Archive for September, 2012

Ode to Autumn

No, this is not a Keatsian moment – no season of mists and mellow fruitfulness here in Crete. Autumn here means a welcome reduction in temperature – now in the mid 20s rather than the low to mid 30s, and a chance to catch up with some of the outdoor jobs which have been put on hold through the summer months. It is a beautiful morning here, and one could almost forget what a dire situation we are living through. There is a general strike today, so there are bound to be large demonstrations in the big cities – I just hope that there is no violence; we heard on this morning’s news that there had been trouble in Spain, with police firing rubber bullets. It is all too easy for demonstrations to get out of hand when people are feeling (rightly) very emotional, and the results can be tragic.

One (welcome to us) result of the crisis is that we have fewer people hunting in the area around here. When we first came we were taken aback by the numbers blasting away at tiny birds, in the name of “sport”. We are both people who are opposed to hunting for sport anyway, and certainly didn’t want animals being killed on our land. After a few differences of opinion with those who thought that they could come on our land and kill things the message eventually got through. We don’t have too much of a problem with people exercising their hunting dogs here out of season (though it drives our own dogs crazy), and walkers are ok, too. The hunters, these days, seem to be only those shooting for food, (which is acceptable to us and keeps the rabbit population down) and there are fewer of them, given the price of cartridges. This is a very emotive subject, of course, and has raised an awareness of a difference in “attitude” between us and local people. Initially we were inclined to feel very “British” and want to keep people off “our” land, but we understand that this just isn’t a concept which Greek people understand, so now we go with the flow – most of the time!

The way in which individuals view land is interesting. In the UK we have a concept of privately owned space which seems at odds with the way in which Greek people treat their surroundings. We have seen this in different ways, not only the habit of ignoring boundaries. It is quite normal, for instance, when moving into a new home for British people to show visitors around. We did it here, and our British friends found this quite normal. Our Greek visitors found it slightly odd; one said “but this is your private area”! So – the concept of what is private is, in a way, much smaller in Greece – just the parts of your home not on normal display to visitors. I wonder if this is a remnant of the way in which “traditional” houses are built, around a courtyard (public space), with bedrooms etc. being tucked out of view. For Brits, the notion of private space is every bit of property you own, unless you choose to share it with others.

We’ve now lived here 6 years, and we are still, frequently, coming across differences in attitude which surprise us and which, on the face of it, make little sense. Giving it a bit of thought usually brings an understanding of why we do or say what we do. We are very much aware that we will always be outsiders, but we try hard not to cause offence by being too “British”!

One of the ways in which we really do feel part of the community, though, is the olive harvest. Round here, virtually every family has at least a few olive trees, and all are busy preparing for the harvest in November. It looks as though the harvest will be early this year, as many olives are already ripening. I hope, for all our sakes, that it will be plentiful!

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