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

Friday, April 21, 2006

A Long Night's Journey into Farming

So the question that vexed our perfect couples' minds for the next while was much along the lines of "how does one become a farmer?" It's not a question that I imagine many of you have pondered. Just starting a farm might make you a farmer in fact but would not in and of itself convince the bureaucracy loving trolls - there was they rightly assumed little chance of dragging a busload of trolls to a newly founded farm and then convincing them that this made G a farmer and so fully qualified to own pick-up. They asked a few people - some of them, like Pantelis, farmers themselves but not one of them had ever "become" a farmer save by starting to work a farm and that usually as a child. Ominously the all muttered darkly about a forbidding castle in Xania that was the home of the equivalent of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MinAgFish as was). They all knew of it but only one had ever journeyed out that way into the shadow of the castle ramparts and that only when he had failed through illness to register his olive trees locally when the travelling caravan of olive tree registration came around. There was no option. They would have to trek out to the castle of the "Diefthinsi Georgia" - more dark winter days in Xania were to come their way.

It was a dark day indeed when they set out to find this gothic modernist castle, Cold it was, Raining it was - pouring. And a wind blew in from the north - cold and cutting. When they came within screaming distance of the ramparts deep long shadows engulfed them. A shudder ran down their backs - the hair on their necks stood on end. The wind came screaming down the narrow road that led them tauntingly on toward the castle.

Inside this concrete bunker stood on its side there seemed to be only a large staircase in soiled marble. Grey-brown, tobacco stained walls and now and then a scuttling troll hurried past - never looking up from their shoes. Were they invisible? Could nobody see them at all? What to do? "Next one that goes past - we stop them! Agreed?". "Agreed". They stood, dripping on the marble and waited. And waited, The troll traffic seemed to have stopped.

And then from the left, from a door they had not noticed before, a squat woman with grey hair emerged. She was looking up and not down. Under her arm she carried a sheaf of papers tied in red tape! In her right hand a lit cigarette. "Signomi?", ventured G. "Yes, can I help you?". She speaks English! "Explain to me what you want. This is a place for farmers you know?" "Yes, I want to become a farmer". Their new-found acquaintance looked troubled, she seemed to examine the walls all around them, "You want to become a farmer? You had better come with me, to my office."

And so they went to her office that looked like nothing more than an extension to the corridor cut off by a door. A shabby desk, just like those at the teloneion, dominated a tiny space and on it a shrouded, probably unused computer. A listing swivel chair sat behind the desk and a row of mismatched shabby chairs lined what little wall space remained. The lady, who had introduced herself on the trip up three flights of slippery marble stairs as Evanthia plopped down in this rickety chair and motioned the pair to draw up chairs. G accepted and drew a raffia seated chair close to the desk. D demurred and remained standing.

The conversation started badly. Evanthia was certain that the only way to become a farmer was to be born a farmer. She had no experience of any other way. G maintained that that could not be possible and, at length, great length, she somehow she convinced Evanthia. It became clear that D&G were not going anywhere until the answer became other than no and that seemed to add to the weight of argument. D stood, blocking the doorway in a full length black coat, yet dripping rain, a black hat, and folded arms - an avenging angel of the olive groves - a matrix dweller. That helped too. Evanthia summoned a minor troll or two who proved to be of no use. They struggled past D in the doorway, eyes always cast downward, and left, to a man shamefaced.

Daylight was fading when G had again explained the situation and once more asked what could be done. As if inspired, she added to the end of her entreaty "... to fulfill my dream; of being a lavender farmer". Daylight mat have been fading but of a sudden the lights went on in Evanthia's face and just as suddenly she picked up the phone and asked to be connected to Athens. She covered the mouthpiece and confided to our couple, "I shall speak to Athens". She gestured to her notepad and said "Write your telephone number there and I will telephone you when I have an answer. An answer that you want." And she smiled. A beaming smile that further lit the room. "We shall make you a peasant - you have my word. If it can be done, We shall make you a peasant." She extended her hand and added, " ... and I will visit your farm - it is near to the village of my birth. I will come and see your farm".

Two weeks and two phone calls later, on a bright and warm day, they travelled happily back to the castle and were ceremoniously handed a certificate that testified to G's new status as a bona fide farmer. It has no end date. G had become a farmer - or a peasant if you will.

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