Arrival back in the UK from Athens was not as unpleasant as the avuncular pilot predicted at takeoff. Rather than raining and 14oC, the weather in Manchester was about 18oC, dry with sunny intervals and there was a modest amount of sunshine on and off over the weekend. Still a bit of a shock after 30-35oC and cloudless skies for a month in the Mani.
Arrival home in South Wales on Monday afternoon was quite a different story. It was raining so heavily when I parked the car on the hard-standing outside the house that I sat in it for while before dashing the few yards to the house. It has been raining ever since with not the slightest glimpse of blue sky, merely varying shades of grey. Grey may once have been the new black but this isn’t a fashion show!!
Before I left Areopoli a local, on learning that I was going to Athens the next day, described the city as dirty and hot. I didn’t find it to be so. I certainly prefer it to this grey wetness.
One of the reasons for coming home a little earlier than originally planned was to try to get the garden under control and to make progress with development work on the landscaping.
I don’t think I have ever seen the garden so wet. Not only is the soil saturated but the taller plants and those laden with fruit are bending right down in total dejection rather than lifting their heads skyward in search of the sun. Mares’ tails and willowherb, which I had blitzed before I went, away are now rampant. In contrast, the Mediterranean plants which I have been planting over the years are still alive but not at all happy.
Looking around I reckon that given good weather for 4 or 5 days I could get more or less back to square one, replant some of the veg devastated by pests and then get on with development work.
I waited for what I thought (wrongly) was the end of the rain on Wednesday morning and then went try to harvest the garlic which looked in most urgent need of attention. I have so far harvested two rows and have never seen anything like it. The foliage has rotted away leaving the garlic heads in the ground but completely naked. The outer sheaf made up of layers of thin skins which tightly drape the curving white cloves within have rotted away completely leaving the individual cloves exposed and, in the soggy ground, starting to shoot.
There is a good crop and they taste very good (I crushed a few cloves and mixed them into some soft cheese and had it on toast for my midday snack: delicious!) but I doubt that they will ‘keep’ well. On the positive side my guess is that as I chomp through them I will have little trouble from vampires for the next couple of months and I am unlikely to suffer with colds and other such infections. Unfortunately I also suspect that friends will suddenly discover that they have an urgent engagement elsewhere when we meet up.
I can’t help but think back only a few days to walking the mountains of the Mani around Kardamili, Areopoli and Gerolimenas and then plunging into the cooling waters of the Aegean. Fabulous.
But life isn’t only about sunshine, mountains and sea, new experiences and pleasures revisited. It has been great to be back with family. Trying to catch up with rapidly growing grandchildren. Sharing aspirations and hopes. Meeting up with and enjoying the company of friends (those who stick around despite the garlic). And, necessary but not so enjoyable, getting on with the ordinary things of life.
Looking back it is difficult to remember the early part of this Greek odyssey. Meteora and Metsovo, Ioannina and Igoumenitsa are distant memories yet were less than 8weeks ago. Time has warped.
But life isn’t only about looking back. We have the great pleasure of looking forward. “To travel hopefully is better than to arrive”, as Robert Louis Stevenson wrote. I temper that with the thought that we shouldn’t only look to some pleasure in the distant future but, linking to the words attributed to Alexander the Great, “Life is only made worthwhile by challenge”. Challenges are to be faced and met now, in the present.
I am back in the UK for 8 weeks before returning to Greece for the 2012 Greek Odyssey Part 2. The challenge is to make that 8 weeks count for as much as the last 8 weeks.
My pedometer tells me that while I was away I walked over 500 miles, much of it with a seriously vertical component in the Pindus and Taygetos Mountains. I am now pretty fit and acclimatised for walking in the heat. There is little prospect to covering that amount of ground before I go back, no hope whatever of staying in condition for the heat. It will be interesting to see how much walking I manage to do and how relatively fit/unfit I am when I go back. More than that, it is a challenge to do worthwhile stuff while I’m home and to sort out the humdrum, ordinary things of life.
Blue sky thinking? While I was wandering the Taygetos I harboured the hope that while I’m back in the UK I can get to do some more paragliding. It is a while since I last flew and I would very much like to do so again. Maybe take the grandchildren rock climbing again. For either of those things the weather will have to change pretty significantly. Maybe just stick my head in the ground and do some caving.