My parent’s house sits on a hill on the right hand curve of a bay that acts as a natural amphitheatre with an unnerving ability to amplify recognisable conversations all the way from the beach. A fact we used to appreciate in the old days when the only telephone belonged to the taverna down below, over the quiet hum of cicada’s we’d hear a frantic ‘Mackenzie!, Mac-ken-zie!’ – and we knew we had 10 minutes to drop whatever we were doing and run down as quickly as possible to be there for when the caller was told to call again.
It’s that knowledge of history and familiarity that adds to the magic of the place..the fact that really, very little has changed..there’s still the scent of pines, the noise of crickets, the enveloping heat, all heavily layering the air, gently luring you in to eternal enchantment.
Some of the older characters of my youth have moved or passed on now – I remember Christo Louris, locally known as the ‘ex-millionaire’ who’d allegedly been taken to the cleaners by his wife..who then spent the rest of his ‘fortune’ trying to keep his demanding mistress happy in an exclusive flat in Piraeus. He’d sit at the taverna and nurse a beer all day long…and leap on any leftover plates of food, claiming them as his own.
Another great favourite was Captain Alecko – a man almost as round as he was tall. He would happily tell us long, involved stories about his life at sea that generally ended in some disaster or other. I know my cousins were staying in the house by themselves one summer and, in the seclusion and shade of the verandah, they discussed which side they thought Captain Alecko batted for (he always had a rather young, attractive, male ‘helper’ with him) when over the wind came the sing-song words ‘Captain Alecko…he has very big ears!..” They ran inside and didn’t come out for two days. The natural amphitheatre has a lot to answer for..Captain Alecko’s two great concerns were that the authorities would discover he had Laskarina Bouboulina’s telescope, that had come into his possession via some dubious route, which never happened..and that his mother would die whilst he was on holiday, and no-one would tell him – which did!
Drawing everything together is the taverna on the beach which represents both the social centre and a touch of mafia.
At one point there were two tavernas..Thanasi was the first and main one, owning a lot of the land around, but he gave his friend Tasos the baker, a plot of land behind his taverna as a present to build a retirement villa on. Tasos promptly built his own taverna that proved to be a roaring success – all his food was slow-cooked with local herbs in a bakers oven…and the two never spoke again..instead, whenever the wind was blowing in the right direction Thanasi would throw out his fish guts in the style of a proper greek feud. Tasos taverna ran for many, many years before age did finally catch up with the wily old fox..it is still missed today.
Not that the feuds have stopped. The bus driver and the taverna had a falling out, so now every day, three times a day, the bus reverses all the way down the road to avoid turning in front of the taverna. I had to video it..only in Greece..a bus travelling backwards..
(My father introducing his Grandson to the delights of cipero at sunset..we now know where Charlie gets his sartorial gene from..)
And slowly the time came when we would leave the island and head to the next part of the holiday – for years we’d looked from the bay to these mountains on the Peloponnese and wondered what was there..and now we were going to find out. A mere 18 miles across the sea..a lot more by car, it was going to be an adventure…
But although it was good bye to Spetses…
It wasn’t to my parents – we were taking them with us!
Laters, Kate x