“Mind your head.” Mr Sidestepping-Normal shouts to me.
We’re pootling up the uneven dirt track between our house and Walnut Cottage. Our little motorbike faithfully navigates the bumps and stones whilst I judder up and down on the back seat like a bowl of jelly. I’m not a huge jelly fan myself, don’t get me wrong, it’s okay as far as deserts go, but it’s not my favourite. Mr SN on the other hand loves the stuff. Five year old birthday buffets are just his kind of style. Give him jelly, ice cream and cocktail sausages on sticks and he’s a happy man. Sorry, I digress…where was I? Oh yes… We both bow our heads to avoid the long overhanging brambles that are obstructing the path. We keep meaning to bring a pair of secateurs, but it always slips our mind.
This track has become very familiar over the last few months. The potatoes that we planted in the front garden of Walnut Cottage have needed daily watering. Consequently we’ve combined walking Dora-Dog, watering the potatoes, and as of late, checking the progress of the building work. Up ahead, Walnut Cottage comes into view, peeping from behind the large walnut tree that towers next to it.
We bought Walnut Cottage five years ago, and until now, it’s sat there patiently waiting to be renovated. It’s been hanging over our heads; intimidating and overwhelming. That is until we met Stefanos, our builder and all round fixer of problems. Now that Stefanos is on board, progress is galloping ahead. He’s organised, professional and fair, and his team of tradesman are just as agreeable. We feel such a relief to have found them.
We knew that if we stood any chance of getting the cottage ready for next season, then we’d need help. Within a matter of days, the bathroom has been built, the wall around the roof that Mr SN painstakingly begun has been finished and plastered, the electrics are in, and the doors and windows have been ordered. Stefanos expects his team to be finished in a few weeks time. By the time his team have finished, we’ll just be left with the finishing details to sort out: the kitchen to fit, the garden to landscape and the soft furnishings to buy…the fun bits…the bits where Mr SN rolls his eyes as I stand deliberating which cushions to buy or which bedding set matches best…Maybe I’ll have to bribe him with jelly and ice cream…
We park the motorbike, dismount, and look at the latest changes. The electricians have made a great job, and although it still looks like a building site, I can imagine the house once it’s complete. We double check that all the sockets and switches are in the right places before locking the door.
“The potatoes should be ready, shall we dig some up and see?” I say excitedly.
“Why not.” Says Mr SN. “We could go fishing and then make our own Greek fish and chips; all homegrown and freshly caught.” He grins.
I enthusiastically dig at one of the potato plants. They’ve been in the ground for three months now, so it should nearly be time. In amongst the soil, a few feeble miniature potatoes reveal themselves. They’re no bigger than marbles, except for one, which is the size of an apricot.
“Is that it?” Mr SN says in a puzzled manner. “Three months of watering and that’s all we’ve got?”
I have to agree with him, it is disappointing, but I can’t help but find it funny. For three months we’ve lovingly tended to these potato plants and the result is laughable. If we were tiny leprachauns we’d be feasting on potatoes for months on end, but we’re not, and by the looks of it we won’t be.
“Lets give them a good water every day for the next couple of weeks and then dig them up again.” I say optimistically.
“I guess we’ll be having no chips with our fish then.” Mr SN says looking fed up.
Catching the fish…
The sky is a brilliant blue; completely free of clouds. We’re driving the little motorbike down to Panormos to go fishing. Being a Sunday morning, the roads are quiet and the shops are all shut. On the back of the bike I tussle with a fishing rod, a large bucket and two coffees…because we live in Greece now, so it’s become mandatory to take coffee with us everywhere. We meander along the deserted roads, past olive groves and blue corn flowers. The Carob trees are dripping with bright green pods that look like giant caterpillars.
Down at the little harbour, we park up the bike and unload the box on the back. Little fishing boats bob up and down on the gentle waves and a fisherman starts the engine of his boat. As the engine softly chugs, he cleans the deck and sorts through his nets. A greek flag flutters on top of the mast like a trapped butterfly. Thankfully, the coffees have made it safe and sound, and I sip at the hot drink whilst taking in the sights and smells.
The village of Panormos is just waking up. When we passed the kafenion, a couple of men were already sitting outside drinking Greek coffee. I can see a couple of people already swimming, and a dog is splashing in the shallow waters excitedly.
For the next hour, we sip our coffees whilst Mr Sidestepping-Normal fishes. My hair whips around my face in the wind, and I breathe deeply. The sea always makes me feel calm. Gradually more people are arriving. There’s a man playing a saxophone on the little stony bay opposite the pier where we’re sitting. Jazz riffs float up as the waves crash on the rocks just a few metres in front of him like a cheering audience. A couple in a camper van sit outside their mobile home with cups of coffee, drying off after a swim. Families begin arriving and children eagerly run into the sea to play.
Mr SN puts bait on the line and sits on the end of the pier waiting for the fish to bite. He’s new to fishing, but I can see how much he enjoys the tranquility. The sun tickles our skin and the smell of the sea fills the air. The fish are eating the bait, but manage to evade capture. Time and time again, Mr SN pulls up the line, replenishes the bait and tries again. Suddenly he shouts gleefully.
“I’ve got one!” He yells.
He adds it to the bucket of water he has sitting next to him. For the next hour and a half, he catches nothing else and as the sun grows more intense, we call it day and begin to pack up.
“We can’t take back one tiny fish, I think we should set him free.” I implore.
“I agree.” Says Mr SN “I feel sorry for him.”
With that, he gently releases the little fish back into the sea, and we watch him swim away.
“So we’ve got no fish and no chips.” I laugh.
Mr SN grins back at me. “But it was a lovely morning.” He concedes.
We’re sitting on the terrace watching the sun set. The cicadas are screaming, the crickets are chirping and the tree frogs are babbling. Nancy-Floss is playing with a beetle and we’re swatting away the gnats that keep hovering around us. The sky turns the colour of bonfire smoke and little clouds gather and disperse over the mountains like wisps of candy floss.
Tomorrow the plumbing at Walnut Cottage begins, and as we sip on beer and eat peanuts, we discuss the details of where the kitchen sink will go and where to locate all the pipes. Dora-dog sits in front of us and tries to talk. She purses her lips and stares at us pleadingly whilst making a strange warble of sounds that all join together. The result is a strange noise that makes us giggle.
“She wants to go for a you-know-what.” I whisper being careful not to use the word ‘walk’ which she knows all too well.
“The potatoes could do with a water anyway.” Mr SN says whilst rising from his seat.
Dora dog instantly knows that her attempts to communicate have been successful. She twirls around in circles whilst wagging her tail and barking.
Walking up that bumpy dirt track again…
Once again, we’re walking up the bumpy dirt track. We hope that in the future this will continue to be a regular walk to meet the guests staying up at Walnut Cottage. In a few months, we hope to start taking provisional bookings for next year.
It’s getting dark quickly, but the air is cool for the first time all day. Dora-dog chases her ball and pants with exertion.
“You know what we’ve forgotten again, don’t you?” I say.
“What?” Mr SN looks at me enquiringly.
“The secateurs to cut back the brambles.” I say whilst rolling my eyes.
“Αύριο, tomorrow.” He says smiling. “We’ll do it tomorrow.”
Greek fish and chips may be off the menu for now, but we’re hoping that our potatoes will miraculously grow over the next couple of weeks. We fail as much as we succeed, and if they don’t grow then that’s okay, we’re optimists…maybe we’ll just trade our potatoes with a leprechaun for a pot of gold.
To find out more about Walnut Cottage, you can have a read here.
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