An irregular, irreverent, post-modern account of the surreal, the ordinary, and the bizarre happenings on and around the Felia lavender farm in Crete

Thursday, November 17, 2005


Some days are just dominated by weather. They are here in Felia: in a way that days seldom were in London. Today was one such. We rose to find the sundial in the front garden, the yuccas overturned in their huge terracotta pots, and the outside chairs for the kitchen terrace table somewhere amidships in the quad, overturned and abandoned. The wind was in from Africa.

Southerlies blow in here now and then. Most southerlies are destructive and all southerlies are apocryphally from Libya. Although this one was carrying no sand it was unseasonally warm and phenomenally strong, blowing steadily one moment, dropping away suddenly, and then gusting and roaring around in small whirlwinds as it caught the concealed courtyards around the house and whipped up vortices of homegrown dust, recently shed leaves and carelessly discarded dog ends.

The wind had started last evening around midnight - the wind chimes warned us only moments before a shutter banged closed and a door slammed open. To be honest, we were pleased that the wind was coming: the past weeks have been overcast and still and we have been waiting for something to shift the dull grey blanket hanging over us - even if it meant rain. The south wind often brings rain and since it was full moon we fully expected a change in the prevailing weather pattern.

All last night the wind battered around us shaking shutters and rattling the stove pipe cowl. By this morning it had brought no rain and thankfully no sand but as soon as we had tidied all vulnerable pots and plants away and stowed chairs in the potting shed we settled to the task of getting everything done before the rains arrived. The sky was clear to the north - far out to sea we could see brilliant sun shafts arcing down to the horizon. To the south, above and beyond the mountains, it glowered and threatened - "... not now", it said to us, "but later, definitely later". Spending 3 years on this plot, and most of our time out of doors, we have taught ourselves to read the weather like some latter day Old Moores. (Gill actually keeps a lavender almanac!)

We had finished all necessary and some discretionary outside work by one and adjourned to Cafe Classico for a pair of frappes. Bellissimmo has been very unpredictable in its opening hours of late and Classico faces south so we could watch the front moving across and in in comfort from there. Classico was our regular winter cafe a couple of winters back and since we have resumed using it it is as if we had never been away. We get biscuits, home made, with our frappes and we also get to practice our Greek since the daughter-in-law who serves there during the day speaks no English.

Classico is a family run business. There are several sons - all with wives, and many with children. Georgos, the eldest, has a spotless car body repair shop out back. One of the other sons runs the taxi business. The youngest boy, who plays the music in his noisy little car so loud that I fear for his hearing, runs the local periptero (a kiosk where traditionally cigarettes and newspapers are for sale) that belongs to his one armed father. Peripteroes once had a monopoly on the sale of tobacco goods in Greece and licenses for them were granted to disabled men and men with very large families - father qualifies on both counts - to prevent them falling on the state as dependents. Other sons are in the farming and building trades. And Mum?

Well mum is a real character. Small and round and loud and incredibly jolly, mum is the brains and the force behind this family. You have, if you have ever been to a travelling fair, met mum or glanced her at least. Mum was running the roll a penny stall or the coconut shy. Mum was seen clumping dangerous looking young men twice her size and half her age, with long fuzzy sideburns and slicked back Elvis hair, around the head and chiding them none too gently. Mum kept all of the money safe and doled it out to the rest of the extended family. Mum may be of Roma stock. Mum is a diamond. Mum would, in Royston Vasey, abduct Papaplazarou and make wild passionate love to him in the tiger's cage. Fortunately, mum thinks we're "good people" and that gets us carte blanche and superlative service. Quite why mum thinks that we're "good people" we're not sure but we certainly aren't going to dispute with her! Would you?

After frappes we got back to the farm just as the rain started and so we settled indoors. It has been raining on and off ever since. Gill settled down to stripping lavender while I worked on a design project. Gill has been talked into sharing a stall with Maria from Botanica at the annual Xmas fair in Xania in early December and will be selling some sachets of her lavender there. Lavender stripping is more usually a deep winter project but needs must when deadlines drive and she needs 500 grammes of flower heads to make up the sachets. Meantimes, I was working on the design for her card for the stall. By close of play she had 130 grammes stripped and I had two prototype designs!

Oh yes - and our ADSL has been off air for 36 hours now!

STOP PRESS: we now have a spectacular thunderstorm raging outside - thunder, lightning - the works. The valley is lit like bonfire night in Dagenham.

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