Greek Odyssey


I have just returned from Greece. Having not been there for more than 20 years, it was a culture shock to find it entirely unchanged. In fact it was exactly as, with a bit of forethought, I could have expected other than with rather less women running through the olive groves singing Abba songs and being distinctly more expensive. Foolishly, I had believed that, since we have an incipient Euro crisis (or an impending drachma situation), that merchants would be fighting for business and prices would have dropped. Clearly, news of the meltdown hasn’t reached the more rural parts ofGreece, carrier pigeons being a bit slow in the summer.

The resort was due to close as we left, ours being the last week of the season. Clearly, the weather had deteriorated to such a point that no one would want to visit the area. Brilliant sunshine with temperatures of about 23°, cloudless, no rain and almost windless (the latter a degree disappointing as we were on a sailing holiday). In short, their unacceptably cold weather was rather better than the height of the British summer this year.

Being an all-inclusive holiday, the temptation was to try all of the multiple dishes available at lunch and dinner. The problem is that getting yourself on the outside of large volumes of food leads inevitably to an increase in avoirdupois. The same process applied to cruise liners is that one embarks as a passenger and disembarks as cargo. Mega-calories had overwhelmed several of the staff, including the gardener, Spyros (a big fat Greek weeding).

Had not there been 230 steps from the beach to our room, the weight explosion would have been potentially applicable to us. A forgotten pair of sunglasses became a morning workout. The lack of a book equated to roughly minus 115 cal. I tolerated this generally quite well, feeling that my cardiovascular system would thank me for this ultimately and that a round trip equalled a glass of wine. But one day, faced with two bodies but one towel on the beach, I shunned the bedroom tramp (does that sound quite polite?) and resorted to tearing my enormous beach towel in half. As the surprised people watching me rip probably also lived 230 steps away, I suspect had their sympathy.

The hotel sat on the mainland overlooking a tiny island. Swimming 200 m across to the beach on the island became a regular relaxation of mine. On one particularly warm day around lunchtime I made the happy discovery that I could swim across with four cans of beer inside my bathing suit: two up the side leg holes like lethal weapons, two bolstering the bust. Instant popularity as I emerged from the sea, wandering up the beach looking like a cross between Ursula Andress in Dr No and a packhorse. Probably more equine than feminine, remembering the food as above.

The holiday centred on water sports, including windsurfing, water skiing, sailing, paddle boarding and kayaking. Somehow, despite this, I seem to find myself in or under the water more often than on it. I decided it was my over enthusiasm that lead to multiple crashes. Less belief in this being the cause of my being made fish-food repeatedly was displayed by Adam as he muttered darkly about minimal skill levels whilst repeatedly dragging me out of the sea.

Robustly I declined cycling. It seemed unreasonable to climb up 90° inclines on a bike when I was on holiday, not a route march. Yet there were plenty of civilian SAS types who partook of the 8 am really extremely tough cycle (that was its technical name) before joining the above aquatics along with Zumba classes, tennis etc. I was torn between feeling envious at their stamina, amazed that they’d want to indulge in all that on their masico-holiday and smug as doubtless they would go home more exhausted than me.

In a final twist, a piece of Greek drama, our plane was cancelled by a serendipitous lightning strike, landing us inGreecefor an extra night.  The overnight hotel had obviously pre-empted the Euro crisis by becoming rundown before meltdown occurred. However, it’s easy to rise above the dirt, creaking beds and flush-free toilets when faced with another day of Mediterranean sunshine.

I’d thought we blended in rather well as we strolled along the harbour, tanned, smelling of coffee, olives and honey, greeting the locals with ‘good morning’ in Greek (hence using much of my vocabulary), until one boat owner spontaneously asked me when our plane was due to leave. My efforts to slide seamlessly in with the locals had clearly been doomed to failure from when I first opened my mouth and said “Kalimera.”

Stopping by one particularly sleek boat, admiring the beauty of its lines, I made the unfortunate discovery that when discussing something without knowing the technical terms, it’s quite difficult not to sound disparaging. If I had, for example, been able to say, “That is a very fine gernhoofsplat you’ve got, clearly you must be equipped to cross theAtlantic,” I would have been saved from the embarrassment of “Why have you got that tall blobby extra bit on the top of such a relatively small boat? Doesn’t it make it unbalanced?”

So back to Blighty. My suntan is gradually turning to rust.Greeceis now confined to my memory banks and about 80 photographs. Yet I’m breathlessly awaiting the day when our holiday companion, who is a keen amateur photographer, downloads his contribution. Pruned by half, the file is about 2500 photos. More commitment shown by him than me in our week in the sun. Thank goodness the other 50% of my Greek vocabulary is efharisto. Thank you.


About alisongardiner1

Writer of YA series of books. Broadcaster/podcaster Litopia After Dark.
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