Tag Archives: Kalamos

OF WINDS AND GODS

First we had Theseus, that rainstorm which was determined to wash us away. He was accompanied by powerful gales which hung about for several days after the rain had moved on. We have Aeolus, god of the winds and his undisciplined kids to thank for their destructive tantrums. Were they jealous of the power of the rain? They stormed and sulked and each made sure he took his turn. Zephyrus, god of the West Wind, got in first, driving the storm Theseus across the Adriatic to us. Notus put in a weak attempt from the south, with a bit of help from Eurus from the east, but only briefly before big brother Boreas took umbrage and overpowered them both from the north. Boreas was not happy. Not happy at all. He was absolutely livid and made certain all knew it.

 I’m not sure about Aeolus and his parenting abilities – his kids are often quite out of control. Zeus is the father of all the gods, and that presumably makes him grandpappy of the wayward winds. Perhaps they’ve developed airs above their station? Whatever, their behaviour left a lot to be desired last week, and they left a lot we did not desire in their wake.

Freddie told us that the waterfront way on this side of Kalamos was blocked by a large tree which the gales had seen fit to rid us of. Pity. It is, or should that be was, an impressive eucalyptus which had provided welcome shade to the little beach there. I urged Ron to make haste across the headlands from our side of Kalamos to investigate and take photos for me before something was done about removing it.

He was gone longer than I expected, but when he returned he had a tale of two cats to tell.

A black cat had taken up position on the tree. Cats are wonderful creatures, adapting themselves to all manner of situations, and this black beauty perched itself comfortably on a fallen tree of a type also well accustomed to adaptation. Almost all Eucalyptus trees are native to Australia, but these trees are so accommodating and fit in so well that they’re found all over the world. Here in Greece which can have harsh winters they thrive at the coast where frosts are most unlikely to occur.

But what I didn’t know when Ron set off was that Anise, one of the Cappuccino Twins and who absolutely adores Ron, was following him. That’s not only a long trek across the headlands for a cat, but can be a dangerous one as an unfriendly dog might be encountered along the way.

Anise caused Ron some anxiety when he became aware of her for she wouldn’t allow him to carry her, nor would she turn back, but she did at least remain in the undergrowth once he climbed down the cliff to reach the waterfront.

Whoever said cats are aloof creatures had obviously never been made a pet of one.

 

RAMBLING…

A storm named Theseus moved into Greece from Italy last Friday. The Theseus of Greek myth was a great hero who did away with all kinds of monsters, not least of which was the Minotaur of Crete.

Many and enthralling are the tales told of old about Theseus, but the country could have done without the storm that bore his name. It’s winter here now. It rains. That’s the way of the Mediterranean climate.

We need the rain. We welcome it. But Theseus more than outstayed his welcome. I don’t know what his problem was – I’ll leave that to the meteorologists  – but he was obviously more than just a little miffed about something.

We received plenty of warning from the weather guys about his impending arrival. They got it completely right this time, something they don’t always do, but then forecasting the weather is a bit of an iffy game, no? Snow, they warned. Yes, got that. Wind, they pronounced. Sure thing. Massive gales that did old Sir Beaufort proud. As much as 9 in parts of the country, and we had some prolonged gusts here that certainly were right up there.

Rain, the forecasters assured us. And we got it. Did we ever! It poured. It pelted down. Whatever synonym you want to choose for rain that falls in fury, it did that. You may recall we have no bridge in Kalamos at the moment – we haven’t had for a couple of years since a storm took out the bridge over our usually docile little river.

Promises have been made of a new and wondrous bridge to come – and believe me, should that happen, I will document it here – but in the meantime we have managed with a ford of sorts that was bulldozed across the riverbed, much to the annoyance of the landowners involved. That little difficulty was resolved, and by dint of a circuitous ramble through lanes and fields, a vehicle could get across to the other side. Kala, as I put it, was reunited with Mos.

No more. We have parted again. The torrents that smashed down from on high caused landborne torrents to smash down from higher ground and our little ford went walkabout. It’s certainly gone Down Under.

 The promised rainbow made its appearance on Monday, though intermittent rain continued until early yesterday morning. The Pelion and Volos region suffered mightily from the wind and rain, with some very serious flood damage, not to mention landslides and snow cutting off whole areas from the outside world. Much damage and much to clean up.

The amazing part was that we never lost power throughout the whole thing. While Theseus ranted and while Theseus raved, causing great havoc across most of the country, we here in our remote little part of the Pelion had no power failure. Sure, the power flickered a great deal, and the internet got into a huff, but we didn’t have to do the lamps and candles bit.

The sun put in a cheerful appearance late yesterday morning, so we donned our hiking shoes and set off to check out the neighbourhood. Olive picking is pretty much over now. The landowners are busy pruning the trees, clearing the land of underbrush and digging in fertilizer. If land is left untended for a considerable period – sometimes the case when there are no heirs, or they have long since left to reside abroad – and the land is not kept clear of indigenous growth, then the State may claim it and ownership is forfeited.

A large olive grove near us was recently harvested by its new owner, who then set about clearing the long-neglected land which sits above the cliffs leading down to what we locals call Dolphin Bay. The workers did a very thorough job of it, opening up the view across the sea to Mt Pelion.

Well, well. Look what we found. Right at the edge of the property, high above the cliffs, at first glance it appears to be a well. But not only is its position odd, but the size seems unusually large. And why such a well? How would water have been contained in it? None of the springs I’ve seen in the region have structures like this.

A house? Could it be a Neolithic house? A house where people lived? No! I think it’s a place where dead people were put to take their rest. I think it’s a tholos – a Mycenean burial tomb.

Ron suddenly remembered that he had in fact come across it last year in April, and had taken photos of it. He’d mentioned it to me at the time – wondering what it was – and then we’d both promptly forgotten about it. Too much had been going on in our lives then.

Much erosion of the cliffs has occurred in the centuries since this was built, not to mention earthquakes and floods, so this structure would have been further inland at the time of its construction; one can only imagine what lies in the sea below.

We’ll go into Volos to check out the displays in the Archeological Museum as soon as possible. I wonder if we’re right about it?

 

LOO WITH A VIEW

We’re so used to it now that we barely give it a second glance. It’s been there since our very first visit to Kalamos, when we vacationed in Magda’s house, long before we came to live here.

I imagine the enthusiastic hikers who encounter it as they trek along the headland do a double take. Flushed as they are with their exertions, it must rather bring them up short in their tracks.

It’s not exactly what you’d expect to see standing in an olive grove above the rocks and sand that drop away below. The waters of the Pagasitic flow before it and Mt Pelion stares impassively across at it.

In spring it perches proudly among the wildflowers. In summer it hums with bees as the grass and herbs dry out around it. In winter it faces the lashing of the winds and the thrashing of the rains.

Photo by B. Baxter

I’m grateful to our friend Bryan who provided me with this photograph.

Why it was dumped exactly there and not at the backside of the building we’ll never know, and although it’s hardly private, very few people ever pass that way. There’s a little beach cottage, only suitable for summer use, about fifty yards higher up from it.

Built very roughly of cement block and stone long before any electricity and running water came to Kalamos, not to mention tourists, the tiny house stood in splendid isolation from the world. Fresh water would have been drawn from the well in a deep gully below the house. This is now completely caved in, breached over the decades by the heavy winter waves.

Presumably built as a convenience for those who’ve got to go, the facility’s rather a wee one. Maybe the original owner of the cottage, now long dead, enthroned himself there to contemplate the passage of time? Perhaps he felt bogged down by life but the stunning view surely relieved him.

We’re not privy to what passed through his head, but would not all the ants and other creepy-crawlies have driven the occupant potty? A real pain in the butt.

Though bizarrely placed it isn’t quite as primitive as first appears. Ron noticed that a crude septic tank of sorts – a large barrel – was buried downhill from it. A sort of long drop you could say.

Quite a good job.

Whoever built it took fullest advantage of the view to answer the call of nature.

 

EXTENDED FAMILY?

At last count the number of cats on the property, including our longtime pets Retsina, Ouzo, Mythos and Raki, is now 10. The Cappuccino Twins

and poor little Bud

were here when we arrived back. The twins are permanent residents, as is Brandy, initially called Mama/Papa for we weren’t sure at first what relation he is to the now teenagers.

Some of the original homeless ones have vanished – presumably gone back into Kalamos village as people arrive to take up residence in holiday homes. At least I hope so and it’s not because they have met a grisly end.

We have fortunately managed to trap and neuter two of those remaining, but they are very wary and hardly ever venture out of the forest. They will always be feral as it’s long past the time they could be socialized but at least they won’t reproduce, and are fed.

There’s a third cat, though, who has been coming and going, and had been absent for quite a while. But she, and yes quite obviously it’s a she, bulging with kittens, started showing up again a few weeks ago.

I’d catch glimpses of her at the food bowls, or hear Raki protesting loudly – he is not at all fond of trespassers on his property. The cat’s very nervous and it’s taken me quite a while to even approach her, but hunger clearly reduces her inhibitions, and she’ll eat rapidly while gazing warily about her.

She disappeared again for several days, during which time I became convinced she must have had her kittens, for she had been so heavily pregnant that her belly would drag on the ground while she ate. She has returned, no longer pregnant and absolutely ravenous.

Wouldn’t surprise me if she’s had a large litter, and maybe it’s not her first. Freddie maintains she’s the sister of Bud, the twins and one of the teenagers which has vanished. Could well be the case for the twins aren’t bothered by her and she’s pretty much the same size as them. Same coffee color also, but could she actually be their mother?

She’s come each morning in the last three days. I have to keep a close eye out for her as Mythos is determined that she must leave – he’s rather ugly to her in fact – and so I have to grab and lock him up while she eats, much to his irritation.

What I’m hoping is that she’ll bring the kittens over from wherever she’s hiding them. Then they can be handled and get used to humans, and that means I can get them homes through PAWS

I’ve warned Ron that should there be a tortoiseshell in the litter, it’s mine. I fervently hope so for I’m a devoted fan of the tortie. In fact, I cannot remember a time without a tortie in the household – my Mother adored them also.

Should this cat stay we’ll neuter her as soon as the kittens are weaned, and I suppose she’ll inevitably be named Shandy.

 

SHADES OF ROALD DAHL

Several years ago Costa arrived at the house late one afternoon with a happy grin on his face.

“I’ve something for you. Will you give me a beer?”

Biera. That’s possibly one of Costa’s favourite words. Fond of his beer is Costa, and we make sure to have a supply on hand. He drops in when he’s working in the area, and we have our little ritual of beer for Costa and tea for me. He’s the most cheerful man, loving to crack jokes, especially about being a Muslim.

“Yes,” he’ll laugh, “I’m a very good Muslim – I drink beer and I eat pork.” (It’s worth noting here that over 50% of Albanians are secular Muslims; the country was under harsh Ottoman rule for five centuries and then Communism for decades.)

“Are you both well?” he continued, as I made ready to fetch him a beer.

“Sit! Sit!” He led me to a garden bench. “I’ve brought something you will like.”

He darted off up the driveway towards the gate. Puzzled, I waited. Hiding something away to surprise me with is a little game of his.

“What is it?” he’ll tease. “What do you think I’ve got?”

Could be anything. If it’s a plant or bunch of flowers he’ll keep it behind his back until he’s satisfied I’m sufficiently curious, then he’ll produce it with a flourish. He’s a great showman, is Costa, and a most kind and generous person.

He came trotting back down the drive carrying a typical round Greek terrace table. You see these classic little tables everywhere in Greece. Simple and practical they’re the stuff of picture postcards, often painted blue, set amid pots of bright red geraniums, and with an inviting jug of wine or cup of coffee atop them.

They’re iconic, instantly recognizable as Greek, speaking of lazy summer days. Mind you, I’m not sure if the days of the staff who serve customers in tavernas and coffee shops are all that lazy – they run themselves ragged taking care of their customers.

But the table Costa was holding aloft was not new. Its top was quite battered, what little paint left on it flaking off in a mishmash of grayish green, mixed with plenty of rust. It was charming. I loved it instantly. It reflected a great deal of age, hand wrought of thick steel and still perfectly sturdy.

“Costa!” I exclaimed. “Where did you get it?”

“What do you care?” came his standard reply. “I got it and it’s for you. That’s all you need to know.”

Bless him, he knows I appreciate the old, the unusual and most especially the handmade.

We put it in a corner of the terrace where it stood proudly for several years facing Mt Pelion, often graced by a red geranium in an old ceramic pot. The winds can be very fierce across this terrace. Aelos, god of the wind and chosen by Zeus himself, doesn’t always tease gently off the sea. At times he hurls himself savagely onto the land, particularly when Zeus is having a right old spat with his wife Hera and has demanded that Aeolos do his bidding.

The original geranium has been replaced many times, so vicious can Aeolos be when he decides to release the winds under his command, but the pot and the table have never yielded to him, and the table became even more weathered and dignified in its old age.

“You need to let me paint that,” Costa would assert, frequently, over the years. “It’s old and people will think you are very poor and can’t afford to buy a new one.” Appearances matter to Costa.

“No, you can’t”, I would reply. “I love it like that. It’s beautiful. It has a history. Who knows where it’s been, and how many tales it can tell us? Just you leave it alone, there’s no need to paint it.”

Costa would merely sniff, but one day, after a couple of beers, he did reveal he’d found it dumped in a gully with a pile of builder’s rubble. It could have come from anywhere, but it certainly has had a long life.

As you know, we were gone almost all of last year. Costa and Freddie were absolute stars, taking it in turns to come down from Albania to look after our numerous pets and keeping everything going here. Costa isn’t usually in Kalamos during the summer because there’s not much work. The winter months are his busy ones as it’s then that the olives are harvested, the trees pruned and the lands tidied up. So he had lots of time on his hands, and he used it well, doing all kinds of little chores about the property.

Have you read Roald Dahl’s wonderful story “The Parson’s Pleasure”? If not, you’ve missed out on one of his typical pieces of black humour. This tale involves the destruction of a genuine Chippendale commode, and yes, you’ve guessed right. Costa channeled Dahl, of whom he’s never heard although Dahl’s delicious stories must surely have been translated into Albanian.

No, Costa didn’t saw the legs off my beautifully distressed table, my gorgeous piece of shabby chic, but he did finally get his way. He painted it.

He went to all the trouble of having someone buy him the paint, and he painted it. Bright green yet. Rather a startling bright, glossy green. He couldn’t wait to show it to me when we returned.

I confess I gasped. I was stunned, but Costa was thrilled, assuming I was delighted. Oh dear. No way could I have hurt his feelings. Never could I do that. So I told him it was perfect, absolutely perfect, I praised him for his thoughtfulness.

And Costa beamed. He’s so proud of it. He’s overjoyed to have made me happy. And yes, it’s absolutely not what I wanted, not at all, but you know what? It is perfect. Absolutely perfect.