Wednesday, 9 April 2008

A variety of jobs

Just after we arrived last Wednesday there was a lot of shouting in the street. Someone had been hurt. There was a crushed peony by the side of the road. An old man collapsed. Yesterday - Tuesday 8th - one of our our neighbours’ daughters, visiting, said, when we inquired, “It’s OK”. A man driving a van, to clear space for another car to pass on Democracy Street, had backed it into her father-in-law as he walked there. “but he’s alright now”. I saw him in his usual place sitting by our shop with a plaster on his forehead.
* * *
I took some small gifts for the neighbour’s children. A reed grasshopper and an English calendar with pictures of the Peak District. I was given another bottle of wine to take home along with olives from Corfu, Tripoli and Kalamata, as well as being given tea and jam and biscuits and shown photos of the famous Ano Korakiana band. I realised for the first time that Eleftheris was a musician and player and had long been part of the band, playing trombone. He showed me pictures of his younger self on the steps of the Ionian University with the rest of the band in their blue and yellow regalia. He told me that he knew Kostas Apergis and Thannassis Spigos with whom I’ve corresponded about local history.
* * *
Katherina came by and brought wild vegetables for us and asked if we’d be here for Easter. We signalled in our useless Greek. She said “Pascal?” – several times and pointed to us and the house. I said “Hristos Anesti?” “Ne ne!” she beamed. Then she pointed at our eggs – gifts from Kostas when we arrived – and we made more gestures pointing to red on the table. “Ne ne, kokkina pashalina”.
* * *
The list of jobs done and to do is long. New cypress floorboards have replaced the messy holes on the upstairs floor, the shoddy skirting is removed and made firewood along with a pile of laths sawed up for the stove in the apothiki, architrave and a square of wood to fill and neaten the access we cut in the ceiling is ready to be put in place as are strips of wood to go below the kitchen cupboards, more hooks are up to hand kitchen things, we’ve started to move the stove and its marble base further from the wall. Lin’s cleaned all the damp marks off the upstairs room walls and filled more holes in skirting and ceiling…
Last time we were here we spirited a roughly made old wooden packing box that was lying soaked with a broken lid amid a pile of discarded building material in the Jewish Quarter. We left it in the apothiki to dry. Woodworms, probably long gone, had been at work but Lin went over every hole with poison bought in England. I assembled and glued the broken wood and strengthened them with a centre strut that restored a bow to the lid. Lin lined it with old roofing felt, using a stapler borrowed from Aln. I tidied up nail heads and points with the angle grinder and cleaned up the wood and the metal handles with a wire brush on a drill, revealing rough writing of which we can make out ‘Kerkyra’ and ‘Yalika’ and the initials ‘N’ and ‘R’ – in Greek. Lin applied wood filler where needed and then wax. The chest is something you’d never find now. It has no joinery. Every piece of thin knotted pine is butted and nailed. It was never intended as anything but a light rough and ready trunk for travel; perhaps usable for storage later, but it's crafted – with its bow lid for strength, its hinges made of two little chains that allow the lid to open right back without strain on hinges, its easy proportions - by someone for whom making things with wood was second nature. Only Lin would have noticed it as anything but kindling. Now it’ll be our log chest.

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