Monday, September 20, 2010
I enjoy long and leisurely Sunday Lunches; they have always been rather special to me. For all the years during which I lived at home with my parents Sunday was the only day of the week on which we ate the main meal of the day together and at lunchtime. It was always a feast, invariably of roast meat and vegetables preceded by soup and followed by a 'pudding' which may have been anything from apple pie with cream to treacle pudding with custard but which always was good. Later, when I had a young family of my own I enjoyed, when possible, Sunday lunches amongst friends and their families at one of the excellent county hostelries that nestled in that pleasantly bucolic triangle of Kent, marked by Canterbury, Sandwich and Hythe, in which I lived at that time. These days, on summer Sundays I can usually be found at Maria's Taverna, Zapi. I have been going there for many years now and although through the years there have been many changes, Maria's is still very much what it was when I first discovered the place; a simple, very informal, family run taverna directly on the beach. In those early days of my acquaintance with the place there would be as many, if not more, boats pulled up on the beach or bobbing in shallow water as there were vehicles in what passed as a car park. Venturing down the narrow, deeply rutted un-mettled mountain track that served as Zapi's road access was not for the faint-hearted. The wise walked (Indeed, the very wise still walk!), rode down on their donkeys or came by sea. The route has not altered but the road is now mettled; the final few kilometres were asphalted during last winter. The first stretch of the road to be mettled, that nearest to the main road from which it branches, was competed several years ago and is now showing signs of deterioration; in all, and including that of last winter, there were four further sessions, over half a dozen or more years, of extending the tarmac surface! This is quite normal here. At sometime during the road improvements Zapi was, for the first time, linked to the national electricity grid. The economics of supplying a hamlet of but few dwellings with mains electricity and seven kilometres of good road escape me but maybe these infrastructural improvements may eventually encourage the more self-interested among the well-heeled to do what they have elsewhere; to clear the beautiful wild scrub and grub up olive groves to make way for their palatial, tasteless 'holiday homes', thereby rewarding the state with their singularly material return for which its financial advisors must hope.
During the German occupation, not the present civilian one, the 1940s military occupation, Zapi served as an entry and exit gate for allied military personnel who either had business in Greece, organising and advising terrorist bands, or who had become accidentally trapped here. Many years ago I met an old man at a party who had been a Zapi resident during the war and who had hidden four British airmen in his house for an entire year before they were eventually taken by submarine to Alexandria. The submarines could get in close enough to rendezvous with one of the small inshore fishing boats. My informant has since died as must have most, if not all, of his contemporaries; sadly their potentially fascinating stories will have gone with them.
As I strolled home after lunch yesterday I had an uncomfortable feeling that I was being followed. I turned to check and there he was; tall and dark and close enough to be touching me. I asked him what he wanted of me but got no reply so continued on. With silent step the fellow remained with me all afternoon, sometimes venturing from behind to stroll beside me , oddly, only to my right, never to my left. Occasionally, after rounding a sharp bend in the road, he would suddenly appear directly in front of me, menacing, as if trying to block my path. When that happened I did my best to stamp on him but he always seemed to manage to be one step ahead of me. Eventually, as the sun sank below the mountain, I managed to shake him off. It was an altogether most unsettling experience.