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Saturday, 2 November 2013

Winter in England

I’m starting to imagine myself back to England – cycling into the city centre with Oscar running beside me along the Soho Loop, and the mainline canal towpaths, catching a train to London or York from New Street, chinese lunch with Richard and Emma, buttered baked potato from the Rag Market, fish and chips with curry in the dark cold evenings, working our allotment, thermal underwear, neck warmer, turning on an electric blanket as we do in the winter here. As it is we still sleep beneath just a sheet; Lin without her nightie. The weather these last weeks in Greece has been as high summer in the north so that I’m almost apprehensive at the cold we’ll meet in the arrivals building at Gatwick – an edgy chill I’d normally welcome with British winter.
“The car thermometer’s reading 4°” said Amy, on patrol in Moseley, when I phoned yesterday to thank her for words about mum..
A year ago today I lost a very special person, my Grandma. Thankfully I haven't lost any of the wonderful things she taught me! She will live on forever in the knowledge and wisdom she imparted on all those who were lucky enough to meet her... Doesn't stop me missing you though Poppet x

Archipelago of the clouds - the hill of the Church of the Prophet Elias at dawn

The only mark of the season here, apart from longer dark, is the ground mist that gathers across the island, a haar so thick at times, Prophet Elias Προφήτη Ηλία seems like an island assailed by ocean swells. I walked up there to see Ano Korakiana in the distance. Lopakhin has blocked the walking route up the hill to the church that marks one of the village boundaries.
<Δεν μπορείτε να κλείσετε τη διαδρομή προς την εκκλησία του Προφήτη Ηλία!>

I slipped through a gap between hedge and new steel gate, climbed the new concrete gradient, ready to argue, rehearsing in Greek...
 “You cannot close the path to the Church of the Prophet Elias”
In a hundred metres the concrete gave out as I glimpsed a semi-completed monster of a villa with swimming pool below...
39° 42.114', 19° 48.693'

On bad and ugly building ascent crossed cropped grass sward strewn with dewy webs and clumps of pink cyclamen winding up between olive trees to the oak that overhangs the ruined church.
I sat on the steps in front of the church. The mist dissolved. A church bell rang in the village. I reached the cord for the single bell of Elias and rang it - twelve times.
I wasn’t returning the way I’d come. Pondering another descent, I headed west until the grove in front of the church came to an end in undergrowth. I edged, as when lurching a short cut from a forestry track in the Highlands coming to a short drop – an old olive grove terrace - and so gingerly descended through leaf mould sliding on my behind into cypress woods, hollyoak shrubbery, ivy, and bramble...

...peering for long unused paths in the bright lit underwood. The woods opened onto a small meadow.

I heard voices, then a car driving off and so found the road. I strolled back to where I’d started in clear sunlight.

I headed home and on an impulse, headed for Angeliki’s house. I needed a phone number and address. Outside on the village outskirts I tried the gate bell. No answer. Then she drove up; asked me in for coffee and so I got another view of the village from the top of her home as I sipped a Greek coffee and asked more questions about her grandfather - Ano Korakiana's sculptor.

“I saw you in the church on Monday” she said.
Lin had said she’d seen Angeliki in the village band, playing trumpet.
“I saw, from one corner of my eye, that you cried when the national anthem* was playing”
This was true and I was unembarrassed.
In St George's Ano Korakiana on «'Οχι» Day (ph: Thanassis Spiggos)
“I wasn’t crying for sadness so much as for everything I love about this country”
“You are more Greek than…”
I had heard this about myself before and denied it.
“It is the love of a foreigner for another country, these feelings I have for Greece. I’m proud to be of my own country, but I also know that when we were alone in 1940, Greece, of all who might have been with us, stood to be counted against the same enemy – mono Ellada. That’s why your anthem moves me so.”
I didn’t say all that, just ‘mono Ellada’.
I learned more in our conversation about Aristedes her grandfather. How he was to people about him; how he loved his village; how he went about his work.
“I will only write about this with discretion” I said “I will run my thoughts by you and your mother and father”
What an incredible step forward this last fortnight has been in my opportunities to witness the work of Aristeidis Metallinos Αριστείδης Μεταλληνός, after waiting for so long and more or less abandoning hope that I’d ever see more than a sample of his work.
“It has been thirty years” said Angeliki "Now must be a good time to make a new start with my grandfather.”
Aristedes' last sculpture - an unfinished self-portrait in 1987
*Ὕμνος εἰς τὴν Ἐλευθερίαν
*** *** ***
We have almost completed it - our wardrobes-cum-cupboards-cum-shelves – in our bedroom. Now it’s a matter of filling and stripping the wood and adding finish and four more turned wooden drawer handles.
Now we must remove the painted doors and strip them to their fine wood

But for the two uprights beside the ‘french windows’, all materials, but for trim, glue and screws, are recovered from old wood; old parts of other furniture.
I love the way this has all come together. First the doors we found years ago and kept in the apothiki. Then the window we thought we’d have to throw away after using it’s twin in the dresser downstairs. The messy old drawers from Brin Croft Lin used to pack things for the journey from mum’s house to Birmingham and then fitted in our hold baggage, with more things for Greece; then the two small doors I found in separate places by the road which just happened to fit below the windows. The shelves that were the drawer fronts on the rubbishy chipboard chest of drawers that fit exactly in the middle, and the old pine wood from that rotting table on waste ground near the house that made the bottom drawer, and the luck we had finding three large sheets of chipboard – shop display screens - abandoned by the derelict sports field below the village.
The centre of an abandoned table makes a matching front for our bottom drawer - four from Scotland, one from Greece
The bottom drawer

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Simon Baddeley