Friday 14 May 2010

Well done or too much...

Lucky old me, spending a while in Porto Roma, a quiet backroad village in a corner of the Greek island of Zakynthos.

Worry not, Colyoomistas, I am not about to turn into one of those smug scribblers who tell you all about how wonderful their holiday is while you toil away under grey skies and the shadow of recession.

What I am going to confess is that I am falling in love with the neighbours. From my balcony I watch as grandad slowly shifts his strong but aching body around his vegetable patch. Wearing his faded blue denims and a baggy green checked shirt, he carefully and steadily hoes the soil around the olive trees and then sits in the shade all afternoon, watching his beans grow in the heat of the day.

His wife, dark green dress and spotless white apron, moves faster and yet still gently wanders back and forth, back and forth along the yellowed sun-baked paths of dust that cut through her lawn. She is carrying two dead chickens. Placing them on a worn out wooden table in the shade of an olive tree, she guts them and plucks them. To her left a lemon tree sags under the weight of its plump fruit.

Out of a gap in the hedge there suddenly appear two young men. They are not loping slowly as is the local way. These lads are moving back and forth at speed, regardless of the heat. Carrying buckets and mops and hammers and chisels they're cleaning the restaurant out front, preparing for the tourist season to begin. Just like back in Ireland, the recession has hit every part of Greek society, and this year the tourists are arriving here slowly and in lower numbers.

Compared to the older couple, it looks as if these lads are speed marching this way and that. Later as I stroll past their house I espy a German van parked in the drive, and smile gently, happy that I can spot a northern European stride from a distance of 50 yards.

But it is the older couple who I love to watch. They shout and grumble at each other in a way that suggests half a century of marriage. Even though I can see how hard they work over very long hours, it is easy to idealise their lives. They have high piles of cut wood for hearth and oven, their sheep and chickens and artichokes and beans and more lemons than anyone might ever want. The pair of them have a rhythm, a style and a calm way about them that is enviable.

Later in another restaurant a waiter asks how I want my steak.

"You like it cooked Redbloody, Medium or Too Much."

I cannot help but laugh. In Ireland we call it 'Well Done', but here it translates as 'Too Much'. Maybe if those Germans slowed down a gear or two, their 'Too Much' might become 'Well Done'.

As a postscript, I take an opportunity to recall my much-loved father, who died two years ago last week. I remember squirming with embarassment when my then brother-in-law always used to order his steak well done when out with our family.

"Another good steak ruined!" my father would loudly and arrogantly assert. He would have loved the local 'Too Much' attitude.

Aye, but not as much as he would have loved the fact that Chelsea won the Premier League with such style, and if we pick up the FA Cup tomorrow we'll secure our club's first ever Double.

Come on you Blues, for Dad and all us Carefeee CFCs.


Paz said...

I can smell the lemons, ye got a good result yesterday too lets hope you did not get too Galwayed last night
A coinkydink but my dad died last week two years ago, this week I saw something that only he would have enjoyed and appreciated. its a funny old world

Charlie Adley said...

That it is Paz, that it is. Glad you enjoyed the colyoom, and happy that it reminded you of something that reminded you of your dad. That is a strange coincidence, really. Hope you are doing well, and good to know you think positively of the auld fella. All the best to you, and Mrs. Paz

Anonymous said...

Happy 50th, Annie in SF

Charlie Adley said...

Thanks Annie in SF!