian. Probably too much sun, wine and all that calamari.

Today, we take the Putters back, along with Mr Grigg's brother who is so handy with a windlass.

Mr Putter has become do-er rather than dour as he takes the helm to avoid the seasickness he feels by just looking on. The fragrant Mrs Putter has brought a touch of Lush Places glamour to the boat, armed with nappy bags and wet wipes for the loo and the brilliant tip of lighting a match instead of cloying air freshener after using the lavatory. Every bathroom should have a box.

We will miss their company. My lasting memory is of Mr Putter rowing the dinghy as Mr Grigg and his brother snorkel to collect what Mr Grigg insists are a type of scallop from the seabed. Mrs Putter, discussing their find with an Italian gentleman who happens to be treading water nearby (attracted, no doubt, by siren Mrs Putter's fragrance), confirms they are endangered species which taste terrible.

The large bivalves are dispatched back into the water, with Mr Grigg annoyed at missing out on fresh lunch.

I took a photo of him with one of them just before the crew made the decision that the Noble Pen Shell (for this is what Wikipedia later tells me they are) should be returned to the seabed.

If figured it would have been useful to show the hospital when I took Mr Grigg to have his stompach pumped out.

'Remember the puffball,' I tell him.

His gills go green at the memory and the long wait in the A&E department.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Views of the southern Ionian

And now the Putters have arrived.

Fragrant Mrs Putter wafts in from Preveza, accompanied by the dour Mr Putt-Putter, who immediately starts talking about the parish plan and how quiet the square is since the shop shut.

I imagine our hanging baskets wilting in the sun, my car's handbrake rusting while we are away and no-one, just no-one, stopping to talk any more. It's sad state of affairs.

Meanwhile, we are in Lefkas Town, a strange jumble of colourful buildings which look like they should be in a frontier town in south America rather than somewhere in the south Ionian.

During the day, the place is eerily quiet.

At night, the place is buzzing.

Meanwhile, up in Sivota, this is the world from my window.

 From the hotel here.

And on the way to Preveza, to pick up Mr Grigg's Brother Number Two and the Putters, we stop off for a bit of sightseeting. We find the remains of the ancient city of Nikopolis, created by the Emperor Augustus after (as Julius Caesar's nephew, Octavius) defeating Mark Antony at the Battle of Aktion in 31 BCE.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Friday, 2 September 2011

The entrancing world of Dodoni, ancient and modern

The world from my window is going round like a giant ferris wheel outside while I sleep.

Every now and then, I wake, excited.

Each time, I see a different set of stars.  Cassiopeia and then a constellation I don't recognise, four stars in a square and then a bright planet. And then I realise it's not a planet, it's the reflection of the air conditioning unit on the glass.

Mr Grigg is still sleeping as the sun rises. There is an orange glow above the skyline. I reach for the camera.

An hour or so later, we are downstairs, dogs barking lazily in the early morning heat and Katerina's mother tizzling up an omelette with ham and feta.

When we arrived at this hotel yesterday, this strange, Barcelona-inspired art hotel in the middle of nowhere, I couldn't quite believe it.

First there was this pink sign:

 And then there was this, which sounded more like an order:

It was entrancing all right:

It sticks out like Gaudi's thumb in an ancient Greek landscape. And I love it.
Besides, they were playing Bits and Pieces by the Average White Band when we walked in through the door.

And as we sat down for dinner, the only ones in the hotel it seemed, Melina Mercouri started singing Never on a Sunday. Things could only get better.
And then, this morning, they do. I can see the ancient ruins of Dodona in the distance.

We wind our way down the hill, past teasels, old man's beard, fig trees, blackberrries, elderberries and avocado, the tinkling bells of a sheep and into the valley below.

We approach the amphitheatre, created by King Pyrrhus in 290 BCE and converted by the Emperor Augustus into a place of gladiatorial combat in 31 BCE.

And then to the sacred oak, the singing ringing tree of ancient Greece, where the voice of Zeus whispered its oracle pronouncements through the rustling leaves.

Just what is it the oracle is saying to me? I come over all romantic. At this point, a Japanese student takes a close-up picture of an oak leaf.

And then sneezes loudly.

I hope it's a good omen.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

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