October 26, 2009
Taking leave of Rhodes
It's time to leave Rhodes. I have many more stories, but they must wait.
The last charter planes full of tourists will be lifting off from the seaside airport at the end of the week. After that, until April, its an expensive air trip to England, with an enforced stop in Athens. So there'll be a scramble for places, as a good number of Rhodeans leave with the tourists.
For many remaining, its a six month break, after six months of seven day weeks. Waiters who've worked together night after night after night say goodbye, with the words: 'See you in April.'
Strangely, quite a few will spend the next six months in the Alps, where Thomas Cook relocate during the winter, offering a large number of holiday destinations. The man who taught water skiing in Lardos, will now be teaching skiing in the Austrian snow. And our local rep, all sweat in the Rhodean sun, will be now be running three mountain chalets in Switzerland, with ice as far as the eye can see.
So peace be with you, those who remain, as the rains come, and the sun-dry river beds suddenly swell in deep, deep shock at the downpours.
As our plane lifts off, we are soon over the deep blue sea and looking back and down. It's a hard, tough little jewel, Rhodes, set in the gap between Africa, Asia and Europe; not quite any of them, but some of all of them.
Many conquerors down the years; many invasions, the most recent being the tourists.
Use the invaders, my friends; but don't bow to them. Be gracious; but tend your own heart; seek your own way.
And thank you.
October 21, 2009
A glass bottom and a lorra lorra laughs
We go on the same boat trip we went on last year. It's a glass bottom boat and takes us through the clean sea to Lindos, via Navarone Bay and St Paul's Bay. (Yes, he stopped there briefly. St Paul, I mean; and the locals are still recovering.)
Not only is it the same boat as last time, but the same pilot - with the same jokes, in the same order. He's good though.
'My name's Ionnou. But then why would you be interested?'
'Oh, we are interested!' we all say.
'Then you must be very sad.'
'Out there is a rock miles from anywhere. See it? Strange to see a rock so isolated. Well, not so strange. My mother-in-law lives there.'
He takes us close to some rocks:
'This is where I lost my first boat. It was OK. It was only foriegners on board.'
Like many who are at their brightest in the first excitement of meeting, he began to lose interest in us after half an hour, and from there on it was just a matter of appreciating his maritime skills (exceptional) and the views (exceptional again.)
Navarone Bay is called that because its where they filmed the steep dark climb in 'The Guns of Navarone'. But because its dark in the film, you don't see the wonderful turquoise blue water, which we get to swim in. When we're all in the water, he plays 'Jaws' music loudly.
And getting back to Ionnou and his patter, it was an amazing thing really. He did three trips a day, seven days a week, six months of the year. That's something over 500 performances a year, and he'd been doing it for who knows how long? Yet it was fresh. Me? I struggle to say the same thing twice.
Oh, and he remembered us. He remembered we'd been before. How about that?
October 18, 2009
I am who I am
I really like the pathway
I am walking upon now,
Happiness often bubbles over
And I find myself bursting into funny little jigs
Or making up silly songs,
I often find myself smiling
For no particular reason.
I find I am laughing
At my own individual forms of madness more and more,
And as I notice and laugh
Their hold on me lessens.
I feel space inside myself
Space for all things.
And when I sit with myself
I find contentment.
I am finding it much easier
To allow negative feelings to pass through me,
without leaving mess and remnants behind.
I have no expectations of others to make me happy,
So I can enjoy being with people
in a much healthier way.
I am who I am
And you know what
I am finding out that,
I like who I am.
October 15, 2009
' Out of the mouth of babes'
Working with the little people, I often spend time singing nursery rhymes to them and as they get older they begin to join in with me. Often the first step to this, is that I stop at the end of each line and let them fill in the last word.
So yesterday I was singing 'There was a little 'GIRL', who had a little 'CURL', right in the middle of her 'FOREHEAD', when she was good she was very very 'GOOD', and when she was bad she was 'EXTREMELY INTERESTING' said the two year old sitting beside me. I like her style.
This is my final story about a hill in Rhodes.
I have other stories, you see; so no, don't confuse me for some sad git who only has 'steep slope' stories. I've got plenty of others in my locker; loads - many of which don't involve uplands at all; not even a slight incline. I can do 'flat' stories as I will prove.
But this is a hill story, to remind us about the power of song. Because when me and my friend were climbing the final hill into Pefkos, I could see she was wilting. It's steep; very steep and I worry for every coach as they attempt it, expecting them to start rolling backwards at any moment. (Even though the Rhodean bus drivers are the best on earth, because they have to be.)
Anyway, we're walking up the hill, and my friend is wilting and mumbling about needing a 'short break' which is the last thing you want to do, so I start to sing a song my dad used to sing to me, and which I sang to my children, back in the day. Though lyrically undemanding, its a song specially designed for hills, and it goes like this:
'Climbing up, climbing up
Til you get to the top, the top.
Climbing up, climbing up,
Til you get to the top, the top.'
Its better with the music obviously; and though not great poetry, bears repetition. But it worked! I sang and my friend was given wings. Hah! The power of song, which is presumably why soldiers sing on route marches, and congregations sing in church.
And here's the punch line. For the last 70 yards of the hill, I stopped singing and made my friend run; and she found that she could. There was her thinking she she could barely walk any further; until she let the runner in her out to play.
Ah, the hidden strength within us! And sometimes it takes a hill to discover it...and a really classic song.
October 10, 2009
The monastery of Tsambika
A steeper climb was to the monastery of Tsambika. Some drove their cars up the mountain, but even they had to park, get out and climb the last 300 steps on foot. We had travelled by bus though, and if you walked from the dusty road, as we did, its a steep and steady climb for about 40 minutes.
And what do you see at the top?
Well, you see an eye-widening view, as you gaze down on the island of Rhodes; down on other mountain tops, as miles of coastline stretch hazily into the distance.
People do not come here for the view, however. It's not a functioning monastery with a community - indeed, its no more than two or three rooms, set on an ancient religious site - and watched over by an old man selling religious tat or treasure, depending on your take. But here's the thing - these rooms are prayer space specifically dedicated to childless couples who want children. And it is said that children conceived as a result of a visit must be called 'Tsambika' or 'Tsambikos'.
There is apparently a large festival this evening; coach loads are due. But this morning it is just us - and the Germans. There are many Brits on Rhodes, and we meet them all the time; but not here.
And why are we here, on this mountain in the middle of nowhere? We are here to remember two friends who wish for a child. We write their names in the book, stay quiet for a while, lingering with the icons and candles. And then begin the knee-jangling descent.
As I say, you can drive almost all the way up to the monastery of Tsambika. But how you travel, is where you arrive. And we wanted to walk.
October 08, 2009
It's been perhaps the longest hill on this 13 mile run, and Lindos bay is now before me - and below me. It's a fine sight, as long as I don't err too near the cliff edge.
An old Greek man has been watching me up the final stretch; I'm clearly more interesting than day time TV. And by the way, please kill me when I cease to be...
'Go on, Cambridge!' he shouts merrily. (Pronounced 'Kimeblij')
I laugh out loud in the dry air. So he has guessed I'm English, and its probably the white legs that are the giveaway. (I'm still telling everyone i arrived yesterday, even though I've been here ten days.)
My Greek friend is wrong about the university town, but here amongst the goats, rocks, sun and dust, it doesn't matter very much.
Let's be honest, it doesn't matter very much anywhere.
October 05, 2009
Sometimes a day trip, is a really good day out. And sometimes it's like our 'Scenic South' adventure.
Our 'Scenic South' coach trip started well, with blue skies above and a good tour guide promised. But soon clouds are above us, promising rain, and the tour guide is getting a few things sorted out from the off. As we settle into our seats, we are told that we're going to a place where we can swim, but that we cannot get back into the coach with wet clothes. 'All right?!' Anyone getting back in the coach with any wet clothing will be sent back in a taxi, 'which will set you back sixty euros, at least - so think about it. Michael the coach driver can spot wet clothes at 60m so don't try it!'
Well, there's nothing like a welcome at the outset of a journey, and this was nothing like a welcome.
We eventually got to the beach on our 'Scenic South' trip, and by this time the rain was heavy. But of course the beach had no facilities other than beach, sea, two restaurants and a small shop selling tourist shit. It was like a wet weekend in Bognor, only without a fish and chip shop; and a dull knowing that if a drop of rain fell on you at any point, then it was the taxi - and two days spending money lost - for you.
While most were reluctantly ordering their third cup of coffee, or drowning their sorrows in wine, I thought 'Fuck it' and went for a swim. The huge beach was mine and mine alone, as was the mediterranean. I have to say, I did feel a little lonely, bobbing on the rain-thrashed briny without another soul in view.
On another day it all would have been quite spectacular, as this 100 metre wide beach at the most southerly tip of Rhodes has the Aegean on one side and the Med on the other. It's a sort of fame. Today, however, it was Bognor in November, without the melancholy charm.
On the way back in the coach - not a happy group - the tour guide scores nil points again. Our 'Scenic South' trip has been something of a nightmare, but our guide is finding the good in it - for her. 'The rain might not be good for you lot, here on holiday,' she says. 'But to be honest, for those of us who live here, it's great. We're delighted to see it. Its really good.'
She wasn't lynched, as I remember; but neither was she widely tipped.
October 01, 2009
Half a key note speech!
After spending a year in a tempory building, this September we began our new school term in a spanking new building, all mod cons and fancy swipe cards, fantastic!
Well it was, until due to the caretaker being off on his hols, I was handed a set of keys to open up.
So I duely arrived at just after 7, hoping to get a little bit of office work done before the first children showed up at 8.
I opened the padlock on the outside gate, swiped my card and i'm inside, so I walked down the pathway to the front door, trying to remember the order of the next set of instructions, was it swipe card, turn key, deactivate alarm, or turn key, swipe card, deactivate alarm, I decided on the latter. So I put my key in the door and attempted to turn it, it wasn't having any of it and as I heard the bleeping of the alarm begining to sound out the time I had left to enter the building before the alarm really went to town, I felt my heart begin to pound. So I gave the key another big turn, this time it moved and so did my hand, opps! I was left with half a key in my right hand and the other half firmly stuck in the lock and a alarm that was about to go ballistic.
Thank goodness for mobiles, I phoned my manager and explained my situation while laughing hysterically (I told her it was nerves), she managed to get hold of the security firm to turn off the alarms and arranged for a locksmith to come out, choosing the firm who say in their advert'we'll be there within half an hour'.
So the wait began, as each member of staff arrived I had to move up one space on the wall and explain my whole sorry tale, whilst putting up with the jokes and the piss taking.
At 8.00 I received a call from Mario the locksmith saying he was stuck in traffic and would be with us in 20 minutes, 'What can i do' he said 'I can't fly' By half 8, I have seven members of staff and several parents and their children, by 9 o'clock I have thirteen members of staff many more parents and their children and no ones complaining, wow! I have memories of my grandpa telling me about 'war time spirit' and decide this must be it.
At 9.20 Mario finally arrives to cheers all round, he's not a very happy chappie as he negociates his way up the pathway with his tools, I'm not sure he's ever had such a big audience watch him work, must be a bit like appearing on 'Britans got talent'.
The children think it's great and that we have laid on the whole experience especially for them.
All's well that ends well and I was even given a new set of keys to a brand new lock, but luckily not the bill.