Wednesday, 4 February 2009
Walking, doing errands, seeing friends
On Saturday morning Lin wanted to explore the beach at Dassia, walking a hundred yards down one of two small roads at right angles to the main thoroughfare, we came out by a sparkling sea, the panorama from little Cape Kefaloigos, to the bared burned slopes of Pantokrator above villa’d Barbati, along the ‘Kensington’ corniche up to Kalami where the hazy Albanian shore across the bottleneck strait skirts the Kerkyra sea stretching briefly south to Cape Stilos, where the big ferries slow to lessen the surge they push towards the summer beaches, then south east to the mountains of Epirus to the fish farms of Sayada, an indentation in the Greek mainland matched by the promontory of Corfu town and the forts, hiding the southern reaches as the basin, almost a great inland lake, opens out again towards the greater Ionian sea, forming a foreground shore circling back via Gouvia to where we began strolling north between lapping wavelets along a margin of empty frontages; jetties bared of decking, temporary chain link fencing, metal frames for summer awnings; gravel scattered on concrete aprons by winter waves, along a shingle strewn with plastic bottle and driftwood.On over sixty acres acres of the gentle tree covered promontory between Dassia’s Krevatsoula Bay and Ipsos’ Igou Bay, site of an abandoned Club Med - a new resort is to open in three years, sounding a bit like famous Butrint in classical times, with baths, entertainment and places for relaxation but no temples, though ‘private nurturing spaces’ are mentioned in The Corfiot (Jan 09, No.217 pp 8-9). There’ll be a hotel with 240 rooms, separate places to eat and drink, space for conferences, several detached villas, a beach club, tennis ‘academy’ and marina. Vladimir Toporkov, Managing Director of Corfu Gardens Société Anonym, a subsidiary of Akrin Holdings, specialists in refining and hydrocarbon production in Russia, is quoted saying this is Akrin’s first venture into tourism. In the way venture capital is circulated via chimerical consortia, attached to mobile subsidiaries via transnational archipelagos eluding government, the cash injection will be into Fairmont Corfu Resort and Spa. Fairmont is a global hospitality brand. Their president, Thomas W Storey: ‘The addition of Greece expands our European collection...to provide luxury-seeking travellers with enriching and memorable experiences reflective of this very distinctive island destination’. I encountered the concepts of ‘all-inclusive’ and ‘self-contained’ in academic analyses of island economies in the Western Pacific. A promise of long term employment in return for building permission, eased by local sweeteners, turned out to be land sequestration for shareholders, with opportunities for locals to sweep floors and turn beds. Customers buy temporary private space at exotically commodified locations – I won’t call them places - guaranteed ‘local’ enough to get a tan, watch an ethnic jig or two, and avoid the natives. On Corfu, ‘self-contained’, was called ‘all-inclusive style accommodation’ on this same site by Club Med in 1953. Cultural fraternisation involved a now familiar invention called ‘Greek Nights’, which has the same resonance for me as Steve Davis’ selection for Desert Island Discs. Visitors, having paid for their holiday before leaving home, enjoy a gated resort. Lin and I wondered about the projected marina. Will it affect moorings in Ipsos Harbour? Fairmont play the tune ‘think globally, act locally’, pitching a green list - sustainability, minimising impact, waste management, water and river conservation, protection of endangered species, reduced energy, recycling, redistribution of household goods to the needy, community outreach with local groups and partnerships, reforestation, trail development, preservation of world treasures; and with the Old Town on UNESCO’s World Heritage list ‘enhancing visitor experiences by showcasing the destination’s heritage and culture and co-operating with the local community to develop smart and sustainable business endeavours’. Could this project contribute to sorting out mounting waste, bad building, urban sprawl, traffic congestion, placeless strip-mall development along arterial roads – caused by global as much as local forces, like the wind and currents strewing detritus along the island’s shores? So much depends on human’s giving their surroundings something of the care they give their families. Like the S106A (‘planning gain’) I know in UK, I imagine there’ll be negotiation about sharing benefits – capital and revenue - with the local economy. The worry is that profits go only to shareholders who could be anywhere, plus locals who are ‘visma’(‘plugged in’). I lack the ‘meso’ (contacts) to know. * * * The pound’s gone from £1=€1.50 in 2006 to £1=€1. Via the web we paid for a small saloon from Easicar, whose Corfu office had it waiting when the ferry arrived. I left a credit card deposit of €550, inspected the car with the agent and, with a second driver included, so long as we avoid damage, we save 50% on our normal deal despite the adverse exchange. Now we pass our previous rental office shamefaced at abandoning the friendly exchanges that accompanied our dealings since we first came. Being an island our disloyalty is surely noted. If the new arrangement disappoints we’ll revert. As a fall-back there’s a regular bus service between the village and Corfu town and I’ve my bicycle. We use Skype more. Once in a WiFI zone calls to another free Skype subscriber are free, and still cheaper when phoning standard phones. For the moment we’re not having WiFi in the house. We keep a pay-as-you-go chip for receiving overseas calls and to make and get local calls and texts – which we’re doing more. My roaming mobile serves for emergencies. We’re eating out less. Fuel for our stove comes from wood dumped by bins plus driftwood from the beach. Lin checks marked price differences between the same products, so yoghurt and honey come from AB, whereas smoked salmon, butter and milk come from Lidl. We’ve yet to explore markets in town. Since we came we’ve harvested things cast out from redecorated holiday apartments, from tabletop sales, and from roadside waste bins, often informed by fellow thrift vultures (and recyclers).* * * Came home Sunday afternoon and found gifts. Honey had made marmalade out of the blood oranges we’d taken round to her and Alan earlier, along with a bag of lemons – picked from our trees carrying abundant fruit. Nick and Nancy and the baby – not officially Estelle until her christening – came to supper. They’ve offered as many Corfu tiles as we need to replace those we had off our Apothiki roof to retile the house. Mark and Sally, who came too, brought Summer Song’s foresail mended tack, luff and leech, including a renewed sacrificial strip and no cost but our gratitude - the kindness of friends. * * * On Tuesday Lin made up a picnic of new bread smoked salmon sandwiches and cream cheese plus a small bottle of wine. We walked down through the village with a bag of lemons for Dave and Fran. They were sitting in the garden enjoying the warm weather, ready for a cup of tea. We’ve known for a while, and regretted, they must return to England. Prospectives had just inspected their property. Their garden enjoys a panorama of the forested slopes above Ano. “They’d not been to Greece before” said Dave. “Of course it was pouring yesterday. The wife wanted to know how many English people were here. She said the mountains behind the village were ‘imposing…I don’t like that much’”. We strolled through houses and beside back gardens past the busy olive oil processing plant below the village, along the Kato road, wild flowers tricking the verges already, turning east down the gravel track by St Elias and St.Nicholas. A westerly blew up a populous hur in the forest along Trompetta increasing the quiet of the olive groves. A young eagle – we saw it harrying pigeons above our street – was circling and mewing above the valley. We walked, occasionally hand in hand, as far as St Elias, turning homeward on another track, greeting some other walkers with dogs who might, for their smiling reticence, have been English, though we exchanged greetings in Greek. At the stables we joined the straight road back, getting home as the sun set. I went round with small gifts for the neighbours and was sat down, given coffee, almond biscuits, candied fig with an almond stone. * * * A damaged ship being towed offshore has spilled diesel fuel that has washed up along the northern end of the beach at Ipsos. The authorities are present in force giving crime-scene attention to the shoreline; police, helicopters, forensics, collecting evidence to confirm liability, as clean-up proceeds.