Now that I’m pretty much the only resident left on this quiet Mani Coast development, the feline population is short of human mugs to feed them. They are also terrorised by Arita the kleptomanic Heinz 57 bitch. So my little bungalow has turned into something of a cat sanctuary. On the advice of my professional Greek interpreter here, I threw a pan of cold water over her yesterday, and it seems to have made her more wary of me. The dog, not the interpreter.
There are no half measures with cats. Far more intelligent and cunning than dogs, they purr a lot, rub around one’s ankles, and are in the fridge like Flynn the minute one opens the door. Being English and a bit wet about animals, my natural empathy with the underdog means that the cats I’ve adopted are a motley crew. One is a ginger with a missing eye (not the best start in life) another is jet black and oddly lame, while two other tiny tortoise-shells are obviously very hungry but wary of me.
At first, I had only encountered one of the last-mentioned couple, so I thought perhaps she might have been abused by human contact in the past. But now I see the two of them are both smaller than the rest and (I suspect) more feral. And so of course – don’t we all do this? – I desperately want to bring them into the fold.
The cats, I have discovered, have a passion for UHT condensed milk. While I know this is supposed to be bad for them, the reality is that they thrive on it. Indeed, it is such a delicacy, its fame has spread to the point that each morning as I draw the curtains, feline fans are sleeping outside.
Black Bob (the only bloke) is seen in the foreground here, and Cyclops is staring into space at the back. Huddling for warmth in the middle is Myli the nervous one. Her sister I have christened Messi: but in all honesty, when they’re together I cannot as yet work out which is which.
Yes yes yes – I know: I am making a rod for my own back. But what is a chap supposed to do when little things have been thrust into the world through no fault of their own? My aim here is to position myself as the village eccentric who occasionally gives them a UHT treat…..but nothing more. For meals of a more substantial nature, they will have to go elsewhere,
I was in the main village Cafenion this morning when a violent exchange broke out between two of the four regular card sharps. At first I thought this to be an accusatory session about cards being dealt off the bottom, but when I raised smiling eyes at the bar owner (who speaks excellent English) she told me that the row was political. One player had apparently said that Antonis Samaras was doing his best, while the other had likened him to a scrawny chicken-hearted spawn of a germ.
As you might imagine, there wasn’t much room for pacification between those two positions, and so voices were raised higher than the roof. My own sympathies lay firmly with he of the germ-spawn opinion, but rather than express that view (this is, after all, not my country) I asked the bar owner what the altercation outside in the Square had been about earlier. This had involved an old and toothless guy with a Spitfire-pilot moustache berating a somewhat sheepish well-dressed man whom I took to be an official of some kind.
She smiled and told me that, more or less, the old man was a keen supporter of Golden Dawn, and he didn’t want any namby-pamby corrupt New Democracy traitor telling him what to think, thank you very much.
While all this might seem like me poking patronising fun, it isn’t anything of the kind. Greece is an astonishing patchwork of agrarian, urban, metropolitan, traditional, modernist, young, old, craftsman, professional, political and bureaucratic fragments. In good times, these could together make for a warm quilt. In times like we have now, they could fly apart like anti-matter and cast liberal democracy out into the cold.
I am not as yet within light years of understanding any of this cultural milieu properly. But my gut and my primary senses tell me that the temperature of debate is rising. The Greek tragedy is far from over.