Monday 8 April 2013

A Cretan Idyll

I ran this morning, but the icy east wind was back again so living things had sensibly retreated back into their shelters. As I wish I had.

So instead, I will write about the holiday on Crete I had back in about 1983, in the village of Elounda. I remember it perhaps better than anyonf my other childhood holidays because I kind of began to explore independently - albeit with the folks never far away with sister in her McClaren pushchair.

I remember seeing vultures for the first time, soaring on the thermals by the cliffs over looking the new road to Heraklion and my first visit to Knossos that would be so influential on me many years later. On our first night, we walked around the village, and I remember seeing cuttlefish in the harbour, fins sweeping the water in the darkness. I was told dread warnings about the poisonous sea urchins that made your feet swell up to the size of basketballs if you trod on them. The inland villages smelt of all the oregano growing on the hillsides, wildflowers everywhere.

There was a broken fishing boat sat on a stony beach, and I remember sitting on there for many an hour, until a scary looking pipe fish scared me out of my coawardly wits. I took my revenge on the fish by catching and eating them. Me and two other kids fished for hours, from 7am some days, on this little stone peer by a tiny sandy beach the size of a front lawn that was full of burrowing stinging bees that naturally I trod on and screamed like a girl. I had a rod, they had traditional Cretan handlines, and we fished with bread for these grey mullet that filled the clear seas. In fact, as soon as they sensed the bread, they would go mad like piranas. We caught plenty, the biggest no more than 8 inches, and gutted and fried they tasted great with lime dressing.

The local experts caught much bigger ones fishing with a whole loaf wrapped in tiny hooks. The biggest were well over 18 inches long. When fishing was poor, to avoid bordem, we would deliberately catch the greedy fat ugly blenny slash goby things that sat on the sea bad and swallowed the hooks.

I also caught a few small sea bream - there were Gilt Head swimming about in a foot of water you'd pay a tenner for at fishmongers at least. And what I remember as being clown fish but probably weren't, they had the right colour though. And there black and white striped fish I always called zebra fish, that weren't zebra fish either.

All the while, I strove to avoid the terrifying local hornets. Black, with yellow stings and red eyes, to a child they were straight out of hell. The locals caught them in half full 7 Up bottles to stop them scaring customers away from their little shops and kiosks selling the "Ion" 20 drachma chocolate that melted the second you bought it...

My favourite holiday, in a lot of ways. And when we went back, a few years later while staying in Aghios Nikolaus, the water was murky with the oil of affluent greek yachts, and all the fish had gone. I was so sad...

No comments:

Post a Comment