21 May 2018

View

Housemartins wheel about in the stillness, performing their aeronatutical acrobatics with consummate ease. Diving, pirouetting and swooping, they head for their dun-coloured nests, expertly constructed in April under concrete eaves. Babies wait there with voracious appetites.They too will be masters of the air.

Calm is the sea. She laps about the crescent of the sandy bay, just whispering like a secret voice you remember from long ago. There across the glassy aqua plane rise the milky mountains of Albania. Twenty miles away, their outline resembles the body of a giant who has lain down to slumber upon the far horizon.

Closer and better defined are the inhabited offshore islands of Mathraki, Erikousa and Othonoi, They are separate worlds with their own histories, their own memories, their own serpentine paths weaving quietly to evocative ruins and to bays where fisherfolk once mended their nets. 

I am sitting on the balcony of Room 4 at the Nafsika Hotel in Agios Stefanos. Ahead, I can see the little white Greek Orthodox church on a bluff that overlooks the old fishing harbour - its defences now eroding with each cruel battering received when the waves are up and angry. 

To the north, dark green hills resplendent with ancient olive groves and Mediterranean pines give way to a small, jumbled Legoland of squat apartment blocks and holiday villas. They tumble towards the beach where two fat people are marching, overtaken by a runner with a dog.

My black swimming shorts and a blue, red and white striped towel are drying on the railing of our balcony and sitting on the circular  plastic table a recently emptied coffee cup. My walking boots rest beneath, reminding me of yesterday's hike over the headland to Arillas.

This morning's placid Ionian Sea is not one uniform colour or texture. There are shades and swirls and corrugation. It has its patterns and its colours that belie hidden depths where octopuses dwell about the wreck of some ancient trireme that had been heading home from the heel of Italy long ago. Today, there's a lone fishing boat out there, catching the light and so faraway it is little more than  a speck of whiteness.

It is May 21st 2018. Our last Corfu morning. Our first was twenty six years ago when the kids were little and played upon the beach at Kavos that Eastertime. Ian found an old fisherman's hat and Frances plastered her cheeks with vanilla ice cream. How many tides have ebbed and flowed since then? You remember it all like a dream, uncertain that it really happened at all. Meantime the housemartins continue their amazing aerial display as  ribbon waves surge and suck upon the shore  forever and ever.

Amen.

18 May 2018

Postcard

Olive  farmer's hut - north west  Corfu
We are alive and well and enjoying our brief sojourn in Corfu, Greece. I would have blogged earlier than this but the proprietor of our litttle hotel - Basiltus Fawltiopoulos - gave me the wrong wifi password. Yesterday he also served sweet white wine to  guests like us who had specifically ordered dry white. He explained that he had run out of dry and didn't think anyone would mind drinking the sweet.
We have had a couple of lovely walks and today (Friday) we took a service boat to an offshore island called Mathraki - population fifty outside summertime. We had three hours there and sitting alone on a long golden beach I stripped off ready for a swim only to be thwarted by the sight of jellyfish - both in the water and on the shore. A close escape.
It's getting late and the wifi, like Basiltus, is unpredictable so I shall just decorate this Grecian blogpost with a handful of images collected this week. Kali nichta!
Above Aghios Stefanos

14 May 2018

Lambs

Near Whirlow Playingfields, I spotted two lambs yesterday . One of the joys of springtime here in northern England is to see new lambs frolicking in the countryside. Who can avoid a smile or an "Awww!" when we see a lamb in a spring meadow?  

It's almost one o'clock  in the morning and I need to be asleep before too long because we are driving over to Manchester round about nine thirty - ready for our flight to Corfu. I guess I will be able to blog over there but I am not sure about this. We hope to have a lovely holiday.

Before I go, I shall leave you with two images of  yesterday's  lambs and bid you good night!

12 May 2018

Saturday

On Saturday afternoon we travelled up the motorway to Leeds. We were in a minibus with several local friends and acquaintances - on our way to watch "Sunshine on Leith" at The West Yorkshire Playhouse. It's a feelgood musical that I first saw in the form of a film back in 2013. I blogged about it here.

Before taking my seat, I had a little stroll around the area and snapped these two pictures:-
The window is part of Leeds College of Music and the stencilled picture outside the BBC building appears to be of Alan Bennett, a wry and gifted writer who is one of Leeds's most famous sons.

The musical was filled with youthful energy, cleverly choreographed dancing and familiar songs by The Proclaimers. We enjoyed it immensely. It received rapturous applause from the assembled audience.

Afterwards we were transported swiftly back down the motorway to Sheffield. Once back in our suburb we all sat down in our local Indian restaurant - "Urban Choola" and enjoyed a hearty  meal washed down with wine and "Cobra" beer. 

It had been a grand day out spoilt only by the Eurovision Monster on our television when we got home. That annual phantasmagoria is a monument to bad taste, hollowness and mediocre, instantly forgettable songs. The ridiculous winner came from Israel which - like Australia - isn't even in Europe. What a mad world!
"Sunshine on Leith"

11 May 2018

Song

I first heard the album "Sounds of Silence" when I was thirteen years old. What songs! What loveliness! Paul Simon was and probably still is a truly gifted songwriter. Part of his genius lay in the simple humanity of his lyrics. They connected in a pure and unfussy way with other human beings.

As a teenager it was the wordsmiths of the musical world who magnetised me... Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot and Paul Simon. They were holding a mirror up to the world like great painters or poets of the past.

My favourite number from "Sounds of Silence" was "Kathy's Song". It was plaintive and it was about memory, love and lost love. You didn't know who Kathy was but you knew that Paul Simon had really loved her. Art Garfunkel gave that song wings to fly.

Here he is in concert with Paul Simon on guitar. They were performing "Kathy's Song" plenty of years after its composition.
And as for Kathy herself.  She was an English girl from Essex. She couldn't live with the stardom and instead opted for a more obscure life in North Wales where she worked as an administrator in a college. She  still enjoys a bond of friendship with Paul Simon who she first met when he was a young troubadour, scraping a living from folk club appearances up and down the length of Britain

This was Kathy -  Kathleen Chitty on her way to work one morning in 2014. I guess she has retired now. Even Kathys grow old.
Kathy appeared on the cover of this 1965 album

10 May 2018

Corfu

Well we finally clicked the button. Shirley is on holiday next week and we are off to Corfu for seven nights. We'll be staying in a small and fairly humble hotel in St Stefanos on the island's north west coast. It's a three minute walk down to the beach shown in the picture above.

I am so glad that I no longer have to trawl through possible holidays appearing on my computer screen - weighing up a whole bunch of factors. These include overall cost, location, Trip Advisor reviews, swimming pool size, flight times there and back and size and quality of accommodation/hotel. It's enough to make your brain hurt.

It's a long time since we last visited Corfu. Like most large Greek islands its character is multi-faceted. To the south you find Kavos which for many years has held special appeal for young, party animals. Corfu Town - the island's capital - has a lot of historical interest and is quite cosmopolitan. There are inland agricultural villages and while the east coast is shallow and sheltered, the west coast is wilder and more exposed to the open sea.

I recall times gone by when dining out in Greece was  amazingly cheap but nowadays typical restaurant prices will often be on a par with England. This is why we have chosen to go "half board" with breakfast and evening meals included. What more can you expect from a tight-fisted Yorkshireman?

9 May 2018

Walkabout

The pictures above and below were taken yesterday. I  needed another walk having spent all of Monday gardening. 

I didn't want to travel too far. I left Clint in the shadow of Mam Tor just beyond Castleton and began the ascent. The second photograph shows the triangulation pillar at the summit of Mam Tor. Nearby a woman with two dogs was enjoying a view of The Hope Valley. 

Then I carried on to Hollins Cross where five footpaths converge. To the north you look down into the magical Vale of Edale. It was another hot day and below me the fields were peppered with tiny sheep and even tinier lambs. I took a picture of Hollins Farm. See below.

I pressed on to Greenlands - a remote farm that looks north towards The Kinder Plateau. Halfway along the lane up to Greenlands there is a convex mirror, placed near a tight bend as a motoring safety device, Here I took my first ever selfie. I was wearing khaki shorts, a red Popeye T-shirt and a blue sunhat from Malta. Quite a cool combo I am sure you will agree.

Soon I was ascending once more, up past sheep pastures where I saw a young lamb sheltering from the sunshine near a fence. The climb continued until I met the road that connects Edale with Rushup Edge. Not far to go now. Then I am descending - back to Silver Clint who is snoozing in the layby next to a rather sexy black VW Golf called Juanita. "Oh, you're back then!" Clint sighed.