Sunday, 1 July 2018

Up to Megalo Horio



In late June, I leave the lovely apartment by the sea. The local children have now finished school, tourists pass up and down and it’s even warm enough for the Syrian refugee ladies to wade into the sea in their flowing black dresses. The vegetable trucks drive up and down selling watermelons. It’s charming but not conducive to work. I knew from the start that the owner needed the apartment for the summer, and I need to be somewhere quiet to write.

On a hot day I clean the apartment from top to bottom and then carry the last of my things to the bus – the new island taxi suddenly nowhere to be found and the rental cars all rented out. It takes me three trips but I manage. The bus is mercifully almost empty on its way up, though I’m sure it will fill with people at Eristos. The driver stops outside the place I’ll stay for most of July, one of the large, shady studios opposite the shop in Megalo Horio, the old village on the hill.

I’ve also rented a space in the centre of the village by the church and the kafeneio. Panayiotis’ father had it as a pantopoleio, selling rice and beans and sugar and so on. After he died, Panayiotis and his brothers rented it as an office to the municipality, but recently the office moved and it became available. It’s exquisitely located but has no bathroom so I can only keep things in it; perfect for allowing me to live clutter-free for the summer.

Leaving my bags for now, I walk across the upper footpath to Agios Antonis for a swim at the little beach by the harbour. Returning, I listen to the cicadas grow louder in the trees around my balcony, until dusk turns to dark and they are replaced by scops owls. I fall asleep with a light breeze blowing through the window. And the next day in early afternoon, I walk to my favourite beach. I haven’t been there for months.

The valley is vivid green with thyme and oleander and other bushy plants. There’s a north wind blowing across the flat deep blue sea, making the Turkish cape perfectly clear ahead. After a first swim across the bay I lie on my towel on the coarse pink sand, heat seeping into my back muscles, my heels burning; when my body gets too warm, flies force me back into the cold sapphire sea. It’s peaceful, secluded, private: one couple hidden in the cove around the rocks, the occasional ship passing out to sea.

I walk back to the village and to my surprise and delight spot a single, almost-ripe yellow fig among the still-hard green ones, pick and eat it, a taste of wild summer.