Lib Dem Locked Down in Greece… Part Two
By John Gillet
( Boris Johnson - my part in his downfall...)
December 13th recedes a little further into the past.
In January there are about 800 people in Antiparos, I'm told by Bob and Sue in Soulatso's. Which seems to be the only place serving beer in this small harbour settlement, where most locals live. La Liga in the corner. Messi looking frustrated. Basketball on another T.V. That's what the locals are interested in. Panathinaikos taking on some German team. 15 or so Greek men watch anxiously. All smoking. Playing cards on their tables. People here aren't wild about Germany, it turns out. Maybe that can wait....... Bob and Sue have just got back from England. West Country folk. Lovely gentle Devon accents. They spend most of their time in Antiparos now. Sue fell in love with it years ago. Bob's more of an I don't care where I live as long as it's warm kind of guy. He goes outside to have a smoke. Obviously English.
This first evening passes in a not unfamiliar chatty blur of (totally UNfamiliar) Greek lager: ΑΛΦΑ. Soulatso's is more or less a pub. The Greek men smoke inside. That's about the only pub culture difference I can see. That and the interest in basketball. Otherwise, I might as well be in Devizes. Except, of course, Devizes has been taken over now. By Sauron.
Outside Soulatso's, fishing boats make gentle plashy sounds in the moonlit harbour. No, we're not in Devizes any more.....
But nobody told my flat, which has no heating and is now colder than a fridge. I am a comatose block of ice till morning. When I'm thawed awake by sunshine.
Days go by. Walks are walked. Sherlock Bryson here makes his observations.
Most mornings I'll see a couple of guys slapping rags repetitively against the harbour rocks. For 10 minutes. 15 maybe. Goes on and on. These rags need. To. Be. Taught. A..... Lesson!
Get closer......Ah, I see: fishermen tenderising octopuses.
Motorbikes are the way to get around. Helmets seem to have gone out of fashion here. Stocky Greek men, often with a child on their lap, dwarf what's nearly always some version of a Honda 50; their faces in neutral. Peter Fonda eat your heart out.
The music that you catch from the houses is Greek. A guy ululating over scratchy violin and bouzouki. I'm not hearing any U.S. or U.K. music anywhere.
But listen, a hive of activity it is not.
I start each day with an online Greek lesson. Yup, first thing every morning, just to kill any sliver of hope that I might ever be able to speak this language. Slowly I make contact with locals. Hear their stories. See their points of view. There's another bar. Grigori's place.
Much more English spoken here by the Greeks. And it's smaller, open later, talk is looser....
Brexit? I think is good. Germans bankrupt our country. U.K. be fine. Big country. Strong country. We should have left. But....too small. Too weak......
Trump? I like. Make economy strong.
We're back in Devizes.
One evening I watch some internet footage of Yanis Varoufakis and Brian Eno chewing the fat about politics. They both come across very well. Reasonable. Well intentioned. Both keen for the E.U. project to succeed. Later I check what they think of Varoufakis at Grigori's....
Varoufakis? A clown!
Okay, I move on to climate change. Maybe we can find some common ground here. This island has a water issue. There is no potable water. Not uncommon in the Cyclades islands. You buy your water in plastic bottles. And these bottles get "recycled". But, in Grigori's, they're all sure that they don't get recycled. That they get taken to Paros. And burnt or buried.
What can you do, Grigori shrugs. I suggest desalination plants? ....
Ha! These rich people have in their houses here. In San Georgio. Crazy. Use up massive electricity. And the saltwater discharge go straight into the sea. Poisons the sea. Too salty. They don't give a shit. They swim in their pools.
Where do they get water for swimming pools, I ask. Grigori shrugs. Rich people get what they want. That's life. So get rich, or die trying. No other solution.
Same old same old. But because I'm not in England.....bearable. When a 22-year-old flares up about European media coverage of the Lesbos refugee situation, I'm shocked at his anger. They're just people like you and me, escaping a dreadful situation, I suggest to him...
Yes, just like you and me. But Muslims. You understand? 400 years Muslims occupy my country. Greece a nation less than 200 years. Fragile country. But we are Western country. They cannot be happy here. Their culture does not work here.......
I didn't know Greece had been occupied for 400 years by the Turks. I also didn't know that Greece only got its independence very recently. I probably knew some Byron stuff. Fever. Mussolinghi. War. Death. But that was really about him, not Greece. I didn't know that Greece wasn't Greece, until 1832. Never had been. Even in Socrates's time.
This is a very young country. Wearing very ancient robes.
For the next few weeks, I relax during the sunny days and freeze at night. Sleep with my clothes on, until I find a shop in Paros that sells an electric blanket. Problem solved. I rent a bike while I'm in Paros. "How long do you want it for?" "......4 months?"....
She looks a little shocked. I suppose bikes are normally rented by the day or week.
I mean, I won't be in Greece for ALL of those months. I've got a flight to Gatwick booked for March 7th - got to go back to get 4 more arthritis drug epipens of course, and do...other stuff, but I'm hoping to get back to Greece in early or mid-April, so .....yes, 4 months παρακαλώ.
Anyway, I leave Paros with a bike.
And start biking around the islands. Beautiful beautiful places. I won't bang on too much, but trust me, you'd like them. And in January and February: empty. No tourists at all.
All to myself. Me and my bike. There are whole days that pass by now, when those appalling words Cummings, Johnson, Farage, Banks, .....Mogg.......don't cross ( really really cross!!..) my mind. At all.
And then my bike and I........ try Syros.