As the time to leave the village and return to the distant city grows closer I find myself playing down here; playing up there. It’s the same for those long departed swallows. As they assembled on village power lines beside their fledglings, emptied nests growing stale under tiled eaves of a village in Greece, twitching for the flight south; reversing the excitement of Easter’s arrival, fretting for a village in Africa.
“You’ll like it”
“Are we there yet?”
I’m balancing regret and anticipation, a slight time vacuum that matches this weather; poised between late summer and gentle autumn; sounds and smells evoking life as a planet in a universe of parents, their story my sun, sensations and images evoked by wood smoke, slight chill, misty evenings, lit windows into glimpsed interiors; the quiet of this village strewn along a mile of mountainside with its wide precise focus on the scrubbed mainland hills of Epirus. Here is a warmed space in which to be absorbed uninterrupted by clues to the present; so the click of burning wood in the stove is both now, and long ago, a reminder to feed the fire. I roam in time, occupied by beloved presences long gone from the earth, places past, still ineffaceable. So will we be for our children I hope - an indelible frieze. I’ve been employing my imagination on the recovery of Rock Cottage, assisted by Martin’s regularly forwarded pictures from Gloucestershire. He and Sandra and Adam have been travelling down to the Forest of Dean at weekends from their home near Worcester - equipped with first aid for our first second home, plus Jack and other helpers – ‘Team Ward’ Martin calls them. I’m nearly ready to imagine us being able to stay again in the Forest of Dean – but there’s tiling, painting, carpeting yet, and the hope that the problem of upstairs damp will be solved, by adding gutters, burning logs, clearing drains, living there…
|Adam mending the guttering|
|Sandra on the windows|
|Martin's lit the fire to help dry the house ~ 'Team Ward' at work|
|Plot 14 England (photo: Winnie Hall)|
There’s walking and cycling on the canals with dog Oscar, who while we’ve been away, has been shared between our neighbours and Amy. There’s a host of work to be done on the house in Handsworth; continuing work on the Jack Hargreaves archive sat in that slatternly lock-up on the Tyburn Road; see what Francis in London has done by way of further digitising film and tape, synchronisng sound and image. Second day home – Monday after next – I’m giving an evening talk about the history of Handsworth Park to Barr and Aston Local History Society in Great Barr Memorial Hall.
And there’ll be seeing the grandchildren again; familiar after an interval of just a fortnight since they were with us in Corfu, a fortnight since Guy and I went out on Summer Song; Dave our guardian. “Let’s go to Lazaretto Λαζαρέτο”
He was still puzzled.
I’m averse to the name. A cloud shadowed the mountains. We motored out of Ipsos into a calm sunlight sea. No chance to sail…
”Unless those two big clouds come together, then we might need Gouvia as a bolt hole” said Dave as we passed close by Cape Kommeno.
But the sun shone on us between them. The island came closer.
We slowed near the jetty, took a second pass to avoid the shallows, and went in nose first, Dave mooring us with a knot shoved into a slot between a pair of jetty’s rough stones, our bow covered in fenders touching the water. The clouds moved across the sun.
I’d been here a over four years ago, expecting now to see the museum announced in 2007 completed, a place to tell the story behind the walls scarred with bullet hole, the serried ranks of crosses that face you a few yards up a slope from the jetty; memorials for young men and women shot during the Civil War - bearing dates between 1947 and 1949.
A Museum of Medical History and National Reconciliation is to be built on the historic islet of Lazaretto, Corfu. The old leprosy hospital, which has been listed for preservation, is set for restoration and the surrounding area will be refurbished and made fully accessible to the public, according to a Corfu Municipality architectural study that has the approval of Deputy Environment Minister Stavros Kaloyiannis.[Long history of Corfu isle honored with a Museum February 24, 2007]But someone and something doesn’t want the history yet; can’t tell it. The occupation executions perhaps yes, but not the fratricidal killings that came after. When I was here in May 2009, the new building had looked smart, ready to be used for visits, lectures, exhibitions. The older buildings including the old and perfectly shaped small church, were readied for restoration, scaffolding erected, walls being stripped, some re-plastered. Now the whole place lay besmirched with neglect, mossed, mildewed, rusting, streaked with gutter dripping. In a clearing was a large stack of hardened sacks of cement, paper pealed.
“There’s a €1000 of cement gone to waste there” said Dave.
"It could have been stored under cover surely?"
The notice I’d seen before showed the starred Euro-symbol and the amount dedicated to creating this memorial - €314,000
“That’s gone somewhere else” we muttered.
“There’s some rain” I said, feeling speckles between the pines. Someone had been strimming and lopping recently or all would have been disappearing into the shrubs, saplings and trees decorating the rest of the island. There were also roughly squared boards bearing more names, listed without dates or other identification. We'd been going to sit and eat our sandwiches. Instead we headed back to Summer Song, passing another notice, the only one that speaks of what happened here.
“What a great place for a taverna!” said Dave “A proper jetty. You could have a to-and-fro ferryboat from Gouvia”
“Yes. An open air grill. souvlaki lamb, pork, kokoretsi chicken breasts and legs and beer and wine” “It would be a cracker of a place”
Remembering. Someone told us an old man they knew saw soldiers with rifles bringing prisoners to the harbour.
“Young men and women from the prison marched to the old port to board a boat to the island. They were shouting and singing as they walked!”
We got back on Summer Song and motored round the island before heading back to Gouvia Bay. Guy had phoned Amy.
“They’ll meet us at the jetty there in an hour”
The clouds passed as we closed the jetty by the old Venetian shipyard, tied up beside the caïque already moored there and strolled ashore as Amy, Liz, Lin, Sophia, Hannah and Oliver drove up. Dave had brought small life jackets, and fitted one to Oliver.
“We’ll meet you at Ipsos” said Amy. Liz and Oliver came with us on Summer Song.
|Oliver with his dad "What's that noise?"|
“That was such good outing. Your reassurance made it so”
Oliver had spent most of our return journey exploring inside the cabin, observing as we approached Ipsos “Look at the lovely water” A boy's memory of the sea.
|Meeting up at the harbour in Ipsos|
*** *** ***
Douglas Adams would have used the name of a town, Roget might have a clue for me, and the Germans, a suitable compound adjective to describe the bitter-sweet (?) experience of having the house to ourselves, now Liz, Sophia, Guy, Amy, Oliver and little Hannah have flown back to England. They left - eventually - in grey weather which is always better, except the plane that should have taken them home was struck by lightning somewhere on its approach to Kapodistria. It landed with everyone safe but then sat on the runway effectively unusable while Easyjet announced they were sending a replacement jet which would mean waiting in the airport for the rest of the day. I was grandpa childminder helping with the children until at leafs they trooped into security just before nine in the evening and I headed back to Ano Korakiana.
"I don't see how they can get any compensation" said Lin later, reading the cancellation and delay leaflet everyone had been been given at the airport "It's hardly Easyjet's fault if they get struck by lightning"