Thursday, 26 January 2012

January on a Small Greek Island

This little rock in the sea has been fairly battered by rainstorms this month. The other night I woke up at two a.m. to lightning flashing through the windows, deep thunder very close and rain lashing down at the walls.
No wonder it’s as green as St Patrick’s Day all over the island at the moment.
I ran down and unplugged everything, especially the new modem which Yiannis the Telephone Company Man – speaking of saints – spent three quarters of an hour on his Sunday evening setting up. The storms are keeping him busy.
Being a public sector worker, his salary has been reduced by a third. The people who work for the government office have now only been paid for one month out of the last six. They should quit and go into business selling modems. Ntelos told me he knows someone who lost eight to storms last year.
But in between storms, the sun shines gloriously; you have to get out there and see the island this beautiful. A friend asked me the other day why I’m not having a sleep in the afternoon any more but going to bed early. It’s because at this time of year, early afternoon is my favourite time to get out and walk.

Back at my office in the UK before I moved here, I would often spend my lunchtime going to Marks and Spencers to do food shopping; then getting to the checkout, seeing the twenty-minute long queues of other people doing the same, and giving up to find a quick sandwich elsewhere.
Here the kitchen is already full of big bags of oranges, cabbages and cauliflowers and broccoli, and spicy horta leaves Stelios gathered from a field. And there are usually leftovers from the tasty dark free range pork we’ve been roasting with potatoes in lemon juice and oregano. And all of it is from Tilos.
Here when I’ve had enough of being tethered to my desk, enough of staring at a computer, I put on my boots and jacket and start walking. When I set off towards Eristos, I can hear the waves crashing up on the beach from far away across the silent valley. In the other direction towards Skafi, there’s often the lovely jangling of bells as Menelaos herds his sheep down off the mountain.

These last few weeks, more often than not I see a big brown eagle hovering on majestic wings high above the fields, hunting. One day Stelios and I set out in the car down the dirt track and startled an eagle that had just caught a snake and was carrying it off.
Of course, I can never get photos of the eagles as they’re too far away; just as I can never get photos of the goats as they run away too fast. But at the moment, wherever I walk, I am constantly startling families of goats, the youngsters bounding about on stocky legs, play-fighting and making a bee-line for their mother’s milk.
Sadly, two more well loved old men of Tilos died this week. Five people have died on the island this month, though they seem to have lived to a good old age. One, Costas, was in his eighties and still walked around every day and loved dancing at the festivals. Eleftheria’s grandfather was ninety-four and she says it came as such a surprise as he seemed perfectly fine that very evening.
When I walk the backroads around the village there are so many abandoned ruins of stone houses from years ago. They’re beautiful, but of course it makes you wonder about the future of the island. Will the population keep dwindling, with work getting scarcer – will young people have to emigrate? Or will people come back here to their roots and make the most of it, hunker down on a bit of family land? It’s a tough choice for someone who needs to think about their future.
I’m lucky to have work and there’s certainly nowhere I’d rather be right now. I still feel incredibly privileged and happy to live in such a special place.

On the way up to the village this morning during a sunny break in the rainclouds, I took the shortcut through a field with some goats and sheep. One little goat was leaping up high in the air on all fours, trying to head-butt his friend. Another had discovered a hay bale covered in plastic made a great slide, and kept climbing up and slithering down it. When they saw me, they stopped and acted serious, pretending they were just munching grass all along. Playing? Us? Naaah…


  1. What an idyllic life and how fortunate you are to have a portable profession. The islands have been dying for years, old homes falling in and most of the new ones vacation homes for people from the cities, closed up most of the year. Not unlike so many places in small town America or places like Cape Cod, where summer folk have run up prices and young people can't afford to live where their families may have lived for generations.

    Good things never last, but surprisingly often they are replaced by other good things that no one saw coming, though there may be a bit of awkwardness in between.

    As a foreigner who came to Greece for what it had been, I was of course distressed by anything that changed, perhaps more so than the people who actually lived there.

    But for all the ill tides that have run, it sounds like Greece is still a wonderful place.

  2. Really appreciate your thoughtful commnent above. It is a wonderful place and I am very lucky to have a portable profession!

  3. A nice carefree life seems to me you have, a dream for every person if you ask me!

  4. Thanks so much for your comment and I'm pleased it seems that way. I like to write about the joys of life rather than the stresses and headaches - in between blogs it's not always so carefree, but who wants to read about that?! There are a few things I can't write about on a blog. But generally I do live a pretty dreamy life... Thanks for making contact!

  5. I loved reading your book and it brought back memories of our lovely holiday on Poros and Naxos this year. We have been going to Greece for years and just love the way of life-seeing the pictures of the island in January makes me all the more envious !

    1. Thank you so much for your message! I really appreciate it - it's especially lovely to hear good comments on the book from people who know Greece well. The island is gorgeous in January - in between storms, that is!