Monday, January 19, 2009

Life in the blocked lane

Took the 9am bus into Corfu town, paid in what's left of my pension what with the pound having slumped. Took half of it to pay for some timber for the hovel. At last, moving again - windows and doors I think, to keep some of the heat in.

Waiting for the bus to the timber yard two vigorous old ladies are rabbiting away at close quarters. This is the way to pick up or reinforce the idiom. 'The bus is late, have I missed it? No it hasn't passed yet - Pou na perase; Where to pass, or how would it pass? She was right, the traffic was at a standstill, but a little hooting soon stopped. Taking a stroll the problem becomes clear - Two priests in their long black dresses and faded beards were holding a service in the road and the admirably respectful public were crowded round crossing themselves at the appropriate moments. Of course, that's it - happens all the time I expect, so off to the bus station for home. I popped in my favourite tyropita shop to ask about it. Oh yes says the charming Soula, its a 'dhimosino' - a mourning service for a woman who was knocked over by a car on Friday. I had been ready to pour a little scorn, but now the civilized aspect of the event began to sink in. The traffic would have been disrupted for an hour or so perhaps, hundreds of people would learn what had happened. Should a traffic death, any traffic death, not provoke some reflection on the tragedy that it is? And disrupt the bloody traffic for more than just an hour!

A little bus story. Se
ated now in the Korakiana bus that will take me to Ayios Markos half an hour to the north. The 'agent' who issues tickets is late, the driver collects half-a-dozen fares. "Remember me?" he says, I look up, yes indeed although I had seen him only twice or so in three years. "Where have you been Mate?" I ask in my best village greek, "Allou" he says - elsewhere. Three years ago touring around to find a hovel, I had taken his bus to (later), and having reached the turn-round village, I was the only passenger. I told him what I was doing and his interest was friendly. No-one around, "Let's go for a coffee" I joked. "I know a good place" he said "towards town" We started back, still no passengers and soon he pulled the bus into a layby. "Just up here", he says. We walked into the village, sat at the road-side table, and ordered coffees. This is what bus services shold be like I was thinking, and you know what? He wouldn't even let me pay for the coffees. All true. It turned out he had to be at a certain junction on the way back to meet another bus that stopped and unloaded there, and we were early. Doesn't spoil the story does it.

Another one? Two of these smaller buses that go on the narrow winding roads to remote villages towards the north leave at 2 pm. I had missed my bus. This was before I knew all the bus routes and I asked the 'agent' if either of these buses went to Ayios Markos. "Yes" he said - "take the front one" He spoke a couple of words to the driver and I got on. After Ipsos/Pirgi the road branches off left to Ayios Markos and Korakiana. Just before my village the bus stopped and did a three point turn in a small turning point. "Is this OK?" says Kostas, one of the friendliest young drivers you will ever meet. The ladies in the front few seats were all smiling. "Er, Yes of course" I say -(its only 400m to the Hovel) No wonder they were smiling; the 4km detour was a one-off. Hard not to feel good about living in this backward place!

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