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Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Lefteris' birthday

A balmy day yesterday. May's issue of The Agiot - a local web based newsheet published monthly by our friends, Paul and Lula, in Agios Ioannis is running my account of the infamous frog farm scandal on page 6.  Lin continues working on the shutters. Mid-morning we hear a strimmer at work and persuade an amenable municipal grass cutter to spare the harebells gathering on the path below our garden. Growth, that would once have been kept gratefully close-cropped by villagers’ goats, sheep and donkeys, has to be cleared by the Demos from miles of paths, verges and commons across the island to lessen fire hazard as it turns to tinder in the heat of summer. 
The pollen released set me sneezing, especially as I’d already climbed through our kitchen window to clear the weeds in the narrow space between our house and our neighbours' garden wall. 
“Watch out for snakes and scorpions when you’re down there” warned Lin. All I saw were lizards and some cracks in the sink waste pipe which I covered with duct tape.
Yesterday was Lefteris’ birthday. He’s the same age as me - younger by fours days over a month. We were invited to lunch from two, bringing presents and sitting down to a table of goodies and conversation that ranged over 'our' village, the Easter holiday, the death of Osama bin Laden and the 'wedding' about which Natasha knew more than we. We thought Kate – now Katherine – looked like a sensible sort who’d be good as future Queen to William. It was impressive to see all the horses and carriages and crowds down Whitehall and the Mall where I enjoy cycling when in London. Seeing it on their screen I felt a frisson for Westminster Abbey, my local church for the six years I was at school next door, where I sang and, when senior, read the Lesson. We laughed at the short clip of a verger doing a cartwheel in the knave. All very English, though isn't he from New Zealand where they're even more English? Lunch continued with sweet sweet things, small light cakes with honey and quince and raisins and sugar to choice. 
Dimitra arrived with greetings for her grandfather and, ensuring our fingers weren’t still sticky, we got to going through one of Lefteris and Vasilikis’ family photo albums, with small nostalgic black and white pictures of when they were married and young - vignettes - seriously handsome and beautiful and, as pictures were thirty years ago, allowing composed faces that endure rather than toothy ads for dentistry. 
We emerged into late afternoon, having using up too much of the day for further work. This is when grown-ups are excused to rest emptying the house of children licenced to play the rest of the day, but all siesta Lin continued painting shutters - the ones we’ve altered by covering the louvers to make them into old Corfu ones. These were fixed with glue and tacks, then undercoated, after the plywood insets had been treated with preservative. 
Then comes the job of filling the small gaps around each cover and the repairing of cracks and filling of the holes made by the tacks. Once this has dried, each shutter gets an undercoat of green with a final finish. The job goes on and on and this is just one set of shutters. 
"We'll leave these on through the summer heat. If the plywood hasn't buckled we can convert the others."
Also painted – primer, undercoat and two coats of green – are the four pieces for the shutter frame. We are fixing this first set of recovered shutters in front of a new metal window frame only in place since 2005. I, having drunk more of Lefteris’ wine was sleepy and indolent, watching Lin but now and then snoozing in the sun thinking of the throaty croaky voice of Papa Lazarue in The League of Gentleman muttering in Gippog “You’re my wife now” or Hannibal Lecter “I'm giving very serious eating your wife” or Don Corleone mumbling from Marlon Brando’s cotton wool packed jowls "But I didn't know until this day that it was Barzini all along." Later I woke from dreams I’d forgotten.
** ** **
We skyped Amy the other night; found her at home with Guy and Liz and the puppies. Each puppy was held up for us to see as we sat outside Sally’s in Ipsos. 
“They’ve all been sold” said Amy 
“How much?” 
“£150 each and we’ve been careful about checking who they go to.” 
We got onto to talking about how Amy and another WPC had been trying to deal with a gang of youths who were using loud foul language in public. When persuasion failed they’d tried to arrest them. The youths resisted. Amy was pushed over into the road and got an egg-size bruise on the back of her head. 
“So what happened?” asked Lin 
“They got off” 
“The CPS need a 95% success rate for prosecutions. The lawyer who works with us - or should - said my colleague, who was also thrown to the ground, had charged them with ‘breach of the peace’ instead of ‘disorderly conduct’. Pushing me and my fellow officer to the ground, instead of being a compound offence of ‘resisting arrest’, amounted to ‘reasonable force’ in resisting a ‘false arrest’.”  
Such casuistry has long caused whingeing in the canteen, a precision about the interpretation of civil rights balanced by police misdemeanours on that score – one exacerbated by the other - but this being my beloved daughter I found it tricky to stand back. 
“I’m proud of you” I said “for not being angry or bitter. For your grasp of the details. A passing car could have injured you or worse.” 

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