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Saturday, 19 October 2013

A perfect kind of ordinary day

A spinach pie would not taste the same in England, but a cup of tea in Ano Korakiana is as good as one in Birmingham. Come to Greece in October hoping for weather as blue and breezy warm as we've enjoyed the last three days, you risk autumn weather that we do better in England for the whole of a week's late holiday. Thus last Wednesday morning was deep grey with the promise of pouring rain. How skillfully the bus driver negotiated the bend at the bridge and the close pressing walls of houses in Agios Markos on the winding road to town from Ano Korakiana.
“I don’t like the look of that crag” says Lin peering up from the bus at a place where the rocks of the trompetta ridge emerge as serrated cliffs from the hollyoak cover above the road to the sea at Pyrgi.
“It looks as if bits of it could fall down at any moment”
Lin always drives when we have the car. She misses the chances I have to gaze at the scenery. All the way to town on the 9.00am bus there was hardly a stop, but for traffic lights. We travelled with three fellow passengers.
"Why don't they run a minibus service between the village and the town?" said Lin
"Then there might be problems when I want to bring my bicycle"
"You can get a folder onto a minibus plus plenty of shopping bags"
We were visiting our new accountant in Ioann.Theotoki, just of San Rocco Square.
On Monday while Lin was still in bed, I’d dropped the car, almost with relief, at the airport, unfolded my bicycle and cycled into town, wending through back streets to busy San Rocco, thence to the bank where I was in and out in an astonishing 10 minutes, having collected cash and the pink slips for three previous transactions – the paperwork seldom easily forthcoming but vital to showing none of our earnings come from wages in Greece. From there I cycled down N.Theotoki to Ploos Bookshop where, in their dark study at the back, immersed in the smell of books and coffee, I used their WiFi to do email and post images of Aristedes Metallinos’ work describing village life on Democracy Street.
Near noon, the sun seeping into the narrow streets, I made my way to the bus station, via the seafront of the old harbour. Our neighbour, Katerina and, others from the village, were waiting for the 1215 bus, she, as always, chatting brashly about her day to all in hearing.

This Wednesday Lin and I visited the second floor offices up narrow marble stairways to see George Agious, accountant recommended by Cinty. We had, as we suspected, incurred fines for tax returns not submitted. We paid these plus an accountant’s fee, signed the forms and emerged into sheeting rain, arguing about who held the umbrella as we walked gingerly along the slippery marble pavements towards Ploos where Lin needed to complete a form for the small claims court in England where she’s vigorously challenging a opportunist claim for an absurd parking fee at Newtown Shopping Centre. We bickered about hiccoughs. How come our previous Corfu accountant had defaulted on submitting our nil Greek tax returns? How dare this UK company charge nothing for 2 hours then jump you with an £85 breach of contract claim for the next 5 minutes? Then an email from the Highlands
“Blimey look at this” I downloaded a statement of fees incurred during the selling of mum’s house “They’ve parlayed their take to over 5% of the sale price!”
We continued a Charles-and-Carrie row about human depravity as we strolled to the bus station munching a spinach pie and a cheese pie from the small baker by the quay. The sky had turned - it seemed quite abruptly - entirely cloudless, pools of rain quickly drying on the uneven pavements.
“You know that every year in Padstow they hold a Greek pastry eating competition?”
“Every competitor gets to eat a spanakopita, a tiropita and one more pastry of their choice – a sausage roll, an apple pie, whatever. They stand on a small square of white cardboard. The idea is to eat all three pastries in under 7 minutes with no filo crumbs falling outside the square or on your clothes. It’s very popular with the Greek community in the West Country but loads of others join in. Since the event began about 6 years ago the Greeks have always walked away with the prizes.”
“Sorry I was going on at you”
On Tuesday Daniel Blom, Corfu Transport Partners, and his helpers arrived as scheduled in an estate car at the top of the steps down from Democracy Street. They manhandled a chest of drawers to the downstairs bedroom, and two heavier ones to the balcony and into our upstairs room, were paid, and departed.

The windvane from Brin Croft, protectively packaged by Lin before leaving Scotland, fitted Steve Lee’s bracket. I raised the windvane, enjoying showing it off to the neighbours – though the Latin letters in sheet metal are puzzling, given that, in Greek, N for North should be Β, Βορρά, while South should be N for Νότια, with A for East, Ανατολή, and delta – Δυτικό for West. Our vane can be seen from both balconies as well as from the top of the steps onto Democracy Street, so we can say to visitors “Look for the house with the wind vane on the corner”. One problem. The arm of Steve’s bracket is rigid in the vertical but twists sideways in the slightest breeze
“Take it down now!” says Lin “It’ll either break the bracket or twist it off the wall”
I unscrewed the four coach bolts holding the bracket and strolled up to Steph’s and Wesley’s house beyond St George’s Church. Steph guided me down winding iron stairs to Wesley’s large workshop where I heard the crackle of an acetylene torch.
Wesley's workshop
Wes pushed his goggles onto his forehead and paid me acute attention as I described the torque on the bracket with a photo and measurements.
“Leave it with me”
He had in mind welding a supporting arm between the foot of the head of Steve’s bracket that will fix to the house wall a couple of feet to its right. Steph made us coffee and I spoke a little about the amazing marble sculptures in the Metallinos Museum.
"It's not just the 'naughty museum'. There's lots lots more to the man"
“How sad it would be if all that work had to leave the village”
"That's the problem. No-one seems to know what to do with the collection...Arestides may have been a simple artist. He wasn't a simple man."
At Dave’s suggestion I fixed masking tape around the areas of Summersong’s deck where we will apply more nonslip paint. It's a tedious job, yet  pleasing for the harbour motion of the boat as I kneel on her decks fiddling the tape round corners, making sure that hardly a square inch of deck will not be slip-proofed before she's ready for us to sail on the mercurial Sea of Kerkyra.

Dave's dad, visiting from England during the week, left on Friday. On Saturday I cycled down to Ipsos to work with Dave, applying non-slip paint on the rest of Summer Song’s deck.
“This stuff doesn’t have suspended sand in it so you don’t have to keep stirring as you apply. Just spread it on quite thick and stipple”

We set to working inside my blue tape and were done in under an hour. The first painting was touch dry. It came up like light sandpaper.
“Feels good” I said
“You may have to apply this paint annually. We’ll see. Come and have a look at the main furling set-up I have in mind for Summer Song
We inspected a yacht, the same length as our boat, a few yards along the mole. As I desire; a loose footed main rolling round a rigid metal shaft between the top of the mast and the goose neck; the blue rope is fixed to the top of the boom on a sliding slug, leads through a pulley on the main clew and back to the end of the boom for when the main is fully set, then back through the boom to the goose neck again where it runs down to a fixed pulley on the deck; one more pulley about a foot out from the mast and back via a self locking cleat to the cockpit where it can be hauled round a winch.
“So do I need another winch beside Summer Song’s main hatch?”
“Maybe. Otherwise you can do it manually or use her existing cockpit winches. We’ll see”
The red rope follows a similar route, but wraps round a reefing reel below the goose neck. As you release the blue rope to reef, you haul in the red rope again from the cockpit, with a self-locking cleat, and the sail rolls up along its luff, just like the present roller-reefing foresail.
“The main reefs on this boat into an aluminium sleeve spot riveted to the mast and running all the way up the masthead. That’d cost you five grand.”
So on Summer Song the luff will roll outside the mast, using the down haul to keep it as tight as we’ll need.
“Yes and if anything goes wrong I can lower the whole mainsail, which is what I want. And I can adjust the belly on the main from taut to generous curve. I like it!”
“You friend’s shot himself in the foot”
“People get themselves into bizarre messes. My great uncle was a senior officer in the RAF – Allied Air Commander in Chief, South-East Asian - during WW2. In wartime, he did something no-one in the family could talk about for years. I think there’s an oil painting of the man in full regalia in store at the Imperial War Museum. I’ve seen a black and white copy in mum's files. She told me, almost in a whisper a few years ago, that her uncle had 'deserted' and ‘run off’ with General Auchinleck’s wife while he was also serving in India. It never went public.
He wasn’t disciplined for fear the enemy would use such a scandal as propaganda. He and she and their affair were allowed to disappear.
“It went sour for them” said my mum with seldom summoned but fathomless contempt “once they’d run off to somewhere on the south coast”
I thought what Aristedes Metallinos had carved over and over in marble and Corfiot stone on the theme of lust.
"The urge to reproduce is so strong" said Dave
After a beer with him and Trish at Sally's I cycled up the hill to Ag.Markou and home through the olive groves, passing on the way, a man walking his dog.
Into the light
*** ***
The day after I'd been to Wesley about the bracket he was back to our house with a sturdy strut. I spent most of yesterday morning making a secure anchorage for it in our surface-crumbly wall, getting through with the SDS drill to the stone beneath the mortar so I could fix two more coach bolts into my largest rawlplugs.
"Souvlaki skewers are good for jobs like this" Wes had said, but I couldn't, in my keenness to raise the wind vane, lay my hands on any.
Steve's bracket plus Wesley's strut
The Jack Russell shows the wind

So there's our wind vane, on perhaps its last home, brought this time from the Highlands where it swung on the roof of mum's two Scottish homes. I knew it as a child. My stepfather designed it and got the local smith to depict our first lurcher, whose name I've forgotten (or was it a whippet called Jenny?) and a Jack Russell bitch called Sukie. It swung on the roof of our house in Bagnor in Berkshire.
*** ***
I was wondering about loneliness, in particular about those few occasions when I sit beside a bend in Democracy Street and watch. I thought Metallinos was speaking of this with his chisel.
'The snails of the village when they are alone sit and flaunt their large antennae. If someone appears in front of them they try to hide these, one behind the other between their legs.' Ar. Metallinos 1984 (tr: Aleko Damaskinos)

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Simon Baddeley