Pfeffelhead The Unready: My Part in his Downfall... (Part 4)
By John Gillet
March 16th: all non-essential shops in Greece are closed.
Antiparos is about half the size of Guernsey, with less than a 60th of Guernsey's population. It's probably quiet anyway at this time of year. But now: you can hear your blood go round. It's rare for me to see anyone on my long walks around the northern headland.
Wild scents in the air. Flowers I don't recognise. How on earth, did I wind up here? It's beautiful, isn't it? Is it? Yes. It's beautiful. A stark arid beauty.
Everything is unfamiliar and uncertain. But not as unfamiliar and uncertain as England has become. This is going to be your country now. Get used to it.
You never know, you might even enjoy it.
Sometime during this week, the 5 minute ferry journey over to Paros becomes problematic. You have to have a good reason to be on it.
And on March 23rd, we go into lockdown.
You can't leave your house unless you've texted beforehand, explaining the reason. Shopping or exercise, or emergency. €150 fine, on the spot, if you break that rule. John, a Scot who's been on Antiparos for 30 years, gets stopped in the street. No passport on him. Policeman knows him well. Sorry John: €150 fine. Tells John that he's the eighth person in Antiparos to be fined that morning.
Early on March 24th, as luck would have it......
I get a call at 09.40. Mr John, we have a parcel for you. The post from Paros comes over on the 09.30 ferry, and you walk down to the harbour to pick it up.
I dutifully write "2" ( which means " shopping" ) then write "John Gillett". Then "Antiparos". And text this to a Greek number. Then go to get my parcel.
5 or 6 Greek guys are standing in line behind the post van. Standing close together. Greek close. Italian close. Social distancing an alien concept. I settle in line, a good five metres behind the last guy, and a police car immediately drives towards me. Policeman gestures for passport. I have it. Mobile with sent text on it? I show it. The locals in front continue to fondle each other. The policeman looks at me like I caused the 2007-8 financial crash single-handedly, but...... lets me go. It's day 2 of lockdown, not even 10 a.m. These guys are not mucking about.
You could also write a signed note. Reason you're out, signature, time of day you left home. I decided to text and write. Every time.
It says at the top Jab 2, which would have been my second arthritis jab, if I'd got my next 4 epipens in England. But now: no Jab 2 can be jabbed. The circled numbers are alcohol free days. As rare as red squirrels, as rare as tall fair skinned locals in Antiparos, as rare as a calm rational intelligent Brexit voter in Devizes. And even harder to come by, in lockdown.
I'll spare you my day to day. It's been like yours, but warmer, and with many more online teach yourself Greek lessons. Also no T.V. or radio, or computer, or partner/ family. But I do have my mobile and a Tablet and a Kindle. And a certain amount of internet per month. I've had Zoom chats with my son and daughter and various friends. Terry Waite chained to a radiator for 4 years, it has not been.
As we moved towards May, the Greek government's ban on swimming became a little frustrating, but I never saw anyone flout the rule. Hard with these bays calling to you like Sirens....
It's the middle of May.
2 weeks ago, the ban on swimming was lifted.
A week ago, some clothes shops opened up.
I got bullied into attending socially distanced beach yoga on this beach 3 times last week. With a swim afterwards to cool off. Hellish, but you force yourself, you know. If only to be sociable.
We still can't get over to Paros. Nor can anyone from there, get over here. Tavernas and restaurants are still closed. I haven't seen a police car for a few weeks but I believe it's still here.
God knows what will happen to the Greek economy, which is so reliant on tourism. Shops are being painted. Bars stocked. But it's not clear when or even if, the first tourists will arrive? Presumably some Greek mainlanders will venture over in the next 3 weeks, but after them.......?
The Greek Easter is like the U.K. Christmas. At this time in particular, you could sense the great sadness, frustration and anger that lockdown sometimes made people feel, and there have been outbreaks of the virus in the refugee camps, just as everybody feared there would be, but.........
Somebody did something right, because as of today May 19th 2020, with a population of over 10 million, 3 million of whom are packed together in Athens, there have been 165 coronavirus deaths in Greece.
The U.K. figure, without care home deaths added, is 34,796 coronavirus deaths. The true figure will be nearly, or over, 50,000 when the government troubles itself to add the care home deaths. But for now, let's go easy on Boris and Cummings and say that their Get Coronavirus Done policy has so far, left the U.K. with 34,796 deaths, and Kiriakos Mitsotakis's early ban on social gatherings has left Greece with 165 deaths.
I have Facebook friends who think criticism of Boris's handling of the crisis has been grossly unfair: a liberal conspiracy. So, I'll just repeat:
On May 19th 2020 .
U.K. Coronavirus deaths - 34,796.
Greece Coronavirus deaths - 165.
The Britain that the Cummings/Johnson/Gove triumvirate is creating, is not one I want to have any part of. They have driven me out of my own country but we newt counters, bat watchers, eco weirdies, well.... even driven into exile, we do insist on fairness, on aiming for the truth. I want to be fair. And even when dealing with a liar, I'd like to be honest. This story is not finished. It may be that the warmer Greek weather played a part here. Or some freak Hellenic coronavirus resistant gene came into play. It may be that, as an eminent Swedish epidemiologist insists, your country gets this virus now, or in the future. Johnson's herd immunity programme could be vindicated in the long run. Things may seem fine now N.Z. Australia, Greece et al., but watch out, because this virus will get into your country eventually.... Maybe. I very much hope not, but maybe.........
However, if a vaccine or cure is found later this year, or early next year, how will the U.K. people feel about Boris then? Whose government would you rather have been living with: that lovable tousled haired progenitor of.... 5, 6, or 7, who makes you laugh, and thinks Trump's got the right idea, or that rather bland, uncharismatic Mr Mitsotakis?
PS July 8th 2020
Last week my Antiparos rental finally came to an end. I'd planned to be there for 4 weeks. Maybe 5 weeks. Nearly 6 months later, I've extended and extended, but the tourists are coming in now, and an Antiparos landlord must make hay while the sun shines. Time to go.
Renting in Ermoupoli. Have had an offer accepted on a house in Poseidonia. Hoops to be got through, as I correctly predicted. But, by the end of this year, I shall have bought my EU home, and will, touch wood, be back in the EU. Yes sir!
I watched the Stay Alert speech.
"How could any foreign government take this mob seriously?", was suddenly a very serious question. Rather than a bitch in the pub. If he tanks sterling, and I think he will, I won't have the money to escape Brexit Britain.
I transfer as much sterling as I can lay my hands on, into euros. The next day.
I watch the Barnard Castle eye test debacle.
I watch the scenes from Bournemouth. Greeks on Syros amazed and appalled at the footage. Crazy English!
I watch Stanley Johnson explain how vital it is that he wend his way into Greece via Bulgaria, to prepare his Greek rental for the summer. He knows that the Greek government don't want UK visitors here yet. Not until Covid has eased off. But the Prime Minister's father's £2000 a week, summer bonanza, is at stake. Vital. Uk Covid deaths: official figure: 44,391 (In truth more likely 60,000.... and counting) Greece Covid deaths: official figure: 193. No wonder Stanley wanted to get over here.
It is, as many friends have texted me to say, a shitshow.
God help Britain.
And on a personal note, God bless Antiparos.
A friend texted yesterday: the Covid death toll in my Wiltshire village, Aldbourne, is believed to be 20. In a village of 2000 people.
If I hadn't gone to Antiparos, it would almost certainly be 21. I would have stayed on that drug, had no immune system and...... bye bye Johnny. So yes, the gods bless Antiparos!
A recent blood test tells me I have an immune system again, but my specialist agrees: best stay in Greece until the UK recovers. From the virus.
And from Boris.
Me in Poseidonia Bay.
And below, some music from and about Syros.