November Daily Blog 16: feuds and buses

When I arrived home after spending the summer in Greece I start to turn the daily blog into a diary partly to keep the memories alive as long as possible and partly to remind me in years to come (assuming that there are years to come) of what I did and how places looked.  I’m not hurrying the process.  When the weather is as gloomy and grey as it has been again on Friday it’s very pleasant to look back at the photos of blue skies, blue seas and bleached mountains.

Today I have been writing up Sunday 24 June, nostalging about the day I went to Vatheia, the archetypal tower-house village in the never-conquered far south of the peninsula. The tower houses were built not to resist invaders but from which to attack each other, family against family, in sometimes decades-long blood feuds triggered by some perceived slight or disrespect.  One thing which I wrote then was that: “It is amazing that people should have lived in these towers, tightly crammed in cheek by jowl so close physically and yet so distant from each other socially”.   Not surprisingly with such a naturally aggressive people, the Deep Mani was never occupied by invading armies and it was clan chiefs from here which spearheaded the fight for Greek independence from the Ottomans in 1821.

The tower-house, blood-feud village of Vatheia from above

Looking back up to its craggy hilltop setting , mountains behind

PICIt was almost as misty on Friday as on Thursday.   When I opened the curtains the field on the other side of the Monmouthshire & Brecon moat was just visible beyond the garden but nothing further, the other side of the valley lost in mist and drizzle.

My Thursday afternoon escape to Cwmbran to buy a new pair of walking shoes had failed, so still feeling hemmed in, I planned an early morning escape on Friday to an outdoor gear megastore on the outskirts of Cardiff.

For those who don’t know, I should explain at this point that some years ago Wales pioneered a scheme for issuing Bus Passes free to those over 60.  This has had a dramatic effect. Buses are now often full and few more so than the X3 between Abergavenny and Cardiff, which just happens to stop at the end of my road and outside the afore-mentioned megastore.  So no marginal cost to my shopping.

But more than that, what struck me yet again on the journey there, reinforced on the way back, was the social role that the bus now plays.  On the way home there was only one spare seat by the time we left the outskirts of Cardiff.  People were chatting with neighbours and friends, exchanging anecdotes about where to find comfy shoes on the sale, a new place to have a good cup of tea, enquiring after grandchildren, or griping about the length of the waiting list to have a bunion removed on the NHS. Nothing could have been further removed from the tower-house villages of the Mani.  True it isn’t under a Mediterranean sun but at least there isn’t a legacy of firing canons at each other’s houses.

It’s good to talk.

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