Sunday, 6 April 2008

Getting back to work at Democracy Street

On Monday evening, having flown via Frankfurt - where security, along with the other usual precautions, had me remove my belt - to Venice Marco Polo, we rolled our cases to Casa San’Andrea, 100 metres from Piazzalle Roma, then strolled over the Scalzi bridge to the station and along the busy street following signs to Rialto, sharing a pizza. We noticed a lad sat by the canal chatting to a girl, her face filling the screen of the laptop on his knee.
Early Tuesday we took the one-stop vaporetto run - €2 each – to the rail station and after a short row about tickets (“Which of all these is for a train?’ “Isn’t it obvious” “No”) found reservations on a eurostar to Rome, but sat beside a loquacious mobilista choosing a remote conversation to one with his travelling companion. At Bologna we changed trains for Ancona. A fellow passenger worked on her laptop preparing a presentation about Balkan borders, getting up to quiet someone down our coach playing their MP3 without earphones. Civil space. The countryside was flat intensively farmed with vines and orchards between large box warehouses. Now and then a brick farmhouse with blank windows, tiles clumped precariously on sagging rafters flashed by. “Will we ever make beautiful buildings again?” asked Lin. “You should see some of the new ideas in the glossy architectural books – cities mingled with greenery, trees in the sky, skyscrapers embraced by vines, exchanging energy from sunlight and wind, seeking alliance with nature. (See Greenhouse Britain)

The Superfast ferry – Europa Princess - left Ancona at 1800 and delivered us to Igoumenitsa, via the Corfu Channel, at 0900 Wednesday. We slept fitfully in run down aircraft seats in an almost empty pullman lounge sharing the eleven storey vessel with few others – truck drivers, and some car drivers. The system’s not set up for people who walk on and off. We watched Corfu rising in the south and passed on by to the mainland. The ships TVs showed news stories about Skopje’s claim on the name ‘Macedonia’


A €5 ride taxi got us, with seconds to spare, from the main terminal at Igoumenitsa to the apron - a kilometre down the vast jetty - where ferries leave for Corfu. The ticket collector - €6 each - followed us up the escalator, our big bags left in a cuddy by the stern door. Nearly there. Kostas’ son waited for us with a car at the jetty in Corfu to take us to do the papers at the office where Kostas, waiting, offered Lin a peony from his garden. So on to Ano Korakiana driving by the blossoming Judas trees and blooming wildflowers. All was in order. Bubble greeting us heavy with expected kittens.

Saturday morning seems to have come swiftly. We’ve woken to the desultory two-finger typing of rain. On Thursday it came stronger, with hail heaping on the balcony. Lightning flashed and thunder smashed. Our main roof kept us dry, but water still evaded the paltry seal between that and the rear roof. Aln said that was his next job. Meantime we have been working at repairing our upstairs floor, removing the damage caused by a previous electrician who’d got his wiring under a finely carpentered floor with a circular saw; working all Friday inserting three new strips of tongue and groove cypress – from a woodyard in the south of the island where to buy hardwood we had - rightly - to give a tax number. Offering up, marking up, whittling, sawing and screwing down went on between sandwiches, tea and coffee and steady acrimony. Around 6.00pm, after struggling like Galapos tortoises with standing up and sitting on the floor, we were admiring our work, ready to finish two smaller areas in the morning, having learned a little about laying a floor. “It’d have been easier to start from scratch” said Lin. The new planks, like the old, are screwed down with joins well separated. The trickiest job was filling the last space between new and old boards. This entailed sharpening or even removing the tongue on one side, cutting away the lower lip of the grooved side with chisel and knife, and then coaxing the carved and slightly warped plank into place with our combined weights and blows from a lump hammer cushioned with a small piece of wood to prevent bruising the parts of the cypress that remained proud. The last creaks from these now smooth lying boards were removed by tightening countersunk screws at carefully judged intervals, holding our floor to the aged pitch pine beams beneath them. In the evening we tidied up, lit the fire, ate supper.

The sun appears above the mountains of Epirus, while on deck I notice a man pacing with his mobile and catch the words 'stin Ellada'. He is smiling. '"What," it will be Question'd, "When the Sun rises, do you not see a round disk of fire somewhat like a Guinea?" O no, no, I see an Innumerable company of the Heavenly host crying, `Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty.' I question not my Corporeal or Vegetative eye any more than I would Question a window concerning a Sight. I look thro' it & not with it.' William Blake A Vision of the Last Judgement. I am sure Blake would have taken greatest joy from Elytis' Axion Esti. Elytis was once described as the 'sun drinker'

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