Greece 2011: withdrawal symptoms and readjusting to Grey Britain

Back home now.  Flew into Manchester Airport on Wednesday, dropping down through grey cloud to a grey, distinctly cool evening.

I slept very soundly, it being the equivalent of 02.30 Greek time (BST+2 hours) by the time I got to bed, but strangely my body-clock woke me up at the usual time, 07.00.  I guess my weird sleeping pattern means that readjusting to minor changes in time zones is pretty straightforward.

Thursday was very different, sunny and Autumn-warm.  Walked with Ruth into Stockport in the sunshine to do bits of shopping.  Sat in the sunshine outside a small restaurant specialising in Mediterranean food in a quiet street just behind the main shopping precinct and had a very tasty snack.  Walked back along the river in the sunshine.  Had a drink sitting in the garden in the sunshine.  Walked through Heaton Mersey Common to the supermarket in the sunshine.  I wore shorts and T-shirt all day.  Altogether very pleasant, a transition from a summer in Greece.

Since then the weather has been alternating between sunshine and showers, some showers very heavy, like the one at the moment.  Torrential.  And cold.  Temperatures are around 15o compared with double that on Symi.  On Friday I had white-finger most of the day and couldn’t warm up properly. Aches and pains are starting to re-appear. For the first time since early April I’m back in shoes rather than sandals and it’s not good.  Months tramping around the mountains and within 48 hours of being home I’ve got a blister on my heel !!!

The weather has made it difficult to get to grips with sorting out the fruit and veg in the garden.  To add to the massive crop of blue potatoes which I harvested when was home in August there are large crops of leeks, purple sprouting broccoli  and cabbage, a reasonable crop of beetroot and good sprouts ready for the frosts to sweeten up.  But by far the biggest crop is the apples.  From two small trees I already have 80 lbs boxed up and there will be probably almost as much again to pick in the next weeks or so.

Sadly the enthusiasm I had for making progress with development work in the garden has been somewhat dampened by the weather but I’m still hopeful that positive steps can be taken once dealing with Autumn has been sorted out.

And in the house?  For a long time I have been very poor at unpacking my bags when I get home.  Rucksacks and suitcases always hang around with things in for months.  I came to the conclusion it’s because when the unpacking is finished it signals that the holiday is finally over.  Hence my reluctance to complete the process.  This time ….. I haven’ even started to unpack.  My Big Bag is still zipped up and strapped.  The feeble excuse is that I’m waiting for a reliable window in the weather to be able to hang out the washing which lurks inside.  Until that is done it’s difficult to contemplate any of the other jobs which need doing, like decorating the guest room and shower.

Walking?  I’m afraid there’s no contest there.  I have been walking in the mountains and on the coastal cliffs of Britain since I was introduced to the Peak District at the age of 12.  I have an extensive range of clothing and footwear for all seasons including the harshest of winters.  I am fortunate to live at the southern tip of the Brecon Beacons National Park, the closest mountain area for the 25-30% of the UK population who choose to live in London and the Sarfeast and I’ve got all this on my doorstep, with extensive options of good mountain walks from the house. But for me now there is nothing to compare with walking in sandals, shorts and T-shirt in the heat of a Greek Summer.

Most of the time, even in Summer, a walk in the UK requires carrying alternative clothing in case it turns wet, or is too hot, or too cold and wearing waterproof boots which no matter how expensive or comfortable are an order of magnitude less comfortable than good walking sandals.  Ruth and I walked about 15 kilometres in warm sunshine in Stockport before I came back here and that was very pleasant if a little lacking in challenge.  I managed a short walk on Sunday afternoon, a circular walk up to the ridge and back taking about an hour.  In that time there were 3 very heavy showers and after 15 minutes I was dripping wet.  I couldn’t take the camera out without having to dry it immediately.  I did risk it and take a few shots though.

White farmhouse, black cloud

Watching a rain cloud drifting eastward from the ridgetop

The bonus of rain showers .... rainbows

There is always the need to add the ‘if/when’ qualification to walking, and indeed to having holidays, over here: “if/when the weather is good it’s great here, you can’t beat the scenery”.   Yes, But, BUT …..  both last summer and more especially this the weather has not been at all good.  The ‘Staycation’ fizzled out almost as soon as the word was coined and is now a term of derision.

Frankly, even without the ‘if/when’ qualification, the scenery on most of the islands I visit is every bit as dramatic as in Britain.  Walking in the Rockies last winter was amazing.  I guess in part it’s down to what you appreciate.  Personally I love walking in rugged, barren landscapes rather than a green patchwork.  I suppose crystallising it out, I like extremes in weather and in my walking environments, just as with my taste in foods.  I’m afraid I don’t do ‘subtle’.

As for the comparison between the Aegean and the seas/coasts around Britain, well ….. nothing to say there really.  No comparison whatever.  I close my eyes and picture swimming off a tiny rock platform in Pedi Bay on Symi at the end of a day walking in the mountains, then basking on the rock to dry off, an eagle soaring the ridge behind. Or …………………

I could go on but I won’t.  I know I’m back here for a while and will do as much walking in the mountains and along the coasts as I can.  I’ll continue to set challenges for myself and will appreciate having the mountains as my backyard.  But at the back of my mind will be the thought that I’m keeping fit ready for the mountains of Greece.  I just hope that I can get my camera out of the rucksack every once in a while.

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