Tag Archives: Corfu

Greek Islands Quiz Answers

Greek Islands

The general feedback on my quizzes is that they are too hard.  This one was about the Greek islands which I concede might be a bit difficult if you haven’t been to them or have a copy of the Dorling Kindersley Greek Island guidebook handy.

A lot of people knew that the first picture is Santorini which is not a big surprise but then struggled with the others.

There is a winner however and congratulations to:

Restlessjo  restlessjo

Who correctly identified all four in the right order:

1 Santorini
2 Rhodes
3 Is that Corfu Town?
4 Mykonos

Now I suggest that you click the link and take a look at Jo’s blog, it comes with my recommendation.

 

Postcards from Corfu

Greek StampsCorfu Postcard 1984

Corfu Postcard Map

Corfu Achillion

Corfu Town

Perama Mouse Island

Corfu, My Family and Other Disasters – Assessment

Corfu Post Card 1984 Old Town

I had visited Corfu almost thirty years ago but although on that occasion I toured the island from north to south and from east to west I came as a holidaymaker rather than a traveller and I saw everything but didn’t see anything.

This second visit to Kalami in as many years continued to nudge my memory and from what I can remember it hasn’t really changed a great deal at all – the Venetian elegance of Corfu town, the lush green vegetation of the interior, the twisting roads, the soaring mountains, the views that so enchanted Edward Lear and Henry Miller, The limestone ribbed bays where we spent our lazy days were all very much as I remembered them now and suddenly it didn’t really matter that I hadn’t paid attention to these details all those years ago because now my head and my camera were full to overflowing with all these unchanged images.

In my opening Corfu post I mentioned that I had prepared for the visit by reading Gerald Durrell’s ‘My Family and Other Animals’ which forms a sort of Corfiot trilogy alongside brother Laurence’s ‘Prospero’s Cell’ and Henry Miller’s ‘The Colossus of Marousi’  all written about many of the same places, and often the same people, but from very different perspectives.

Gerald Durell Corfu Greece  Lawrence Durrell Corfu Greece

Previously I had stayed south of Corfu town in the resort of Perama where it turns out that Gerald Durrell lived with most of his family (his mother, brother and sister).  I say most of his family because although his book, ‘My Family and Other Animals’ would have the reader believe that he lived there with all his family it turns out that he didn’t live with older brother Lawrence at all.

Lawrence and his wife Nancy lived some distance away in Kalami in the White House and curiously Gerald doesn’t even mention her once in any of his Corfu books possibly because they were written twenty years after the event and Lawrence and Nancy were long since separated and divorced.

The White House claims an association with younger brother Gerald but it seems he never lived here at all.  In fact it is entirely possible that he never even visited the place because Perama is over forty kilometres away and eighty years ago there were no asphalt roads or cars or even public transport that would have made an afternoon visit comfortably possible.

White House Kalami

Gerald it seems was prone to extreme exaggeration and although his books are entertaining they miss the truth by a mile.  Actually I tired of them.  I enjoyed the first but the second was written when Gerald was in his fifties and had clearly lost touch with his childhood and with reality and I gave it up half way through.  He said himself that he didn’t enjoy writing them and only did so to make money to finance his naturalist expeditions and this I am afraid is blindingly obvious.

I much preferred the work of Lawrence with his sublime descriptions of life in Corfu (and equally curiously he doesn’t ever mention the other members of his family who lived here at the same time), a diary of vivid memories that for me at least bring the place to life.  How wonderful it must have been to live in this place all that time ago and experience a life of bohemian indulgence.

Sadly the truth turns out to be that Lawrence was a misogynist, a bully and an abuser and the idyllic life he describes may only have been spasmodic or one sided.  Henry Miller refers at one point to ‘black eyes for breakfast’.  I find it a shame that a man who could write such elegant prose should also have such a darker, unpleasant side.

As for Henry Miller – I found the ‘Colossus of Maroussi’ rather self-indulgent and heavy going but whilst I have abandoned Gerald Durrell I will return to Miller.

I have one last comparison to make.  For ten years I have been in the habit of visiting the Cyclades Islands, specks of volcanic rock in the space between mainland Greece and Turkey and have gleefully declared them my favourites but now that I have been reunited with the Ionian Islands I have to reassess this opinion.  In ‘Prospero’s Cell’ Lawrence Durrell describes the sighting of a Cretan boat in the bay of Kalami and this seems to me to sum up perfectly the difference:

The whole Aegean was written in her lines…. She had strayed out of the world of dazzling white windmills and grey, uncultured rock; out of the bareness and dazzle of the Aegean into our seventeenth-century Venetian richness. She had strayed from the world of Platonic forms into the world of decoration.”

No words of mine could improve on that wonderful comparison of the harsh, barren Cyclades and the soft, abundant Ionian.   So which do I prefer – impossible now to say, perhaps it may even be neither but the Dodecanese instead which is where I am bound for next.

Island Hopping, Back Packing, Greek Islands, Paros

Read here about all my Greek Island visits…

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Corfu, My Family and Other Disasters – Rescue

Corfu Kalami White House Lawrence Durrell

Although the broken toe continued to swell the pain was kept tolerable because the Mythos cure worked fine once administered in sufficient quantities appropriate to a major foot injury and by the end of the day I had almost forgotten about it.

The next morning the redness had turned to bruising – black, scarlet, yellow and purple spreading across my foot like red wine spilt on a white tablecloth but apart from a little discomfort when walking the damage did not seem too serious and it didn’t restrict my holiday activities in any way although people around the swimming pool did stare at it and avoided me as though I had some form of contagious disease and worried about me walking barefoot around the pool.

Oddly there was still no pain and I could only attribute this to the fact that there was still a considerable quantity of after dinner ouzo circulating in the blood stream.  In fact Kim complained more about a jelly fish sting to the back of her leg than I did about my foot.

It was a good job that the injury didn’t prevent me from getting around because a day later we went on the second visit to Corfu town, again by speed boat taxi and again the return journey provided a potential disaster.

Corfu Old Town

To begin with there was no hint of a problem and the water taxi eased out of the harbour and once in open water the skipper opened the throttle, the bow lifted its head out of the sea and began to carve a path through the surface of the water leaving a trail of white water in its wake and we settled back to enjoy the twenty minute return journey to Kalami but just as we approached mid distance it was evident that there was a problem

The boat suddenly began to lose power and the skipper looked concerned and then there was a shower of sparks and smoke, a death rattle from the propeller and the boat dipped its previously proud bow down into the water and we were suddenly quite still and completely motionless.  This was obviously something quite serious and the skipper apologised and explained that there was a problem with the propeller shaft and although he had got a replacement back in Kalami he hadn’t been able to get around to fixing it quite yet because he had been so busy.  This was an interesting piece of information but not a great deal of comfort to us, stranded as we were in the middle of the sea.

I remember that when I was younger if my car ever broke down that I would lift the bonnet and wiggle a few wires in the hope that this would provide a solution and the skipper went through exactly this sort of procedure and just as it was when I tried to fix my car he was equally unsuccessful in mending the boat and so we continued to drift while he apologised several more times and made some urgent mobile phone calls to someone somewhere back on the island.

Having been so recently accustomed to the roar of the engine and the slapping of the water against the hull it was now spookily quiet except for the nervous conversations taking place around the boat.  We were becalmed and floating gently in the general direction of the lavender grey hills of Albania, probably one of the most inhospitable countries in Western Europe.  No passport, no papers and no credible excuse for being washed up on the beach in a hostile environment.  I imagined the approaching boat being picked up on radar and the Albanian military being put on full alert to intercept and arrest us.

Eventually the skipper made contact with a colleague and a collective sigh of relief circulated around the boat as he explained that shortly we would be rescued.  After a few minutes a high powered speed boat arrived and the first of us had to make a tricky transfer from one boat to the other while they bobbed about like corks on the water as we carefully passed the children from one to the other.

Once aboard the boats separated and the rescue boat sped back at top speed bouncing over the surface and sending continuous spray into our faces as the wind whistled around our ears and clawed at our clothes.  This boat was a lot faster than the taxi and a whole lot more fun as well and once back safely on dry land we had a dramatic story to tell to those who had not accompanied us on the trip and then they rest of the day dropped quickly back into normal holiday routine.

And so a week that started slowly with endless days of sunshine spent on an idyllic blue flag beach suddenly gathered pace in the final two days and they seemed to slip through our fingers with astonishing speed that we couldn’t decelerate until it was almost time to pack and return home and this was my opportunity to reflect and assess…

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Some more of my boat journeys recorded in the journal:

Malta Tony-Oki-Koki

Corfu-1984 Georges Boat

Rowing Boat on Lake Bled in Slovenia

A Boat Ride with Dolphins in Croatia

A Boat Ride with Dolphins in Wales

Gondola Ride in Venice

Captain Ben’s Boat in Anti Paros

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Corfu, My Family and Other Disasters – Boats

George George's Boat 1984

After four hours or so walking around Corfu Town we were ready to go back to Kalami so we strolled to the harbour and waited for the boat.  As we sat and looked out to sea the small day trip tourist boats reminded me of a previous boating experience in Corfu.

Towards the end of a holiday in 1984 we went on a day trip which turned out to be one of the highlights of the week, a full day on a Greek boat with a Corfiot skipper and plenty of alcohol.

This was George’s boat and at mid morning we joined about thirty other holiday makers when we arrived at the concrete quayside opposite the hotel and were welcomed on board by George himself, a man with a big smile and a flamboyant sense of humour who worked hard to get us all to enjoy ourselves before casting off and steering the brightly coloured boat with the steady rhythm of its chugging diesel engine away from Corfu and out into the Ionian Sea.

As soon as George had completed the tricky bits and negotiated his way out of the harbour the fun began when the wine was opened and passed around and drunk from plastic cups and he began an amusing narrative and a stream of jokes, which were corny to begin with but got ruder as the day progressed.

George's Boat

Eventually someone had to be the first to use the on deck toilet which was located within a sort of canvas modesty tent and this was the moment George was waiting for because as soon as they were inside he scooped up a bucket of sea water and then to everyone’s amusement (except the young girl in the loo) he poured it through the open top and drenched her.  Her shrieks could probably be heard on the mainland and the whole boat was in fits of laughter.

After this there was no stopping George and his next party trick was to scoop up more water and then discharge this over unsuspecting people minding their own business and sunbathing on pedalos bobbing gently on the water.  HELLOOO! he shouted just as he emptied the bucket load all over them.  Some thought it was funny but some, it has to be said,  didn’t share the joke.  Everyone on board found this hilarious and encouraged George to repeat it over and again at every opportunity.

George took us first to a remote beach that was inaccessible from the land and he dropped anchor and invited us to jump from the prow of the boat into the warm crystal clear water below and we stayed there for a while swimming and diving and then sitting on deck in the sunshine drinking more wine.

After the swimming break we set off again for a stop at a small village for a barbeque lunch of fish and salad and yet more local wine.  It wasn’t the best wine I’ve ever tasted but it was ok in an emergency and sitting by the water with a cool breeze rippling the sea and the table cloths it was delightful and we could easily have stayed much longer than the time allocated and before we were really ready we had to set off on the journey back with more wine, more japes and a thoroughly good time.

Perama Mouse Island

I’ve googled and checked and thirty years later George’s boat is still running:

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Some more of my boat journeys recorded in the journal:

Malta Tony-Oki-Koki

Rowing Boat on Lake Bled in Slovenia

A Boat Ride with Dolphins in Croatia

A Boat Ride with Dolphins in Wales

Gondola Ride in Venice

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Entrance Tickets – Corfu Fortress

Corfu Old Fortress Entrance Ticket

Corfu town has not one but two fortresses so we set about visiting both of them.

We stared with the Old Venetian Fortress set on a high piece of ground and with two towers, one to protect the town from the sea and the other from the land.

There was a line of people and a pay kiosk so I joined the queue and in the midday heat without any protection shuffled slowly forward and then handed over the €5 entrance fee and then was surprised to see that clearly printed on the ticket were the words “ENTRANCE FREE”  – in bold typeface!  I concluded that the entrance fee must be a recent thing and that they were using up old stock!

We decided that we needed to get our money’s worth so we wandered around the lower levels where there wasn’t a lot to see because seventy years ago the German army destroyed most of it at the end of their occupation of the island. So then we tackled the long climb to the top but it was a hot day and the children weren’t enjoying the experience so I abandoned the task about half way leaving others to carry on and returned with the girls to the café at the bottom which I thought might be a good place to stop for a while.

Actually, it turned out to be a very bad place to stop for a while and it was colossally expensive at €6 for a bottle of local beer (500ml) which was bad enough but a whopping €5.50 for a slush puppy – ice,water and a bit of colouring!

Corfu Map

After that I wasn’t sorry to leave the Old Fortress, cross the canal moat and head once more to the centre of the town where  we passed a memorial to the two thousand Jews of Corfu who were deported from the island during the Nazi occupation.

On 8th June 1944 they were told to present themselves the next morning at the old Fort. When they heard the ultimatum, some Jewish people escaped to the countryside but most did as they had been told.  There, the Nazis forced them to hand over their possessions and subsequently they were led to the prison inside the Fortress. The incarceration at the jail of the castle, under harsh conditions and without rudimentary amenities, lasted for some time until finally they were transported to concentration camps in Eastern Europe.

Out of the two thousand that were forced to leave Corfu only one hundred and twenty eventually returned.

It is facts like these that can make me feel temporarily uncomfortable as we nonchalantly drift through history enjoying our holidays and our travels and then occasionally stumbling across unpleasant pieces of information that serve to remind that times were not always so good.

Back now in the cramped shopping streets and back alleys the girls did some souvenir and gift shopping and then to the other side of the town to the New Fortress.

There was a long climb to the entrance and seeing a pay kiosk I was prepared for another entrance fee but bizarrely there was no one there to collect money and a sign in the window saying free admission between nine in the morning and five in the afternoon.  It didn’t explain what the arrangements were if you wanted to visit outside of these hours!

The New Fortress was built by the Venetians to compliment the older one and it was completed by the British during the Protectorate period of 1815–63.  The British liked building fortresses in other people’s countries and also built some elaborate sea defences but rather like the Germans in 1944 they blew these up when they left and Corfu was handed over to the new Greek State in 1863.

It was a long hot walk but it was worth the effort for the views from the top of the battlements and from the flat roof of the old barracks and on balance (and I am not just saying this because it was free entrance) I think the New Fortress was more interesting to visit than the Old.

Jewish memorial Corfu Town

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Corfu, My Family and Other Disasters – Saint Spyridon

Saint Spyirdon Corfu Greece

He lies in hibernating stillness in his richly wrought casket, whose outer shell of silver is permanently clouded by the breath of the faithful who stoop to kiss it”  – Lawrence Durrell

Wandering around the labyrinth of tiny twisting streets we finally arrived at the focal point of the city, the tall, red domed church of Agios Spyridon where lies the mummified body of the patron saint of the island, Saint Spyridon and inside tourists jostled with Corfiots to push their way into a side chapel to visit his elaborate silver tomb.

Outside and around the church there were old fashioned stores selling various cards or pieces of pressed aluminium each with a picture of a part of the body.   If you have a bad leg then you buy a leg picture, a poorly arm an elbow picture, a hangover a brain picture and so on and then you take this to the Church and ask for a cure and leave it there so that God doesn’t just forget about it after you have gone and these were securely fastened in bunches to railings and picture frames.

In return for this service it is the custom to light a candle which is as tall as yourself and leave it burning at the door.  Six foot candles were burning away with such intensity it might have been what it was like to be caught in the middle of the Great Fire of London and it all looked rather dangerous to me but there were men on hand whose job it was to extinguish the flames as soon as the pilgrim that had left it there was an appropriate distance away down the street and then whisk the unburned portion away for immediate recycling and to cut down and sell to a shorter pilgrim!

We duly noted this and went through the heavy doors into an alternative world of black robed beardy priests, local worshippers and travelling pilgrims all lining up to kiss the lavish icons of their favourite Saint.

spyridon

I don’t know if this was a special day in Corfu for Saint Spyridon but I suspect it might have been because inside the place was so busy it resembled the first day of the Harrods January sale and people were pushing and shoving and waiting in a long line for their turn to visit the silver casket and to make a request for a miracle cure or for the winning lottery numbers.  And the queue wasn’t moving very quickly because having stood in line for so long the pilgrims had plenty of time to draw up an expanding list of requests and having finally made it to the front no one was inclined to rush the experience of  an audience with the preserved corpse and everyone seemed to stand around for eternity kissing the icons and the casket and saying personal prayers.

After almost two thousand years the preserved relics are not in great shape and the right hand is missing altogether because that is in Rome so the mummified skin and bone is covered in a sort of embroidered carpet, I assume so that it doesn’t scare the children half to death!

All of this icon kissing means quite a lot of unwanted spit and saliva of course so to deal with this, cleaning ladies with spray cleaners and dusters circulated constantly to deal with the slobber and the germs on a continuous and never ending polishing circuit of the church.

Spyridon is a very important Saint in Corfu who at various times is said to have saved the island from foreign invaders and from outbreaks of deadly disease and because he does his best to try and deliver on the requests of the visitors to his tomb.  He is so important to Corfiots that apparently Spiros is even today the most common boys name on the island.

This is my favourite story – it is said that at night when everyone is gone and the town is empty he rises from the silver sarcophagus and walks the streets of Corfu granting peoples wishes.  Every year he wears out a perfectly good pair of shoes and every year he has to be fitted up for a new pair! Really!

Sadly there really wasn’t time to stand in the line of people and shuffle slowly to the chapel containing the relics and I couldn’t really think of anything to ask for anyway, except perhaps could Leicester City not get relegated this year, so choking on incense and elbowing our way past genuine pilgrims we made our way to the door and back out into the sunlit street.

Saint Syridos Siver Coffin

Corfu, My Family and Other Disasters – Achilles Heel

Corfu Achillion

In Corfu we visited the Achilleion at Gastouri, in between Perama and Benitses, which is a casino and a museum now but was once a summer Palace built in 1890 by the Empress Elisabeth of Austria who was a curious woman obsessed with the classical Homeric hero Achilles and with all things beautiful (including herself apparently).

It was also used as a location in the James Bond film ‘For Your Eyes Only’  as were several other places on Corfu including Kalami Bay where we were staying this time.

The Palace, with the neoclassical Greek statues that surround it, is a monument to platonic romanticism and escapism and is filled with paintings and statues of Achilles, both in the main hall and in the gardens, depicting the scenes of the Trojan War.

The dazzling white Palace has a wedding cake like appearance and the beautiful Imperial gardens on the hill look over the surrounding green hill crests and valleys and the azure blue Ionian Sea.

Achilles Perama Corfu Achillion

The centre piece of the gardens is a marble statue on a high pedestal, of the mortally wounded Achilles wearing only a simple cloth and an ancient Greek hoplite helmet.  This statue was created by German sculptor Ernst Gustav Herter and the hero is presented devoid of rank or status, and seems notably human though heroic, as he is forever trying to pull the arrow shot by Paris from his heel.  His classically depicted face is full of pain and he gazes skyward, as if to seek help from the Gods on Olympus.

In contrast, at the great staircase in the main hall is a giant painting of the triumphant Achilles full of pride.  Dressed in full royal military regalia and erect on his racing chariot, he pulls the lifeless body of Hector of Troy in front of the stunned crowd watching helplessly from inside the walls of the Trojan citadel.

In 1898 at the age of sixty the Empress was assassinated when she was stabbed by a lunatic anarchist whilst walking in a park in Geneva, Switzerland.  After her death the palace was sold to the German Kaiser Wilhelm II who also liked to take summer holidays on Corfu and later it was acquired by the Greek State who converted it into a museum.

It is a beautiful place with grand sweeping gardens befitting royal ownership and we enjoyed the visit and even went back later to see the sunset from the Kaiser’s chair, which is an area at the highest point in the gardens where Wilhelm would go in the evening to enjoy the end of the day.

Achilles

Corfu, My Family and Other Disasters – Greek Dancing

Kalami Corfu Greece

A little scare with the weather passed by as the grey clouds dispersed as quickly as they gathered, the wind disappeared and the previously agitated sea returned to normal which enabled us to return to our now familiar routine of beach and swimming pool.  The local people lamented the fact that it wasn’t going to rain but we of course were selfishly glad of that no matter how much the place needed precipitation.

In the evenings as the cicadas settled down we would walk through the twisting paths by the sun baked gardens and the flower beds of straining woody geraniums and sprawling succulents and back to the sea front and ate in our favourite tavernas where good food was served by the attentive waiters and where we chose plates of Greek traditional dishes and sat by the water’s edge lit up now by a copper moon over a bottomless ink black sea and silent but for the sound of the occasional wave and the contented murmur of fellow diners.

And if the children didn’t fall asleep then we would finish at the hotel bar where there was nightly entertainment.

Whilst I am not an enthusiast of quizzes and karaoke a holiday in Greece is just not complete without going to a traditional Greek food and party night and this really must include participative Greek dancing and one evening we were delighted to find Greek entertainment.  A real enthusiast will prepare for such an evening by purchasing a CD of Greek music to practice beforehand but this is not strictly necessary and all you really need to be able to do is to recognise the opening chords of ‘Zorba’s Dance.

Greek Dancing

What you really need to do to get ready for a Greek night is:

  • Abandon high culinary expectation
  • Prepare yourself for copious amounts of cheap retsina
  • Be prepared to make a complete fool of yourself on the dance floor
  • Have your travel insurance documents handy, as they will be needed at the hospital.

In ancient Greece, dancing was believed to be the gift of the gods. Sacred dances were held as offerings to the deities, as commemorations of key events, and as a way of keeping communities together.

Most Greek dances are danced in a line and the line moves generally to the right and the person on the end with their right hand free is the leader.  Everyone else follows the leader who calls the steps that can be quite complicated.  Beginners are supposed to join the line at the end and it is considered bad manners to barge into the middle.

One of the most common dances at Greek party night is called the Zembekiko, or drunkard’s dance. After a few glasses of retsina this one is quite easy because it has no specific steps and involves stumbling around precariously to the rhythm of the music. In the Zembekiko there are several dancers down on one knee clapping around a particular dancer, and then they’ll swap places now and again. There are no rules. You can dance alone or join the clapping for someone else. As long as people are having a good time, that is just fine.

The Greek night here in Corfu was good but the best that I have been to was in Mykonos in 2005, which was held in a rustic bar in a village in the hills and as well as the food and the wine and the dancing also had table dancing, setting fire to the floor with lighter fuel dancing and plate smashing.  Breaking plates is linked with the Greek concept of kefi, which is the spirit of joy, passion, enthusiasm, high spirits, or frenzy.  Some say that it wards off evil spirits, others that breaking plates symbolises good luck (especially for potters I should imagine).  Whatever it means it is a lot of good fun.

Breaking plates like this is now considered a dangerous practice due to flying shards, and perhaps also because of intoxicated tourists who have poor aim and may hit innocent bystanders. It is officially discouraged and in Greece, as well as in the United Kingdom  a bar or restaurant that wants to do it requires a license and probably has to satisfy a long list of EU regulations.   Tucked away in the hills, I doubt if this place had a license but it didn’t last long and they very quickly substituted the plates with paper napkins to throw around.

Mind you if you think plate smashing is dangerous in the old days they used to throw knives at the dancers feet as a sign of respect and manhood.  This was a bit reckless and not surprisingly, due to countless injuries, that tradition gradually changed to the present-day flower throwing alternative, which is a bit pansy but a whole lot safer.

As it got later the children tired so we returned to the room and the balcony which overlooked the bar and with a final ouzo listened to the pulsating beat of ‘Zorba’s Dance’ against a background of velvet sky with a scattering of stars all reflected in the placid sea where boats rested like fireflys on the water waiting for tomorrow’s adventure.

Greek Night Corfu

Corfu, My Family and Other Disasters – Stuck in a Lift with a Turtle

Corfu Stuck in a lift with a turtle

“Marvellous things happen to one in Greece – marvellous good things which can happen to one nowhere else on earth”                                                                   Henry Miller – ‘The Colossus of Maroussi’

Every morning was a challenge rather similar I imagine to a US Navy SEALs advanced level assault course because I felt obliged to organise early manoeuvres and when everyone had left the rooms to give them a tidy and leave them in some sort of reasonable shape before the cleaners moved in.

Sally and the girls had rearranged their room in the way that they like it – rather like Belgium after the German Panzer division had passed through on the way to France in 1939 and this took some time to make presentable so generally I waited for everyone to leave for the beach, do a bit of tidying up and then have fifteen minutes with a cup of tea and sometimes, depending on how much work I had had to do, thirty minutes with two!

This particular morning I took the extended option.

There are a lot of steps at the Adonis and Asonitis Apartments so the sensible route to ground level is by the lift (elevator) so rather than tackle the challenging vertical concrete stairs my habit was to take the easy route.  Today it was my job to bring with me the inflatable turtle so it was a doubly sensible alternative this morning.

We were on level four and I had to go to level minus one but somewhere between one and three the lift suddenly stopped and the lights all went out as though there was a sort of power failure.  I waited a minute or two (actually, if I am being honest, only a second or two) and then I descended into frantic panic.  I jabbed at the control buttons and it was then that I noticed that they were all damaged and caved in as though someone had attacked them with a lump hammer so I could only conclude that this sort of thing was a regular occurrence.

I waited a minute or two (actually only a second or two) and then pressed the alarm button which emitted a deafening screeching sound rather like someone having open heart surgery without an anaesthetic but still nothing happened and I started to contemplate a day stuck in a broken down lift and wondering how I was going to pass the time.

Stuck in a broken down lift with a turtle!

I had no mobile phone (probably wouldn’t have worked anyway) no water, no Mythos, no book to read, no knife and fork in case I was here for so long that I had to eat my green reptile companion and no weapon to defend myself with if it decided to try and eat me!

It was very hot and very humid stuck in the confines of a metal prison cell dangling from a cable and probably about to crash to the bottom in a nasty, messy accident.

I pressed the alarm several times, blamed the turtle for our predicament and looked for a hatch in the roof like you see in a James Bond movie but the situation was hopeless so I put the turtle in one corner and told it to leave things to me and had another attempt at operating the controls.  Nothing, nothing, nothing but then a flicker of lights, a hum of air conditioning and a whirr of machinery as the lift returned to the top floor and the doors thankfully opened!

Corfu 2012

After that lucky escape I walked down the steps to the beach and at the poolside bar realised that I needed a Mythos.  I found a table for turtle and me (after sharing a traumatic experience together we were bonding now) and went to the bar and ordered a glass of beer and a beaker of plankton.

I offered a fifty euro note in payment and then came across another Greek peculiarity.  Shops, bars and restaurants have never got any change in the till.  Hand over anything bigger than a twenty and they freeze in panic and look at you as though you are trying to pay in Spanish doubloons or you are a Martian passing by and offering to pay in Moon Tokens.  If you don’t believe me next time in Greece take a look inside a cash till and all you will see is a couple of one cent coins, some disused drachma and a couple of rusty washers.

Anyway, we got the payment thing sorted out and I sat and enjoyed the Mythos and had ten minutes lad chat with the turtle and then left and made my way to the beach where everyone wondered why it had taken me so long to get there and completely refused to believe my (admittedly) unlikely broken lift story and accused me of just hanging around the bar while I continued to protest that I had been literally hanging around in a lift!

For the rest of the day we went through a familiar routine, swimming in the sea, riding on turtle while listening to the occasional drone of an outboard motor, the melodic flapping of pedalo paddle wheels and the gentle plop or rowing boat oars spearing the limpid sea before returning to the rooms and then a final swim in the pool before going out for evening meal.

At the next table tonight were a young couple who had probably been there some time judging by how much drink he had consumed and they worked their way through starters and main course and then just as the desserts arrived he did something completely foolish and produced a diamond ring and made a dramatic down on one knee proposal.  I wanted to intervene and say NOOOOOO! Don’t do it!  But it was all over in a flash, the offer made and accepted and they ate their baklava, drank the complimentary ouzo and disappeared into the night.  Luckily I didn’t have turtle with me so I couldn’t make the same mistake!

I imagine that sometime early next morning the poor man woke with a thumping headache and hazy memory and looking over at this girlfriend would be consumed by the thought “What’s that bloody sparkly thing on her finger?”

Corfu Turtle