It often strikes me how intimately we live among our few neighbours here in Megalo Horio – laughing to myself at the sounds (some not so pleasant) that distinguish one person from another as they pass down the narrow alley in front of my house. The young children play outside, Michaelia stops by for chat and Irini calls good morning through my office window. But I’m rarely bothered by my neighbours because the houses on either side are empty. One, like so many in the village, is abandoned, the other well-kept by someone who only visits for a couple of weeks a year. I enjoy the privacy of not being overlooked and not overlooking anyone else; not having to listen to anyone else’s noise or worry about my own. So I was surprised the other day when I went outside to find out why Lisa was barking, and found not a cat but Kostas the Cretan sitting on the upstairs wall.
We were pleased to see one another; I missed his visit last year, but remember a convivial evening at his house with Menelaos the year before. Kostas comes here for a holiday so he spent his first afternoon outside in the sunshine, talking to friends on his phone, opening up the house. And when he comes here he likes to invite friends over and party. He and Menelaos and other men were engaged yesterday in a rowdy discussion over glasses of raki from late morning. When he offered me a glass, I declined, saying I had work to do, though by then I’d actually finished my work and was ready to go for a walk. A raki might have been just the thing, I realised too late, remembering that I walked the Samaria Gorge after having raki and chestnuts for breakfast. Still, I avoided the men later in the dark of the evening when they called out to me and I realised they were still on the booze. I retreated into my kitchen and kept a low profile.
At least in the winter you can go inside. In the summer when it’s so hot I have to sleep outside on my terrace, I’ve cursed neighbours of various nationalities for their late-night parties when I have to work the next day, and have gone to bed thinking I must move away from the village again, back to somewhere remote surrounded by fields and animals. Lisa loves living in the village because of all the activity. The problem is that she has a habit of barking not only at potential intruders, but also at her favourite people. She likes attention and is worried they may go by without stroking her unless she makes a fuss. Then I have to shout at her to be quiet. The neighbours must curse me too.
The wind is wild this morning outside my cosy kitchen where I’m drinking my Greek coffee. Outside, the sky is blue and bright; usually by lunchtime the sun is warm and I’m ready for a walk and a swim, but sometimes the wind whips up the sea into crashing waves. Yesterday evening it turned seriously cold after dark, and when I hurried to the shop for a few supplies, the usual trio of villagers who sit outside at the table were being invited to set up their chairs inside instead. Nikos L. sat down holding his stick in front of him and garbled something about summer, erupting in a scale of laughter. The only fresh vegetables were carrots and tomatoes, but down at Eristos yesterday I was excited to see one of the farmers had fresh potatoes and spinach in the back of his truck.
The day could not have been more perfect for a walk, a quick swim and a birthday feast last weekend. I'd been too caught up with an important piece of work to organise anything beforehand for friends. Thanks to Yianni (aka John Ageos) for keeping me away from my computer, for coffee and a walk above the monastery, the fish barbecue and the birthday cake and the photos of me and Lisa.