Sunday, October 29, 2023

Greek idyll

 I think of Zakynthos.

The blue and the green, and all the flowers and colours in between. The quiet of the slow warm afternoon, sun-slanted paved alleys deserted during the siesta, a beige street punctuated with the colours of the shop-fronts, a lady dozing in a chair, a car purring past on the paved road, out of place like a leopard in a drawing room. As we passed the cross alleys, the green hillside behind Zante came and went from our view, the buildings of the Jewish cemetery small between the trees. On the other side, swaying masts far away between the house fronts, accentuating the blue of the ocean behind them.

Round a corner, tables and tourists spilled from a small taverna. Salads, souvenirs, selfies. Across the road from the taverna, a grey building with green wooden shutters turned out to be the supermarket we were looking for. Two young people at separate tables outside smoked as they talked on their phones.

Time seemed to swell in the soft sun, flow slow and languid while the breeze wandered through the leaves and the coloured flags. We bought knick-knacks we did not need, pastries we would not eat. Sauntered back towards the seafront, sat below a large white cross, a memorial that we could not decipher because we lack a classical education. Strange that the townspeople seemed mentally closer to us, people from a poorer eastern country, than to the Brits who had exalted their legacy across five hundred years until Anglo and Greco became culturally interwoven in colonies across the world. But the sun was mellow and the breeze was cool, and the mewing of the seagulls was too high and keen to allow much thought.

I think of Zakynthos.
And I yearn to go back, spend slow days and nights in the stream of time, fill my memories with scattered lights and the clop clop of trotting horses, savour strange food at leisure while watching sailboats skim the blue between sea and sky.
But when I try to work out why it is that I want to see Zakynthos again, and not the more strident rhythms of Rome or Athens, I wonder. Do I truly seek new milieus, environments? Or do I seek beauty? Nature? People, cultures? Peace and comfort … but then why would I leave my snug home cocooned in minor privilege?
It struck me, then, that my second view of Greece (after Roger Lancelyn Green's "Legends of Greece and Rome") was the idyllic Corfu of the Durrell family. And when I dream of slow peaceful days amid the bougainvilleas and the sun-soaked patios, I actually seek a return to a mood, a yearning, from the books of my childhood. I want to lose myself inside a story that I loved.