Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Waging peace Η κοινοτοπία του καλόυ

A fact unknown to all but the most acute children - perhaps refugees - because they're wrapped in love, and haven't been around long enough, is that houses, like dogs, furniture, people and, even rocks, are turning to dust second by second. There was a time in childhood, even youth, when I thought all work done on a house - new kitchen, new roof, new plumbing, new decor - would endure as pristine as the photos that advertise the services of decorating and house maintenance catalogues. The young are mostly unfamiliar with entropy - with decomposition and the secret perishings and spoliations that continue at the backs of cupboards, behind cookers and fridges, under fixings, between walls and in roof cavities and footings, where moth and rust corrupt.  But we adults who do want, at least for a while,  to maintain treasures on earth, must work for them - more or less all the time.
Linda's list
Lin's list of things to do never ends. I go along with it - semi-willingly. There are times when I or she or both of us do some unlisted task, which I insist she writes down so that it can be, at once, crossed out.
The kitchen doors have become the dining room doors
“What’s the most difficult thing about hanging a door, Lin?”
Everything about hanging a door is bloody difficult”
When we first assayed the inside of this house off Democracy Street, we saw that between its oldest downstairs room there was a odd-sized doorway – low enough to bump my head; wider than a single door. And there was no door. I could see hinge pintles left and right.
Fiddling through the scrap heap left inside our apothiki - a shed that accompanies most older houses, both workshop and store - I found, near the back, lying on cypress roof ties, a dusty cobwebbed old door, its top half having four panes of old glass set in slender transoms, next to a pair of sturdy cross-pieced planks.*

It was pleasing to restore these uneven pieces of old carpentry to their original space – except that the rehung door, when open, blocked the angled passage between kitchen and hallway.
Looking into the dining room, but the door, until we set about rehanging it, opened into the kitchen

We’d been living years with this minor inconvenience since 2008, until Lin said “This door, these doors, should open the other way”
“Wouldn’t it be great if this job turned out as simple as the idea”
One bad idea, not pursued, was to break out the whole door frame and turn it round. Next was to router a rebate on the back of the same frame.
“Trouble with that” said Mark in Piatsa “is that a router will only do part of the job and the rest would involve a great deal of work with a hammer and chisel. Messy.”
“No, we’ll create a new rebate by fixing squared lengths of hinge-wide wood to the back of the doorframe”
“Right! After that we remove all hinges and refix them – left ones on the right and vice versa. Inset them flush to the new wood and the same place on each door.”
I cycled down to Stamatti’s joinery on the Kato road, a kilometre from the village, and explained what we wanted; came back the next day to collect. He refused payment.
I’d not be surprised if the old male hinges on the jambs hadn’t been moved since fixed, over a century ago. I used a blow lamp to soften the paint and get a screwdriver grip on most of the 12 rusted slot screws. Burning smell. Three recalcitrants were wrenched out with grippers levered against the surrounding wood. The door hinges were easy to remove – fixed with Philips screws by me a few years ago. The trim that had been nailed to the other side of the two plank doorlet, I gently levered off and fixed to its other side.
Now the difficult part began. The verticals and horizontal timber of the doorway, as happens in old houses, was challengingly warped in two directions.
“There are going to be shims!” said Lin, and arguments for sure, since that's how we work.
The old hinge plates, wire brushed of minor rust and old paint, were switched left to right; females were attached to the doors in their old insets, and pintels into insets on the new wood, neat and easy work with the multi-cutter working along set-squared pencil lines.
“Now what? Fix the new rebates to the door frame?”
“Oh no!” says Lin “Hinge the new wood to the doors. Offer up.”
We lifted both doors into the space and held them against each other and against the door frame; the doors wedged up to allow for opening. This was when the fiddle-faddling of getting it just right began. It was to turn out that the right position for the new rebate required the predicted shims for it to stand vertical against a frame that wasn’t. Once the upright was screwed in and the door hanging, it refused to close. The centre of inner edge of the larger door, also warped, clipped the edge of the frame. We loosened screws on the rebate and shimmed; tightened them up getting closer to a clean door swing, while for most of an afternoon Lin whittled and sanded away at the central edges of frame and door, until they just cleared one another when the door was closed. It was then we found a gap between door and floor which, if filled in with a fillet on the sill of the door, would prevent it opening’
“Why, for goodness sake?”
“Lie on the kitchen floor and look into the dining room. That lovely smooth floor isn’t flat”
I put a ball bearing on it. We watched it roll towards to the kitchen.
“So that’s why the doors have riser hinges? They’re so difficult to find here. These must have been made by the local smith long ago when the village had one”
After this fol-de-rol the two-plank gap-filler on the other side turned out easier to hang, needing just a slight lean out from the top to meet the edge of the other door and close and open on the lock. And I fitted at the top of the two-plank, the cheapest bolt I could buy - €1.30 - from the locksmith and door fittings shop at 2 Spirou Arvanitaki in town.
“There’s a gap on the right side of the door panel” said Lin. Our lifting on and lifting off might have budged the centre panel out of its stiles. I rested a piece of square wood against the edge of the panel and hit it with a mallet until the gap reclosed.
“Now you’ve scarred the wood”
“Ruddy sand it out!”
All the bare door surroundings with their new countersunk screw holes, gaps between new and old wood, and the old insets on the kitchen side of the frame, were now filled with slivers of wood and filler, and sanded flush and smooth. Around the dining room side of the new hung doors we fixed lengths of moulded architrave - old trim with splits, holes and old nails, discarded by a wheelie bin in the village - into which, after we’d tidied them up, we sawed neatly fitting angles to match the not-quite-90 degree top corners.
Architrave round the new hung doors
The whole – including the scorched patches where I’d removed the kitchen-side hinges – Lin undercoated and painted gloss white. A large cork, cut and glued to the marble skirting in the dining room, served as a doorstop. The latch was set for opening into the kitchen had its curve on the wrong side. It was not reversible. I took it off the lock, used the angle grinder to roughen the curved surface of the latch, and glued on a piece of hard wood, sanding it flush to make the latch square ended, so the door closed tight....
Nearly reversing the latch, with a piece of shaped hard-wood and strong glue
 ...I got the old brass door handles that I’d dug up months ago from my Handsworth allotment, buried for years. They’d been soaking a month in penetrating oil. Now with wire brush, the rusty shaft and holding screws on the handles became visible. They yielded easily to the screwdriver, and then, with a mallet and driver, I tapped off the handles, both ready to clean with brown sauce on a rough backed sponge, and fix to the lock.
Brass door handles unearthed from my allotment

The job done, we cancelled our divorce proceedings.
“Those doors are so damned sexy, better hung than they’ve ever been!”
Strips of white marble, found by the road, cut and smoothed to tidy the rose marble skirting each side of the doors

Opening into the dining room instead of into the kitchen
*Half way up the two upright planks, that comprise one side of this doorway, are the initials 'MKM 1951' scratched into the wood. When visiting us in 2008, Kostas Apergis, Ano Korakiana's historian, said these were the initials of Marcos Cosmas Martzoukos who lived here, and 'still lives in the village'. Later this evening villagers at Piatsa told me that he is still alive, used to live in our house, but now lives further north, 'not in the village'.
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There can be no greater fanzine for me than the New York Review of Books. In the last two months I've read six editions - some saved up - cover to cover; articles - many with illustrations, line drawings, photos, reproduction of pictures, maps, portraits, caricatures - on art, fiction, history, current affairs, essay collections, short stories, poetry and poets, films, music, politics - domestic and international,  economics, natural history; writers from across the world exploring every continent, and all so eminently readable - not an exclusive magazine for fey escapists from the crudeness of the world - its editors, as I understand, seek rewrites, revisions, over and over, in the interests of intelligibility and accuracy. My mum subscribed until she died in 2012, and passed me on her copies for years, sometimes with underlinings and notes, but this year for the first time, having paid rather a lot for a newstand copy, I subscribed myself. Three came in my cabin bag on the plane, and a few weeks ago my son collected the latest from our mail in Birmingham and brought them here with him. There are on-line versions of the magazine, but I like its heft, the feeling that it's not an object made to gather dust, though I think I'd hesitate, ever, to use it as kindling. Unlike the daily news that bombards - like separate points on invisible graphs - and even distracts for all its sensational freshness, the NYRB arrives with perspectives that have been mulled. Its writing, when I look at past editions from decades ago, lacks the datedness of even the wisest daily. It stands back without detachment.
NYRBs for the first part of 2017

I've at last read Nabakov's Lolita. I didn't quite know what to expect given decades of celebrated notoriety. I understand that it's strongest criticism is that, as Nabokov writes, 'Lolita had been safely solipsised' - in other words deprived of identity and even existence, made into a fantasy by her abuser. Like The Kindly Ones which I read last year, the book transfixed me, and will sit inside my head like tattoo on my skin.

Linda bought me, at a table top sale in Kontokali, a copy of the 50 year correspondence between Henry Miller and Lawrence Durrell between the 1920s and 70s. I've been reading it in the loo, over about three weeks. The book, which has brief and modest connecting commentary by its editor, is long, at times dense, often incomprehensible, with lots of gossip, prejudice, crudity, and  moments of dazzling recognition - and the loveliest writing - when they write about their Greece, their Greeks, their Athens, their Corfu (LD speaking of his last home in Provence '...having fouled my own nest in the same way in Greece' 1959 p.339) and the people they knew here, with whom they ate and drank and loved, and 'fucked' and talked ('these talents, these genii, so far above me in their perceptions, nostalgias, sadnesses, talents, endeavours, and successes in the world' SB), but I'm also struck and even pleased, over and again, by their ordinary unprescience, fascination with unreliable opinion, frailties, illnesses, burglaries, money worries, daft enthusiasms - like ordinary folk; LDs loathing for the crowd, for the spread of motor cars and dead holiday apartments ringing old villages, strangling them, diesel smell replacing garlic and pissoir pong in Paris; all dead now, slipped away, roaming together in one of Dante's circles, friends for life.
In the looming shadow of an oppressive dictatorship and imminent world war, George Seferis and George Katsimbalis, along with other poets and writers from Greece's fabled Generation of the 1930s, welcomed Henry Miller and Lawrence Durrell to their homeland. Together, as they spent evenings in Athenian tavernas, explored the Peloponnese, swam off island beaches, and considered the meaning of Greek life, freedom and art, they seemed to be inventing paradise. In a lyrical blend of personal memoir, literary criticism, and interpretative storytelling, Edmund Keeley takes readers on a journey into the poetry, friendships and politics of this extraordinary time. (Edmund Keeley's Inventing Paradise 2002)
What would they make of The Durrells- so popular on TV, a third series of the family's stay on Corfu for just 6 years - 1935-1940 - a myth being filmed as family comedy on the island even now?
Henry Miller and Lawrence Durrell in Corfu in 1939

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

'Restored to Life'

"So perhaps there's a small part of the past here, that won't pass away". Two years after I terminated Delta Leisure's licence to retail my stepfather's Out of Town DVDs, on grounds of 'breach of contract' - have to get the legal language right - and their 'insolvency', I have signed an Acquisition Agreement with Tim Beddows on behalf of Network Distributing Limited, to relicense not ony the existing DVDs in a revised format with new artwork by our son Richard, but to include with this material more of my stepfather's films that have been recently unearthed, and most exciting of all, and more significant for me and others interested in Jack Hargreaves' work including Network's MD, to recover scores of 16mm films and 1/4" sound tapes of Out of Town episodes that Jack stored in his shed at Raven Cottage, Dorset, (more details here) and, after perambulations, are stacked on dexion shelves in our Birmingham garage.
29th Apr 2017: message from Julian Schmechel  Simon. You are far too modest to agree with this I know, but perhaps without realising it, you have become the guardian of Out of Town, and Jack's other work, recording a now vanished rural way of life. Speaking as one who grew up in this 'Former Culture', and who well remembers taking part in many of the activities catalogued, I am aware of the immense debt owed to you. You may think my words melodramatic; but consider. When you and I are both dust, future generations, (living in the 'cracks between the concrete') will be able to view Jack's programmes, and have insight into the rural past. This is due almost entirely to your efforts, and for that, 'Thank you'
30/4/17 Dear Julian. I was going to get in touch now the days grow longer and you have real sun instead of that helping domestic light. Your words are lovely and not, to me, melodramatic. They do not embarrass me even if I cannot embrace them alone as I've had such help in the project you praise so eloquently - Linda my wife, my son (recall the draft art work), Paul Peacock who wrote J's biography, and now - he prefers to stay in the background - the businessman Tim Beddows from Network Distributing with whose company I'm about to sign a contract (we've been meeting on and off for two years), Simon Winters from Kaleidoscope, many people whose thought and words on these pages have reminded me that there is a legacy to be cherished, the presence of Jack in my head - alive from when I was a 6 year old, and after he left us, Tony Herbert and Ian Wegg who know so much about Southern TV and the date and origin of so many specific episodes of OOT, friends I've not named who've helped in the storing of the old film and sound tape in my garage and its transport in earlier years, Dave Knowles (able to find his way around the Southern TV studios, at Northam Southampton, in the dark) with his re-introduction of Old Country from which he's hardly recovered his investment (a labour of love from one of Jack's original technical team at Southern), Dean Hoffman in Maryland USA who has helped create restorations in draft of the OOT archive and sent them back to me across the Atlantic, Dave King who rescued old OOT recordings from storage shelves that mighty Endemol wanted cleared, their contents discarded - forever; Francis Niemczyk who first took on the recovery of the archive films and tapes and Frazer Ash from BUFVC, who now continues this with Francis, learning all the time. Charles Webster, ex-Delta, who for a long time kept my chin up on the 'Restored to Life' project when it seemed to be going nowhere. You are probably right (I'm not that modest) in saying that I have a co-ordinating role among these friends and helpers and inspirers, and thank you so much for giving me an opportunity to make this list of our 'team'. I, like Jack, value my past. I, following him, respect the past, but not uncritically, sentimentally or other than slightly nostalgically. I'm not one who believes in what the late Zygmunt Bauman referred to as 'retrotopia', in a world where so many find it increasingly impossible to reside faith or hope in the future. I think Jack wavered between optimism and the pessimism he seemed to express in that ode from whose last lines you quote about love of country (not nation, but the countryside and all that it had been and could be). As he said of dying, it didn't scare him too much; what really vexed him about no longer being around was 'not knowing what happened'. I think we perhaps feel the same. Much affection and good wishes, Simon (in Corfu enjoying the sun of beloved Greece and loving the contemplation of dust - ingredient of that unknown substance that we and the world need - humus).
Our son, on a surprise visit, works on graphics for the new Out of Town DVD issue

Vol 1 Out of Town to be released 31 July 2017. Art: Richard Baddeley
Hugely popular and fondly remembered to this day, Out of Town saw Jack Hargreaves exploring rural life in Britain – reflecting on its character, traditions, history and folklore, and the skills that had passed from generation to generation. With his extensive experience, knowledge and love of the countryside, Hargreaves' easygoing presentation style enthralled both rural and urban viewers – the series becoming so popular it ultimately ran for over two decades. An unsentimental record of a bygone time, Out of Town set the bar high for all "country matters" series that followed in its footsteps. This volume contains the 35 editions that remain from 1980/1 – including the unbroadcast 21st anniversary special and an episode never previously released on DVD - being the last episode of Out of Town Series 22 (of the total 23 OOT series) in which JH warns, in an episode broadcast in Sept 1980, that there will only be one more series, and signals that 'it's time to go.' (My stepfather saw the writing on the wall for the future of Southern TV!). No-one had a complete version of this OOT episode on record, but it was discovered that one half of it was held by Ian Wegg and the other half by Jack's great cameraman, Stan Bréhaut. Stan's widow, Marion Bréhaut, and Ian Wegg gave their two halves to Simon Coward of Kaleidoscope. He has put those two parts together and remastered the whole episode for Network. It's not the only extra on this new OOT issue, but I'm so glad it's resurfaced and so grateful to Stan's wife and Ian. Other material on Network's OOT Vol 1 DVD, includes Oliver Kite's Summer in Kite's Country, as well as Jack's Learning to Fish, a B & W film he made in in 1966. More material in this volume is, as yet, unannounced by Network
Hod Hill, Stourpaine now - a landscape from the OOT clip our son used to create the DVD cover (photo: Graham Beddow)

*'Restored to Life' - our restoration project takes a name from a phrase in a novel by Jack's favourite author, Charles Dickens, in this case 'A Tale of Two Cities', who's first lines J could recite with such pleasure. 'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.'....

*** *** ***
Saissetia oleae colonies extract large quantities of sap, causing general host debilitation and build-up of sticky honeydew deposits on nearby surfaces. The honeydew may attract attendant ants. Sooty moulds grow on the sugary deposits. Badly fouled leaves may be dropped prematurely. The older insects are usually quite easy to see as dark grey or brown-to-black lumps on leaf undersides and stems.
As a result of some pest-on-predator imbalance, perhaps caused by an exceptionally cold spell in March, citrus trees all over the island - and probably beyond - are affected by a plague of black scale insects. The females settle on the underside of a leaf and attach themselves to it, sucking sap; weakening - possibly fatally so we have been warned - the whole tree. The males fly between leaves and tree spreading the blight. This is the first sight we've had of this problem in 10 years.
"I assume the females also fly" said Lin "until they attach themselves"
The female insects, once clustered under a leaf, exude honeydew which attracts the spores of the same damp sooty mould that settles on many surfaces during winter. The mould, covering the top-side of the infested leaves, prevents photo-synthesis. Columns of ants march up and down trunks, branches, twigs and over leaves, feasting on the honeydew, but serving no purpose other than to satisfy their appetite for the sweet stuff.
Sooty mould on the topside of leaves of one of our lemon trees colonised on their underside by scale insects
We had hoped that new growth would surmount the problem, but swiftly the insects began colonising new young leaves. No-one we asked quite knew the best way to treat the problem, or they came up with chemicals of uncertain safety and doubtful efficacy.
A culprit colony on a shed lemon leaf - killed with insecticide soap spray. Is that white stuff honeydew?

I think I understand this hesitancy; that this scale insect infestation – common in many other parts of the world - which I had thought to be a regular local occurrence which our trees, over the 10 years we’ve been here, had been fortunate in avoiding, is new to Corfu. It's just arrived from somewhere else. Hence the relative puzzlement as to what it is and how to treat it. Last night over a drink at Piatsa, Mark who deals with trees, among other skills, told us he’d not come across this before. I stand to be firmly corrected on this surmise. 
Lin studied the problem on the internet and selected her choice of spraying recipe - dissolving, in a gallon of water, a bar of olive oil soap, bought in N.Theotoki Street, with which she mixed two tablespoons of corn-oil for leaf adherence, a teaspoon of wine vinegar and a teaspoon of ground red pepper to deter future pests. We spent a couple of days laboriously sawing and lopping away excess and dead growth from the centre of our trees and off the ends of longer branches - the leaves, thousands of them covered in scale insects and mould, bagged and disposed of; twigs and branches cut up for kindling.
Mark lent us a back-pack sprayer, pressured by hand, with a reaching-wand. After the heat had gone out of the sun the other evening, we began spraying the underside of every citrus tree, working upwards on a stepladder, and by sitting on the apothiki roof and eventually reaching from the balcony where we let a helpful breeze carry liquid to the furthest leaves.
"We have to try to kill the lot in one go" said Lin.
The soaked leaves dripped soapy insecticide onto the ones below, and on us. Testing the effect on a couple of soaked leaves, the insects had turned into a black paste. Our lemon trees and one orange are treasures; not fruit that for all their proliferation here, we, from north of the olive belt, could ever take for granted.
"This mix only works while the leaves are wet"
"They should stay that way at least overnight" I said "I sort of want these little bastards to suffer as well as die"
We used 5 gallons of Lin's insecticidal soap mix on the Citrus Scale Insect infestation
In the days that followed it looks as if the cure has worked.
"At least temporarily" says Lin.
New growth is clear. On old leaves, the killed insect colonies, from turning black mush, are drying into dust that slowly falls away.
A shed, but treated, lemon leaf showing what's left of the Scale Insect colony that killed it
We keep our fingers crossed.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Their last day here

Between Nymfes and Episkepsi

I have been in charge of the children – 3 and 5 - for the first hour of each morning of the stay. It gives Amy and Guy – on holiday – longer to sleep, and even Lin. If a child doesn’t wake me – probably by climbing into our bed, I, when I rise, head downstairs in nightgown and slippers a step at a time, knee joints hurting, but using the outside steps from our side balcony, lined with wisteria and honeysuckle, to avoid the creaky stairs above the guest bedroom, re-entering the house like a burglar, first peeing on the compost in the garden, before I wash and get breakfast ready in the dining room next to the kitchen, putting away, last night’s washing, handling each item like spillikins.
Hearing an overhead thump of a waking child I hurry out again, ascending the steps to usher a pyjamad grandchild, perhaps both, downstairs, back the way I came, saying ‘shush, shush’, finger to my lips.
“Have a wee. Come on go to the loo. Yes put the seat on top. V.good. Let’s get this nappy off Hannah. Go go. Shoo shoo. Excellent. I’ll put that on the compost in a moment. Now wash hands. Wash! Very good. OK, sit at the table. Now!”
Oh to have the craft of Miss Pross, to be drawn by Phiz, immortalized by Dickens for my mundane morning valour. I issue orders. Mostly ignored; bringing drinks, a bottle for Hannah, cup for Oliver, then a flaky chocolaty cereal in bowls set before each child, to be followed by a small croissant. Scheherazade told tales to save her life; I tell them to keep my grandchildren eating breakfast, and quiet.
“One day the sun didn’t come up in the morning..."
I’ve no idea where this is going, but I win a good few minutes of compliance thinking up what that would be like, starting with everyone thinking the clocks are wrong but slowly grasping that lots of people are now in a quandary as to what to do, apart from being astonished, and increasingly worried. “Shall we get up? Stay in bed? Where’s the sun? Phoning around, listening to the radio, looking at the TV. Yes we’ve phoned Australia and China to see if the sun’s still over there, but they say ‘no, it should be with you by now. What on earth is going on? Do we go to school, to work?’ ”
Oliver’s fascinated. I’ve got some control, authority. Hannah, at 3, probably doesn’t understand this story, but she follows Oliver’s rapt attention to my words.
“Eat your cereal or we stop the story.”
I get breakfast done and start helping them get dressed, Amy having left two piles of clothes in the dining room.
“Tell me more” says Oliver
“Where do you think the sun has gone?” I ask, since I too have no idea.
Could an android ever be programmed to deal with the moving three-dimensional co-ordinates of dressing a small child, getting legs in pants and trousers, head and arms through the right holes in a T-shirt, pulling on socks so the heel’s in the right place? As it is, at a certain point in the putting-on, the children help, stretching, reaching, leaving me to pull down, pull up and tidy. Phew.
“In places where there are no street lights, people looked up at the stars. The Milky Way ran like a great river across the sky. Some could see the Plough and the North Star. Down in Australia they could see the Southern Cross but*…where are your shoes? Ah. Got them. Left foot! Push… but they could not see the moon. People were still too sleepy and too puzzled to be frightened. “What the heck is going on?” they asked standing in the streets, peering out of their windows “Someone needs to do something”
“Do you know why they couldn’t see the moon, Ollie?”
“Why not?”
“See if you can guess. Let’s go and see if the kittens in the apothiki are OK”
A north wind was driving fluffy clouds. Since it felt too cold for the beaches we’d enjoyed on previous days. On their last full day we managed to agree, almost amicably, to visit the winter fall at Nymfes – a village on the slopes of the island’s northern range.
“Which way?”
“Through Skripero, to Trompetta then through Horespiskopi on the road to Roda. But after Ay Douli just beyond Episkopi take a right on a winding road for two kilometres.”
“We’ll follow you” said Guy.
I added the road between Nymfes and Episkepsi to this map

I’d have preferred to take the bends up to Sokraki, then down to Zygos and, via Klimatia, arrive at Episkopi and the turn to Nymfes (which means 'brides'), but no-one will listen to me so I keep my thoughts to myself rather than fuel arguments - to the power of four.
There was a signpost next to the platea in Nymfes, and a small road leading east. A kilometre along there we parked the cars beside the most beautifully sited football field. In the middle of nowhere, backed by rock at the head of a valley that looked out on tree covered mountains.

Guy and the children had a kick about on the perfect astroturf.
“Even I would come to watch a football match here” with a good seat on the small Adriatic-facing grandstand.
We set out to walk to the waterfall. The wind was still chilly, now and then whistling in the trees beside the road; an urgent stirring of leaves and branches. On a bend a steep set of earth-dug steps supported by wood-pegged risers and the rickiest of handrails led downwards. The falls, more a pair of thin cataracts, was visible between tall narrow tree trunks reaching-up from the ravine. Leading, I set off on my bottom. The family followed.
The water fell with pleasing noise into a clear lime stone pool before running away into thick woods and deep green ground cover.
Climbing the forty steps back was easier.
“Linda and I will go back for the cars” said Guy “you walk on”
The walk with Amy and Oliver and Hannah, towards Episkepsi (meaning 'visitation') , which until now I’ve always muddled with Episkopi (meaning 'oversee'), was a joyful trudge, rising gently upwards through olive groves, our road pot-holed now and then by rain, making it trickier to drive Hannah’s pushchair. Each turn was a promise of a possible sight of the next village, while, looking back, we could see the football field, a green postage stamp far below.
“My legs are hurting” complained Oliver
“Stop that” I said, though later I realised I’d not given him a stick which, with me, he’s come to regard as a necessary part of a proper walk.
Later when recounting the day as the children lay in bed I mentioned this grumbling about ‘legs hurting’.
“I was fibbing” said Oliver
I suspect he was commenting on Hannah in her pushchair.
The day was a consolation, taking my mind off them going back to England the next day, when, strolling down N.Theotoki in Corfu Town, I heard a familiar rumble, looked up and caught a second’s glimpse of their plane rising, wheeling northwards. Gone.
*The story we invented together...You don't want to know or perhaps you do, in which case it turns out that through the imaginatory genius of a young astrophysicist called Sabrina Pasterski that we learned that the sun had, for unexplained reasons, been sucked into a worm-hole, but her ideas were, at first, laughed out of court, after many scientists backed by generals and political leaders tried to set the moon alight with a massive series of rocket based thermo-nuclear explosions with which they hoped, fruitlessly as it turned out, to set the moon alight, hoping it would serve as a substitute sun. It was Sabrina who, through the invention of a device called 'the wobbly spade' (Oliver's contribution to the tale. A tool for altering the space time-continuum), and precise and brilliant calculations and the use of a rocket ship that she had built in her garage, that Sabrina, with the help of another even younger genius - just 10 years old - called Mohammed Squarrrekkjhwtwwr Urgagaghtere-ben-Grrrkch (called 'Mo Squerk', for short) that the earth was drawn through the same worm-hole to rejoin the sun in a different universe. In the next episode Oliver is waiting to learn how the moon, gravely damaged by the ill-thought attempt to set it on fire, was also brought - if indeed it was - through the same worm-hole, just before it closed (watch this space - literally).

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